I learned early on in my life that I am never right. I am always wrong. Always acting wrong, always dressing wrong, always saying the wrong things, just always wrong.
I have Asperger’s Syndrome as known as high-functioning autism. While I always knew that something was different about me, it wasn’t until last year, at the age of 39, that I finally received a formal diagnosis.
In observing other girls – when I was growing up – and women, I learn how to copy the social niceties. In my mind exists an instruction manual I’ve built over time. In social situations, I flip through the manual and follow the instructions. It is an exceedingly difficult and conscious process.
Obsessively, I rehearse social situations before I encounter them.
I pretend to be something I am not. I mask.
Masking is when a person purposely hides their autistic symptoms to conform to societal norms. If you know an autistic individual, work with them, or are one, you are probably familiar with this term.
Though my effort to mask myself is often successful, it is not infallible. Cracks inevitably appear; the truth finds its way to the surface. I slip up.
Because of the effort to mask, depression, exhaustion, and anxiety are constant companions.
This cycle is a vicious and exhausting one. No matter how successful I become at masking myself, I only find myself in mental and emotional anguish. The more an Aspie masks, the larger the toll on their mental health.
And this leads me to this website. As I searched for inspiration in naming this site, my thoughts always led me back to masking. Or, more specifically, the conflict between who I am as a person with Asperger’s and what the world around me feels I should be.
While the Asperger’s diagnosis helps me understand why I am the way I am, accepting it isn’t as easy as an actor yanking off a mask at the end of a play and calling it a day. Society expects the mask, not the autistic traits.
And so, this is the reason I have named my website To Aspie or Not to Aspie. Just as masks hide the identity of actors on stage, my mask hides my Asperger’s to some degree.
We pretend to be “normal” to our own detriment. There is no cure for autism. The conflict comes in how to balance the world and ourselves. This is what I want to explore for myself and other late-diagnosed women. Sharing our stories and lessons can help each other as we learn to navigate our worlds.
Welcome to my journey! It always helps to know that we are not alone in our struggles, which is why I would love to hear from other adult autistic women.