“The gloves, the mask, it’s a whole production.”

women in animal masks

I had an interesting conversation with M, recently.  He wanted to understand why I was disappointed when a stranger figured out I’m autistic after dining with us.  He suggested I may be ashamed of being autistic.  I thought about it and attempted to explain the concept of masking.  It’s not about shame; it’s pragmatism.

The ability to mask my autism from strangers is a skill I’ve honed over the course of my life.  It’s necessary for survival.  It’s not something used only by people with autism, either.  People with mental illnesses also recognize the need to mask.  Mental health providers at the VA suggest it; a psychologist jokingly instructed me not to get caught talking to myself in the hallways of the VA.  😶 I figure it’s a common practice among most invisibly disabled people.

I also mastered the ability to mask my depression in the process.  The same psychologist I mentioned above was annoyingly surprised when my mask slipped, and she suddenly believed I was depressed for the first time.  I remember thinking to myself how much easier it is to hide depression from mental health providers than nearly anyone else.  They’re trained to look for specific symptoms, which I choose to regard as convenient for me.  (You can’t be black and disabled at the Sioux Falls VA without handcuffs and leg shackles, so naturally, I roll with being black while wearing a shrink-proof mask.)

rabbit masked man

People with visible physical disabilities can’t mask but have the perquisite of being perceived as disabled on sight.  (I doubt they consider it a privilege, though.)  I’ve had decades of trial and error to figure out which behaviors attract ridicule and bullying.  It’s not easy to overcome my nature whenever I’m around people, though.  In fact, it’s exhausting.

 

I stifle the behaviors and motions I’ve identified as unsafe in the company of others.  I try to be invisible at those times.  I suck at remaining still, even though I know it would be helpful.  To compensate, I mastered the ability to rock minutely.  I do it slowly, and limit my range of motion to a few inches in each direction, while visualizing a gear system amplifying the efforts of my tiny movement.

Sadly, I’m fully aware I tend to rock more vigorously when my anxiety increases.  I stop when I realize.  I hate that I often catch myself when some asshole imitates me to amuse others.  Naturally, I’ve also mastered the ability to present both birds at half-mast 3 inches from the face of the asshole mentioned above, while looking unamused.  I consider it a public service.  You’re welcome.  🙃

man in rabbit mask

Thankfully, the human brain can help shelter us a bit from the disturbing lack of empathy in strangers.  Dissociation is another skill when forced to endure extreme discomfort while in public.  Sometimes, it’s all I can do to keep from screaming:  Like when the clock is ticking so sharply, and the person beside me breathes loudly through a congested nose.  Or the overhead lights are buzzing and too bright, the tv is too loud, and the wool fabric on the chair is scratchy on the backs of my arms, while my left shoe is tied more tightly than my right.  And the perfume, my god, the perfume!  /scream

I’m not ashamed of being autistic.  I’m too busy tweaking my ability to pass as typical and well adjusted to waste time feeling sorry for myself.  😂 Plus, there are a gazillion other things I’d much rather do.  Like playing Bach’s E major Partita on violin for some random, yet surprisingly attentive cows, while sitting on the fence in a soggy field.  It’s what I’m off to do now.  ✌🏽

“What was my father doing with a man in a cape?”

woman playing driving video game

It’s breezy today.  I like it.  A nice respite from too hot to go outside.  We didn’t have any band practice this weekend, so I’ve been bonding with my Playstation 4 and Xbox One.  (Not the Xbox One S, sigh.)  M still hasn’t let me try his new Xbox One X.  😂  The Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed franchises aren’t for me.  Forza 7 looks fabulous, but I’m the worst at driving games.  If the object were to go the wrong direction and damage the car as much as possible, I’d rule, though.  🤭

I stick to puzzle games and pinball, mostly.  I’m getting good at pinball, (but I think my rank is in the mid 200’s on my best table.)  Not screenshot-worthy, yet.  Heh.  I’m enjoying Unmechanical, and Southpark:  The Stick of Truth today.  (Hearing Cartman drop F-bombs cracks me up.)  I tried one of M’s horror games on the PlayStation VR, yesterday.  It triggered a lot of ideas regarding VR’s potential.  (It also scared me so much I shook for a while after quitting.)

I’m low-level stressing out because I suspect M paid far more for my birthday gift than I his.  Something within me needs it to be even.  I know I need to talk about it with him, but I’m not looking forward to it.  I hate defending an irrational stance based on a gut feeling.  There’s a 99.99% chance I’ll bear a smirk against my will the entire time I present my case.  (Dammit, Face!  Do what I command!)

I can never play Spades, Poker, or the like.  At least not if the goal is to win.  I can think of at least two people who are still pissed off at me for accidentally reneging in Spades in the 90’s.  I think it might be an autism thing.  For me, it takes all available resources to mask enough to be at the table with multiple people in the first place.  Be amazed I only did it once and didn’t cut, don’t you know.  💪🏽  But I accept it’s not for me.  Now.  🙃

people gambling

 

I think I’m going to get M some new headphones.  There are a few by Focal I know he’d love.  Massdrop has three colorways available, but the black ones look incredible.  But my stomach hurts, so I think I’d better plead my pathetic case first, and talk to him.  (I keep my conscience in my gut, I guess.)  No wonder it tends to get more significant as we age.  😂

I can’t get enough of Solo by Clean Bandit ft. Demi Lovato.  I woke myself up from singing it in my sleep this morning.  Yep.  That’s me in the dictionary next to the word, doof.  👍🏽  In my defense, it’s a pleasant way to awaken.  Also, I love Demi Lovato.  (She’s a mental health advocate, too.)  I heard the Maroon 5 song with Cardi B earlier.  I was about to get mad when she finally started rapping.  If you’re going to ride her fame rocket for a boost, bring her in right away.  That’s all I’m saying.  🙃  I’m off to play Skylanders.

 

“Elaine, do you think I would go willy-nilly into a situation so obviously fraught with potential complications?”

The Depression Monster is sitting on my head.  I’m ignoring him out of spite.  It makes me feel powerful (because I’m winning.)  Unfortunately, I’m still moving slowly and taking (really) long pauses to overthink.  It’s messing up my schedule.  I also got an invoice from the legal office negotiating the partnership at work.  I cried a little (because it’s fair despite feeling like robbery.)

I was raised by Great Depression-era parents in the 80’s.  (Everything about money makes me anxious.)  It’s irrational because they also taught me to be generous which means I’ll likely never suffer from lack of resources to survive.  I’m still fascinated by how well it works.  All the religions I know of teach it.  Giving things to other people is painless for me, but it’s been tainted by suggestions I’ve been taken advantage of a few times by relatives.

I’ve learned being used is bearable.  It can change the dynamics of a relationship, though.  So there is sometimes loss involved, but it’s subtle.   Some political news penetrated my defenses and set off this round, I’m guessing.  I really hate having to shield myself from reality in any way.  It makes me feel like a child.  I do it anyway because it’s necessary for me to survive.

I’m stronger now that I know about Stevie Nicks.  She’s a wise guide who is open, honest, and hella famous.  It’s as if she knew all along part of her journey was to help others.  When you study her interviews, it’s clear even from when she first became famous, she’s cognizant of her influence.  She probably knew she would be famous long before it happened.  I’m guessing her mom talked to her at some point about this aspect of fame.  It’s entirely something my mom would have done.

My anti-depression toolkit is super useful, now.  I’ve been teaching M. how to have fun.  He thought playing is just for children.  Now he knows play evolves as we age, but should never be forsaken.  He’s making his first game for IOS.  He’s also coloring on a daily basis.  It’s breaking his addiction to TV, (which is good because I canceled all channels except Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.)

I watched the first episode of Atypical.  I recognize I’m not its target audience.  It’s a show for neurotypical people to better understand autistics.  Therefore, it’s speaking in their language.  I still enjoyed it.  I’m pleased the show exists.  When they use FX to demonstrate how it feels to be the autistic main character, it’s jarring and nearly unbearable to me.  I walked away and came back when that part was over.  I recognize the actors playing the parents, but everyone else is new to me.

My immediate thought was to wonder why the hell the lead actor wasn’t masking.  It’s uncomfortable to watch.  It feels like watching someone walk on a highwire with no net to me.  I cringe when I see him actually say or do the things I spend a lot of energy suppressing.  But again, it’s because the show is not only for entertainment, but it’s teaching.   Also, masking is a skill, and trial and error are how it’s acquired.  (It’s a cruel, mean school.)  He’s young and just discovering how masking can make life less painful.

We age and develop at different rates, and grow based on different experiences.  There will always be a broad spectrum of traits and behaviors associated with autism.  When I was in high school, I didn’t mask well and my energy and time management skills were non-existent.  The difference between then and now is shocking to non-autists.  This is why no one should put limits on our potential.  Especially not where we can come across or overhear them.  (That’s abuse.)  I’m off to beat my drums.