Skip to main content

Did You Even Know You Had Been "Masking" for Decades? Autistic Masking and The Picture of Dorian Gray- Reflections on Similarities

 

Chances are your answer is no, just like mine was.

In the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, the main character, Dorian, lives two very different lives in physical reflection.  One life is his outer body which remains young and attractive, and the other is his portrait which ages and reflects all the external happenings instead of his actual outward appearance.  Dorian remains young and handsome on the outside, while his portrait does not.

I don't compare this in the strictest sense, but rather as a way to convey how I perceive autistic masking and how it manifests in both the physical exterior and the internal worlds of an individual.

I didn't even know what Autistic Masking was even after the first few years of knowing I was autistic.  It is a term that you learn and become familiar with after you get into the autistic community.

The definition of "Social Masking" as it is discussed in the psychology and Autism world is:

Masking is a process in which an individual changes or "masks" their natural personality to conform to social pressures.

As autistics who didn't know we were autistic, we subconsciously used the tool of Social Masking from an early age because it was "safer" than being ridiculed or ostracized for our unique communication style as compared to "other people." 

This tool that has kept us "safe," over time becomes a habit and more importantly to note masking becomes an automated way of being over time when you don't know you are doing it or why.

This is where my Dorian Gray illustration comes into play.  I felt like my outside was the elegant and refined Dorian Gray and my inside world was ageing, decaying, and morphing into something twisted and unrecognizable.  My external and internal worlds were in direct conflict to one another.

I had contorted myself for decades masking for safety and it had become a subconscious automation.  I was even masking when I was alone.  The stress of my disjointed external and internal worlds took its toll and is one of the early, large contributors to my many autistic burnouts.

It took the combination of awareness and a gentle and slow unmasking process to align my external and internal worlds.  It wasn't easy.  It didn't happen overnight.  But it did happen, and it was worth every second of energy, effort, tears, frustration, and excited discovery moments that I experienced along the way.  Getting to the authentic me has been more than I could have conceived possible when I began.  I just knew when I started that there HAD to be something better and that there was a life for me that was joyful and peaceful.

And my dear friend, I want you to know that the small almost whisper quiet voice that is telling you that what I am saying it true for you too, it is speaking the truth to you.

You may be living in the place where your worlds are in great conflict and you know you are not living the life you desire and know is possible.  I have been there and I am now in a very different place where my worlds align and are aligning more and more each day.

I want to encourage you to listen to your inner voice and to know that there is another side that is joyful and peaceful.  I want to help you in any way that I can with guidance and resources and community support as you begin the journey of self discovery.

To join me and hundreds of other late identified autistics around the world, connect with us in the Private Facebook group Mind Your Autistic Brain.  Come to a place of safety and encouragement through kindness, gentleness, patience and understanding for one another and for ourselves as you begin your autism journey.

IF you are currently experiencing Autistic Burnout or have in the past and would like to better understand what that means for you and how to create a prevention and recovery plan sign up for my Autistic Burnout Worksheet and mini-email course to help you get a plan tailored to you.  It is FREE and comes right to your inbox where you can do it at your own pace and when you are able.



Article by Carole Jean Whittington

 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Trauma is NOT Linear for Autistics with Alexithymia

by Carole Jean Whittington, January 25, 2022 A large part of #lateidentifiedlife is recognizing and processing past trauma.  This is far from a linear process.  There is no direct path from A to Z. Throw alexithymia into the mix and you have a whole other experience on this trauma path.  The delayed realizations that hit you out of what feels like nowhere.  You have one conversation and one phrase or feeling unlocks a cascade of other past experiences and emotions you never noticed before.  All of a sudden past events come flooding in for you to make sense of and process. Days later you are beginning to notice that there were relationships and people who treated you very badly and who hurt you, but you did not realize it at the time.  You were in survival mode as an unidentified autistic.                             ______________________________________________________ Often the fear of rejection dominates our thoughts and we experience that emotional hurt as a deeply physical pain. 

If you are Autistic & ADHD waking up to a pile of dirty laundry SUCKS! Join me for a HACK to make this easier.

  Did you reflect on the question from yesterday, “Do you believe that how you spend your morning tells you what kind of day you are going to have?” Most people never stop to consider this fully.  What were your thoughts on this, is it true for you or not true for you? The answer lies in your reflection.  It is both true and false simultaneously and wholly based on what you agree to believe.  There is a belief that high levels of cortisol are bad and because it is often called the “stress hormone” it means, by our interpretation that it is bad for us. However, cortisol is in reality good for us, necessary and serves us well.  ************************************************************  Here are a few examples of how cortisol serves us and is beneficial when it is in balance: -Cortisol is part of our internal alarm system and when we are under threat or pressure cortisol is released to allow our fight or flight response to be at the ready to keep us safe. -Normal levels of cortisol are

To Feel Like the REAL You does it only require removing a mask? Unmasking isn't the whole solution is it?

  To feel like the REAL you, does it only require removing a mask?  Burnouts are most often caused due to all the energy that you expend keeping the right mask on for the right situation.  It is exhausting and often leads to feelings of disconnect, isolation and not feeling like anyone really knows you or understands you.   You may be on a mission to unmask right now and you are slowly lowering your guard and experimenting with showing up in the world as the real you.  It feels freeing and exciting to stim or to not make eye contact every second of a conversation with someone.  In those small moments where you are letting your mask down you feel that sense of reclaiming yourself and your place in the world. But you are only uncovering what is a big, glaring difference in your current awareness that is in contrast to the mask you have been wearing. Unmasking, as a late identified autistic, is only one component in aligning your external and internal worlds.  More often than not, when yo