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“Masking in Autism” by Maria do Mar

Maria do Mar

Like most autistic people, I have difficulty maintaining eye contact, so I look at something close to my eyes, often at necklaces, earrings, my hair, or at some sign on my face. I keep drawing, with my tongue, on the roof of my mouth, the shape of what I’m looking at. Unconsciously, this is how I pay attention to what they are saying to me and disguise eye contact. I have difficulty in social interaction, I often don’t know what to say and how to act, so I watch how people around me behave and try to act the same way. I often end up being quiet because I don’t know what I am supposed to respond to what they say. How am I seen? A shy girl, who doesn’t like to talk much. This is how I am socially classified… but is this really who I am?

Besides these difficulties, I have other characteristics, like sensory sensitivity, but I try my best to make sure no one notices, and I force myself to act as normal as possible.

Everyone tells me that I don’t look autistic. But that’s only because I make it so. I try hard not to look autistic.

Sometimes my strength runs out and I can’t hide who I am. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I scream, sometimes I don’t understand what’s going on, sometimes I can’t stop waving my hands. It is in those moments that people believe that I am autistic. They are surprised, sometimes angry, that I act like this, because they never believed the truth of the phrase: I am autistic. They never really wanted to understand that I am Autistic.

And that’s why I hide inside this neurotypical cloak. To be accepted.

And what does it bring me? Anxiety. For not being able to be who I am, for always having to be in control of everything I do and say. For having to pretend to be something I’m not. And with that comes depression.

Anxiety, Depression, Social Phobia, Eating Disorders. We are diagnosed with multiple pathologies until we receive the diagnosis of Autism.

It is very important for professionals to know how Autism manifests itself and that this masking is very real and visible. Autism is not only in the lack of eye contact, difficulty socializing, sensory sensitivity, rigidity of thought. It is in many other manifestations. That’s why the attention paid to us is so important!

When society accepts all kinds of people and all kinds of characteristics, we won’t have the need to hide behind who we really are, we won’t have to go years without the right diagnosis, so important for us and for our evolution.