As an autistic person, I've spent my whole life ignoring and numbing the excruciating pain of overstimulation. But now, in my 30's, I'm finally designing a life that's sensory-friendly. It's a wild journey for those of us who are diagnosed later in life. For years, we didn't know what was wrong with us. After being diagnosed, we finally have a word for the difficulties we face.
Masking is a way for us to try to escape the pain, to pretend we're not hurting so we can function like everyone else. But it's almost impossible to do without harming ourselves. We push ourselves too far or turn to substances to numb the pain. Either way, we deny our autistic experience and mask it to fit in.
The more I embrace my autism and lower my mask, the more I realize how much constant pain I'm in due to sensory overload. Without substances, I use ear plugs and alone time. It's like finally coming to shore after years at sea, but still having sea legs. I'm still learning this new terrain, but I'm grateful to be on this path. As a therapist, I help others on this journey to embrace and understand their autism.