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When your mask becomes your prison.

For high masking autistic folks who had to become hyperindependent to survive, our masks became our prisons. The ultra-self-reliance mask, the I-never-need-help mask, shut us into a suffocating box of only having ourselves to turn to. Who would believe that this ultra-self-reliant person could ever need anything?

The mask that was built to protect us now locks us inside alone with our unmet needs that we pretended we didn’t have. The words “I need help” feel strange in our mouths, like a foreign language. It must sound stranger still to ears that have never needed to hear us, ears that always assumed we got it covered.

Sometimes I wonder how much of my telomeres I burned to create this mask? How many years got shaved off of my life simply to look like I didn’t need anything? When I learned I was autistic, I was left wondering what life would’ve been like if someone had truly seen me, me behind the mask, when I had needed it the most.

The key to the prison is vulnerability. Radical honesty. It’s needing and asking for help. It's answering the question "do you need anything" with "yes."

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