For most people, there are the public and private personas – how you behave and be perceived in private and in public. I have two personas too, but not differentiated by these two categories.
Some Friends Said…
When I was being assessed for Asperger’s, now subsumed under Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I sought out my old friends from my childhood and teenage years on their impressions of me. I was surprised (and defensive) to learn that many of these friends found that I got overly excited easily over small things. What? Me? Excited? I am the most collected and expressionless person! At least in the public; I am secretly (or not) the most dramatic person, and these dramatic characteristics showed in my writing style.
The Misconception Towards “Disorders”
Wait, I did and still do get excited over small things (such as cute things, or new gadgets! I mean, who doesn’t!), but I don’t always show that. I didn’t think of it before, but a recent (unfortunate) event strung those events together. I remembered now, I would get so excited that people asked if I had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I dismissed that with ridicule, I have this hyper focus thing going on, so there is no way that I can be crossing path with ADHD (just like I didn’t think I could ever be autistic, I am just quirky, weird and annoyingly stupid at social skills).
Most Friends Said…
On the other hand, most friends referred to me as ‘stable’ and overly calm. That is true too. One of the most difficult tricks to try on me is to scare me. I do get frightened, but you will not spot a trace of being frightened on my face or body language. I remembered my best friend during the secondary school time used to pull pranks on me, including using a nail cutter to pretend to cut me, and eventually she will clip a small piece of my skin off. Other times, she would use needle to poke through my school uniform. Throughout the process, which almost always led to some bleeding, I showed no sign of distress, or pain. It is not to say that I didn’t feel scared or in pain, I just knew it was going to happen, and I didn’t feel that shouting or flinching my face would change anything or make the pain go away. Understand this, I have a very busy brain, rationalising. Such as, why on earth would she want to do that? What was she trying to prove? What was the right thing for me to do? Do I run? Do I just endure? Obviously, when I was busying trying to figure out the confusing situation, she may feel ‘challenged’ and perhaps ‘curious’ of my threshold.
Hot or Cold?
So, was I hot and fun? Or cold and unfeeling? I can only tell you that I am a cry baby, but only a handful of people had seen me in tears. When the primary school teacher hit my palm 40 times with a wooden ruler (I did nothing wrong), while my right hand was fractured and in cast, I showed no emotion. I held it all in throughout the school hours until I reached home. I cried inconsolably while trying to make myself heard through the sobbing and sniffing to my mother and sister of the mistreatment and unjustified punishment. I am not very capable of showing the ‘appropriate’ expressions and emotions; so sometimes, people keep trying to press the hot buttons because they think they hadn’t hurt me enough, only that they couldn’t be more wrong.
The Ice Queen
All my life, I have been named the Ice Queen; in earlier days, people just described me crudely as stuck up, aloof, arrogant, and cold. *Thanks to Disney’s ‘Frozen’, call me Ice Queen if you liked, I’ll take it as a compliment; Elsa is kind of cool!
They were not being mean, they were just being honest. This is the most common mode that I adopt, although the appearance look cold as ice but millions of neurones fire up in the head. It is in this mode that I apply censor on every single thought process. So all the debates go on in the head, which can sometimes result in an abrupt conclusive speech which baffled everyone else but it felt like I had already talked and thought about the process exhaustively in my head. The drawback about this mode is the common misunderstanding of my speech or phrasing. Without the preview of the prelude, the movie aired from the middle of the show can send misleading ideas.
It’s like not rendering supporting evidences for my conclusion. I may give an astounding conclusion, somewhat unorthodox and unexpected – let’s agree that I am weird – and without any supporting contents of why I arrived at that conclusion, I may come off as rude and inappropriate.
The Safety Net
After discounting the occasional misunderstandings of my messages being misconstrued, it is still my safety net. I have acquired this coping mechanism since I was a small child – to not to speak my mind. It was confusing to me then; more so now.
“Speak your mind.”, they encouraged. When I did, I got reprimanded harshly for my ‘inappropriateness’ (‘common sense’ is overrated!).
“Think before you speak.”, they advised. So, I think before I speak. Understand this, it is nearly impossible for me to decide which part of the ‘thinking’ is considered important or appropriate. Many times, I can give you a solution, but I may have difficulty explaining the process. I was always a quiet girl, I didn’t know what was acceptable and I really didn’t enjoy being reprimanded for things that I didn’t think I did wrong, at least not intentionally. Yet, I learnt that people are very quick to judge and pass a death sentence on me.
“Silence is Gold”, the wiser adults said. You can’t have it both ways with me, really.
Now that I have annoyed at least half of my friends by disclosing publicly of my autism diagnosis, the other half who could associate my quirks and misgivings to the autism traits are very supportive.
“Be yourself.”, they urged. Sadly, sometimes, it’s the same people who encouraged me to be myself that get upset with my ‘being myself’. I don’t mean to be inappropriate, but it can still happen, believe me that I am more frustrated at myself than you are mad at me. Alas, appropriateness is a foreign skill that I can never master.
There are generally 3 situations that you will meet the “Hyperactive Me“. It is either that I feel safe with you, or I am intoxicated, or both.
If you saw this side of me, that means I feel safe with you enough to remove the ‘censor‘. I’ll be majorly inappropriate (especially relating to age appropriateness behaviors) in speech and behavorial patterns – think Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch on National TV.
The Judging Crowd
Friends who knew me, find this side of me endearing and adorable – genuine. I could feel my heart raced and face flushed. I would get so excited that I wanted to do everything and anything right now. I would be genuinely happy, until I reviewed my behaviors later.
People who don’t know me, will be quick to criticise that I was acting cute and vastly inappropriate for my age. I would look ridiculous, especially if what excited me was something like.. a mechanical pencil.
What Actually Happened in My Hyperactive Head
Allow me to paint a picture for you. I bought a new mechanical pencil. I was really excited and happy. I would want to show everyone (no apparent reason, only because I was excited), and then, my brain went into hyperactive mode. I would get even more excited rapidly with associated thoughts of buying ALL the mechanical pencils of the same brand, and the different coloured refills. I quickly linked to all the things I wanted to do with the pencil. Massively planning which pencil to go into which pencil cases, or bags, and for what purposes. All these excited me tremendously because I am highly visual, and the thoughts are always translated into pictures, so much so, I could forget myself. When I looked up, my friend looked completely bewildered. “It’s only a pencil.”, that could make me feel very conscious and almost guilty of letting my guard down.
In conclusion, I may always be inappropriate; I will always be sad that my inappropriateness caused inconveniences or distress to others, but I cannot be better than what I am now. I am tired of attempting the impossible.