My Relationship with the Mask

Masking autism is nothing new to me. There is a public persona, and there is a private persona.  

It’s not to say that nobody wears a mask at some point. I believe everyone wears a mask to hide their pain. The autistic person’s mask, on the other hand, is much more encouraged to be put on because their private persona is literally vilified. They are taught that their private, and therefore true, persona is a weirdo, a freak, and has no place in this world. 

I’m no stranger to this treatment. Even my sweet nephew called me a freak in anger at one time. People throughout my school years taunted me, teased me, mocked me, and finally excluded me. Even people I thought were my friends. In truth, I spent the last day of school walking home. Alone.  

This is why I developed a mask…too late for high school, though. A mask worthy of the so-called compliment “But you don’t look autistic!” A mask made of body fat, smiles and social graces which has caused people not to think I am autistic. Finally, I was accepted, but not happy. I was polite; but I was not real.  

The mask has saved me from countless taunting and exclusion from my peers, for the most part. It has made me a few friends. Until my late thirties my mask was worn firmly on my face, to the point that I did not know where I ended and the mask began. It was as if my mask had taken over and become my skin. 

But the mask has worn out its welcome. It has gotten some sort of sand or gravel behind it and is hurting my face.  

So, by starting this blog, and healing through therapy and support, I have slowly peeled the mask off, along with some layers of dead skin, to heal and develop the thick skin I was supposed to have years ago. I need to get real. I need to heal.  

I am now working on integrating the public and private personae. I have not arrived at the point where I can take the mask of fully yet, but I am getting there. One day, I’ll finally be able to be myself, fully. I will not need a mask anymore.  

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Help is Good

I recently learned of Michelle WIlliams (the singer) getting help for depression. I think it’s good and healthy to consult a professional about your problems-you know, someone who can help. But people only get worried and concerned. Why do people get concerned when a person actually gets help for a lingering mental illness? I think it’s more worrying when a person does NOT seek help for their mental conditions. That’s when the real messes are made. Here’s an example: When I learned that Hayden Panettiere was getting help for her postpartum depression, I knew that concern time was over. She was putting herself in good hands. Don’t you think a celebrity like her would get the best help she could afford? What’s the problem? 

Maybe there’s something else at work. A joke I recently came across went like this: “When I go to the therapist, I have to be honest, but not so honest that she will commit me.” Truth be told, getting put in a mental ward is only good for a select few, and you must meet certain narrow criteria for it. If you keep taking your prescribed medicine as directed by the psychiatrist, you should be able to keep going in your life without any interruptions. Give the medicine time if it works. Keep taking the medicine if it does. And speak up if the medicine is not working for you.  

Race and Hollywood: My Beef with the Ancient One’s Casting

I know that in my previous article, I was focused on race a bit. It did seem like it was only black and white, did it not? Well, I’m back to say that people of almost all races are at risk of discrimination. Case in point: I was mad as hell that the Ancient One in Doctor Strange was not Asian. It was explained to the public that the characterizations of the Ancient One would be stereotypical.  Don’t you think, for instance, Lucy Liu would be dying to bust stereotypes she has faced all her life? What about the beautiful Tamlyn Tomita? Is Hollywood so racist that they cannot trust their Asian actors to break their own stereotypes? Maybe that’s it. Hollywood is so racist that they cannot trust ANY actors to break their own stereotypes. Boy, do we have a long way to go.  

Race and Music

Something that grinds my gears is the notion that race decides your musical tastes. Some people have it in their heads that if you’re black you must listen to this music and if you’re white, you must listen to that music. If you ask me, that notion is ridiculous. There are race-crossing musicians appearing all the time. Eminem, Darius Rucker, In Living Color, Killswitch Engage’s lead singer, Sevendust’s lead singer, the list goes on and on. Maybe my opinion is more popular than I think, but I am stating that when a person likes a certain genre of music, they ought to be given free rein to explore and develop their talent to fit said genre. I grew up in the 1990s. I liked En Vogue and TLC as much as I liked Nirvana. “Free Your Mind” helped me challenge my views of many different types of people. Even back then, I got the feeling that this notion of race deciding musical taste was creeping into society. As I said before, just ridiculous.  

Who Defines the “Mildness” of Autism?

I have a confession to make: I used to say I have “mild” autism. It was never “mild” to me, though. I mean, sure, it might be “mild” and invisible to the neurotypicals, but you never know the struggle it is to come up with the right word so as not to be blasted or ostracized for being weird. You don’t know which strange sight, sound or smell will throw me off. You don’t even know how hard it can be for me to communicate for me, either. But you don’t consider me, do you? Autism is one of the few conditions defined by how the non-sufferer (for lack of a better word) experiences it.

Why is that? Why is it that autism is defined by the non-autistic? Is race defined by the privileged? Has anyone even considered that autistic people experience everything differently? That we have a viewpoint that might be valuable? Or are you too busy classifying our viewpoints as worthless simply because we don’t communicate them the way you want us to?