It was once thought that all adults with my disability, who weren’t treated for it as children, attempt death by their own hand, or gun, or….
Eleven years ago, sometime this week, I learned that I have a somewhat invisible disability called nonverbal learning disorder (NLD or NLVD; no idea why there are two different abbreviations).
I did what I always do when I learn about something: I began researching it.
There was little information about it. I bought all the books published by 2007; the cost was minimal. Basically because there were so few books about it.
I read all the articles.
They fit me perfectly: They didn’t fit me at all.
According to the only article on adults that I could find, I was supposed to be “depressed, in an instution and/or suicidal.”
That article was quoted so much it was sickening. I couldn’t understand how it could have been peer reviewed favorably. It was.
People used it as the basis for understanding adults with NLD.
I read the “study” it was based on.
The study that was quoted so much was based on the writer’s experience with one woman in her 20s.
That alone makes the study flawed. This article that I wrote years ago refutes it. I would have written it differently now but the outcome remains the same.
As it was a bit more than a month until my 57th birthday when I learned about NLD, I knew myself pretty well.
I had to know myself well.
NLD affects everyone differently. My biggest problems are visual/spatial, many multi-step situations, and organizational. If you think about it, the first leads to the second which then leads to the third. They all lead to anxiety.
(I can be excellent at multi steps depending on the situation and/or how I learn whatever it is I’m learning. If it’s technical forgetaboutit. I can explain the directions to others, who can’t understand the written directions but who can execute the steps. But I can’t do whatever needs doing.)
This sounds incredibly weird. This sounds like an excuse. It’s not.
My whole damn life sounds like an excuse to get out of things, or for people to forgive my poor performance, or if I “exceed expectations” to be rewarded. I’m overly conscious of these three things. I’m forever saying: “I’m sorry.” Nobody likes an “I’m sorry” overuser. Though it would be wonderful if some people said it occasionally.
I am a walking testament to the power of anxiety. I read articles and blog posts that talk about what anxiety “really is” and get passed around the Internet for being so “perceptive.” “This and only this is what anxiety feels like.”
Problem: How anxiety affects you might be very different from how anxiety affects me. I’m not even going to attempt to explain how it affects me here.
Anxiety associated with having very few visual spatial and organizational abilities leaves me overwhelmed.
I am an introvert; I am far from being an introvert. I can be very quiet. I can talk too much. I can be the person who keeps the conversation going. I’m so many people I’m exhausted thinking about it.
At my first college I basically majored in having a great social life. I know, I know, students today can’t afford to do that. But students today don’t wonder if they’re making up their problems; if they just weren’t so lazy….why can’t they learn to spell? Knowing another language would be great. It was a different world then and maybe in some ways it was better. But I had no idea why I felt the way I did. My anxiety was off the charts.
I was the opposite of popular in high school. Looking back I realize that I spent so much time trying to do things: So much time attempting to judge distance—-where to stand so I wasn’t too close or too far from a person; trying to understand math, grammar, science and much else; trying to do things correctly in gym; trying to get my handwriting to be legible; trying to think up conversations people would be interested in, I had no time to actually talk to people. There’s much more but you get the gist….
In college for some reason none of those things mattered. By the time I moved to Cambridge and went to Boston University I was an exceptionally good student. Though typing a paper was a nightmare I knew I had good things to say.
In my 20s and 30s I thrived when I worked in large rooms with hundreds of people. Then I would go out with many of them at night.
I learned early that I needed at least two nights a week for just me. Some people thought I was selfish; that I did exactly what I wanted to do. They didn’t understand because I didn’t consciously understand that I needed to regroup. I did think: “hell, even the Engergizer Battery runs down.”
(I couldn’t change a battery until about five years ago. That was major. Imagine a life filled with minor things that you can’t do but know you should be able to do. Then you can somewhat understand my life.)
I spent my life attempting to do everything everybody else does. Now I have “the two hour rule.” If I have a problem and I can’t fix it I will stop after two hours. Even if I’m talking to a tech on the phone. Often I figure out a much easier solution to the problem than the one the tech suggested in a minute the next day. Sometimes I never figure out the answer. I wish I didn’t care. But my life is a bit easier and sometimes ease is everything. I still feel immense guilt. My father used to say that he never saw somebody fall off a horse so many times and get back on. I’m used to trying and failing. I’m also used to trying and succeeding. I never know what I will fail at and what I will succeed at. Some would say that should make life more interesting. It doesn’t.
This is all overwhelming. I don’t want to be THAT PERSON. You know who I’m talking about—the person who screams on the phone or in a store or worse on a street. When I lived in NY, before I knew about NLD, I sometimes did. I hated myself for that. It upped, upped, upped my anxiety level.
Still I tried. One truth about NLD: You never know what you will or won’t be able to do.
People find the Internet to be a wonderful place. For many people with NLD it is a great place. It allows people to socialize without ever leaving home. It gives people a freedom to know and understood people they would otherwise not meet. There are groups that let you talk to people who have the same problems, issues, and/or interests as you.
Even I love that.
Being on the Internet leaves me exhausted. It has stopped me from completing my own goals.
Truth: I liked the Internet much more when all I knew was the blogging part (even that exhausted me) and had never heard the term “social media.”
I can’t compete.
I would love to but I went to a conference where there was an emphasis on how to get a large audience through Twitter. I stopped trying to understand after the first three minutes. Pinterest—forget that. It took something I enjoyed and made it into something I dare not go to. Same with Instagram.
I left that conference thinking that people are very kind.
But they don’t want to nor do they need to understand NLD and how it affects me.
How dare I think I have a book in me, let alone a blog, when I can’t follow these basic rules.
For the first time in many a decade I felt as if I were a social zilch. I knew that wasn’t quite true, yet…..
People don’t know how to help me. I understand and accept that as NLD is not completely understandable.
But I am human. I have the same needs as everyone else.
I know that I’m a good writer, and want to leave something of myself on earth after I’m gone. Not just this blog and my Psychology Today one.
I am not a suicidal person for I have always believed in the power of “tomorrow.” I am growing older now and the tomorrows are lessening. Lately that has made me very sad.
I wanted to write a short post on how anxiety can cause a person to withdraw as much as depression can. I wanted to write a piece that showed how you can go go go yet never get anywhere, and how that could make you suicidal.
But I am fortunate. Despite all these problems (so many I didn’t describe them all) I am loved. I have family and I have friends. Sometimes they’re one and the same.
I am not a suicidal person. When life is at its darkest I’m able to think “tomorrow.” Or I’m so anxious I’m not thinking at all. But right now I’m feeling guilty for not being outside. I’m feeling guilty for living so close to the beach and not being there. I’m feeling a bit of guilt for occupying space somebody more worthy could have, should have, occupied.
That last one—I have worked through most of it. Everyone is worthy and I’m as worthy as the next person. But many people don’t consciously think about their worth as members of the human race.
No matter how well they do, no matter how many people love them, they think they shouldn’t be occupying space. So they stop occupying space.
That person could have easily been me. I have been through enough. I’m not a religious person—never have been and most probably never will be.
But when you believe in the power of tomorrow you have a faith of sorts.
A faith that the sun might shine and you can push today aside, and try all over again. This time you might even get it right.
Faith in tomorrow is truly a miracle.
Total Honesty: I never used to be scared of posting. But it feels as if some people read my writings with the express purpose of finding grammatical mistakes. As I can’t even diagram a damn sentence I think it a miracle that my grammar is as good as it is. And I know that it’s good. Read for the concepts please.
Don’t judge me. I spend eternity judging myself. And I never come out the winner.
But tomorrow I