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I was watching Taskmaster which, this year, features the Scottish comedian, Fern Brady. She recently, well as recent as the start of 2022, announced that she had Asperger’s Syndrome and was autistic. She has also made comments about the effect that masking her autism has had on her life, career and mental health. It would be here that I would normally include a quote of hers, but I couldn’t find one and cannot be arsed looking any further. You’re just going to have to believe me. I am a terrible liar so you would see right through that anyway.

Masking, as defined by is where a person with autism mirrors the behaviours of non-autistic people in a bid to fit in. This is done because, “autistic masking might help an autistic individual blend in with non-autistic peers, socialize, or create a desired impression at work. Still, if it becomes part of the daily routine, masking could damage mental health.” A caveat to this that the person masking needs to know that their behaviour is different or that they are neurodivergent. With this knowledge or even self-awareness they can adapt their behaviours and try and avoid the stimming or the inappropriate comments to old people just wanting to enjoy a family wedding and not be given a shot for shot commentary on an American pornographic film or how that production had suffered from staffing problems.

I have said in other blogs how I have felt that I am different, in the sense that I say things that I shouldn’t and that I don’t have the correct reactions to displays of emotion. Most of the things I say to people, I don’t register and once told I would think why the hell did I say that? It has gotten me in to some hot water in the past. And it has gotten the people I know into hot water as they try and explain away some terrible thing I have said. My mum used to describe it as “your humour”.

I do not really know how much I “mask” the traits that I have. It could be a general lack of self-awareness on my part or that my traits do not particularly scream “autistic”. When thinking about this I find myself focusing more on the things that I say. This, I think, is because what I say is tangible evidence for me. I cannot see what I am doing unconsciously, nor can I see where my eyes are moving. I think I am looking at someone; I am told that I am staring at a spot just above their head. With the festive party season coming up and a free bar at work I need to focus a lot of energy on “masking” and tailoring my conversation. I know I should do this, however, after a few pints…

Another aspect of autism that I think I do is the “shut down”. Where I will stop talking or need to have some time away from people. In the past I have also attempted to stop using certain social media apps. This is due to me feeling overwhelmed by either the vitriol or the sheer amount of content that is online. I took the decision to deactivate all of my social media accounts. I have had previous attempts at this. However, I found myself checking Facebook or Twitter every now and again until I have eventually reinstalled the app and am doom scrolling with the best of them. I have had several Twitter accounts over the years and one Facebook profile since about 2006. Deactivating my account didn’t feel like a burden had been lifted or that I am suddenly free to explore the myriad activities that I have been putting off since the start of social media. No, it just meant I wasn’t aware what people who never contact me are doing and I am not getting irritated by some dumb shit that someone I know has reposted. I am free from the echo chamber and from reading countless updates about either how crap the world is or how the world is crap, and it is singularly my fault. I would liken this to a type of refusal to mask. Everyone has social media and everyone is online almost all of the time. I want to limit this as much as possible because I do not believe it is good for my mental health.

Masking in work is something that I have become very conscious of. Mainly, as I want to limit the amount of trouble I get into. I ask for clarification when I need it and I am happy to explain that something doesn’t make sense to me. Acknowledging that I see only the cog and not the machine. I will try and think before I say something – doesn’t always work. And I will explain the fact that I have the same food (bottle of Pepsi Max and a Twix Xtra) or Meal Deal (sandwich, Pepsi Max, plain crisps) away as being a “man of routine”. I know that I need a job with strong routines so that I can be busy throughout the day. I know that I do not deal with dead time in a productive manner. I know that I can appear scatty at times, especially at moments of high stress but I can be extremely organised. All of these aspects of my personality I strive to hide or limit. I will eat lunch on my own, where possible, or with someone who is aware of my autism so that I don’t have to explain anything. I will ask about social situations or interactions with colleagues to make sure I do not need to apologise or explain myself. I could, if I am not careful, end up explaining myself away.

For a lot of people with Autism masking can be exhausting as it is a permanent mental effort. I have found myself more tired after teaching all day than previously because I must be putting in this unconscious effort. Or teaching is hard work. One of the two. The permanent effort to fit in and to be like everyone else can make the individual feel that they do not have a legitimate self. I have often felt more of a mirror reflecting what people expect, or what I think they expect of me than being myself.

I know that these posts are infrequent, but it is just because I have a new, pressing special interest and feel like I have nothing to say about anything. Which, for a man who enjoys writing and creating esoteric long poetry is a problem. In the comments leave me any suggestions for what you would like me to discuss or think about. Just remember I am not a licenced taxidermist so cannot tell you how to preserve and stuff a parakeet.

“Now, none of your humour, love”


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