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What is masking like for you?

40 replies

SmallGreenStripes · 13/02/2022 12:37

I am wondering whether what I have learned to do to get me through difficult situations is ‘masking’. I started to use this strategy to get through difficult medical procedures and now use it for a lot of things - including specially my career, which involves a lot of public speaking and dealing with difficult situations.

I ‘pretend it isn’t happening’. I just think to myself ‘it’s not really happening, just put one foot in front of the other and soon it will be over’. I get through it and honestly people seem to have no idea that I am ‘dissociating in this way.

Is this masking? I quite often get a migraine after a period of stress when I have had to do this. I just thought everyone did it.

OP posts:

RainbowZebraWarrior · 13/02/2022 12:41

Yes, sounds like masking. The stressful nature of it often left me with a headache. Or needing to go to bed. I had a high flying career for 17 years. It's like I was an entirely different person. I burned out in the end. don't know how I lasted so long. Possibly because in my 20s and 30s I was physically strong.

Now at the age of 50 and disabled, I'm in too much pain to mask. It's simply not possible any more.


SmallGreenStripes · 13/02/2022 12:47

Thanks @RainbowZebraWarrior I am roughly your age and have definitely started to turn down social things where I know I will need to do this. Work stuff is harder as I am the breadwinner, but really looking forward to retirement!
I also do a lot of research in advance on the venue and people I am likely to meet. What the room is like, what I might talk about. I have lists of what I need to pack for different sorts of events. I have a particular scarf that smells of home that I wear for travel.
Again, I thought everyone did this. It makes me feel more secure and comfortable and helps me get through it.
Perhaps this isn’t the same for everyone?

OP posts:

RainbowZebraWarrior · 13/02/2022 12:52

All of what you describe sounds like the way Neurodiverse people approach things. We talk a lot about it on this board. No, I don't think that generally Neuro typical people do the same. Although anxiety could cause similar issues.


jebthesheep · 13/02/2022 13:49

I don’t know how diverse it is, but I’ve always been another person in social and their difficult situations. I met an astonishingly confident girl at my first job when I was 17. I’ve been her ever since whenever I’ve had to deal with people - I’m sure she would never have remembered a mouse like me, but she’s been useful to me my whole life.
It is stressful playing a part and I can’t keep it up for long but it’s been essential over the years. Whatever works for you, works for you.


ofwarren · 13/02/2022 13:57

Definitely a form of masking.
I do it when I'm very stressed and cannot leave the situation, like a hellish public transport journey.

Masking is exhausting isn't it. The only time I do it now is when I have to take my son who has a liver transplant to his medical appointments, or my own medical appointments. I do it because I don't want the medical staff to see me as incompetent. I need to feel in control of those situations.
When he's been in hospital I'm exhausted for days afterwards from being on high alert all the time.


BarrowInFurnessRailwayStation · 13/02/2022 14:18

I'm generally an open, honest and truthful person, so masking, to me, feels like a huge act of deception. The person I'm talking to isn't talking to me, they're talking to a fake. I'm constantly worried in case my mask slips and they catch a glimpse of the real me and then realise they're being conned and feel resentful. I'm literally scanning their face for a sign of realisation. It's horrible and I couldn't keep living a lie. My words would get mixed up, so it meant I couldn't communicate properly either. Afterwards I'd be exhausted and wrung out from the sheer effort.

During my breakdown I began dissociating at work and felt like I was losing my grip on reality.


ofwarren · 13/02/2022 14:22

The disassociation is very scary isn't it. I felt like I was living in a dream for weeks at one point.


BarrowInFurnessRailwayStation · 13/02/2022 14:29

Yeah, in a dream world or like watching a movie.


mistymoon7 · 13/02/2022 15:17

Yes that does sound like masking. Masking for me is also the constant pretending to be NT, acting the part I feel I should play and never being myself ever with anyone that are not close family. It's any wonder socialising makes me so anxious when I think about it!


Garfieldismyspiritanimal · 13/02/2022 15:20

For me it’s a necessary thing if I am going to do things that make me uncomfortable. I feel like masked me is still me, just a different version. I don’t feel deceitful, it’s just a coping mechanism.
Another one I used to use when I was in the edge and the kids were little was pretending I was being filmed all the time.


HauntedDishcloth · 13/02/2022 15:54

I feel like I'm a sphere with the real me at the centre and the outer surface, which is very far away from the centre, is what others see and changes according to the situation as I try to blend in. Only 3 or 4 people have seen the real me deep inside. It's exhausting maintaining it & I often get migraines from it too.

If I have to go anywhere eg going to a work meeting offsite, an appointment or taking DC out for a day, I also research it beforehand so much so the preparation is all-consuming, there's no mental space for anything else & the event itself almost becomes incidental. I often come away from appointments frustrated because I just "acted" through them and didn't get the information I needed.


ofwarren · 13/02/2022 16:21

I just seen this on Instagram.
I do or have done most of these things.

What is masking like for you?

Yuckypretty · 13/02/2022 16:35

Masking for me is pretending to be comfortable with being chatty and outgoing. If I didn't mask I wouldn't speak to people until I've seen them many times. But I've realised people find this rude. sometimes people have even describe d my quietness as intimidating


MaggieMooh · 13/02/2022 17:06

I watch what other people do socially and I copy. I copy their clothes and hairstyles. I memorise the phrases they use and I use them myself. In a conversation I spend a lot of effort making sure I’m doing the correct facial expressions and nodding at the right time and thinking about what I need to say next; sometimes this distracts me from focusing on what’s actually being said. I’ve been told it comes across as insincere and not quite natural, and it puts people off me. I definitely do not talk about my own interests and I consciously try to give the response that people expect instead of the response I would give naturally. I find it very boring because it’s constantly an act, I can never just be me.


MagratLancre · 15/02/2022 14:45

It feels to me like putting on different outfits from a metaphorical wardrobe. Like, oh here comes my boss, let's get the 'hello how are things, are you happy with my work' suit out. Or, oh here's my colleague, get the 'done anything nice at the weekend' outfit on. I come across very sociably, apparently. My DH, DS, and close friends might disagree ha!


ofwarren · 15/02/2022 14:55

Do you all try hard to avoid people on the days you know it will be impossible to mask?
Sometimes I put up my hood, leave on my mask so that nobody recognises me because I would fall to pieces if they tried to talk to me.


ASDMUM2 · 15/02/2022 15:02

I have diagnosed autistic children, I think I have autistic traits but not severe enough for a diagnosis.

But I look at something like ofwarren's lost and my first thought is "doesn't everyone do this?"

My children got very cross once because I said doesn't everyone have a façade, put on a mask, but they felt that that was only true for autistic people so my feelings didn't count :/


Inthemane · 15/02/2022 15:03

Like being an actor pushed on stage to perform in someone else’s play where you don’t know the lines, blunder into scenery and the spotlight is dazzling. As a result your performance is at best lukewarm and at worst a complete disaster.


ASDMUM2 · 15/02/2022 15:08

Oooh I love face masks, my life has eased so much by having a physical mask to "hide" behind. I find it much more relaxing when it in public and everyone is wearing them too.

And I've hidden down different supermarket aisles to avoid having to chit chat to people (neighbours, casual acquaintances) when I cannot summon up the energy to make small talk some times.

I've also cancelled plans at short notice because I cannot "perform". Again, doesn't everyone do that?


MagratLancre · 15/02/2022 15:13

@inthemane great description!
@asdmum2 I know, doesn't everyone do it is my thought too, but apparently not, which blew my mind! I hide too! Worst is when I see people out of context, like colleagues on a weekend around town, and I feel squeamish about it for ages after!


Percie · 15/02/2022 15:22

It was only at diagnosis that I understood what masking is and how much I've been doing it. I copy speech styles and phrases to match the situation/who I'm talking to. My behaviour/speech are based on decision trees - when I run out of decision tree is when I either stop talking completely or say anything, no matter how incorrect for the situation, in order to follow the 'keep the conversation going' directive.

In recent years I've found masking really hard but didn't understand why I couldn't just do normal things right. In work meetings I've had to ask my (thankfully supportive) team to stop looking at me when we were discussing a problem we needed to solve. They've also removed a poster from the office because it was illogical (five spheres linked by a circle but that were numbered 1, 2, 3, 5, 4 because the graphic designer decided to change the order at the bottom of the circle) and distracted me for days.

The less I am able to mask the more DP feels that I've been unconsciously deceitful, but if you don't know that what you're doing isn't normal/don't know everyone else doesn't think the same way, how can that be deceitful? It's a real struggle to articulate all this.


MagratLancre · 15/02/2022 15:26

It's not deceitful is it, its a coping mechanism that I genuinely thought everyone did until a few years ago! That makes sense with the decision trees and makes sense of my tendency to overshare / rabbit on!


stickygotstuck · 15/02/2022 15:32

I mirrror whoever I am speaking to -

You're lively and chatty? So am I!
Quiet and understated? Me too!
Talk about your hobby all the time? That's me!


It's exhausting.


MagratLancre · 15/02/2022 15:34

That makes sense @stickygotstuck. Also explains why I struggle to make conversation with people who don't give much of themselves away.


EinsteinVonBrainstorm · 15/02/2022 15:34

For me, masking is mirroring the personality, actions and speech patterns of other people that you’re around. It’s not conscious thing, it just happens or maybe I’m so used to doing it, it comes naturally.

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