Until I discovered that I am likely autistic and understood what that means I was constantly wearing masks. I felt absolutely exhausted and miserable after them. I spent huge amount of time trying to be ''normal'' and failing.
In my case those mostly were/are, job interviews, meetings with other people, phone calls, using the public transport, trying to fit in, handshakes, social interactions, small talks, trying to cope with noises and smells and clocks on the walls making noises.
I have went to some social gatherings only to discover that whenever I am in a loud or crowded place with lots of people talking at once I have trouble focusing on one person or source. I could barely make out anything the person standing only a few feet in front of me is saying.
Obviously, the effort to keep the masks on has taken its toll on my mental and physical health. I had no support whatsoever. I was so unhappy and I felt absolutely miserable. For a long time, the only thing that made me happy was eating. So, I was eating too much and very unhealthy food.
I am still wearing some masks at work. For example, try to do handshakes to be polite and not rude, suppress my stimming, something that really comes me down when I am anxious and also makes me happy. Also, not fighting for the adjustments that would really help me to do the work much better and feel much better.
Since I try to do exactly what feels right for me, not what the society expects me to mo, I feel much happier. Like huge weight off my shoulders. However, it is difficult as I sometimes feel the others expectations, pressure to behave like a ''normal'' person.
Do you (still) wear masks?
I think, in some senses, everyone wears masks. Everyone tries to project a certain image: of confidence, competence, coolness, etc.
Yes, I still wear masks. People have told me at work that I have a constant aura of happiness, extroversion and confidence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Generally speaking, my mood is mildly low at best. I'm shy and insecure. I find it difficult to express an opinion face-to-face in case someone takes me to pieces... so I tend to make light of things, or ignore them (which could, of course, give the appearance that I know nothing about the matter in hand, so have nothing to say). As soon as I step foot inside the door at work in the morning, I feel a switch going on. I'm leaving my world behind. Now I have this to deal with. I have this part to play.
Yes, it's exhausting, too. It's great when I can get in the car to drive home and finally 'be me'. And then get home and become the quiet, low-mood, sociophobe that is my more natural state. It must be like an actor feels at the end of the day, when coming off set. It's probably difficult for all people. I think, though, it's especially difficult for us because we have more work to do.
I am wearing coolness and smile at work but my mood most of the time is very low. I am unhappy most of the time.
I find it extremely difficult to express an opinion face-to-face.
Most of the time, I try to keep low profile, stay in the background and just survive the day. I do not try anymore to go ''extra mile'' as I feel that it is not worth it. I simply damage my health. I do the minimum.
Yes, I often feel like an actor at work.
With the right support, I would so motivated and happy.
California said:Most of the time, I try to keep low profile, stay in the background and just survive the day.
Thank you for letting me know!
It is good to know that I am not the only one struggling in this situation.
The problem is. I see this as a pointless thing.
I often feel that I am in a prison and want to escape from this nightmare.
I escaped the prison when I realised I was autistic and I no longer have to fail at being ‘normal’ and that I can gloriously and unashamedly, be me. There are a few bumps along the way to no masking, I am finding, but they’re all good, people will eventually see that I’m not mad, bad or sad or whatever, so I don’t worry about the bumps, I simply use them as opportunities for embracing me and my quirks even more. I stim in public now and I happily talk to myself in public, I don’t care, I’m me and I have as much right to be on this planet as everybody else. I didn’t feel that prior to my realisation of autism, but now I do know who I am, never again will I do anything to ‘fit in’ because every time I do, I’m closing off a part of me and as far as we know it, we only have one lifetime in this form, so I’m going to live it the way I want to live it, not by somebody else’s idea of what’s right or normal.
Good for you!
I try it too, but after 50 years of trying to fit in wearing masks, it is hard to shed the habit! I still feel exhausted after a couple of hours of social interaction, which proofs I still make too much of an effort. It is very important for me to stop that, because it has caused burn-out, depression, thyroid disease, leaky gut, ... I must avoid stress (=people).
But then, now and again, I feel lonely and friendless ... You can't have it all ...
I experience the same.
It is hard to shed the habit!
I am also exhausted after social interaction.
Yeah, I don’t currently have much contact with people, very little actually, I go to my autism group once a week and that’s more than enough for me right now. And yeah, ‘unmasking’ is definitely a procedure because afterall, we didn’t learn the habit of masking over night so we won’t learn to unmask over night but once you’ve made the decision to unmask, then the jobs as good as done and any bumps in the road are simply another step closer to being unmasked. Instead of getting angry that I put the mask on, I am now delighted, because it gives me another opportunity to break the habit.
Who sold you on that line, that you can’t have it all? I would ask for a refund on that one.
It’s not hard to shed the habit, only if you think it is. Trust me, if you take a scientific approach, working on the natural laws of the universe you can do it. Every time you catch yourself masking, be truly delighted with yourself and congratulate yourself on spotting it. This immediately interrupts the well worn neural pathway of the habit of masking. It effectively lessens the habit, simply by spotting it and being delighted. The habit didn’t form over night so it won’t go away over night but if you are delighted, every time you spot it, it’s like putting a *** in the chain. You weaken it and if you keep doing this, eventually the habit will break.
I’m your friend and will always be your friend so now you can know that know that matter what, you have always got a friend, therefore if you ever feel lonely, you can know that that is also simply a well trodden path you have been walking and now you can break that habit as well.
Instead of trying to avoid burnout etc (which will actually only lead to burnout), focus instead on what you do want. So if it is more people in your life, think about who you want in your life, how many people do you want, what do you want to do with these other people, what will they bring to your life etc. Get into the habit of thinking about what you do want and not what you don’t want. Energy flows where attention goes and what we try to resist, persists. So if you put all your focus on all the wonderful things you want to bring into your life, that is exactly what you will bring into your life. Think of it like an adventure. Play a game. Every day do one thing towards your goal. For example, if your goal is to be yourself, then go out everyday and be yourself. For example, I’ve started to stim in public. This has been really helpful to me. The other day I went shopping for some glass storage containers for food and I could feel a meltdown coming on, so I stimmed and was able to get home without having a full on meltdown. Now I’ve done it once (stimmed in public) and experienced the benefits, I am more likely to do it next time.
And if you feel exhausted, that is simply wonderful. You are recognising your need for rest. So instead of thinking I’m exhausted, this is so bad. Think I’m exhausted, this is wonderful, I am able to recognise my body’s need so now I will give it what it needs and have a glorious period of rest time, then I’ll grt back to doing whatever I want to do but for now, I’m going to indulge in and enjoy my rest period.