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When I Took Off the Mask Hiding My Autism

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For years I hid my mental health issues, scared of the stigma and judgment from peers, my abusive father and those with whom I interacted. It wasn’t until I started working with kids with disabilities and moved away from home that I slowly started being comfortable and accepting who I was despite all the labels I had. Over the years as I found myself able to relate to the kids and parents, my confidence began to grow. Being open about my own struggles became a way of understanding myself, and also a way of coping with the things I had been through.

Things began to tank as my coworkers began to get uncomfortable with how open I was about my struggles, often over-sharing in situations that were not the best. My friends and people I trusted became intimidated and walked away from my life when I began exploring an autism diagnosis. For the first time in my life, I had felt the courage and confidence to take off the mask and be me. Learning most of my social skills from people watching and television shows, nobody understood how this once content, relatively mentally stable person began to crash, becoming more emotional, socially confused, hyper and frustrated with the people I thought supported me.

For a while I blamed myself. It was my fault everybody left; I was always a reject. I hated myself once again, until one sleepless night, I flipped the switch. I realized I was proud of who I was. I was proud of the hard work I had put in to be content with myself. I no longer needed to hide behind a mask; I could be myself. Instead of reverting back to putting on my mask and trying to fit in with the world, I decided to change. Change is hard. I like routine and consistency. But I also like to be accepted, supported and respected. In order for those feelings to return, I quit my job and moved to a different business.

Far too many people are judgmental, and in my experience it’s most often because they aren’t willing to accept their own flaws. I was there; I hid my autism for many years. Once I took the mask off, I could actually sleep, I was able to decrease my anxiety medicine and saw fewer bouts of depression. It wasn’t easy, it was uncomfortable and I struggled with self-hate and severe social anxiety. After months of just being me, I learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined: my passions, who was truly in my life and how clear my mind could be when I wasn’t constantly overwhelmed by the anxiety of being socially acceptable. It’s progress, not perfection and daily I continue to strive for improvements.

Getty image by FrancesCoch.

Originally published: November 27, 2018
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