We didn’t always know that we were plural. We first suspected there might be something behind the differences in our behaviour when we were about 11, but we ended up shelving it as people were rather dismissive of it, even though it made perfect sense to us. It wasn’t a very sophisticated understanding of ourselves, but it was more logical, at least from our point of view, than the idea that we were simply a highly contradictory and inconsistent individual.
There were a lot of indicators, but we didn’t know what to make of them. Everything we had heard about multiplicity was negative, and we, like most other people who have been exposed to media stereotypes, thought that you had to completely lose your memory when two system members switched between each other, and that most ‘personalities’ were outsized caricatures. This meant that we weren’t certain what we were supposed to make of certain types of behaviour we exhibited, both within our own thoughts and when interacting with other people: strong internal disagreements about particular interests; feeling more comfortable when using voices; always being in ‘character’ when by ourselves or interacting with our closest biological family member (and feeling more comfortable in character than as ‘”my” real self’); others noticing that we had rather dramatic ‘mood swings’ that made us seem like different people. Since we didn’t know we were plural, we didn’t have division of labour and we had people who were less skilled in certain areas managing tasks they probably shouldn’t have.
Yes, individuals can contradict themselves, but this was more profound than that. I personally contradict myself in little ways all the time, and I experience emotions such as ambivalence, but that’s different from my having a disagreement with Hess, Darwin or Richard. There was also a high degree of internal consistency within each mental state that we noticed. It was also interesting going back and looking at our old Livejournal entries from 2004-2006: there were about four or five different writing styles, each reappearing at certain times. Some of it looked like me, some like Hess or Yavari or Richard or Carmen. (Noël and James weren’t here then; they joined us in 2008 and 2011 respectively.)
We started realising, in the fullest sense, that there was a strong possibility that we could be composed of separate conscious entities at the end of 2005 and throughout 2006. We had come across another plural system in one of the autistic communities that we belonged to on Livejournal, and they had linked to Astraea’s Web, one of the most popular go-to pages about healthy multiplicity/plurality. We realised that plurality didn’t need to be inherently disordered, and that we didn’t have to have memory losses or stereotyped system members in order to be valid – and that there was an explanation for our behaviour that made sense. At the end of 2006, we finally realised that we weren’t able to maintain the illusion that we were a single consistent individual any more, and decided to finally come out to ourselves as plural, and to tell the people we trusted the most with the information. There were many people whom we told about our plurality who weren’t surprised by the revelation: they’d noticed that we’d acted rather differently from one another, but in a consistently different way, not simply erratic behaviour. Things seemed to make sense: the internal disagreements, the consistency between each ‘state’, the strong identifications with people and events that matched our subconscious perceptions of our individual selves. We set ourselves the task of working out who we were, and organising our system so that we were able to co-operate and live a healthy, fulfilling life together.
Now, things are rather different. We’ve been openly plural to our closest friends – and many places online – for nearly seven years. We generally co-operate and share responsibilities based on individuals’ skills, passions and interests. It’s much easier to delegate tasks. We’re aware of who we are, and can live with it without feeling horrible. We’re now able to convincingly ‘pass’ as being nonplural around most people, because we’re aware of our differences and can sand them off when interacting with people who don’t know about us. It’s actually more of an automated process that we started creating after we worked out we were different people, but I think that’s the best way of wording it. (It does present a drain on our energy; we can keep it up for a little while, but we will eventually grow frustrated with it and want to retreat so we can just act like ourselves again. It’s similar to doing the faux-NT thing.) But when we’re at home or in other spaces where we can interact with people as we are, the differences are more apparent.
We’re proud to be who we are, and we’re glad that we’ve come as far as we have. We wouldn’t be where we are without each other, and we’d not change our plurality for the world.