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Ida B.
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Joined: 30 Sep 2021
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Posts: 4

30 Sep 2021, 8:41 pm

Hi everyone.

I'm a 27 year old woman, and a few months ago it dawned on me that I am on the spectrum. Realising that I've been masking and that this has thoroughly messed up quite a few parts of my life has been a bit of an epiphany, but at the same time I'm struggling with how to actually act on it.

Since abovementioned self-diagnosis (the official one being still work in progress) I've started to allow myself to act more "autistic" in ways that feel good and more real to me, such as stimming more, completely indulging in my interests, avoiding unpleasant social interactions aka most social interactions, and generally acting the way I feel I would be acting if I hadn't been told over and over again that it is inappropriate and weird and rude. It has been massively liberating.

However, I mentioned I've been avoiding most social contacts, which feels rather ambivalent. On the one hand, I'm ridiculously excited about just being able to say no to an invitation for lunch and instead spend the break hidden in my favourite dark corner as I always wanted to, like a childhood dream come true. But even I need social contact (for some reason I am not fully aware of), and as much as I hate having conversations I often feel vaguely but clearly better after. I just moved to a new country and common sense tells me that investing in some local friendship-like relationships would be a good idea, mental health-wise. I also have fairly severe social anxieties and it seems like a safe bet that just avoiding all kinds of social situations that make me feel even a tiny bit uncomfortable is going to make them worse. Finally, there is some undeniable truth to the claim that my autistic way of being is often rude, and I'd actually like to avoid offending people, if possible.

So, yeah. I'm not sure if I'm expressing my predicament very clearly. In my head, being social equals masking equals feeling isolated for not actually being myself around people equals being miserable, while being non-social equals being straightforwardly isolated because of simply not being around people equals being miserable. It's a bit of a mess. I just started grad school, and everyone keeps on telling me how important it is that I socialise and network and make friends with people in my field, and part of me is like, screw it, I'd like to wear a version of myself that actually fits me for a change, but then I also know that they are right in some way, I guess (?).

I really hope I'm making some sense. Given that my situation is probably hardly unique (and there is probably at least one among the 11532 topics in this category that addresses exactly my question but I really can't be bothered to go through them, apologies), I was wondering if folks here have some thoughts on this, of whichever genre. It would be very kind and genuinely appreciated.



Mountain Goat
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Joined: 13 May 2019
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Posts: 11,748

30 Sep 2021, 8:59 pm

I feel naked when the masking breaks down. I don't know how not to mask to be honest. I can only unmask when with my Mum or on my own, or during burnout when I lose the ability to mask which is horrible.I say lose the ability. I glitch back and fore between masking and unmasking when that happens which is a bit like that girl in the "Wreck It Ralph" film.



Mona Pereth
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Age: 63
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Location: New York City (Queens)

01 Oct 2021, 12:54 am

I would suggest that you try to find ways to use your interests as a way to connect with people who have the same interests.

I would suggest that you look on Meetup.com for groups devoted to your hobbies. Most of these groups won't be meeting in-person until after the pandemic is over, but many are currently meeting online, usually via video chat, or in some cases via text-based chat.

I would also suggest that you start a blog about at least one of your interests, preferably on either Wordpress.com or Google blogger. (These will, at least eventually, give you much better Google rankings than if you just talk about your hobbies on your social media accounts, if any. Also you should use both a calendar widget and a tags widget to make it easier for users to navigate your blog. More about these technical matters if you ask.)

If you tell us what your interests are, some of us might be able to make other, more specific suggestions on how to find people with those interests.

If you want to make friends here on Wrong Planet, I would suggest that you edit your profile to include the following:

1) Your approximate geographic location. Don't be specific enough to endanger your privacy, but do identify at least your country and, if it's a large country, your province/state or general region or nearest major metropolitan area.

2) A signature line that mentions your interests.


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badRobot
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01 Oct 2021, 5:34 am

My advise is thinking of your interests and an excuse to meet new people, temporary social glue. But focus on building genuine connections with people by trying to focus on being genuinely interested in them, not just subject matter of your interests.

When I first realized I'm on the spectrum, I used it as an excuse to avoid any discomfort, but now I'm trying to avoid living in a bubble. I believe socialization is just a skill NTs pick up subconsciously, but it still something you can learn, we have to deliberately practice this skill to internalize it and at some point develop "muscle memory" make it effortless.

So approach it as if you are learning to meditate. When you are meeting people who have common interests, try to be mindful about paying attention to their motives, their feelings, values, what they are trying to say. When your focus shifts to subject matter, just gently notice it without beating yourself and focus it back on social aspect of interaction. It would be hard in the beginning, but as any habit or skill, over time it will become second nature.

If you experience sensory overload in social situations, practicing mindfulness, meditating really helps with ability to develop "passive observation" and concentration, ability to filter out noise.



Minervx_2
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Age: 30
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06 Oct 2021, 10:12 pm

For me, it took a lot of practice, self-reflection and learning from mistakes. I still get nervous and shy at times, but overall I feel like I can blend in with people while still being myself. So, I'm sort of "masking" but at the same time, I'm also just being myself and comfortable with how I am.



Ettina
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31 Oct 2021, 12:13 pm

One of the strategies I use is strategically disclosing autistic traits. I often frame them as personality quirks.

For example, if I'm starting to infodump, I'll often interrupt myself to say "by the way, I have trouble sometimes being able to tell how someone else feels about what I'm saying, and I have a tendency to go on and on about topics I'm interested in, so please interrupt me if you need a break from this topic".

If I'm getting overloaded, I'll say something like "I'm having trouble focusing with all this noise. Can we go somewhere quieter to talk about this?" (or "Can we discuss this later, after I've had some time to relax?").

Even if I don't say I'm autistic, describing relevant autistic traits and giving the other person suggestions on how to accommodate me has often gotten me good results.