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Hiding myself...

No straight promises 
No straight love
No straight path
No straight art
There’s no path in life
When walls block the way  
You break through these walls
Scramble through the woods
When you find your path 
You can understand
Only your passion leads you
In this cold rabbit hole

In these Covid-19 days when everyone must stay at home, I am staying in Leamington. Early in lockdown, I felt hot and cold all over because I caught the coronavirus. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to overcome it without developing heavy symptoms or requiring hospitalisation. Although weeks have passed, I still feel tired and sluggish.

It was a great shock for me to return to the real, hard-hearted world after peaceful Elan Valley, where I lived for two months in a happy dream with mindful self-compassion, and this shock later turned into a nightmare. It was very hard for me to understand how some people have a soul darker than a starless night. It makes me shudder to think of it. I feel my life is a graveyard of buried hopes.
I felt suicidal and I tried to cope with my emotional pain, frustration, and intense anger in a way that was harmful to me. Life became an agony, an utter agony.

I remember a sentence from Jane Eyre: “If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved of you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” I understood that I needed to be friends with myself before others. I read it again and again in English to stay in my mind and my heart.

Fortunately, during this process, I have been learning a lot about myself and how I have masked myself as an aspie woman... For me, masking myself is more harmful even than not knowing I’m autistic. Masking means that I create a different Meltem to handle every situation. I have never felt a strong connection with my core which I never realised. When I am confronted with emotional upset, my brain immediately goes into “fix it” mode, searching for a way to make the other person feel better so I can also relieve my own distress.

In that period, I was very lucky to have Andy who loves, cares, and believes in me, and I also feel thankful to my clinical psychologist, Dr. Rona Aldridge, from the Integrated Autism Service who met me every two weeks, and to Psychosexual therapist, Sally Duncan. I talked to her every week on WhatsApp. It’s so painful but I think it’s good to bring everything into the daylight and realise that nightmares aren’t so scary separated out from the dark. Here in this process, I will share what I have been learning about myself with you.

First of all, there was a question that has been in my head: how could I be more autistic every day,
after every unexpected big emotional crisis? How was it that I was discovering new symptoms and that it was increasingly hard for me to control them at all? I know I can’t be more autistic, so what is this drama? Am I pitying myself? Am I afraid of facing reality? Am I afraid of taking on my responsibilities? All the issues and self-doubt that affected me for years, I believed I had dealt with them, suddenly reappeared to haunt me, like ghosts. They overcame me.

I had been disguising my autistic self, the part of me I always hide. I’m struck with astonishment. When I stay with my autistic self, my identity disappears in a dark rabbit hole… I can’t reach it because I can’t find it. I lost my identity with my masks… Which mask… Which identity… Myself… Autistic self...  Aspie self…  My self?... My?... I...  Down.. down...

Although I am 52 years old, I feel I have fallen down into a dark, cold rabbit hole. Age is no protector.  I could easily hurt myself at any moment, I could easily be lost and cease to exist in this world. Meltem was gone. I couldn’t reach her and her mind. Was it temporary? How and why was this happening? Why can't I control this anymore? How was it that I was so easily lost in a dark rabbit hole. I couldn’t understand clearly and it was not easy to believe and cope with what I had been through, was going through now, whilst I was living in such a bewildered mindset.

Studies with women who can mask their autism very well, who are successful in their careers and diagnosed at an older age, like me, have shown that our masks can be destroyed in some cases in spite of ourselves.

In my experience, the cracking of the mask prevents me from controlling the situations that agitate my emotions and my senses as easily as I had done before and I have to face functional problems that I wasn’t previously aware of… In a sense, I’m more fragile, more vulnerable, and sometimes even unfamiliar with the process of adaptation which was very new and destabilising for me.

The situations that cause the cracking of masks could be the menopause, negative emotions, big disappointments, unbearable stress, sleeping problems, life changes, relationship problems, traumatic experiences, communication problems, false accusations, intense sensory perceptions, etc...

Looking back at the last several years of my life, I have been thrown into navigating most of the challenging aspects and life experiences mentioned above, and there has been a complete cracking of all masks. Perhaps this mask cracking process is still ongoing… This process is not easy at all, sometimes my soul, sometimes my heart, sometimes all my cells hurt, but it also causes me to recognise a liberation I have never known before.

The biggest benefit of this process is that I am learning again like a child to be open to re--evaluating everything with curiosity and enthusiasm. It also gives me the chance to reconstruct the rest of my life without hiding myself, without being subjugated to anyone and to live without fear.

Little by little 
I came into this dark tunnel
Remembering disappointments
Remembering lies
Remembering past years
Like a song I forgot
I don’t believe
How the story is set
A world full of hate
If you stumble no one will heed


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