The struggles of women who mask their autism
It’s only after a diagnosis that a woman may ask, “Which parts of myself are an act and which parts of me have been hidden? What do I have that’s valuable inside myself that can’t be expressed because I’m constantly and automatically camouflaging my autistic traits?,” Igelström says.
“None of those questions can be processed without first getting diagnosed, or at least [self-identifying], and then replaying the past with this new insight. And for many women, this happens late in life after years of camouflaging in a very uncontrolled, destructive, and subconscious way, with many mental-health problems as a consequence.”
A diagnosis leads some women to abandon camouflaging. “Realising that I am not broken, that I simply have a different neurology from the majority of the population and that there is nothing wrong with me the way I am means that I will not hide who I am just to fit in or make neurotypical people more comfortable,” Lawrence says.
Others learn to make camouflaging work for them, mitigating its negative effects. They may use masking techniques when they first make a new connection, but over time become more authentically themselves.