already unmasked

In January, I determined–with great relief to finally understand anything at all–that I’m neurodivergent. Somehow.

In February, a loved one shared their considered suspicion I’m neurodivergent in a very specific way.

Despite initial doubts (wouldn’t I know something like that by now?!), I began reading.

With each word I read, I became more certain my loved one was …

right.

Now, in March, I’m confident they were right.

It all lines up. All. of. it.

My recent readings gave me a word for something I’d noticed myself doing since October: “masking,” defined here as “the artificial performance of social behaviors deemed more ‘socially acceptable’ in a neurotypical culture.”

Until I had the word “masking,” I’d thought of the phenomenon as “hiding myself in plain sight.”

I’d always done it. I’d just never before noticed it,

so that it was a relief to both, having noticed it, have a word for it

and

knowledge of the important purposes it’s served for me over my four decades alive.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been intentional about setting down–for a few minutes at a time–certain masking behaviors I’ve noticed come up often for me.

Yesterday, though, I was able to unmask for forty whole minutes.

Instead of completely hiding myself in plain sight, I practiced using simple discretion.

For hours afterward, I felt this strange mix of tired and … a bunch of other feelings I couldn’t totally identify.

What I could eventually identify as most prominent within the mix was this:

relief.

It was such a relief to just set aside that mask;

to know that if I could do it once, I could do it again;

and to have learned, through looking at my unmasked self in the process and afterward,

that she’s actually pretty rad.

I have masked hard, with good reason, for most my life so far. I’m not so naive as to think my four-decade mask is now, after a few moments of practice, fully and forever removed.

The point is: I now know I can unmask.

Before this, I only believed I could bodily survive my violent childhood after I’d already survived it.

Before this, I only believed I could run a full marathon after I’d already crossed the finish line.

Before this, I only believed I could write a book after I’d already written one.

Now, I believe I can fully unmask, if only a little at a time to start,

because I have
already
unmasked.

2 thoughts on “already unmasked

  1. I so understand it, all of it! Wearing the mask costs a lot of energy at times, but taking it off may be even harder! Especially when you’ve been using the mask for many years on end.
    I have a few good friends that know about me, my neurodivergent treats, my mask wearing and with them, I can be myself without my mask. They know it’s scary for me and they support my challenge. And that feels so good, because they make me feel safe, even without my “it’s OK, I’m fine” face on. 😊 Maybe this practice could benefit you as well?
    I started following your blog as I’m very interested in your journey. 🍀

    Liked by 1 person

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