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Autism and masking, or

who the hell am I then?

A brief intense thread. Please share. /1
Masking is the conscious or subconscious effort that an #autistic person makes to appear neurotypical to the people around them. It's an intensely resource-intensive activity that is exhausting to maintain. /2
It's a bit like running two new, graphically impressive video games simultaneously on a decent PC. It's possible but it slows things down considerably and your RAM is screwed. /3 #autism #masking
Realising after a late #autism diagnosis that you've been unconsciously masking your whole life is an interesting experience. It's a realisation that you have pretended your whole life.

You've pretended - without intending to - to be neurotypical: to act like everyone else even though you are fundamentally different to them. You spend your life kidding yourself you're enjoying things, while something inside you is screaming. /5 #autism
You convince yourself everyone feels this way - that no one really likes anything involving people, or noise, or chaos, and that we're all just pretending (God knows why). You kid yourself, day after day, year after year. /6 #autism
But then you're diagnosed. You realise that you are neurologically different. You realise that other people actually do like that stuff.

Suddenly you feel alien. Weird. The delusion you were like everyone else is shattered. /7 #autism
This is hard to handle, but it is *nothing* like what comes next.

If you've been pretending to be someone you're not your whole life, then...

... who on earth are you? /8 #autism
The older you are at diagnosis, the bigger an issue this is. You realise that in your masking, you have pretended so much, do many facets of what you believed was your personality may not, in fact, be real. This is frightening. /9 #autism
The you read that #autistic people actively use fictional characters as templates to build their masking personality upon. So you've not only been pretending all these years - you've actually been pretending to be a fictional character. /10

Since diagnosis you have to re-evaluate your likes and dislikes - are they real, or simple facsimiles taken from others in an effort to build a personality?

At this point I appreciate this is true of lots, but with #autism it's the quantity of this going on. /11
But you've spent your whole life doing this, so when you mentally trim away this stuff, then what your left with is *not a full life's worth* of opinions, ideas, feelings. Cos so many were pretence, and remove them, nothing magically fills in the gaps left. /12 #autism
And this is the scariest thing. How hollow you can feel. Especially if its interacting with depression, which I'd frankly quite likely by this point.

It's no bloody wonder I spend a lot of time on here - I'm trying to build a real me, in some respects? That's quite deep. /13
So if you know a recently diagnosed #autistic person, then this may be what they're experiencing. Be kind to them - they'll need you now more than ever. /14
Right well that took it out of me. Tough topic to write about. But hopefully it'll help folk get there heads round things.
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