People don’t feel sorry for me nor would I want them to. They run out of patience because I have written over 1,500 published blog posts. My blog had been the Technorati top-ranked blog for baby boomers for over three years, and had been on the “A” list for years.
(Laugh! It was funny, and got me exactly nothing monetarily. It was, however, a cover story in a large Long Island weekly. I was quoted in national newspapers.)
I had a blog for Psychology Today, thousands of well-written, thought-out blog posts are in drafts, and I was a writer for a national newspaper. Many people told me that I was going to be the next big thing.
Yet I can’t get a damn book together.
If it makes others impatient think about how I feel? I’m trying not to be ashamed that I’m still trying when I know so many people who wrote popular books in three, six, twelve months.
I remember how I felt when the accolades stopped coming in droves. A lot of people hated me but that went with the territory.
I had never expected to be a blogger or to be a “well-known” one. A friend asked if I wanted to begin a blog like she was doing. After I asked what a blog was…almost kidding…I started writing stories on a blogging platform so that I could see my unedited never-intended-for-others words in print.
One Sunday, I wrote a political post, turned off my computer and went out to dinner. The next morning I woke up to almost 500 requests for link exchanges and other things. Little big problem: I had no idea what a link exchange was. I knew nothing. Nor did I realize that almost 500 requests then was 2004’s equivalent of going viral.
I never stopped working. People would email me. For some reason, they would get angry if I didn’t answer immediately. One young woman decided that I was going to be her best friend and emailed me every half hour. I knew she really wanted to know a male friend of mine and wasn’t interested in me as a friend. But, damn, that girl must have really hated her job because her emails were nonstop.
Another woman found out my phone number and address and was going to come to visit me. She was going to stay over. But I had never invited her and when I told her that she couldn’t stay in my apartment she took to dissing me all over blogland. There were other horror stories. But for every horror story there were three great ones.
It’s just that so many people contacted me, and were so insistent on me answering immediately that I could only get work done after 5 p.m.. And on weekends, holidays and the vacations my friends took to calling “changes of scenery,” as I worked my way through all of them. Never making a cent.
I realized how wrong this was. Others had no problems communicating. Most people would only email (this was before messaging and texting was in its infancy) for an hour or so a day. I told people that I would only answer one email a day, at a time that worked for me. Some people listened. I knew this was my problem. Others were only taking advantage of me because I let them. But why was I?
I had never had problems communicating with people, and suddenly I felt like I couldn’t communicate at all. When you have always been known as an excellent communicator — had careers built around communication — this was insane.
The only possible explanation was that I was going through early dementia. But I’m a geriatric social worker who was a walking thesaurus, making good decisions about other things, and if this was dementia it was unlike any I had ever heard about, and I knew them all.
It was one of the worst times of my life. I begged for help but couldn’t find anybody who understood what I was going through or what my problems were other than a sick need to please, and some computer problems. I knew that was the least of it. The psychiatrist I had been seeing on and off forever coined the term “internet addiction disorder” as a joke. It was taken seriously. Instead of thinking that I was horrible at computer-related issues he was impressed with how much I had taught myself. I knew he was wrong.
Once he had been a great diagnostician. I think he met too many people like me as now he specialized in bipolar which he told me I definitely wasn’t. Actually, he thought I wouldn’t have even been considered neurotic if it wasn’t for my previously undiagnosed problems. Now I had a blog that was as “successful” as his website. (Google gave rankings then. We were both “6’s” which was like hitting the blogging lottery. Or would have been had I been able to take it further.)
Blogging platforms in the Oughts weren’t as easy or as sophisticated then as they are today. There was no cloud. Though I saved everything, there were days, entire weeks, when I would cry because I would lose posts, sometimes the whole blog, and the blogging hosts I had then wouldn’t even give a phone number. They would fix things when they were ready. I have never permanently lost a post but I have lost many pictures, all my categories (don’t ask) and more.
It was confusing. I felt like the most successful failure ever or maybe the biggest failure who had achieved a level of success.
Finally, at almost 57, in 2007, I found out that I have nonverbal learning disorder (NLD,) a very confusing neurological problem. Yes, I spent almost 57 years wondering why I was slightly off. Why couldn’t I be organized? Why did I feel the need to apologize to everyone on the street for bumping into them — even when I didn’t?
Why couldn’t I be the success I was supposed to be? I had done well in all my careers. I was a career hopper. I left before I could be fired though nobody was planning on firing me. I knew that, yet I couldn’t help feeling that I was playing with fire. It would be just a matter of time before all my mistakes were discovered. I was convinced of that though I probably made fewer mistakes than many. No amount of therapy including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which worked for so many other problems could help solve this one.
If you ever want your mistakes pointed out to you, and told you’re horrible, become a “well-known” blogger who delves into issues. Maybe I wanted to be criticized. Maybe in my heart of hearts, I thought that I deserved to be told I wasn’t any good. More people told me that I was great but it’s easy to ignore compliments.
Learning about NLD was a big relief. For the first month. Then my problems seemed worse than they ever had been before.
The very limited information I found about adults said that I should have at least tried to kill myself — and if I didn’t succeed at that — I should have been institutionalized for life. Thanks, Byron Rourke for your absurd, sad, scary beliefs about NLD. You led the way for many to think that all people with NLD were the biggest of life’s losers.
I am finally ready to discuss the life behind the life I have led for the past two decades. It’s not at all gloom and doom.
I loved blogging about the life I had led in New York in the 1970s and 1980s. Social skills had never been a problem. Or had they been and I just always met the world’s nicest people — in Manhattan! (After learning about NLD, I became unsure of just about everything.)
I loved telling stories about my parents — two people I miss every day. We had always had a deep connection and once I moved back from Boston when I was 25, I forged individual friendships with both my parents. That wasn’t “popular” in the 1970s and ’80s, and until my friends had children of their own, they made fun of me. Then they wanted to know all about my upbringing, and other things that showed me their making fun of me might have been a defense. When I say “making fun of,” I’m talking about normal kidding. At least it was in New York.
Writing stories about my parents was my way of staying connected with the dead. I had been adopted. When I was a child all my problems were blamed on “the trauma of adoption.” Though people talk about that now more than ever before, I had always known that I was adopted. My parents were matter-of-fact about it and told me that I was adopted, along with my name, and that they loved me. Adoption wasn’t traumatic for me, and if there was one thing that I knew for sure it was that. ADD and other problems that are often comorbid with NLD were considered to be “problems of adoption.” This added a lot of confusion to the mix.
But this book isn’t going to be about my childhood, fascinating as it might be to me. It’s about an adult who received a very disturbing diagnosis at a time in her life when everything seemed off. My mother had died very suddenly the month after 9/11. I lived in Manhattan and was expected to mourn the victims of 9/11. My mother? She was just an old lady. It was her time. But she was my mother, and my friend, and I swear I felt the umbilical cord fall off after her death.
There were no support groups for people who had family and friends die around the time of the attacks but not in the attacks. Organization after organization told me that they had to allocate all their resources including rooms to family and friends of victims. It amazed me that I could have gone to Kindergarten with somebody who died and gotten more support than I did.
For the first time, I wasn’t resilient. Blogging about my mother’s death from all angles, and the reactions of other bloggers, saved me. I will always be grateful to the large community of bloggers who supported me. Many have become lifelong friends.
But NLD? They couldn’t understand that. The communication problems that I was having weren’t with them. I realized that the better a writer and thinker a person was the more nuanced their blogging was. I understood nuanced blogging and communication.
Still, once I got the NLD diagnosis I was convinced that I couldn’t really comprehend the written word. Wasn’t that a big symptom of NLD? I told myself that not everyone had every symptom and if we had a symptom we had different levels of severity. I wrote about that. Yet I didn’t really believe it! I do now, but it took me forever to reach that place of understanding.
I have spent the past almost-thirteen years trying to work my way back to confidence. Welcome to my story!
Crossposted at Medium