New Year, New Me? My Resolution to Stop Masking Autism

It’s that time of year again when the world screams, “New year, new you!”

Every January, without fail, we are inundated with messages about transforming our apparent less-than-optimal selves into something better. (“Shrink your waistline in 30 days,” and “Power up your mental health with these protein shakes,” read the subject lines in my inbox, to name a few.)

I have been trying to create a “new” me for most of my life. The “old” me, according to most, was too quiet, too intense, too awkward, too sensitive, and too focused. The “old” me needed to chill out, calm down, and stop talking about my obscure passions all the time. For nearly 40 years, I did what I had to do to stay safe — I masked the real me and became “new” when others demanded and expected it.

That all recently changed for me when I was diagnosed with autism — an awakening that transformed everything about the way I see myself.

So this year, I don’t want to be a “new” me. I want to be the old me. The authentic me. I want to shed the mask and start living fully as myself.

[Read: “Could I Be Autistic, Too?” Signs of Autism in Women with ADHD]

New Year, Radically Me

In his book, Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity (#CommissionsEarned), Devon Price writes, “Refusing to perform neurotypicality is a revolutionary act of disability justice. It’s also a radical act of self-love.”

This year, I want to radically love the wounded child in me who believed she was deeply flawed. Who believed she had to corrode herself to fit the mold of the world, no matter what it took. Who often thought to herself:

What’s the matter with me?
Why am I like this?
I am too much.
I am not enough.

New Year, New Us, New World

I am part of a growing group of people who are just beginning to discover and embrace their neurodivergence (ND) in adulthood. As I learn about my identity, I am also learning about my child’s own neurodivergence and thinking about his future.

[Read: Why ADHD Masking Is a Form of Self-Sabotage]

In our lives, our homes, and in our hearts, we, the ND parents of a new generation of ND kids, get to break the rules we were raised to uphold. We get to say, “Not this time.” We get to raise our children to believe that they are just right, just as they are. That they don’t have to change to be accepted.

As Price writes in Unmasking Autism, “We can step out of the soul-crushing cycle of reaching for neurotypical acceptance and being rejected despite our best efforts. Instead, we can support and uplift one another, and create our own neurodiverse world where everyone — including neurotypicals — is welcome.”

This is my hope for 2023 — New year, new world. A world where everyone is welcome. A world that embraces and celebrates humanity’s inherent neurodiversity, starting with our own homes, our own families, our own selves.

If you are to “transform” this year, don’t think of a “new” you. Instead, learn to love the real you you’ve been forced to mask all along. This radical act of self-acceptance allows others, especially our children, to grow up loving their real ND selves.

So, be the quirky, wild you.
Be the sensitive, tender you.
Live off the standard clock.
Challenge the social norms.
Wave your hands when you talk.
Lose track of time.
Give sincere monologues on your favorite topics and do not apologize for it.
Embrace neurodivergent culture and celebrate neurodivergent people in your circle.

New Year, New Me: Next Steps

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