I have a secret.
An unintentional one, but a secret all the same. In a sense, I live a lie every day. I wear a mask that I can’t remember putting on.
When did I first don the disguise? When I was 15? 10? 5?
Perhaps in actuality there are layers upon layers of masks that I hide behind–all stacked on top of each other as I grew older. Or maybe there’s a whole host of masks that I subconsciously change out as the situation calls for a role.
And yet, until recently, I had no idea I was hiding anything. Perhaps that’s what is most telling about the depth of this lie. Can something be considered a secret if it was unknown even to you?
It wasn’t until I was 24 or 25 that I really, truly let myself begin to wonder. For as long as I can remember, there has been this nudging, nagging, itching question of “Why?” echoing up from deep within me. Why is this so hard? Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I be like them? Why can’t I keep up? Why are they like that? Why am I like this? Why are they so very different than me? Why am I so different from them? But it wasn’t until I spoke to a new therapist that it all made more sense.
The answer came as a wave, breaking over me and dislodging a stopper inside of me. It was as if suddenly everything and nothing made sense—all at the same time. With this realization, I grew more in a year than I had in the previous five. So many things finally made sense. I was able to adapt, to compensate, to allow myself some credit and time to heal and do what I needed to do.
A large part of why I am writing this blog is to confront my enormous lie—the lie of me. In many ways, my journey to discovery has been a massive puzzle, like the ones in those old Highlights magazines where you have to trace the tangled knots to lead to the source.
Ultimately, I have three primary reasons for writing this:
- To make sense of those tangled knots, unravel them, and find my true, authentic self in a therapeutic and constructive way.
- To help those on the outside to understand what goes on behind a finely-crafted disguise like mine.
- To reach out to those like me who shelter behind a mask they may or may not remember crafting, particularly the women and gender queer or non-binary individuals like me who are so often overlooked and left behind.
In many ways, this is my coming out. Coming out to my friends, my family, myself. Now, at 27, I am proud and relieved to say:
I am on the Autism Spectrum. I am Autistic. I am Alex.