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 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.
I only began to suspect I had Asperger's syndrome quite recently, and have spent my whole life up until now feeling confused, embarrassed and generally pretty bad about who I am. (I am now 51.) Even though I've finally found the reason I could never fit in, in spite of all my efforts, I can't stop trying. It feels all wrong not to. So yes, I'm definitely still wearing a mask. I hope in time not to need it, but I don't know how to get there, right now.
I’d say that’s pretty damn good!