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Unmasking As A Late Diagnosed Neurodivergent Human

Unmasking as a late diagnosed neurodivergent human.

A thread. 🧵

Since getting my ADHD dx I’ve been doing a lot of inspecting of my life – figuring out where and how I mask.

Whilst doing this I’ve started identifying autistic traits in myself, which I’m now also exploring.

A lot of advice I see for learning how to unmask is “think about how you act when you’re on your own”.

I know this is helpful for some, but I struggled with it, as I didn’t think I was much different when on my own, and I also have issues with my memory.

Cue imposter syndrome!

But I’ve worked it out.

I was masking from myself as well as everyone around me.

Take stimming for example.

There are some stims I’ve always done, which have just been seen as ‘my quirks’ because “I’m a performer, darling!”

But I usually hold back so much more than I let out.

Over the last few months I’ve been consciously giving myself permission to stim – actively trying different things and seeing what feels good to me.

Gradually, I’ve started noticing when I’m holding back, and have then pushed to break through the wall I’d put up against myself.

Unsurprisingly, I’m a huge vocal stimmer.

It’s rare I’m not humming, singing, or making random noises.

I also move around a lot, and do lots of stimming with my hands, and have many other stims too, but types of stimming is not the focus of this thread.

Stimming is becoming a more natural way for me to express how I’m feeling, to help me self regulate, and to focus.

I’m also now noticing situations I don’t feel comfortable in too, because my mask comes back up.

It’s scary sometimes to let my mask down, but I now know the fear is because of how neurotypical society treats me when it’s down, and not because I’m wrong.

By embracing my true self, I can recognise that the people in my life now are different to those who instilled that fear.

Unmasking in general has also helped me hugely with trusting/believing myself, but that’s something for another thread!

The first step to unmasking, I believe, is actually unlearning the shame you’ve put on yourself for everything that feels natural to you.

But I have a secret weapon that I don’t think I could have done this without.

My secret weapon is @OhMiaGod

She’s not only been accepting of everything I’m figuring out about myself (which is the bare minimum anyone should do) she’s actively helped me figure new things out too.

While I’ve been doing internal work – unpacking shame & unconscious bias, she’s been there to talk through things I’ve been realising & help me figure it out, along with a few other people.

But the really big thing Mia’s done that I truly believe has made the difference for me?

She’s celebrated my unmasking.

She’s told me it makes her happy when I happy stim.

She’s never told me to stop humming/making random sounds. Sometimes she joins in.

Every time I’ve apologised for fear of being annoying, she’s told me how much she loves seeing/hearing me stim.

And because of this, over time, I’ve been able to relax into knowing and being myself in a way I didn’t know was possible.

This has then allowed me to be more myself in other parts of my life too – particularly my teaching, where the majority of my students are neurodivergent.

Being able to be myself freely, openly, and without shame, has allowed my students to feel safer to fully be themselves in their lessons with me too, and that has given me the chance to celebrate their wonderful neurodivergency.

So basically this thread is to say, don’t settle for people who just accept you.

You deserve to have people in your life who actively encourage and celebrate you.

The real you.

Even if you’re not totally sure who that is yet.

Find your cheerleaders. Don’t accept less.