I’ve always had multiple personalities or maybe I should say multiple personas. In the history of me there has traditionally always been two distinct character roles that I fill at one time.
Now that I am able to look at this feeling through the lens of Autism, it is much easier for me to understand the battle that has been going on in my head almost my entire life.
When I started school I was a strange child with only one friend. My only friend was a neighbor and did not end up being placed in the same classroom as me on the first day of school (or any day there after). At school I had no friends and was viciously bullied.
Out of necessity my second personality started to come to life. Growing up I would call her “School Me”.
School Me grew up to be tough. By 8th grade she had become somewhat stuck up, rude, and a bit bossy. Despite School Me’s bad manners, she did not get picked on. School Me was a mask that I wore when it was convenient, when I felt insecure and needed to hide.
At home there was just “me”. I acted like all the other girls in school, blending in, but at home I was my same dorky and goofy self – a much more genuine reflection of who I was.
My mother took a Psychology correspondence course when I was a teenager. She spent a lot of time asking me to read over her papers, and asking me if any of the conditions sounded like the fit her. I remember that she had “diagnosed herself” as bipolar, although I am still not sure if she was being serious or not.
I had always felt or worried that I was mentally ill. Even as a young person I had a feeling that my thoughts and experiences were not like those of the other children. Perhaps I was bipolar too, or had multiple personality disorder. Reading all of the Psychology material was overwhelming. There were so many mental illnesses, too many to count.
If I had ever thought about sharing some of my “weird thoughts” before, I definitely was not going to tell anyone now. I had a fear of being institutionalized growing up. People who are not right in the head get locked up. I had heard that somewhere and it had become a fact in my mind.
To be “right in the head” you have to think like every one else, and I definitely had my own way of thinking. I decided that is was better to pretend the strange things in my head weren’t happening.
School Me evolved into “Work Me” as I got older and entered the work force.
Work Me was a force to be reckoned with, she was a hard worker who would not be pushed around. I loved working. There were clear rules, that seemed logical (unlike the rules I had to deal with in school).
In school I had been a rebel, mostly because the rules in school seemed nonsensical. At work I was a rule following star employee. Having a job gave me confidence and routine plus having my own money was great.
I learned about Autism in my late twenties. I had heard about it before but had dismissed the similarities. Before turning thirty I would accept that I had this “condition“.
Finally I realized that there was nothing wrong with me. My brain was neurologically different from most people’s, but there were others out there just like me.
Despite my constant craving for solitude, I had felt lonely my entire life. For the fist time in my life I was not alone.
Suddenly everything started to make since, all of the strange things that I kept to myself were “normal” in the Aspie community. Looking at my life through the lens of Autism made everything crystal clear.
The world had two basic brain types. (There are probably more but that would make this description less simple.)
Most commonly there is a verbal, social brain. This is a brain that picks up on non verbal cues, can read the emotions of others and values the view of the masses. These brains are technically average by definition.
My brain type is the second type. We are the “nerds” and “weirdos“. We are tragically brilliant but often unable to express the level of genius hiding within. Those of us who do express well become famous scientists and artists. Our brain type is composed of people who change the world, like Einstein and Steve Jobs (neither proven to be on the spectrum but it does seem possible).
Many of us are picked on and beat down by our “peers” with the first brain type. It is almost as if they can sniff us out and feel the need to destroy us before we get to them. Don’t they realize that we come in peace?
We develop coping mechanisms, learn to blend in by adopting Social Masks. Hiding in plane sight, we learn to act Neurotypical. It is natural for Aspies to have two (or more) distinct personalities.
Wearing a Neurotypical Mask is tiresome. It is heavy and playing that role is a lot of work. When we come home from a long day at school or the office it feels good to be released back into our natural, Aspie form.
The falseness of it nags in the back of my mind, but I know the rest of the world is still not ready for the real me. They cannot handle me in all of my Autistic glory. We wear the mask to protect ourselves.
For now I must still maintain my “multiple personalities / personas.”