The other day I was talking to a friend about being Neuro-divergent and wearing a mask. I wasn’t talking about the kind of mask people wear during a pandemic. I meant the proverbial mask of appearing to be happier, more “normal,” and less autistic.
Her response was, “Rae, everyone wears a mask, so I don’t understand the big deal.”
She was right because she was wrong
I couldn’t help but stare at her. My initial reaction was that she was right, but then I realized that’s why she is wrong.
Everyone chooses to wear masks, but some people were forced to wear a mask. Let me explain. Most people in the neurodivergent community have had a lot of different therapies in order to try to force development to be more similar to everyone else’s.
But, these therapies are not designed in consideration of the whole child and the psychological damage that comes with trying to force someone to develop against the grain of their neurology.
So many people were abused and neglected in order to fit in with neurotypical children. So, wearing a mask for people in the Neurodivergent community is different. They are not trying to fit in. A mask is their survival mechanism. I want to emphasize that I’m sure there are exceptions, but this is why the term holds so much baggage within the community.
The Pain of Forced Masks
The other problem is many people within the community haven’t really been able to experience being their authentic selves comfortably, so this has a lot of negative psychological effects from the lack of boundaries, to social interactions, to self-love, to self-care, to defining their own dreams and aspirations– because they are constantly trying to cover themselves.
This is also why it’s different within the context of the neurodivergent community. Many people are openly advocating for people to remove their mask without being ashamed. Others are concerned that shaming people into unmasking could put them at risk of feeling ashamed about doing what they have to do to avoid abuse, maintain tenuous relationships, or remain employed.
So then the question becomes, how do I remove my mask that I have been wearing for so long? How do I find myself? What should be my next move?
I am not a psychologist, but I believe seeking to understand yourself is the first step and knowing the difference between fulfillment and happiness should be your next.
- On autistic masking: But doesn’t everyone wear a mask? — July 23, 2020