Masking and people not believing you have Autism

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KeepOn
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06 Apr 2019, 4:37 am

I know masking has it's benefits, particularly in terms of the world of work and helps us fit in among neurotypicals, BUT I've come to realise it's part of the problem with people not believing us when we disclose our Autism... especially those with a more high functionining/aspergers type of Autism.

If we constantly mask and don't show people our Autistic sides, if we've never previously spoken about our Autistic traits, if we constantly try to communicate/move/behave like a neurotypical can we really be surprised when they turn around and don't believe us?? I'm not trying to "victim blame" as I know NT's could be more open-minded, but realistically it must be a bit of a headfuck for them.

On analysing my disclosures I've found I've always had the best responses when disclosing to people I've masked the least with. They understand and are not surprised.

It's kind of messed up though. I spent my whole childhood, teenage years and early 20s getting called retard/weird or being asked if I had learning difficulties and I've now learned how to mask so well that people will believe there's nothing wrong with me if I take it too far! :? So I am now trying to strike a healthy balance which is easier said than done.

Any thoughts/experiences? I do advise you start to become more open about your Autistic traits and show more of your real self before disclosing to others, but it's your own choice.



JSBACH
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06 Apr 2019, 5:24 am

KeepOn wrote:
On analysing my disclosures I've found I've always had the best responses when disclosing to people I've masked the least with. They understand and are not surprised.
[...]
Any thoughts/experiences? I do advise you start to become more open about your Autistic traits and show more of your real self before disclosing to others, but it's your own choice.

THIS^^^

I'm having exactly the same experience.
Masking costs me a lot of energy, and it is a vicious cycle. Mask> people don't believe your difficulties> no accommodations.

Since this year as I started another study at university, I've consciously not masked in a way I would do in a professional or business setting. As a result I have more energy left for studying and living a happy life.

Where I would previously do things that left me exhausted for days after an event, they now understand why I can't function in e.g. loud, busy environments.

However, I still don't feel comfortable wearing sensory aids (earmuffs etc.) in public, and as a result get completely overwhelmed.

It's quite a relieve to finally come 'out of the closet' after so many years!! !

In previous years, I NEVER had positive reactions, and didn't gain anything positive upon disclosing because of elaborate (and exhausting) masking.

Since I've consciously let my autistic side be more prominent (what a relieve that is) I only received positive reactions.
I'm also less stressed because I don't have to keep up the facade.

As such I agree with the OP, and can recommend to be yourself before disclosing!! !


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Aspiewordsmith
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06 Apr 2019, 9:19 am

I no longer mask my Asperger syndrome and I never really got the hang of it because you do get people accuse you of having a desire to be labeled as disabled but it is not that really. I have even had people saying 'you are just a "normal" person' so if that was the case where was my neuroprivilege and that was back in 1994. Attempts at masking my Asperger syndrome triggered epileptic seizures so for me it wasn't worth it and people would not like me any more for doing so. Neither have I had any accommodations for me but was still expected me to accommodate allistics. OK there are more of them than us, but there are more fleas than dogs but you wouldn't expect dogs to accommodate fleas? No Often lack of accommodations people use lack of understanding as an excuse but if people really genuinely though that one was allistic by passing then there would be increased privileges but passing does not grant one neuroprivileged social status but that depends on person to person and the economic class of the parents or family background. I find that masking can be tiresome and emotionally draining. I do understand that people may not want to stand out from other people to avoid bullying and discrimination which comes from being in society which is geared around the neurotypical spectrum which socially development wise is medieval hence the stigma towards autistic people. I used to try to mask as a child but there was no real social benefit from it and just allowed allistic children to take advantage of me as I was too trusting. No people don't like it because I am not that trusting any more and I had to learn that as an adult especially after being gasllighted into thinking I had something which I didn't for over 30 years and I was blamed for being gaslighted by my family into thinking I had brain damage when in fact I didn't it was just family narcissism in action but I was a accused frequently accused of playing for sympathy hence I tried learning to mask but it didn't have the desired effect. :arrow:



Joe90
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06 Apr 2019, 9:36 am

I don't expect people to know that I have ASD. In fact I don't want people to know.


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Harpuia
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06 Apr 2019, 9:59 am

Depends on the situation. If it's for a job interview, first year-plus on the job, first 2-3 dates, first couple meetings with friends, I wouldn't tell them I have it. I do whatever the hell I can to mask it before that, especially as I start going back into the job market in a couple weeks, but I think YMMV on that one. From experience, I just kinda had to. Masking had been a survival mechanism for me and is the reason I can even live on my own as it is (as my family won't let me live with them).


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PoseyBuster88
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06 Apr 2019, 10:10 am

JSBACH wrote:

Where I would previously do things that left me exhausted for days after an event, they now understand why I can't function in e.g. loud, busy environments.

However, I still don't feel comfortable wearing sensory aids (earmuffs etc.) in public, and as a result get completely overwhelmed.


Someone on WP introduced me to "high fidelity earplugs." You can easily find them online, or I think music stores may sell them (often used by NTs who are in bands). They make clear silicone ones, and they don't muffle sounds like noise-canceling headphones and foam earplugs. Instead, they just turn the volume down on all the noises around you. I also find they make me a little more aware of my breathing sounds, but I find that calming. But they are very discrete, and if anyone does see them they will probably assume it's a hearing aid and not ask questions.

I have found them VERY helpful in loud environments, or even when a speaker's microphone is turned up too loud for my comfort.


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ASPartOfMe
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06 Apr 2019, 2:16 pm

A big problem about getting "too good" at masking, is when clinicians won't diagnose you with an ASD.


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Lizgubler
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07 Apr 2019, 10:39 am

I mask so well apparently even my family has a hard time with the possibility of ASD. I told my sister I went to a specialist who told me she thinks I have autism. My sister said " no you don't! Don't let other people tell you how you are. They don't know you." It made me mad. 1. Because I told the specialist how I was, not the other way around. And 2. She specializes in adult (specifically women's) ASD


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SocOfAutism
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08 Apr 2019, 10:10 am

Lol about your sister Liz!

Each person has to have a balance between what you hide and what you are up front about. I am a big believer in feeling things out before you choose who to disclose to in any situation. It might be your boss who is friendlier in one situation, but in another it might be better to talk to HR only. And sometimes you have to keep things to yourself.

You do need to figure out how to get little kindnesses and accommodations for yourself. Everyone does this, even neurotypicals. The tiny earbuds are a great idea. A little toy in your pocket or keychain can help, even if it seems silly. A favorite drink, a picture of your pet, or even a screenshot of a TV show you like can be calming. You might have to get creative. And don’t be afraid to have “stomach issues” and excuse yourself to the bathroom when things get too loud or overwhelming. Go in a stall and do some lunges, or jump up and down when no one is in there.



JD12345
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10 Apr 2019, 2:59 am

Some people seem to know more than I do that I have it.



Fern
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11 Apr 2019, 1:39 am

I don't tend to tell people I'm on the spectrum if I can avoid it. I don't want to have to deal with the baggage most people associate with autism. I don't need those kinds of "can't"s in my life.

People who don't know me well tend to believe me when/if I tell them. People who get to know me for a long time seem more jarred by the discussion. You'd think it'd be the opposite, but that's my observation. It's not just autism though. It's the same when I tell someone I'm bisexual. People who have known me for a long time seem more skeptical than people I just met. I suppose maybe in both cases people closest to you seem to think they know everything there is to know about you. Maybe they feel hurt when they discover they don't.

Human beings are complex though.


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KeepOn
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11 Apr 2019, 1:56 am

Fern wrote:
People who don't know me well tend to believe me when/if I tell them. People who get to know me for a long time seem more jarred by the discussion. You'd think it'd be the opposite, but that's my observation.


I find that too actually. I don't know if it's the same with you, but I feel for me it might be because I'm more nervous around new people so more Autistic body language, stimming, pacing and odd behaviour may slip out if that makes sense? When I'm very comfortable around someone I can almost appear like a gregarious NT in the right circumstances.

I'm gay myself... yes, having to come out twice is unfortunate... :lol:



Lizgubler
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11 Apr 2019, 12:34 pm

KeepOn wrote:
Fern wrote:
People who don't know me well tend to believe me when/if I tell them. People who get to know me for a long time seem more jarred by the discussion. You'd think it'd be the opposite, but that's my observation.


I find that too actually. I don't know if it's the same with you, but I feel for me it might be because I'm more nervous around new people so more Autistic body language, stimming, pacing and odd behaviour may slip out if that makes sense? When I'm very comfortable around someone I can almost appear like a gregarious NT in the right circumstances.

I'm gay myself... yes, having to come out twice is unfortunate... :lol:

Me too. It's kind of frustrating actually because the people I want to believe me the most are the people who have known me the longest, but it's the complete opposite.


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Doomlord
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14 Apr 2019, 1:43 am

I naturally mask quite a bit because I learned early on that my autistic traits are frowned upon. I'm pretty invisible too so everything about me slips under the radar. Recently I opened up to a friend about being autistic and I don't think she believed me at first because I only can show my autistic traits with those I'm very relaxed with after months or years of knowing them. As I talked more about my experiences she seems to believe me now fortunately.


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15 Apr 2019, 11:16 pm

I've never been able to mask, and no one has ever doubted my autism. Even if someone doesn't know what autism is, my lack of eye contact, flat affect and bizarre speech patterns immediately flag me as having some form of cognitive difference or special needs. Throw in the impulsive stimming, which can include anything from rocking to bouncing to hand flapping, and there's no hiding who I am.

Out of interest, what exactly does masking mean for those of you who do it? What does it look like and how do you manage it?


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