A mask is something that covers up one’s true feelings or intentions to keep them hidden. Now, I’m not talking about the creepy Jason hockey mask from the Friday the thirteenth movies, although it would be cool if that were an option for me too. I’m talking about using a show to hide who you are and how you feel from those around you. Something else I might add about masks is that, as humans, we generally only use them because we feel like we have to, not because it’s what we want to do.
Now, masking has come up a few times in the autism community, and it deserves its own article. The main reason masking is brought up is because many non-autistic people are under the impression that autistic people always want to act in a way that society deems “normal.” They believe that autistic people are making no effort to blend in and fit in with the rest of society the majority of the time. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Now, I’m not going to try and convince you that masking is some glorious thing that all autistic people strive for every day of their lives. Masking sucks. It’s difficult if you’re tired of feeling sick or don’t have the energy for that particular day. There are times I wish I were just born normal enough to blend in with the rest of society without much effort on my part. This would make life so much easier; I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful this would be.
However, since life isn’t like that (at least not for me), I do my best at masking when it’s necessary. If I can’t mask physically or don’t have the energy for it at that time, I let people know ahead of time so they’re not confused about why I seem a bit “off.” This is a lot easier with some people than others. When it comes to my teachers, telling them beforehand that I’m not going to mask is a lot easier than it is with my parents. My teachers have more experience dealing with autistic students and understand that there will be days I can’t do it. My parents, however, didn’t go through teacher training on autism, so they feel a little lost sometimes when I tell them I’m not going to be able to mask for whatever reason. They worry that something is wrong with me or I’m sad when in reality, I might need absolute silence when the noise in my head becomes too much to handle.
Masking can be a good and bad thing depending on what it’s used for and how you go about doing it. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that everyone should mask because that’s not true. Autistic people have a wide range of masks they can wear. Not every autistic person will be able to wear the same masks as each other due to physical or mental limitations they may have. What I will say, though, is this:
- Mask if you want to, but don’t let it become something that controls your life. If you can live without masking and are happy doing so, do so proudly. Do not feel guilty for this because you shouldn’t. Masking is a personal decision made by a person and should only be done out of choice by the person doing it.
- Always remember: masking is not a requirement for autistic people and should never be treated as such. If you’re autistic and want to live without the use of masks, do so proudly; we don’t need them anyway. Mask if you feel like you have to or want to, but don’t let it get in the way of living your life.
- Masking is not all bad, though, either. I do my best to mask when it’s required of me. This has made life a lot easier for me so far and gives me more freedom in some respects than if I couldn’t or wasn’t willing to live behind an autistic mask. But sometimes, I still have those days where I can’t do it, and those are the days you’ll find me hiding in a corner somewhere, away from everyone else.
Masking is a complex subject to talk about for autistic people and non-autistic people alike because there’s a lot of misconceptions floating around about what it means. I’m here to help clear up some of those misconceptions, and hopefully, one day, it’ll be a subject that’s talked about more often without all the stigma surrounding it.
Mask if you want or need to, but always remember: masking is not something you should feel ashamed about.
Disclaimer: Please note that I do not speak for all autistic people, just myself. If you disagree with anything I’ve said here and it’s something that affects your daily life, feel free to leave a comment below.