Hide and Seek - Who Are You?

By Angela Andrews

You can run, but you cannot hide. I ran, for many years, from who and what I was. I pretended, put on a show and masked everything to try to be accepted. All of that changed as I began helping my children through their therapies and “treatments” for Autism. As I began reading on what was expected from the therapies, an anger grew. They didn’t want to help my children overcome their pain to be the best they could. They wanted to force them to be “normal”. I ended the therapies that had that goal and began a journey that would shake me to the core. As I researched, read, and fought for my children’s rights, I felt a dichotomy within myself. I was fighting for their right to be who they were born to be, to bring their positive traits to the forefront, while I simultaneously hid my real self. I understood their pain and their feelings of isolation because I am Autistic as well. However, I grew up unaccepted, isolated, and rejected for my differences. In my determination to ensure this didn’t happen to them, I had inadvertently become the thing I hate most – a hypocrite. This destroyed something inside of me and forced me to re-evaluate who I really was, without the acting and masks.

Finding Myself

I wish I could say the process was beautiful and smooth but that would be untrue. As I began accepting that I was Autistic and deserved to be who I was born to be, I gained a lot, but lost a lot as well. I lost a job. I lost my entire extended family. I lost many friends. However, this was a gain as well. I gained the realization that I was not accepted for who I was unless I wore a mask and acted as they wanted. I gained something I’d never had before: self-respect.

The path to accepting who I was and cherishing it led first to the forming of a resource group, then to small talks at work about the positives of Autism or how to help with sensory issues. It led to something I never aspired for or considered possible. It led to the stage of TEDx. Telling my story on that stage, pacing within the red circle, changed something deep inside. As I felt the waves of the applause, heard the laughter at the right moments, the gasps of shock at the examples of my treatment, I felt something new. I felt accepted and I felt REAL. My mask was gone, and I stood in the blinding light. The real me was exposed to the world. I was finally free.

Telling one’s story is the most powerful thing a person can ever do. It is in our nature to want to be accepted. However, by wearing a mask, it is not you that is accepted. It is your acting skills. By telling the story of who you are and why you are you, you are crushing the mask beneath the weight of your truth. You are breaking the bonds of “normal” that are holding you back. You are becoming free.Hide And Seek: Who Are You?

You can run, but you cannot hide. I ran, for many years, from who and what I was. I pretended, put on a show and masked everything to try to be accepted. All of that changed as I began helping my children through their therapies and “treatments” for Autism. As I began reading on what was expected from the therapies, an anger grew. They didn’t want to help my children overcome their pain to be the best they could. They wanted to force them to be “normal”. I ended the therapies that had that goal and began a journey that would shake me to the core. As I researched, read, and fought for my children’s rights, I felt a dichotomy within myself. I was fighting for their right to be who they were born to be, to bring their positive traits to the forefront, while I simultaneously hid my real self. I understood their pain and their feelings of isolation because I am Autistic as well. However, I grew up unaccepted, isolated, and rejected for my differences. In my determination to ensure this didn’t happen to them, I had inadvertently become the thing I hate most – a hypocrite. This destroyed something inside of me and forced me to re-evaluate who I really was, without the acting and masks.

Telling one’s story is the most powerful thing a person can ever do

I wish I could say the process was beautiful and smooth but that would be untrue. As I began accepting that I was Autistic and deserved to be who I was born to be, I gained a lot, but lost a lot as well. I lost a job. I lost my entire extended family. I lost many friends. However, this was a gain as well. I gained the realization that I was not accepted for who I was unless I wore a mask and acted as they wanted. I gained something I’d never had before: self-respect.

The path to accepting who I was and cherishing it led first to the forming of a resource group, then to small talks at work about the positives of Autism or how to help with sensory issues. It led to something I never aspired for or considered possible. It led to the stage of TEDx. Telling my story on that stage, pacing within the red circle, changed something deep inside. As I felt the waves of the applause, heard the laughter at the right moments, the gasps of shock at the examples of my treatment, I felt something new. I felt accepted and I felt REAL. My mask was gone, and I stood in the blinding light. The real me was exposed to the world. I was finally free.

Telling one’s story is the most powerful thing a person can ever do. It is in our nature to want to be accepted. However, by wearing a mask, it is not you that is accepted. It is your acting skills. By telling the story of who you are and why you are you, you are crushing the mask beneath the weight of your truth. You are breaking the bonds of “normal” that are holding you back. You are becoming free.