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Identity crisis after loose diagnosis

After suspecting I'm on the spectrum for most of my life, a few months ago I got "loosely" diagnosed with ASD and am working towards a full diagnosis with the support of my GP. My initial visit to the doctor, which led to this, was for what I now believe is autistic burnout (didn't even know this was a thing until it was discussed and I did more research).

On one hand, I feel validated and relieved as I now know I'm not just "difficult" or "cold" as I've sometimes been labelled in the past, but on the other hand I am now experiencing what sort of feels like an identity crisis. I no longer have the energy, nor the drive I previously had, to mask as heavily as before, and it's really starting to mess with me. I don't know who I am without a mask on 24/7. A lot of my autistic traits I've worked so hard to stamp out over the years (out of shame and fear mostly) are now coming to the surface and it's overwhelming. I'm also dealing with others making comments such as "why are you suddenly acting more autistic" and "you've never been like this before" which can feel sort of invalidating.

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced something similar? If so, how did you deal with this? I'm feeling a little alone and lost because I don't really know where to go from here.
 

Mr. Stevens

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I definitely relate to finding myself again and having to shed the mask. I don't really get the comments, though. People do comment on my differences, I just don't hear things like, "Why are you more Autistic now?" Most people in my life are clueless about Autism. Or, they are colleagues in the human services field, who are still fairly clueless.

I try to focus on being more comfortable in myself. I keep in mind what gives me meaning. Most people, in life, seem to point and laugh at things before they understand. They don't want to be called conformists, but they don't like difference. All you can do is go forward and be yourself. And you will find likeminded, sympathetic people, like we have here.
 

Neonatal RRT

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
After suspecting I'm on the spectrum for most of my life, a few months ago I got "loosely" diagnosed with ASD and am working towards a full diagnosis with the support of my GP. My initial visit to the doctor, which led to this, was for what I now believe is autistic burnout (didn't even know this was a thing until it was discussed and I did more research).

On one hand, I feel validated and relieved as I now know I'm not just "difficult" or "cold" as I've sometimes been labelled in the past, but on the other hand I am now experiencing what sort of feels like an identity crisis. I no longer have the energy, nor the drive I previously had, to mask as heavily as before, and it's really starting to mess with me. I don't know who I am without a mask on 24/7. A lot of my autistic traits I've worked so hard to stamp out over the years (out of shame and fear mostly) are now coming to the surface and it's overwhelming. I'm also dealing with others making comments such as "why are you suddenly acting more autistic" and "you've never been like this before" which can feel sort of invalidating.

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced something similar? If so, how did you deal with this? I'm feeling a little alone and lost because I don't really know where to go from here.
First of all, welcome.:)

Secondly, "Yes", this is what it is like during the mental exhaustion phase, aka, "autistic burnout". You can get the same way during an illness (cold, flu, etc.) basically any time that your body has tapped out its energy reserves to mask and is more in the mode of conserving energy, or diverting energy to heal the body. It can be short term, or more chronic condition. It was exactly the situation I was in that caused me to pursue my own diagnosis. I can totally relate to this. Come to find out, even though I was functioning at what may be considered a "high level" professionally, I also would be testing at sometimes 2X the scores of the "average" autistic test scores. So, a lot of mental energy was being put forth to mask, but once that mask began to crumble, things got bad for me pretty quickly.

So, I believe the FIRST thing to do is address the autistic burnout/mental exhaustion part. If your body is beginning to shut down due to mental stress, for Pete's sake, pay attention to that. Whatever you are doing, the stressors in your life, it is past time for a vacation/holiday. All of us can tell you about their experiences with this, but in the end, it will pass IF you take care of yourself, more specifically, take care of your brain. I can go into all the physiological/biochemical reasons for all of this, but basically, your brain needs a rest.

Sleep! Avoid "inflammatory" foods like simple sugars. If you are questioning some underlying food allergies (foods that give you bloat or GI issues, headaches, flushing of the skin, etc.), go online and get one of those home kits. You may find foods you never thought you were "reacting" to. A broad-spectrum probiotic, as gut health plays a huge role in neurotransmitter production. Good nutrition and a little exercise goes a long way. If your body and brain are healthy, the better you will feel, and the better you will be able to cope with daily stressors. Learn techniques to deal with daily stress. For me, it is taking "mini breaks" throughout the day, 5 minutes in a bathroom, break room, etc to just "chill out", grab some water, then back at it. Basically, learn to recognize your stress signals and pace yourself.
 
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Rodafina

Hopefully Human
Staff member
V.I.P Member
pastelanxiety,

I relate so well to what you have written here. A lifetime of masking is a really confusing thing, and when we can’t do it anymore, the process of slowly dismantling and removing the mask is so disorienting. I understand perfectly what you mean by identity crisis.

I think it’s really important to go through what you are going through. I have been doing the same thing, with similar reactions to my new freedom in just being myself. People always thought I was just being myself, but they didn’t know.

The one thing that really really helped me was meeting people here on the forum and never using the mask in the first place. Even in real life, when I meet new people, I try to be authentically myself, all the way. Having more people in my life don’t have this preconceived notion of me and wondering why I’ve changed has been really helpful. People meeting me for the first time see the real me, and that strengthens my ability to do that even with others who are not used to it.

Hang in there, I do think it gets easier, and we don’t really have another choice. Wearing such a heavy mask for such a long time, in my opinion, is no living at all. Existing in hidden form. Permanently invisible. I don’t think we want this.
 

Aspychata

Serenity waves, beachy vibes
V.I.P Member
It seems we cycle thru some very distinct personalities when we are burning out, hungry, tired, emotionally drained. Then l run around thinking eek , did l really say that, do that, think that, text that? So l just either exercise or go to sleep earlier, or sit in a dark room and listen to music, or talk to a friend, or stim, watch some nonsense TV show to zone out and calm down.
 

MC1Rcat

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
After suspecting I'm on the spectrum for most of my life, a few months ago I got "loosely" diagnosed with ASD and am working towards a full diagnosis with the support of my GP. My initial visit to the doctor, which led to this, was for what I now believe is autistic burnout (didn't even know this was a thing until it was discussed and I did more research).

On one hand, I feel validated and relieved as I now know I'm not just "difficult" or "cold" as I've sometimes been labelled in the past, but on the other hand I am now experiencing what sort of feels like an identity crisis. I no longer have the energy, nor the drive I previously had, to mask as heavily as before, and it's really starting to mess with me. I don't know who I am without a mask on 24/7. A lot of my autistic traits I've worked so hard to stamp out over the years (out of shame and fear mostly) are now coming to the surface and it's overwhelming. I'm also dealing with others making comments such as "why are you suddenly acting more autistic" and "you've never been like this before" which can feel sort of invalidating.

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced something similar? If so, how did you deal with this? I'm feeling a little alone and lost because I don't really know where to go from here.
I have also been in the same place since December....was told by LCSW who works w/ ASD that she strongly suspected I am on the spectrum. Unfortunately, I don't see her anymore. I am currently trying to find a Psychiatrist who understands high masking behavior and burnout. Thanks for asking this question. I am interested in what people have to say too. Hang in there....It is really weird, but liberating at the same time. My main issue is just trying to get thru the burnout. I have been not masking with new people I meet and it is getting easier. My mother is also finally accepting it, which gives me some support aside from this forum. Which brings me to just saying a big thank you to everyone on here for sharing their experiences and asking/ answering questions. It really is super helpful.
 

eg3210

Fishing is probably the answer
Great post.
Burnout stinks! And dealing with such a big change in the middle of a burnout must be hard! You seem like you are doing great under those circumstances.

I can't remember the name but the idea of someone suddenly appearing "more autistic" after diagnosis is common enough that I've seen it written about in a book or study. I didn't hear it out loud, from others but I definitely had a few odd looks and was very, very self conscious about it.
But after a lifetime of pretending to be someone and then suddenly realizing that it's ok to be yourself, or at least be more of yourself, there are bound to be noticable differences.
And I don't know about you but I had to discover who the real me actually was. There was a little trial and error to see what was comfortable to me after so many years of hiding these traits, even from myself.
 

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