The struggles of women who mask their autism
Those who feel that camouflaging is within their control can plan to give themselves breaks, from going to the bathroom for a few minutes to leaving an event early or forgoing it entirely. “I learned to take care of myself better,” Swearman says. “The strategy is self-awareness.”
Jennifer concedes that knowing about her autism earlier would have helped her, and yet she is “torn” about whether it would have been better.
Because she didn’t have a diagnosis, she says, she also had no excuses. “I had to suck it up and deal. It was a really difficult struggle, and I made loads of mistakes—still do—but there was simply no choice,” she says. “If I had been labeled as autistic, maybe I wouldn’t have tried so hard and achieved all the things I’ve achieved.”
She has achieved a great deal. During our video chat that snowy afternoon in January, it’s clear that one of her most significant accomplishments has been finding a balance in life that works for her.
Her camouflaging skills allow her to put on a warm, personable exterior, one that has helped her build a successful career. But thanks to a few friends and a husband and son who love her for who she is, she can let that mask drop when it becomes too heavy.