UNMASKED: Snippets & notes from a lifetime collection of journals (pre-diagnosis).
Advocating for autistic acceptance.
August 7, 1994
College” behavior 🤣 Always scripting, even without realizing it. What did I base my “college” behavior on? ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’? ‘A Different World’? ‘Saved by the Bell, The College Years’? ‘Revenge of the Nerds’? Some amalgamation of them all, I suppose, plus a healthy dose of just-trying-to-keep-it-together.
How about you, neurokin? Did you script off of TV shows or movies? If so, which ones?
This entry is an example of how autistic people are conditioned to mask so heavily they sometimes lose their sense of self. I have seen so many posts by autistic people – especially those who have been late-diagnosed – asking how to unmask, how to figure out who they are.
For me, masking included drinking, smoking pot, listening but not sharing, and generally going along with whatever everyone else wanted. I was trained that my needs, my wants, and my comfort always took second, third, last place. This is because my needs, my wants, and my comfort didn’t fit the mold.
I didn’t need to drink and smoke pot to decompress. I didn’t want to go to bars. I didn’t find comfort in sitting around and talking for hours.
I valued my friends but they didn’t value my way of being. Listening to the same CD and the rain, being alone in my apartment – those things fulfilled my needs, wants, and comfort. But because that was weird, I ended up isolated and so heartbreakingly lonely.
So I found a way to cope. I considered meeting my needs a form of escapism and accepted everything else as the real world. I even considered confronting my pain a form of escapism! I couldn’t give myself the space to process emotions without treating it like an undeserved vacation.
Fast-forward to my forties when I was finally diagnosed as autistic. I decided to unmask. And I didn’t know who I was. But instead of treating it as escapism, I encouraged myself to treat self-exploration as life saving, like physical therapy, talk therapy, and visits to my physicians.
Reading beloved books and old journals helped. So did watching favorite movies, cooking favorite samefoods, immersing myself in me instead of others. It took a long time but I know who I am.
I am the person who stimmed by spelling night as nite, who sat in a dark, humid apartment in the deep south and listened to rain falling on lush leaves, who played The Sundays over and over and over, who loved practicing piano and learning.
I am still that person.
This isn’t escapism; this is life.