For people who used to mask, the realization that they are autistic may make them appear more autistic to the world.
The answer is “no,” you are not more autistic than you used to be. As I’ve taken pains to explain with my garden allegory, we are autistic from birth. Those who mask are able to hide this fact to the world, and sometimes to themselves. That’s exactly what I did for most of my life. My autism was there, but it was hidden to everyone.
It is often neurotypical people that will tell autistic people that they look more autistic than they used to. These neurotypical people are misguided. They hold onto a stereotype of what an autistic person should look like. The more the autistic person conforms to this stereotype, the more autistic they are. This, of course, is nonsense. As I’ve explained above, we’re autistic from birth. How we manifest into the world has nothing to do with whether we are more or less autistic.
I do know now that I am autistic. I am letting the mask fall down. Some of the effects of the mask falling down have been somatic effects, that I don’t have any control over. However, other effects are behavioral, and these behavioral effects are evolving.
My stimming has evolved quite a bit lately. It used to be very discreet. I would stim, for the most part, under the table, or the stim would be invisible, like grinding my teeth. Sometimes I’d tap my desk, but that was in rhythm to the music. I’d also listen to music and music videos because I’m an audio-visual stimmer. However, after my cancer, I also started hand-dancing. At any rate, these stims were mostly socially acceptable stims. Either people did not see them, or I could explain them away.
Since I’ve discovered that I’m autistic, I’m also using more varied forms of stimming. For instance, I hit my fists together. I never ever used to do this. I’ve also started doing movements similar to my hand-dancing. II usually hand-dance to music. However, this new stim is not done to music, but it looks like fragments of hand-dancing. It is hard to explain. I don’t think I’ll ever go into hand-flapping mode, or twirling mode, but I’m still evolving. Also, I don’t shame the people who hand-flap or twirl.
I’m also much better at establishing boundaries. I’ve always been okay in social settings. Yes, they generate anxiety, but I was able to cope with it, and I did not need to be the center of attention. However, lately, I have had a harder time, especially if the place where the event is happening is noisy. It used to be that if an event was from this time to that time, I’d say for the whole thing unless I had some other important thing I needed to attend to. I now leave when I feel that I’ve had enough. I’ve done this a few times. Truth be told, I do have something important to attend to: myself.
I’m also aiming to not return into an office, or do any kind of work attached to an office, if I can help it. I’ve been in an office. I’ve also done work attached to an office. I don’t want to return to this. Right now, I am writing, which is already something, but I need to find more sources of income if I don’t want to return into an office. This wasn’t really a conscious goal of mine before I knew I was autistic, but now it is.
Finally, I have no qualms about telling people that I am autistic, or about wearing “autistic clothing” like my Stimming Is Life shirt. (Available in my Bonfire store.) If they cannot handle it (and some cannot), it is their loss.