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Male aspies and masking

Todd

Member
Since diagnosis I see quite clearly that, growing up, I masked everything. I knew that I had no voice. I knew I was terrified. I knew that if I tried to speak I would cry. This was not a time in Australia when boys were allowed to be afraid or to cry. There was something terribly wrong with me, which could only be my fault, and I had to hide it. The handful of times I was seen to be upset people assumed it was over something sporadic and recent. If ever I tried to tell anyone what was happening (very seldom, usually adults who had noticed, quite suspiciously, that I was a little off) then I was wrong or overly dramatic or a liar or to be laughed at. I masked in terror throughout all of this, only my pain, my crying myself to sleep, knew the depths of my patience. No-one knew the depths of my despair.
Wow, I think I could go novel-length with this......... just to wrap up, these days, following the ASD discovery, I have a very real problem being believed (even by professionals in psychiatry) that I have severe attention issues, and even that I'm ASD, because as a boy I wasn't supposed to be this good at suffering unseen, at masking, and if I had attention issues it is assumed that I would have been in trouble more. It's a tough slap in the face after all. I wonder if anyone relates?
 

Leo Zed

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I can definitely relate. I was known as the black sheep of the family - and this was before I was diagnosed with ASD. I didn’t know what was the matter with me, neither did anyone else. I suffered low self esteem issues, and I’m just now pulling myself out of a vicious depression. The worst part about it all was that I was blamed for it all. Every time I had a meltdown, I was thrown in the psych hospital. If I understand masking correctly, it made me feel as if I were two different persons: one for myself and one for everyone else. I was always trying to live up to the expectations of others, but I kept failing. I spent my whole life living this way. Now I’m learning to live for myself. This transformation is slow and difficult, but it seems possible.
 

Todd

Member
Yes. It's like that. I didn't get angry until just outside highschool. I had soooo much patience once, but not as a young adult. People don't want to understand, because it tears down many other artificial constructs that society loves so deeply. There must always be someone to blame, and, to be fair, they're not to blame. For us, being advised on how to do better in the future is like being advised on how better to stop the wind blowing. It's awful to 'wake up' being the object of a great deal of judgement... thx for your reply
 

Outdated

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Hi Todd,

Fellow Aussie here, I grew up in a similar world to you but 15 years earlier. By the time I was about 7 years old I had worked out that most people's advice simply didn't apply to me and that most people are nowhere near as intelligent as they liked to believe, especially with doctors.

I'd swear that more than 50% of them go for a holiday in Bali to buy a PHD. I have met some very good doctors, so yes, I do understand the difference.

When it came to masking, this was something I always did consciously and actively. I had a whole collection of different faces for different occasions. On a few very rare occasions I met people who were capable of accepting me exactly as I am and I was able to (mostly) drop the mask.

I didn't get a diagnosis until 2 years ago, and then I only did it as part of my early retirement plan. I got the pension.
 

Todd

Member
Good on you. It is amazing for me to hear this. 15 years earlier must have been pretty hard. Congrats on the retirement. Thanks for relating about intelligence too - it's quite hard to do without sounding as though I consider myself superior, which I certainly don't. You're right about it. If I could change one thing about my understanding as a kid, I'd let myself know alot sooner that the things which are obvious to me are not necessarily obvious to others..... Thx again
 

Outdated

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I had a really good boss once who understood me very well and often made use of some of my more unusual abilities. He asked me one day if I thought I was that much smarter than everyone else.

I told him that a sad truth of the world is that I'm not really all that much smarter, the difference is that I was much more prepared to make use of what I had instead of letting other people do my thinking for me.

Be true to yourself Todd. Don't argue with other people's advice, let them think they helped you, but don't ever think that your own advice to yourself is worth any less than theirs.
 

Todd

Member
I had a really good boss once who understood me very well and often made use of some of my more unusual abilities. He asked me one day if I thought I was that much smarter than everyone else.

I told him that a sad truth of the world is that I'm not really all that much smarter, the difference is that I was much more prepared to make use of what I had instead of letting other people do my thinking for me.

Be true to yourself Todd. Don't argue with other people's advice, let them think they helped you, but don't ever think that your own advice to yourself is worth any less than theirs.
Thanks again. I'm about copy and paste this post and hang it on my wall. You've been amazing
 

Shevek

Well-Known Member
Men are expected to have suppressed emotions, because it is our ancient role to go out and face danger when necessary for the family or tribe. If a tribe lost most of their men, it would not affect the size of the next generation, whereas a species of hominid that shared the risk with women would recover slower, and die off over time.
There is also the issue that most people can be returned to group solidarity by gentle teasing, which does not work for us, even when exaggerated to bullying.
Another factor is that if invisible handicaps are not vigorously challenged, far more people will try to fake them to claim the compensations. Many people can't really understand that others are quite different than themselves. Walter Chrysler was sure that there was only one best way for everyone to do any given job, with no regard for individual talents or blind spots.
 

Todd

Member
Thank you
Men are expected to have suppressed emotions, because it is our ancient role to go out and face danger when necessary for the family or tribe. If a tribe lost most of their men, it would not affect the size of the next generation, whereas a species of hominid that shared the risk with women would recover slower, and die off over time.
There is also the issue that most people can be returned to group solidarity by gentle teasing, which does not work for us, even when exaggerated to bullying.
Another factor is that if invisible handicaps are not vigorously challenged, far more people will try to fake them to claim the compensations. Many people can't really understand that others are quite different than themselves. Walter Chrysler was sure that there was only one best way for everyone to do any given job, with no regard for individual talents or blind spots.
Thank you Shevek, I'm not sure if it's the talking with similarly challenged people who understand ASD or simply having happened upon an area with so many articulate people, but checking out this site has proven to be a wonderful choice so far...... What you said about Chrysler - it reminds me of other 'outdated (never right; finally proven wrong)' beliefs, such as phrenology or racialism. Thx again
 

Outdated

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Walter Chrysler was sure that there was only one best way for everyone to do any given job, with no regard for individual talents or blind spots.

This is one of the things that irks me about our modern world, and something I'm trying to promote change in with our new Minister For Autism. Franchised methods don't work for many of us and in the process a lot of raw talent is denied and subdued, the ultimate price is the dumbing down of our society.

Many years ago adverts for British Petroleum used to tell us that we were "The Clever Country" and "The Quiet Achievers". I'd like to see that become true one day. At the moment true talent only ever seems to survive in spite of our education system rather than being promoted by it.
 

Todd

Member
This is one of the things that irks me about our modern world, and something I'm trying to promote change in with our new Minister For Autism. Franchised methods don't work for many of us and in the process a lot of raw talent is denied and subdued, the ultimate price is the dumbing down of our society.

Many years ago adverts for British Petroleum used to tell us that we were "The Clever Country" and "The Quiet Achievers". I'd like to see that become true one day. At the moment true talent only ever seems to survive in spite of our education system rather than being promoted by it.
Absolutely. I wish you all the best with it. I have noticed - how could you not - that certs degrees and diplomas are now given for what basically adds up to attendance, even online. Now try explaining that to the holders of said academic achievement......
 

Gerald Wilgus

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I don't think I ever really masked. But then it was a different world. Growing up in the 50s and 60s autism was rarely diagnosed people thought that I was normal because of my intelligence. Only in the teens when the social became much more important I was perpetually confused because I could not recognize social communication. as a result as a teen and young adult I thought I was damaged and being socially and sexually isolated my self image and body image suffered. It was a hard thing to overcome, being isolated at critical points in development, but at 25 I started on a long campaign of learning to be social. I Broke out of my cage, but the negative views of myself persisted and impacted me much, much later. I was diagnosed at age 60 and the past year have been dealing with that earlier trauma.

While I did not mask, I kept to myself. I could never open up about my feelings. Little did I recognize the depth of resentment and bitterness that I harbored.
 

Todd

Member
I don't think I ever really masked. But then it was a different world. Growing up in the 50s and 60s autism was rarely diagnosed people thought that I was normal because of my intelligence. Only in the teens when the social became much more important I was perpetually confused because I could not recognize social communication. as a result as a teen and young adult I thought I was damaged and being socially and sexually isolated my self image and body image suffered. It was a hard thing to overcome, being isolated at critical points in development, but at 25 I started on a long campaign of learning to be social. I Broke out of my cage, but the negative views of myself persisted and impacted me much, much later. I was diagnosed at age 60 and the past year have been dealing with that earlier trauma.

While I did not mask, I kept to myself. I could never open up about my feelings. Little did I recognize the depth of resentment and bitterness that I harbored.
Thank you for sharing Gerald. I totally relate to every word here too. I didn't realise I was masking at the time, the fear in me - which I could neither understand nor admit to - was so strong that being put on the spot in any situation led to an inward panic attack, muffled by an extreme effort to hide it. I was constantly in denial about it even to myself also..... I remember a time in 3rd grade (new school, again; no routine for me) when I should have mentioned to the teacher that I didn't have a pencil...... I ended up quietly trying not to be noticed until I was noticed by the teacher.... I had to stand up and admit I didn't have one while crying in front of the class - at 9 years of age, the memory still has me wishing the ground would just swallow me up. I learned to isolate and to avoid, like you, and, like you, it was not until sexuality (& the socialising that comes with it) became a strong driving force that these issues really came to a head. The one upside to moving alot (mainly with my Mum, at times with Dad - I called 46 addresses home by the time I was 22) was the chance to reinvent myself away from existing stigma. It took me three times. Today, I have a wonderful partner who doesn't really understand but she puts up with me, and a beautiful baby boy. I speak publicly guiding tours for a living too. All acting really....
 

Gerald Wilgus

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Thank you for sharing Gerald. I totally relate to every word here too. I didn't realise I was masking at the time, the fear in me - which I could neither understand nor admit to - was so strong that being put on the spot in any situation led to an inward panic attack, muffled by an extreme effort to hide it. I was constantly in denial about it even to myself also..... I remember a time in 3rd grade (new school, again; no routine for me) when I should have mentioned to the teacher that I didn't have a pencil...... I ended up quietly trying not to be noticed until I was noticed by the teacher.... I had to stand up and admit I didn't have one while crying in front of the class - at 9 years of age, the memory still has me wishing the ground would just swallow me up. I learned to isolate and to avoid, like you, and, like you, it was not until sexuality (& the socialising that comes with it) became a strong driving force that these issues really came to a head. The one upside to moving alot (mainly with my Mum, at times with Dad - I called 46 addresses home by the time I was 22) was the chance to reinvent myself away from existing stigma. It took me three times. Today, I have a wonderful partner who doesn't really understand but she puts up with me, and a beautiful baby boy. I speak publicly guiding tours for a living too. All acting really....
Well it sounds as if you have transcended the earlier difficulties to cobble together a decent life. At what point does the acting, doing something you like, become the honest you?

My mind sometimes struggled to betray me. The funniest/desperate instance was after I met my future spouse and we shared a road trip before joining a project. We had become friends as we planned it and after four days on the road we were enjoying each other and having a great time together. Here I was an inexperienced virgin at 28 and happenstance had us sharing my tent. It was such a wonderful day and my rejection sensitivity was down and I asked her if she would like to make love. My mind immediately panicked . . . have I ruined our friendship? Am I a creep for asking that way? She very kindly explained that we would only be taking the friendship to a new level. So, I was amazed that anybody would accept me physically. I later heard from her that she had felt used by men but with me it was different because i saw to her pleasure as well as mine.
 

Todd

Member
....at what point does the acting become the honest me? What an amazing question! Thanks again
It's the only me I've ever known myself to be..... I am the honest me. A repetitive downside in my life is that when someone notices the effort, or the slight pauses while I process several lines of thought at once, I am invariably seen as disingenuous. As a kid I would sometimes inaccurately be deemed as guilty because adults thought I was hiding the truth. As a young adult looking for substance to abuse, I was sometimes mistaken for a narc - once even an undercover cop - by paranoid fools who noticed a difference in me.
Anyway, I am happy now
 

Outdated

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
As a young adult looking for substance to abuse, I was sometimes mistaken for a narc - once even an undercover cop - by paranoid fools who noticed a difference in me.

That happened to me too.
 

Hypnalis

Well-Known Member
@Todd

You're probably not "lost in the mask", but it's likely that some of it is automatic (this is certainly true for me).
Your first post suggests your masking can interfere with you discussions with health professionals.
This post is about my experiences "managing the mask", in case there's something you can use.

Think about controlling it. I started applying my analytical skills to my masking some time ago. This let me make conscious adjustments.
For example I tuned my "resting face" a bit, from 100% neutral (not normal for NT's but it doesn't freak them out much) towards looking happy (this is my base mental state) but not welcoming (not a fan of being approached by strangers).

My objective was to expose the real me (more-or-less normal/nice except for ASD1 and ADD) rather than hide it, but without simultaneously exposing my "Aspie deficits". It's been well worth the effort.

The possible relevance for you: there was a long period when I don't think I could have been diagnosed because I hadn't learned to turn off the default mask. I can do that now though - it was an unexpected side effect of the real objective.
Perhaps you could do the same.

I don't need a diagnosis so I won't try to test this (it would have literally no direct value for me, and there's a small downside because medical information isn't secure these days). But I'm confident I could participate in the process without "lying" to show "the real me", and with a good chance of getting, an accurate assessment.
 

Todd

Member
@Todd

You're probably not "lost in the mask", but it's likely that some of it is automatic (this is certainly true for me).
Your first post suggests your masking can interfere with you discussions with health professionals.
This post is about my experiences "managing the mask", in case there's something you can use.

Think about controlling it. I started applying my analytical skills to my masking some time ago. This let me make conscious adjustments.
For example I tuned my "resting face" a bit, from 100% neutral (not normal for NT's but it doesn't freak them out much) towards looking happy (this is my base mental state) but not welcoming (not a fan of being approached by strangers).

My objective was to expose the real me (more-or-less normal/nice except for ASD1 and ADD) rather than hide it, but without simultaneously exposing my "Aspie deficits". It's been well worth the effort.

The possible relevance for you: there was a long period when I don't think I could have been diagnosed because I hadn't learned to turn off the default mask. I can do that now though - it was an unexpected side effect of the real objective.
Perhaps you could do the same.

I don't need a diagnosis so I won't try to test this (it would have literally no direct value for me, and there's a small downside because medical information isn't secure these days). But I'm confident I could participate in the process without "lying" to show "the real me", and with a good chance of getting, an accurate assessment.
Thanks for your words here Hypnalis. I have considered this. I find the effort to be seen by a professional far too much most of the time. I feel I have a small and closing window when I'm there. I can't go through the series of suggested meds - all anti-depressant stuff for an issue with attention - again. I think I'll be okay, but I'll always feel regret for what I might have achieved with the right help. The struggle to cope is very real right now, and I feel I'm deteriorating fast
 

Hypnalis

Well-Known Member
@Todd

Back when I was a kid, neither ASD1, ADHD, nor ADD existed as disorders. Depression and anxiety did I think, but I'm not sure - I have almost no direct experience with those two (one nephew who lives on the other side of the world).

That said, a question: is ASD one of the problems that are causing your deterioration?
My ADD is a pain (I'm a huge under-achiever /lol) but I just work around it, so I'm a poor source of advice.

I'm good at masking and handling NT's though. If I can assist something that's relevant to your more acute issue(s) I'd be happy to try.
 

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