Image description: text “Unmasking therapy: my journey of embracing my unmasked autistic self” Image description: A blurry picture of me in 2000 wearing a tight light blue tank top with my mouth open, eyes wide open and flapping my hands.
On my TikTok, which is where the majority of my content is, I have been exploring what it could mean to continue to unmask further. I recently started watching some old home videos and it has caused me to realize how much I have learned to mask. When I watch myself at ages 5 and 10/11, I feel an uneasy feeling, I am reminded of why I needed to mask.
I was loud, inappropriate according to neurotypical culture and utterly lost. I was emulating a culture I had no real understanding of and it showed. I was clunky as I tried to be cute and “cool.” I clearly couldn’t pull it off and I would flap and stim in between bouts of lipsyncing to the backstreet boys. I remember the flapping felt good.
As a therapist, I have come to realize that my entire profession is founded on ableist ideology. This has presented quite a real problem when it comes to unmasking as a therapist. While I want to learn how to balance my own autistic self with my professional self, I find it hard to know where the lines are. My brain tends to lack awareness of where one thing ends and another begins. Like when am I unmasking vs masking, how do I know when I have crossed over the “line” so to speak?
Could I ever be 100% unmasked as a therapist? I believe in our current cultural context, the answer is probably not. But I am curious to see if I can unmask further, unearth the wild child inside who clearly couldn’t contain her neurodivergence but tried so hard. This is part of my healing journey and the healing journey that many of my clients are on as well.
It feels good to share this picture, the wild untamed autistic person that lives inside of me. As I watch videos of myself and notice myself cringe, I soften my face and open my heart to this little girl. With no support or resources or understanding, she fought for me to be here. Now it is my turn to take care of her and let her be free.