We are now in week five of the Take Off The Mask Challenge! Last time, we talked about Autistic Burnout and how it is caused by masking. This week, we will talk about how diagnosis and self-awareness impacts masking. This topic actually does directly lead into next week’s topic, which is all about coping strategies and using them deliberately.
Diagnosis and self-awareness is very important for individuals with autism because this will help you figure out and navigate your life. And, yes, I actually consider the them as two separate things.
A diagnosis is when you find out and are told what exactly you have. Some do self-diagnosis, but for me, it always better to get tested by professionals and get a diagnosis from a professional.
Actively pursuing a diagnosis can be nerve wracking and scary for most, but its definitely worth it, because once you find out what it you actually have, things will start making sense, and you can begin the process of self-awareness, which helps you discover your capabilities and limitations, and you can start coming up with the necessary coping strategies you need.
Self-awareness is more difficult to attain, is a more complicated process, and take years to do. In fact, having self-awareness is a continuous learning process that doesn’t end, and all the new stuff you learn about yourself as the years go along allows you to create better and more effective coping strategies for yourself.
The major hurdle that one has to cross first, however, is acceptance. Getting a diagnosis and knowing it is the first step, and then actually coming to terms with what you have and accepting it wholeheartedly is a very different thing. For me, it took years after the diagnosis and continuing therapy to finally just accept my Asperger’s, with all of its pros and cons. However, once I finally accepted it for what it is and how it has made me who I am, I was able to begin the process of self-awareness.
The process of self-awareness is when one accepts the diagnosis wholeheartedly and starts to see and understands one’s strengths and weaknesses with the lens of one’s diagnosis. Knowing this will allow the individual to create tailor made coping strategies for oneself. Everyone has a different experience of their diagnosis, so these coping strategies will fit that particular individual.
Self-awareness is definitely key to allowing individuals with autism to come up with coping strategies for particular situations and it helps us figure out how to navigate life as a whole. Therefore, having self-awareness allows us to live a life without the mask, because instead of masking, we will be using our coping strategies well.
Coping strategies still do require some sort of effort when enforced, but at least these allow us to still be true to ourselves instead of having to pretend that we are neurotypical when we aren’t.
Achieving self-awareness isn’t a walk in the park, and took years for me to achieve, and I’m still learning more and more things about myself everyday. I also haven’t completely mastered it, as there are moments when I do slip up and forget about what I know about myself.
However, once I did achieve a certain level of self-awareness, the shift from masking to using coping strategies instead was something that came naturally.
I was only able to achieve a particular level of self-awareness as I was encouraged by my therapist to examine my own emotions and how I reacted to particular situations, whether it be something big, like causing a scene at the mall, or something small, like a small personal victory that I was able to achieve.
Examining these situations and discovering the root causes of how I reacted to particular situations allowed me to have a better sense of what I can do, and what I cannot do, and my coping strategies all stem from that. I’m the type that thinks in charts and lists, so coming up with a SWOT analysis for myself was pretty easy to do. And sooner or later, it became second nature for me to do that not just for big incidents, but for smaller incidents, both good and bad, as well.
Self-awareness impacts masking on a fundamental and deep level, because being aware about yourself, your strengths and limitations allows you to create strategies that you can use, instead of masking and mimicking a neurotypicals behavior. Self-awareness allows you to be more yourself than ever before, although it takes some time to actually achieve. However, once you’ve achieved a certain level of self-awareness, things become a little bit more easy afterwards.
Are you self-aware? Did you find it difficult to attain a certain sense of self-awareness? What other strategies can you suggest for self-awareness that I didn’t mention? Let me know what you think in the comments below!