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 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.
If you make the decision to not wear the mask you will begin immediately to not wear it. Sure, you will find that at times you are wearing the mask but when you become aware that you are you are simply delighted by this as just recognising it breaks the pattern of the neural pathway that has the habit of wearing the mask. You can further erode this habit, by reaffirming that I am myself, when you realise you were wearing the mask. If you remain committed to not wearing the mask and therefore being yourself, before long you will be enjoying a wonderful adventure, exploring what it is you love to do.
I made a decision a few years ago to only do what I love. I used to love whatever I was doing until my mentor told me that he only did what he loved. It took me a while to realise what that meant, but now, I do only what I love.
Thanks for your reply, I think I'll get there in the end. I'm more optimistic today, yesterday when I wrote my message I was feeling tired and a bit naff.