This is what autistic masking looks like.
A smiling face. Stood alone.
For years I've been hosting events and a regular knit group that I'm told is warm, welcoming and inclusive. I had it in my head that I enjoy getting people together and seeing them happy, even though my autism keeps me on the sidelines unable to properly join in.
I now know that my warm, welcome and inclusive setting omits me. That during these times, the person who does not feel included is me.
The greatest irony of autism is that we're seen as inflexible, rigid and struggle to adapt when in reality we're the ones who camouflage each day to get by, compromising ourselves which causes us harm.
Autism can be a superpower. Autism can also fucking suck. It's a neurological disorder that affects how I interact with the world and needing to camouflage/mask to fit in with the neurotypical ideal of passing. Stop flapping your hands Countess, sit on them so people don't think you're strange.
But it comes at great cost.
- The burnout of social exhaustion.
- The expectations that others, and myself, put on me to perform at a consistently high level.
- The inability to see when someone is taking advantage of me until it's too late.
- Failing to understand friendships despite wishing to fit in.
- Having so much empathy for others that it causes me to shutdown. We've had people visit our knit group just the once, offload all their trauma stories in one go and then just vanish and I'm left taking all of that on board, affecting my executive functioning skills.
I know now that I want to continue doing what I do best - dyeing yarn - and that an inclusive space that does not include the autistic organiser is not inclusive. From 2020, I'll no longer host a regular knit group at my studio. I will still host events from time to time but the regularity of social interaction and "performing neurotypical" has taken its toll.
If you visit our studio and you see a skinhead/wigged person dancing about, flapping her hands with a smile on her face, it's because I refuse to compromise my well-being any longer and that I'm actually really happy in the space that I've created, doing the job that I love. ~ Countess