Masking is just another form of isolation that fancies itself a tool of social reciprocity.
I apologize ahead of time as I am not a research writer, but I have read plenty about the effects isolation has on the human psyche. Look no further than in prisons that contain solitary housing units. Isolation has caused social skills to take a step back. People who are isolated don’t always understand how to conduct themselves civilly. When that isolation is forced and not chosen, it’s like a raging bull has been let loose in your mind and is smashing up everything inside. This isolation has often led people to do things others might refer to as “crazy”, up to and including committing suicide.
Isolation can come in many forms. Those that suffer from depression, addiction, cope with Tourette’s, use assistive devices for mobility, etc…
I could go on.
But as this is an article contribution for the #TakeTheMaskOff campaign, I want to discuss isolation by way of masking. We’ve already established that everyone does some form of masking, but here is where masking is so different for an autistic person. Masking forces you to dissociate yourself from your real identity. The world around you reacts so harshly at who you really are, doesn’t feel like understanding who you are, and will not give you the time of day. So masking is the only thing that brings us in to their world and get social interaction when we need it. However, this ignores the one basic truth. Masking is just another form of isolation that fancies itself a tool of social reciprocity. Be honest with yourself. How many people that you mask around are still truly your friends?
Then you have people that have made the decision not to mask any longer. I am one of those. I’ve mentioned this many times because I like the simplicity of the statement, but my therapist has said I don’t seem to care to put up an act any more. That’s actually a pretty accurate statement. The only problem is I now get gaslighted by the people closest to me. They’ve seen me mask, and they’ve seen me cease to mask. And while the closest people in your life should be your allies and not your adversaries, it is often the opposite way around for me.
At best, these situations on either side can lead to cases of anxiety and PTSD. At worst, people decide they are done. Not that they want to die, just that they don’t want to be here. I brought up the subject of Arizona State professor Will Moore on Twitter this week. He delay published a blog after committing suicide last spring. In it, he opens up about the fact that he never considered himself to be suicidal. However, he often thought about it because the world was too hard. Everyone was against him.
At some point, all of us will know the feeling of you versus the world. I hope that will change in the near future, but fear no change will be there. When that feeling gets there, we all find different ways to deal with it. But remember this: somewhere, someone cares. Know where your safe space is. In return, be willing to lend your strength to others when they don’t have it as well. Check on them. Make sure they are OK. It’s OK to check on someone and they be doing good. That’s better than the alternative.