The Evolution of Life Behind a Mask
What started out as a personal endeavour to document my experience with mental and chronic illness, Life Behind a Mask has slowly evolved into something far more impactful than I could ever have imagined. As a person with autism, having my voice reach thousands of people is a little daunting (terrifying, in fact), but the overarching cause is what inspires me to keep advocating on behalf of those who can’t. Perhaps you think I’m being too ambitious, but my aspiration to inform the way in which mentally and chronically ill individuals are perceived will continue to persist. I know too well how these minorities are impacted by ill understanding, so it is my responsibility to provide a voice to these people. Over time, you will gain insight into the lives behind these masks, but for now, let me inform you about how this platform came to fruition.
In August of 2020, I received a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Being told that I have a lifelong disability was incredibly challenging to come to terms with, especially because I had lived for 18 years being unaware of my different neurotype. Though I was relieved to finally have valid reasons for my years of suffering, I felt alone, confused, and burdened by this stereotyped label. I distinctly remember relaying these concerns to my therapist, who responded by suggesting that I set up an instagram account, to not only find other people like myself, but to also use my years of experience to inspire others. This is the precise moment that Life Behind a Mask was born.
In the beginning, I shared snippets of research studies so that I could inform people about the basic principles of autism, but over time I began to recognise the value of my own voice. People didn’t want to hear about studies being conducted by neurotypical scientists- they wanted to hear me. They wanted to connect with someone on a human level. Upon this realisation I began to share more of my story, which included sharing insight into my experience with both autism and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS)- a chronic illness with a wide range of symptoms, the most prominent one being extreme exhaustion. For years I have lived my life concealed beneath the camouflage, but why hide when your story has the opportunity to inspire change? Why hide when your voice can act as a source of comfort through the darkest of times?
This opportunity to emotionally support other like minded individuals is ultimately why I set up Life Behind a Mask. My goal is that the strength of this online community will combat the fragility associated with chronic and mental illness, but for this to be at all achievable, I need your help. Together, our mission is to destigmatise invisible disabilities, raise awareness, and shine a light upon those whose struggles reside behind closed doors. Let’s give a voice to the millions missing, provide guidance to the newly diagnosed autistic community, and most importantly, let’s work towards an all embracing feeling of hope- for no one is ever truly alone.