Articles from June 2012

De Profundis: Oscar Wilde on toxic friendship–Part 1

(Here is another blog about this work, which also gives some background.)

I’m currently reading Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, written by him in prison to his “friend” Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”).

So far, it’s complaining about the volatile relationship they had, a combination of intimate friendship and lover, and a violent temper which ran in Douglas’ family.  The more I read, the more it sounds like borderline personality or some other mood/personality disorder:

Douglas was a leech, a stalker, and a writer of telegrams and letters full of foul accusations whenever Wilde tried to stick up for himself and end the friendship.  Wilde recognized that it was toxic, but kept taking him back, again and again and again.

He kept giving in to Douglas, hoping that he would calm down, only to find that he became even worse over time.  The rages of this Douglas sound so much like Tracy that I really feel for Wilde.

The text you often find for this work is abridged for general audiences, cutting out the personal letter to Bosie, since it’s a massive work and much of it is about general subjects such as suffering, humility, art, things which Wilde wanted the public to read.

But my copy, part of Complete Works of Oscar Wilde published by Collins (HarperCollins) Publishers, is the entire work, 80 pages.  Here I will focus on the private letter and how it deals with toxic friendship and Cluster Bs (often-used colloquial term for people with narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, anti-social, high-conflict personality disorders), and how similar it sounds to my own experiences with Tracy.

On page 984, we read,

But most of all I blame myself for the entire ethical degradation I allowed you to bring on me. The basis of character is will power, and my will power became absolutely subject to yours. It sounds a grotesque thing to say, but it is none the less true.

Those incessant scenes that seemed to be almost physically necessary to you, and in which your mind and body grew distorted, and you became a thing as terrible to look at as to listen to:

that dreadful mania you inherit from your father, the mania for writing revolting and loathsome letters:

your entire lack of any control over your emotions as displayed in your long resentful moods of sullen silence, no less than in the sudden fits of almost epileptic rage:

all these things in reference to which one of my letters to you, left by you lying about in the Savoy or some other hotel, and so produced in court by your father’s counsel, contained an entreaty not devoid of pathos, had you at that time been able to recognise pathos either in its elements or its expression — these, I say, were the origin and causes of my fatal yielding to you in your daily increasing demands.

You wore me out. It was the triumph of the smaller over the bigger nature. It was the case of that tyranny of the weak over the strong which somewhere in one of my plays I describe as being “the only tyranny that lasts.”

This certainly sounds like some form of Cluster B personality disorder, especially because it is “inherited.”  Borderline and narcissistic personality disorders can run in families, though it’s unclear if it’s from genetics, or from a psychological response to living with a Cluster B.  The following sounds very much like Tracy:

And it was inevitable. In every relation of life with others one has to find some moyen de vivreIn your case, one had either to give up to you or to give you up.  There was no other alternative.

Through deep if misplaced affection for you: through great pity for your defects of temper and temperament: through my own proverbial good-nature and Celtic laziness: through an artistic aversion to coarse scenes and ugly words: through that incapacity to bear resentment of any kind which at that time characterised me:

through my dislike of seeing life made bitter and uncomely by what to me, with my eyes really fixed on other things, seemed to be mere trifles too petty for more than a moment’s thought or interest–through these reasons, simple as they may sound, I gave up to you always.

As a natural result, your claims, your efforts at domination, your exactions grew more and more unreasonable.

Your meanest motive, your lowest appetite, your most common passion, became to you laws by which the lives of others were to be guided always, and to which, if necessary, they were to be without scruple sacrificed.

Knowing that by making a scene you could always have your way, it was but natural that you should proceed, almost unconsciously I have no doubt, to every excess of vulgar violence….

At the one supremely and tragically critical moment of all my life, just before my lamentable step of beginning my absurd action [suing Bosie’s father for libel], on the one side there was your father attacking me with hideous cards left at my club, on the other side there was you attacking me with no less loathsome letters….

My habit — due to indifference chiefly at first — of giving up to you in everything had become insensibly a real part of my nature….I had allowed you to sap my strength of character, and to me the formation of a habit had proved to be not Failure merely but Ruin.

Ethically you had been even still more destructive to me than you had been artistically.  The warrant once granted, your will of course directed everything.

Wilde writes that, when Bosie talked him into going to trial against Bosie’s father instead of going abroad as his true friends advised, “Of course I should have got rid of you, I should have shaken you out of my life as a man shakes from his raiment a thing that has stung him.”

This is what I did to Tracy when she raged at me, but unfortunately, Wilde did not do this to Bosie.  Part of the trouble was that Wilde kept trying to shake him off, sometimes even going to the trouble of fleeing the country and leaving a fake address with a servant so Bosie would not follow him:

As far as I can make out I ended my friendship with you every three months regularly, and each time that I did so you managed by means of entreaties, telegrams, letters, the interposition of your friends, the interposition of mine, and the like to induce me to allow you back.

Sounds like Wilde was subjected to “hoovering,” the common term for a Cluster B’s attempts to get back the person who has escaped.  And Wilde kept taking him back and forgiving him.  It must be maddening to go through this every three months with the same person.

Wilde also was subject to “false nostalgia,” when the victim of a Cluster B begins thinking things couldn’t possibly be as bad as he thinks they are, that he must be imagining it:

On my return to London the next day I remember sitting in my room and sadly and seriously trying to make up my mind whether or not you really were what you seemed to me to be, so full of terrible defects, so utterly ruinous both to yourself and to others, so fatal a one to know even or to be with. 

For a whole week I thought about it, and wondered if after all I was not unjust and mistaken in my estimate of you.

At the end of the week a letter from your mother is handed in.  It expressed to the full every feeling I myself had about you….

She saw, of course, that heredity had burdened you with a terrible legacy, and frankly admitted it, admitted it with terror: he is ‘the one of my children who has inherited the fatal Douglas temperament,’ she wrote of you.

I know the feeling, because I, myself, was subjected to these same feelings many times, during my ill-fated friendship with Richard and Tracy, during the several times I considered breaking off the friendship before I actually did, and even after Jeff and I broke things off with them finally.

Even after I wrote everything down, I still would get these feelings–then look back over what I had written, in my blogs/accounts and to friends, and see that everything I wrote was true.

And since it was all true, and since there was so much crap in there that they did, and since my friends were reading what I wrote and saying these people were not worth the pain I was going through, and how horrible they were–I had to force myself to realize that I was not making it up.

Just as Wilde did, I had to get confirmation from others that I was not “unjust and mistaken.”  Not only did my husband Jeff agree with me about the things that had gone on, but I would e-mail Todd about the situation and find that he had the same impressions I did about many things.

I wrote out the things I had witnessed Richard and Tracy doing, and what Richard had told me was going on when I wasn’t around, sent it to a friend who does social work–and she said they both sound very abusive so please report them to CPS.

From what I’ve read on the Shrink4Men website, false nostalgia seems to be common among victims of Cluster Bs, probably because it’s so hard to believe that someone you love could really be so horrible to you, and because of the gaslighting they often do to their victims.  For example:

The I’ve Never Been Happier Hoover: This Hoover is basically a form of reverse psychology in which the abuser assumes, rightly or wrongly, that your abandonment fears are equal to or greater than her own.

I haven’t been this happy in years since you left. You always brought out the worst in me. I never behaved that way with anyone else. I started dating again and am being treated the way I always wanted to be treated. You have no idea how to treat a woman.

The purpose of this Hoover is to get you to begin to doubt your experiences, feelings and memories of her and the relationship. This kind of Hoover can lead you to wonder,

“What if I’d said or done x instead of y? Maybe it really is me? Maybe I should give her another chance? What if she really is wonderful with the new guy? Why wasn’t she that way than me? I wonder if she’ll take me back if I promise to try harder to make her happy?” –Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, Hoovers: Don’t Let the Crazy Suck You Back In

Wilde tried to let go of his friendship with Bosie, at Bosie’s mother’s urging.  But Bosie kept “writing to me by every post from Egypt.”  Wilde read them, then tore them up.  Bosie even telegraphed Wilde’s wife to beg her to get Wilde to write him back!

Our friendship had always been a source of distress to her: not merely because she had never liked you personally, but because she saw how your continual companionship altered me, and not for the better: still, just as she had always been most gracious and hospitable to you, so she could not bear the idea of my being in any way unkind–for so it seemed to her–to any of my friends.

She thought, knew indeed, that it was a thing alien to my character.  At her request I did communicate with you.

The result is especially noteworthy:

I remember the wording of my telegram quite well.  I said that time healed every wound but that for many months to come I would neither write to you nor see you.

You started without delay for Paris, sending me passionate telegrams on the road to beg me to see you once, at any rate.  I declined.  You arrived in Paris late on a Saturday night, and found a brief letter from me waiting for you at your hotel stating that I would not see you.

Next morning I received in Tite Street a telegram of some ten or eleven pages in length from you.  You stated in it that no matter what you had done to me you could not believe that I would absolutely decline to see you:

you reminded me that for the sake of seeing me even for one hour you had travelled six days and nights across Europe without stopping once on the way: you made what I must admit was a most pathetic appeal, and ended with what seemed to me a threat of suicide, and one not thinly veiled.

You had yourself often told me how many of your race there had been who had stained their hands in their own blood; your uncle certainly, your grandfather possibly; many others in the mad, bad line from which you come.

Pity, my old affection for you, regard for your mother to whom your death under such dreadful circumstances would have been a  blow almost too great for her to bear, the horror of the idea that so young a life, and one that amidst all its ugly faults had still promise of beauty in it, should come to so revolting an end, mere humanity itself–all these, if excuses be necessary, must serve as my excuse for consenting to accord you one last interview.

When I arrived in Paris, your tears, breaking out again and again all through the evening, and falling over your cheeks like rain as we sat, at dinner first at Voisin’s, at supper at Paillard’s afterwards:

the unfeigned joy you evinced at seeing me, holding my hand whenever you could, as though you were a gentle and penitent child: your contrition, so simple and sincere, at the moment: made me consent to renew our friendship.

Two days after we had returned to London, your father saw you having luncheon with me at the Cafe Royal, joined my table, drank of my wine, and that afternoon, through a letter addressed to you, began his first attack on me.

As written here, this is

The Psycho Hoover: The Psycho Hoover is the FOG Hoover on steroids. It includes threats of suicide and/or violence. Basically, the abuser is just escalating their guilt and/or intimidation tactics to keep you in the relationship.

The Deluxe Hoover: This is the Hoover in which she morphs from abuser to super sweet, sexed up, Stepford wife. In reality, it’s nothing more than a return to the honeymoon and or love bombing stage of the relationship.

In other words, she turns on the charm or whatever it was about her that attracted you to her in the first place. It can have the effect of resurrecting your hopes that the woman you fell in love with is real and that maybe, just maybe, you can go back to the way things were “before.”

I promise things will get better. I love you SO much. We were great together at first. We can get that back! Please just give us another chance! Remember the good times (or time)? Don’t you want to have that again? We’ll both go to therapy. We’ll make it work.

More often than not, the abuse behaviors resurface once you return.

In other words, you broke up with this person because they’re nasty/crazy/whatever, but they do whatever they can to get you back and make you think things will be better this time.

But it’s all an act, because as soon as they’ve got you back, the old behaviors resurface.  Yet more ways that Bosie’s family curse seems to be a Cluster B personality disorder.

Wilde then describes a time when first Bosie, then Wilde came down with a nasty flu.  They were away from home at the time, so had to depend on each other.  Wilde took care of Bosie very well, while when he got better and then Wilde got it, Bosie just kept disappearing to go have fun, leaving Wilde without anyone to care for him.

Bosie, of course, being a leech, is doing this on Wilde’s dime.  Wilde tries to get him to stick around, but Bosie never comes around except for money.  One night at 3am, Wilde goes to the sitting-room in desperate need of water, and finds Bosie:

You fell on me with every hideous word an intemperate mood, an undisciplined and untutored nature could suggest.  By the terrible alchemy of egotism you converted your remorse into rage.

You accused me of selfishness in expecting you to be with me when I was ill; of standing between you and your amusements; of trying to deprive you of your pleasures.

You told me, and I know it was quite true, that you had come back at midnight simply in order to change your dress-clothes, and go out again to where you hoped new pleasures were waiting for you, but that by leaving for you a letter in which I had reminded you that you had neglected me the whole day and the whole evening, I had really robbed you of your desire for more enjoyments, and diminished your actual capacity for fresh delights.

Wilde left in disgust, went back to bed, but lay awake for some time, full of thirst.  At 11:00 Bosie came in.  Wilde thought Bosie was going to make excuses and ask for forgiveness like usual, the forgiveness

that you knew in your heart was invariably waiting for you, no matter what you did; your absolute trust that I would always forgive you being the thing in you that I always really liked the best, perhaps the best thing in you to like.  So far from doing that, you began to repeat the same scene with renewed emphasis and more violent assertion.

I told you at length to leave the room: you pretended to do so, but when I lifted up my head from the pillow in which I had buried it, you were still there, and with brutality of laughter and hysteria of rage you moved suddenly towards me.

A sense of horror came over me, for what exact reason I could not make out; but I got out of my bed at once, and bare-footed and just as I was, made my way down the two flights of stairs to the sitting-room, which I did not leave till the owner of the lodgings–whom I had rung for–had assured me that you had left my bedroom, and promised to remain within call, in case of necessity.

An hour passes, during which the doctor comes by, finding him “in a state of absolute nervous prostration,” and worse fever than he had been before.  Then Bosie comes back, grabs some money from the dressing-table and mantelpiece, takes his luggage, and leaves.

Actually, this also reminds me of Richard, in the final weeks when I tried to confront him over things he had done that were mean, and his reaction each time was to blow up at me.

And it reminds me of my abusive ex Phil, who–along with his brother and his girlfriend–accused me of being a “party pooper” who didn’t want Phil to have any fun–because I had a concussion.  Because I did not want to go dancing with a concussion.  Because I wanted Phil to care for me instead of dancing while I had a concussion.

Bosie’s narcissistic/borderline rage episode produced the same effect on Wilde which Tracy’s rage episode had on me:

Is it necessary for me to state that I saw clearly that it would be a dishonour to myself to continue even an acquaintance with such a one as you had showed yourself to be? 

That I recognised that the ultimate moment had come, and recognised it as being really a great relief?

This is an 80-page work with lots of ground to cover, so I will break this off now and continue it later.

Part 2

Review of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

by Jane Austen:

(First, read my review of Mysteries of Udolpho.)

Spoilers Ahead!

Now for Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s satire of Mysteries of Udolpho and the Gothic genre of the late-18th century.

The first couple of chapters have been quite delightful, mostly narrative but all comic, with our introduction to Catherine (who has never had the makings of a heroine and has only now begun to even be pretty) and Mrs. Allen (who should be making the heroine’s life miserable but in reality has a good temper and nothing whatsoever to make her intolerable, or interesting other than being rich).

Rather than a fainting beauty with many accomplishments like, say, Emily in Udolpho, Catherine has always been a rambunctious tomboy, playing with cricket bats rather than dolls, and preferring books that have absolutely nothing to teach whatsoever.

Mrs. Allen takes Catherine to her first ball in the fashionable resort town of Bath.  But unlike both movie versions of this book, they meet nobody of interest at the ball, not even Henry Tilney, and the most attention Catherine gets in the huge crowd is overhearing a couple of young gentlemen calling her “pretty.”

As Austen notes, no one goes into raptures on seeing her, or calls her divine, or any such.  But what she did get means more to her than fifteen sonnets would to a “true-quality” heroine.

Catherine does finally meet Mr. Tilney, but at a different dance.  He’s a goofball, just the sort to make girls laugh and fall for him.

In chapter 6, Catherine has formed a fast attachment to Isabella Thorpe, the sister of one of her brother’s friends, and the daughter of Mrs. Allen’s old friend.  They’re attached to each other like glue, and love to talk about those “horrid” Gothic novels.

Catherine is now reading Mysteries of Udolpho and loves it.  They talk about the black veil, wonder what’s hidden behind it, and Catherine says, “Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it.”  Well, it could take you about that long to read it, those nearly 700 pages, and so much of it either landscape description or (geez) yet more plot-numbing poetry….

Isabella seems like a wonderful friend, the kind of bosom friend who is a joy to find, a kindred spirit.  She has a list of a bunch more horrid Gothic novels to read together.  And Austen, of course, pokes fun at novels of the day that would disparage novel-reading as something that their heroines, of course, would never do.  Catherine says, “[A]re they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”  Isabella assures her that they are.

Now it’s time to go to Amazon and find all the books listed here….Judging by Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” list, other people have done this very same thing.  And guess who has published these as paperbacks in the past several years: Valancourt Books!  They appear to have been grouped together as “Northanger Abbey Horrid Novels.”

Like with Eusebius‘ many quotes from other writers, you wonder how many of these books would have simply fallen into obscurity had it not been for Jane Austen mentioning them in her own book.

Catherine, however, soon discovers her wonderful friend Isabella is actually rather selfish and self-centered.  Isabella, an incorrigible flirt, captures Catherine’s brother James’ heart, and Isabella’s brother Thorpe hopes to capture Catherine’s as well.  But he’s so rude, crude and obnoxious that this is impossible for a sweet, open, guileless girl like Catherine.

When Catherine wants to go for walks with Henry Tilney and his sister Elinor, Isabella and her brother throw a fit and try to force her to go with them instead on a long trip.  When force doesn’t work, they try manipulation: Thorpe lies to the Tilneys.  Poor Catherine, our heroine, must fight the forces that try to keep her from her true love!

When the Tilneys invite Catherine to cut her visit to Bath short and come stay with them for three weeks at their place, Northanger Abbey, Catherine is delighted: Abbeys show up in her beloved Gothic novels all the time.  She hopes for rotted walls, secret passages, and the like; Henry plays with her, encouraging her romantic spirit by telling her all the horrid things she’ll find in the abbey.  Her imagination runs rampant, so she starts exploring.

Silly Catherine quickly comes up with an elaborate suspicion of General Tilney, that he killed his wife–or locked her up–nine years ago and the proof is to be found in her old bedroom.

But Henry soon disabuses her of this notion, she realizes that General Tilney has a dreadful temper but is hardly a murderer or torturer, and she’s back to real-life concerns: Isabella has thrown over Catherine’s brother to be with Henry’s brother, since the terms of the upcoming marriage to James Morland are far poorer than she had hoped.

Henry realizes that in losing her best friend,

Your brother is certainly very much to be pitied at present; but we must not, in our concern for his sufferings, undervalue yours.

You feel, I suppose, that in losing Isabella, you lose half yourself: you feel a void in your heart which nothing else can occupy. Society is becoming irksome; and as for the amusements in which you were wont to share at Bath, the very idea of them without her is abhorrent. You would not, for instance, now go to a ball for the world.

You feel that you have no longer any friend to whom you can speak with unreserve, on whose regard you can place dependence, or whose counsel, in any difficulty, you could rely on. You feel all this?

You’d think that she would feel all this after losing the friend who had been side-by-side with her for weeks.  I think most people would; I certainly have felt it more than once, no matter if the friend was lost through betrayal or simply a change of geography or school.  But oddly, she says no, she doesn’t.  But she doesn’t know why.

Isabella has shown herself to be a golddigger; Captain Tilney has shown himself to be a player who talked big and trifled with her heart, then threw her over for somebody else.  Now she writes to Catherine asking her to plead her case with James.  Catherine sees right through her and decides not to write to James on her behalf, or to Isabella ever again.

I feel for Catherine as she suffers the disappointment of learning a dear friend’s true character, of having to give up that friend because they are not what they seemed.  But fortunately for Catherine, she has Eleanor and Henry to soothe her spirits.

General Tilney soon unceremoniously tosses Catherine out of the abbey, without reason other than a previously remembered engagement, after she and Eleanor had just decided that she’d stay another few weeks.

He’d been catering to Catherine’s every need for all this time, treating her better than he treated his own children, practically throwing her at Henry–and now he’s ordered her to take the first cab home, 70 miles, without even a servant to attend her.

Henry, the romantic hero, soon follows her to her home, proposes, and tells her what happened.  Of course, the 1987 movie version has a much more dramatic and romantic proposal scene than the book does.  (Sorry for the bad quality: It’s apparently the only video the BBC has not bumped off Youtube.)  But the book goes into more detail about the misunderstandings:

John Thorpe, in his usual self-promoting bluster, first told General Tilney that Catherine was an heiress; then in the sting of disappointment (since Catherine refused him), and not being able to get James and Isabella back together, he went the other way, telling the general that the Morlands were poor and disreputable fortune-hunters.  He claimed he’d been misled by James’ own vain boasting.

The movie’s depiction of the argument between Henry and his father [sorry, this got bumped, too] is more satisfying dramatically, making me wish that the many details in the book had been shown rather than told.  So even the great classic works suffer from this every once in a while.

Catherine’s parents are willing, but want the general to consent as well.  Rather than acting like golddiggers who want a share of the general’s money, they’re quite willing for Catherine to live on Henry’s own income as a parson.  But until the general consents, Catherine and Henry must wait.

This seems impossible, until Eleanor makes a good match herself and puts him in good humor.  Eleanor has been forced apart for years by her father from this man, but he’s suddenly come into money and title.  General Tilney discovers that far from being dirt-poor, Catherine’s parents are able to give her 3000 pounds.  He soon forgives Henry, who then marries Catherine.  So just as in Mysteries of Udolpho, there is finally a happy ending.

The funny part about Henry’s love of Catherine is how it began: He truly loves her now, but it

originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a second thought.

It is a new circumstance in romance, I acknowledge, and dreadfully derogatory of a heroine’s dignity; but if it be as new in common life, the credit of a wild imagination will at least be all my own.

This is a fun little book, only 212 pages, a quick and easy read.  Time to re-watch the movie, and see if the Masterpiece Theater version (from around 2008) is still on Youtube…..

The 1987 movie: This one makes all sorts of changes from the novel, and the way it chops up Mysteries of Udolpho is scandalous (that is NOT what’s behind the black veil). But it’s still lots of fun to watch, I love the ending song, Peter Firth is a handsome and funny Tilney (I love the way he says “gloomy”), and the ending is charmingly romantic–so much so that I wish it were that way in the book.

It also has some great lines that aren’t in the book: “Never underestimate the power of [a woman’s] refusal”; “I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, though since you left the white rose bush has died of grief.”  The last is one I often think of when someone I care about is gone.

The 2007 movie: This one is far more faithful to the book, though it also takes many liberties (such as Catherine’s dreams based on The Monk, and what Captain Tilney does with Isabella at the end).  But at least, like the 1987 movie, it has Henry Tilney arriving on a white horse…. Watch the movie here.

[Finished 1/30/11]

Introverts: We Are Fine the Way We Are!

Introverts are born that way, and our way of being is perfectly normal and fine.  Don’t try to change us!  You’ll just tick us off!  Don’t try to make us make small talk; we hate that!  We’ll talk when we have something to say.  A bunch of links showing that our brains are actually different from extroverted brains, and that the world needs us:

10 Myths About Introverts

Introverts and Verbal Communication | Don’t Be Shy

Respect my introversion, please! — Introvert Zone

Revenge of the Introvert | Psychology Today


Articles by Jonathan Rauch: Caring for Your Introvert

Introverts and Extroverts:  Close Encounters with Communicators of a Different Kind

Article; 5 misconceptions about Introverts

The Gifted Introvert

The Rise of the Introvert | The AC is On

Extrovert V. Introvert: Personalities Hardwired by Neurotransmitters in the Brain |

What Does It Mean to Be an Introvert?

The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D|Jason C. Dudycha

I Will NOT Be Silent

My Trip to Oz and Back is much like my own blogs, an account of two years spent by the writer with her girlfriend, which was actually a 50-page letter sent by the author to her ex-girlfriend.

That was in the late 90s, when the author had never heard of borderline personality disorder, so there had been no official diagnosis for her to point to.  But the more she learned about BPD, the more she knew her ex-girlfriend had it, so she posted this letter to help others who are dealing with someone with BPD.

It has been on the Web since 2003, and by November 2006 had received 53,000 hits.  As the author wrote on the main page,

Writing this was cathartic. It doubled as a form of therapy. I actually did send the letter; however, I doubt that it had much effect.  The more I learned about BPD, the more I realized that the likelihood of this person ever really understanding, was probably close to zero….

Why would I want to put such a personal document online?  There are several reasons. First, I wanted to give an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be in a relationship with a person with BPD. There are many books and websites on BPD, but relatively few from a significant other’s point of view.

Second, I am hoping that someone out there might read a bit and identify with it.  When one is in a difficult situation, sometimes just hearing about another person’s similar experience can be affirming–as in, “I’m not the only one.”

Finally, I consider myself a success story–see the final chapter, the epilogue.  My wish is to give hope to others.

Like me, the author changed names and identifying details.  This is to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.

It’s the most baffling part of Richard and Tracy threatening a lawsuit, because I never used and never intend to use their real names in these blogs–and anything I would tell my priest about this, would be the truth, and not in any way actionable.

Joyful Alive Woman also wrote about her abusive, narcissist, former female friend.

Post by Prozac Blogger:

Why the past still haunts me is for that exact same reason. As long as they aren’t exposed for who they truly are, I can’t rest.

All this time I thought it was because of the horrible things I’ve seen that I can’t let go. Actually it’s the fact that I’ve been forced to keep it inside that makes it impossible for me to move forward.

It’s not only that, the fact that they are moving on with their lives makes it all even harder.  I need justice. I need them to be exposed.  —Major Breakthrough: Exposing the Truth

I know how you feel, Prozac Blogger.  The more my bullies try to silence me, the more I speak up.  The more they try to threaten and intimidate me to get me under their thumb, the more I wriggle back out from under it.

I will not stop going to my church because of them.  I will not let them frighten me away from my own church, a church which they have always hated anyway, so the only reason they’re coming to it now is to intimidate and oppress me, a sinful, black-hearted attitude straight from Hell, which God will deal with.

I will not shut up to pacify my bullies.  I will not remove my blogs.  I will fight any and all attempts to silence me.

They will find that I’m not as weak as they thought I was.  The stubbornness of my family is proverbial.

I’ve been speaking out about Richard and Tracy’s bullying ever since the very day of 7/1/10, when they told me, “Don’t go crying to Jeff, because we don’t need the headache.”

And I will continue to speak out about it.  I will document here, online, every single thing they do to continue to stalk and intimidate me.

I will not let them bully me at church and cut me off from my support system.  The more they oppress me, the more I will tell.

The only thing that would stifle my need to tell, would be if they repented for what they did–and they have made it very clear (see “Now I’m Being Stalked” for their e-mail expressing this) that they have no remorse.  I will not let them censor me like some government book-burning fireman (Fahrenheit 451).

This is not about revenge.  If it were, then I would’ve used their real names so Google searches on them would lead to this.  I could even have made things up, written lies.  But I did neither.

No, it’s about sharing a story in my own life for a few different reasons:

  1. to vent/get it out
  2. to share with others who are also dealing with abuse/bullying and validate their own experiences
  3. and because as a writer, I am driven to write down and share the interesting or bizarre stories I see happening in real life.  As you can see from my College Memoirs, it’s hard to explain why I feel the need to share my stories, just that I do.

They seem to think they can intimidate me into silence, but they can’t.  I would fight them even in front of a judge for the right to tell the truth about what they did to me and others.  If they do sue me, I will win because I am telling the truth and have done nothing illegal.

Forcing abuse/bullying victims to be silent about their abuse, would have a chilling effect, as other abuse/bullying victims continue to hold their silence and continue to be victims rather than survivors.

Just because the abusers/bullies don’t like what we have to say, does not make it a “false fact.”  The truth is not libel or slander or defamation, and it is not gossip to tell how we’ve been abused and bullied.

We must not be silent: That’s what the abusers and bullies want of us.  We need to turn the tables and speak up without fear of retribution.

And I’m not just fighting for myself.  I’m fighting for Todd, too, and what Tracy and Richard did to him.  I’m fighting for Phoebe Prince.  And I’m fighting for all of us who have been bullied.

As posted on Exposing Online Predators and Cyberpaths:

TRUTH is a 100% defense to defamation, slander or libel. Accusing someone of defamation, slander or libel when they are telling the truth or giving an OPINION, however, CAN BE actionable.

The irony is that when they came around, I was finally done writing about this, had gotten most of it out of my system, did not plan on writing much else about it.  They weren’t coming to my church anymore, and I thought I wouldn’t have to see them again.  But then they started harassing me over sharing my story, and are giving me all sorts of new fodder for blogs…..

As if it weren’t bad enough that they spiritually and emotionally traumatized me through this whole experience, as if it weren’t bad enough that they bullied me and then Tracy verbally abused me, now they’re trying to silence me from telling the truth, trying to threaten and intimidate me for speaking out.  Their narcissism is confirmed.

This quote from Princess Fi’s BETRAYAL, DEFIANCE, LIES, DENIAL, INJUSTICE, FORGIVENESS ISSUES sounds especially familiar:

It’s very hard when people are deliberately and defiantly non repentant and hard faced – turning up in church as if nothing is wrong and nothing has happened. Having to cope with your abusers turning up in church whilst deliberately sticking 2 fingers up at God is beyond the capacity of describe.

Having to cope with your abusers continuing to use the church as their cover story is beyond awful and beyond hypocrisy. Having them do all of that on that back of having lied and denied to prevent justice and to prevent exposure is disgusting and distasteful at the very least.

It is utterly appalling for me as a victim, for those who gave evidence against them to the police and for the church leadership who now know the truth about them. It’s totally ghastly and repulsive to be brutally honest.  It is as if they have no conscience at all.

Sometimes when people have lied and denied for long enough they actually believe their lies and denials to be absolute truth regardless of evidence to the contrary. Thus they worm their way out of it and can be incredibly and frighteningly convincing in their true lies….

Without confession, repentance, admission of guilt or other things which lead to closure surely it will always be there at the back of your mind. Having to watch your abusers behaving as if nothing untoward happened and all is normal fuels the fire. When people have been so deliberately cruel to you and are so defiant when faced with the truth where can you go?

How can such defiance be coped with, processed and gotten out of your mind. It is in reality and in all truth extremely difficult. It’s almost impossible to forgive cruel people who lie, pretend all is normal and do all they can legally to silence you and keep their evil deeds secret.

And so does this from From Chrysalis to Beautiful Butterfly:

One thing’s for sure I’m not going to protect them anymore by keeping silent about what ‘THEY’ did.

Another thing’s for sure, I ain’t going to spend the rest of my life feel intimidated by ‘them’ and living in fear of ‘them’ anymore.

The last few months have shown me ‘they’ are the weak ones. ‘They’ are the ones who have stuff to fear NOT ME. ‘They’ are just bullies and cowards and may choose to spend the rest of their lives living in delusion and denial BUT I choose to speak and live in the TRUTH. There is enormous strength in doing that!!

Afraid to Expose the Abuser?

“It is the right of every victim to speak about the crimes committed against them!” —How Dare You Expose a Child Abuser?

When you seek out your abuser

You may find yourself wanting to search for your abuser on Facebook. You may have questions like What is he/she up to? Is he/she successful? Is he/she hurting other people? You may find yourself wanting to tell your abuser’s friends what he/she has done or to contact him/her to have your say.

All of these feelings are normal and many survivors have struggled with the same things. It is always a good idea to think through any decisions and to not act spontaneously. If you find yourself feeling like this, give yourself time to process these feelings and to think about why. You might ask yourself:

Why do I want to contact him/her?

What do I hope to accomplish?

What will I do if I do not get the reaction I was hoping for?

How will this affect me and my healing?

Giving a decision like this proper thought can help you. You need to make sure you aren’t damaging your own well-being in order to find out more about your abuser’s current life or exposing them to others. It’s important to take time to think about what you hope to achieve and why you have this urge to make contact.

You may well find that actually having contact with them is not at all what you want and discover other ways of releasing the things you want to say to your abuser or their friends, through letter writing (sent or unsent), art, therapy and so on.

When your abuser contacts you

You may find that your abuser uses Facebook to try to make contact with you, which can be something very difficult for a survivor. If this happens, you should consider immediately blocking this individual. Please see below for how to block someone.

If your abuser is sending you harassing or threatening messages, you might consider reporting them. You can find information on reporting them to Facebook here:

Although it may be your instinct to delete any messages from an abuser, we recommend saving any threatening messages and keeping a log of any contact with the abuser. This will come in handy if you decide to speak to the police about what has happened.  –Ash, Facebook and Survivor Issues


You told me that if I wrote to you again that you would flush my letter down the toilet, “a proper receptacle for your crap,” is how you put it. That’s fine with me. That is your right to do so.

But it is also my right to express myself about the violation that I suffered as a child. A crime was committed against me and I have a right to speak about it.

If that makes you or anyone else uncomfortable, then that is something you ought to look at within yourself.

Your behavior is why child sexual abuse continues. Those who try and silence victims by calling them names, by trying to demean them, and by using threats against them is what throws a blanket of protection around child abusers.

So go ahead and flush this letter down your toilet because you can’t flush the truth and won’t stop me from speaking it.

Your pretending that I do not share this planet with you will not stop my book from existing, nor will it stop me from getting my book into the hands of other survivors of child sexual abuse. I intend on helping people, even if you don’t want to help yourself. —A letter by “Alethea” to a sister who denied abuse

[Update 6/2/14: From an update to the above letter, which Alethea finally sent to her sister:]

It is always curious to me when people who have hurt someone so profoundly will totally deny any responsibility or offer an apology.

Do they not understand that a sincere, honest, heart-felt apology and an offer to make some kind of amends is all we ever want from them? For them to be honest with themselves and then with us?



Consequently, Jesus commanded us to continue the disciplinary process, (if at all possible,) by calling in the help of one or two fellow believers, or people the abuser might respect. 

We follow this step in the hope that abusers may be convicted by the fact that their victims no longer stand alone.  When abusers realize they cannot bully their victims in secret any longer, our united confrontation might shame them into conviction of sin.

Should our abusers fail to listen to one or more witnesses as well, Jesus commanded victims to take the matter one step further by “telling it to the congregation.”

Make his or her abuse public, in other words.  Expose your abuser to greater conviction.

If at all possible, stand up in the presence of your abuser and in front of the whole congregation, family, or whomever you are able to call upon for help; tell them of the abuse and the steps you have taken, and ask them to investigate and judge the matter. —Dealing with Abuse and Abusers God’s Way

Have you watched the movie Gaslighting with Ingrid Bergman? In the movie, a woman’s lover slowly but surely makes her feel as if she is insane.

The movie title lends itself to a type of abuse, oftentimes the gateway mode of abuse clearing the path for grander abuses later in the relationship. Gaslighting occurs when someone persuades you to “believe the unbelievable” (The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life by Dr. Robin Stern) despite your instincts’ whispers of “Something is not right here…” –Kellie Jo Holly, Gaslighting

  • A history of conducting frivolous, vexatious and malicious legal actions and threats, especially (but not exclusively) against anyone who can recognize the sociopath for what he is
  • Only after the sociopath is exposed and relieved of position, or they move on, can the full depth of their destructive behavior be fathomed and the consequences calculated
  • Is skilled at identifying, undermining, discrediting, neutralizing and destroying anyone who can see through the sociopath’s mask of sanity at all times
  • Restricts the actions and rights of others (especially those holding the sociopath accountable) whilst aggressively protecting his or her right to do anything without being hampered by social norms or legal requirements
  • Pursues endless vindictive vendettas against anyone perceived as a threat or who attempts, knowingly or unknowingly, to identify or reveal or expose the sociopath, or who makes efforts to hold the sociopath accountable
  • Is adept at appropriating rules, regulations, procedures and law to manipulate, control and punish accusers regardless of relevance, logic, facts or consequences persists in and pursues vindictive vendettas using self-evidently false evidence or information, even after this is brought to the attention of the sociopath
  • will often manipulate minor bullies of the Wannabe type (who on their own might or would not merit the label ’serial bully’) into acting as agents of harassment and as unwitting or unwilling conductors/ proxies of vendettas —Sociopathic Characteristics–Is Your Cyberpath One?

By sharing your story, you can validate the experience of hundreds of other abuse victims who are unsure about what is happening to them or who believe that abusive relationships are “normal”. —Break Your Silence

A blog post from someone also being accused of libel and threatened with legal action, for speaking out about her abuse.

Also, another such blog post: Oh, I’m Sorry, am I Blogging Too Loudly?


NVLD: Part 4

NVLD Part 1
NVLD Part 2
NVLD Part 3
NVLD Part 4

I have always had trouble with estimating time, though over the years I’ve gotten much better about getting places on time.  My parents were always getting mad at me for this, but I didn’t know of anything I could do about it.

I have noticed that I seem to take longer doing things than other people do in many cases, such as reading, homework, tests, housework, tasks at a job, even a test of my proofreading and other skills which I took when applying at a temp agency when I was about to graduate college.  It took me far longer than anyone else who had ever taken their test, but I got a perfect score, unlike anyone else.

I take time and focus on the details, so it may take longer, but it is done well.  With reading, I also read every word, unlike Cugan, who tells me that he speeds through books.  I don’t know how he can really say he read something if he doesn’t read every word, or how common this is.

I don’t like wearing jeans or twill or dockers because they are too stiff.  I don’t like the feel of the collar or wristbands of sweatshirts.  I don’t wear sweaters because I don’t like the feel of the knits or the itch of wool and acrylic.  I can’t stand turtlenecks or tight clothing.  I like soft, loose-fitting clothes and flat shoes.

I don’t like food that is too spicy or hot.  Since so many people consider jeans, sweatshirts, sweaters, etc. to be very comfortable, and so many people love Mexican food and the like, I can only conclude that I am sensitive to how things feel and taste.

Instead of playing games with the other children on the playground, I usually played by myself, acting out fantastical stories I invented.  In fact, this blog post sounds familiar.

I was acting out scenes with the pirate cat Samantha and the crew, or the Space Blimp (based on a dream), or that I was on a planet called Spimpy which had poisonous ground so you had to stay on the Kee Klamp frame structure on the playground….

Sometimes my friends joined in, but I often preferred to be alone because they didn’t do or say the things I wanted my characters to do or say.  This happened up until maybe 5th or 6th grade, when I finally got tired of strange looks from the other kids.

I also made puppets with my hands until about 5th grade, when I got tired of being made fun of by the other kids, and of my teacher saying I was too old to do that.  Neighborhood adults and kids made fun of me for “talking to trees,” though I was actually just acting out the different speaking parts of my stories, not talking to trees.

I have recently learned that such behaviors are common for NVLD children, that it wasn’t just me.  Of course, when I did them, they seemed normal to me, not bizarre at all.  Writing became my way to play out my stories in a socially acceptable way.  Teachers wrote on my report cards that I was unique and a joy to have.

There were always a few nice kids in school who didn’t care about my “weirdness” and befriended me.  Many were older or younger; many were boys; many were minorities.

Maybe my NVLD and its resulting difficulty in making friends, is why I don’t care about race, ethnic group, religion, age or gender when making friends.  As long as you’re a sweet and/or pleasant person who does not cut me down for being different from you, you can be my friend.

I still had problems dealing with people in the early years of my adulthood.  But some time in my mid-twenties, I discovered that most people smiled when I came around.  The people at my new job called me sweet, and when one woman made a snide comment about me, the other women were angry with her.  I’ve noted that being sweet and nice goes a long way when you’re socially awkward.

In late elementary school, I began seeing a psychologist because my mother felt my personality had changed somehow.  I’m not sure what exactly happened, but I think it was related to changing schools in 3rd grade.

I remember very little bullying at my old school, but there was a group of kids who kept avoiding my overtures of friendship, and one or two of them also changed to my new school and bullied me there.

I was bullied at my new school by others as well, so that may have triggered the problems.  I think I was withdrawn or something, and combative at home, and that’s how I ended up in counseling.

The bullying continued into middle school, with me never fitting in anywhere, and the popular, fashionable girls ripping on everything I wore.  One girl told me that a certain guy wouldn’t go out with me because my clothes didn’t match; I have to wonder if the guy really cared that much about such things.

I got a burst of popularity briefly in the spring in eighth grade because the story went around that a certain cute, popular boy looked at my picture in the yearbook, and said I was a babe.  Now all the popular girls were flocking around me, wanting to sit with me outside at recess, saying, “[name withheld] likes you?”  He never did anything about it; I didn’t know the guy, he wasn’t in any of my classes….

But I believe the story was true, because he was in my German class sophomore year in high school, and he was always flirting with me.  But I soon discovered that I wouldn’t have wanted to date him anyway:

He was a jock, trying very hard to fit the stereotype of “dumb jocks,” not taking the class seriously, constantly joking around and annoying me to no end.  I greatly preferred another guy in the class, a friend of mine who was intelligent–and geeky.

People thought this other guy was strange, though they also seemed to like him; meanwhile the popular guy was the one I couldn’t stand.  LOL

I always had trouble following the fashions.  I just didn’t know what they were.  For example, in junior high, I loved wearing a certain pair of pants which were very comfortable; my mom had just bought them for me at a yard sale.

I did not understand why all the kids kept pointing to me and laughing about “bellbottoms.”  I looked it up, and thought it meant that the rear part of my pants was bell-shaped, but that made no sense to me.  It was 1985, not long after bellbottoms fell out of fashion, but I did not know what they were.

All during middle school, I drew pictures of Martians and other civilizations I had dreamed up.  In 9th grade, a girl saw a picture of two young people from one of these outer space civilizations, and said, “Oh my gosh, are those bellbottoms?”

When I drew the pants, the pantleg bottoms reminded me of pants I had seen as a child, but I didn’t know they were called bellbottoms or that they were now considered ridiculous.  Eventually, I finally found out what bellbottoms were, and agreed that they looked ridiculous.

After all this social pressure to see bellbottoms as ridiculous and ugly, when bellbottoms started coming back into fashion in 1991, I was shocked, and refused to wear them.  Nowadays, people even talk like tapered legs are silly, while bellbottoms or boot-cuts are flattering.

But I refuse to wear bellbottoms because I still think they look ridiculous.  (Of course, that has nothing to do with NVLD, but with personal taste.  There are others who refuse to wear bellbottoms or low-risers and don’t have NVLD.)

Also, I thought certain colors went just fine together, but other kids/teenagers would chide me for not matching my colors.

In my teens, when family came to visit, I’d hide in my room where it was quiet and not crowded, and I wouldn’t have to sit next to my annoying brothers, and people didn’t talk so loud next to me on the couch that I started yawning.

My grandma wondered why I didn’t dress fashionably like the other girls she saw at church, why I didn’t appreciate a fashionable outfit (with pantyhose) she gave me.  My mother wondered why I didn’t dress to show more of my figure.

At school, I did occasionally know about guys who liked me, but for some reason there was a severe lack of guys asking me out on dates–except, of course, when I was 14, when four boys asked me out, but my mother wouldn’t let me go out on dates yet.  I could see boyfriends at school, I could date after 16, so where were the boyfriends?  (I know at least one of them was too shy to ask me out.  But were they all shy?)

When the other girls were going out on dates, I was sitting at home, alone, pining away for different boys, wondering if I was too plain to attract anybody, wondering why nobody was asking me out.  Even now I’ll often feel plain even though many people have told me–without me fishing for compliments, by the way–that I’m beautiful.

And now for more detail about what you may call “selective mutism” in me, which is just a fancy clinical term for extreme quietness because of extreme shyness.  (I use the term only grudgingly because I don’t think a common personality trait should be labeled like a disorder.)

Even if neither NLD or Asperger’s actually fit me, selective mutism definitely does.  Anyone who has known me, from any time in my life, would verify this.  In fact, my high school yearbook (senior year) is full of signatures from fellow classmates who wrote about how quiet I was.  They wrote little else.

Many NVLD children are shy and quiet, or become that way after repeated rejection, while others are far too talkative or forward.  I’m shy and quiet around strangers and people I don’t feel comfortable around.  I’m also usually quiet in groups of people: They do most of the talking while I just watch and listen, and I even forget I’m there or that people might want to hear from me.

I’ve been told that I blend into the furniture.  A blind man once noted that he could tell when other people were around him though they were silent, because they made various noises: movement, coughs, and the like.  I, however, became invisible.  I did not do this deliberately: I was just behaving in my natural manner.

My mom always used to say, “She’s quiet until she warms up to you.  Then she talks your ear off.”  When asked if I was quiet at home, she’d give an emphatic, “No!”  If I’m alone with a person and “click” with him or her, I can become very talkative, and conversational give-and-take becomes easy because I always have something to say.

But if I don’t click with that person, or if I’m with more than one person, my brain often goes blank and I don’t know what to say.  They may try to start a conversation with me, but I don’t respond because my brain freezes, or because I don’t even realize they’re trying to start a conversation.  Then later on I discover that they think I don’t like them, or was snubbing them.

I’ve always struggled with talking with strangers; I was once told that at parties, I “cling” to the people I know.  Once, I was even suspected of being untrustworthy when I was just being my usual shy and quiet self.  I’ve also been accused of being stand-offish or snobbish.

But none of these things are true: I was just acting the way which is natural to me.  Some people may consider a shy person to be shifty because they have nervous tics and are afraid to make eye contact, when it’s really just from shyness.

In my church youth group, I seem to recall the kids thinking it a big deal if I smiled or laughed.  Yes, I do have a sense of humor, so I’m not sure what this was all about.

I once exchanged these comments with one of my best college friends senior year:

She wrote,

I’m glad we are rooming together this year.  You are so different than you seemed all these years.  I’m really glad that you talk a lot more now.  Before it was hard to tell what you were thinking or feeling….

For a long time you were very quiet and never said anything.  You sat with all of us at meals but you never joined in the conversations.  We didn’t really know you.  You were a part of the group, but you were a stranger for a long time.

I asked you to room with me this year for a reason.  I didn’t know you and I could tell there was an extremely interesting person in that shy, reserved exterior.  And I was right.  You talk so much more than you used to.

You are a completely different person than I had once thought.  I love the ‘you’ that I have gotten to know this past year.  Meeting the real ‘you’ has been one of the highlights of my year 🙂

I wrote,

I’m surprised you say you didn’t really know me before and that I didn’t talk much.  It seemed different to me.  I had long talks with you and Pearl and others, and I felt closer to you all than I did to almost everyone else.  Like here were people that actually knew me.  Now I’m a bit confused about the whole thing.

She wrote,

I didn’t mean to make you doubt yourself or the way you see yourself now or in the past.  You really didn’t talk to me as much as you talked to Pearl….

You did talk a lot when you were with one person, but I usually saw you with the ‘group’ and you really didn’t say much.  But that’s not bad. Usually I don’t say much in the midst of a large conversation.  I just can’t keep up and my mind goes blank.

Even my mom once said, while I was in my teens, “You always have been a little strange….”

I recently discovered (in 2008) that a family member has always thought I was sexually abused as a child, because of my behavior while staying with her one week around age 10.  A friend asked if I was always very quiet, speaking only when spoken to; I said yes; he said that was probably why.  But no, I was not sexually abused as a child.

In fact, it is noted in literature that there is no evidence that selective mutism is caused by trauma, but is basically extreme shyness (Bruce Black, MD, Information on Selective Mutism).  Note that unfamiliar situations can cause it, much as in NVLD, unfamiliar situations cause a person to “freeze up.”

Outgoing people often don’t seem to understand just what a struggle it is for a shy, quiet person to do what they do, and they’ll make comments that I should talk to people I don’t know, talk more to the people I do know, etc.–not realizing that they might as well ask a cat to become a dog.

In fact, literature on selective mutism states that: “Attempts to pressure, demand, or force the child to speak, to trick the child into speaking, or to punish or shame the child for not speaking are most often counter-productive” (Bruce Black, MD, Information on Selective Mutism).

These comments assume the shy person is just being stubborn, when it is far more effective to accept the person and help her feel more comfortable.  It would help for the outgoing person to ask the shy person to come over, or for the talkative person to ask a series of questions until one finally inspires the quiet person to speak.

Telling the shy and quiet person how to act may be kindly meant, may seem like “helping” to the outgoing person.  But to the shy person, it feels like unwelcome criticism–and may end up pushing her farther into her shell.  It is that way to me.

It also does not help for Type-A and/or outgoing people to tell a shy person or a learning disabled person to just “push through it.”  There is far more going on in the shy or LD brain to hamper “pushing through it” than a simple lack of will.

Of course, the trouble with a name like “selective mutism” is that it takes a common trait–shyness/quietness–and makes it into a “disorder.”  As if shy people didn’t already feel marginalized enough.

It amazes me that we have to have clinical terms and details of how terrible this disorder is and how to “fix” it.  Couldn’t we just accept that a lot of people don’t fit in with the predominant American outgoing/extrovert culture?

Why do we have to have research to tell us that it’s counter-productive to keep harping on a shy/quiet person’s lack of words?  Any shy or quiet person could tell you how annoying it is to constantly hear “smile!” or “you’re so quiet” or “just go talk to people.”

More Information

My Child Wasn’t Speaking

When I read the letter “Out of Ideas” in late April, I knew how the quiet girl felt, and was so upset I wanted to speak out on her behalf. So I sent this to Annie’s Mailbox:

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if, next year when the lunch schedules change, this quiet girl will be happy to switch tables to a more welcoming and accepting group, and wonder why she stayed with this one for so long.

I’m willing to bet she actually is an interesting person, but these girls never let her get a word in edgewise, and when she does think of something to say, somebody scolds her for not talking enough and she keeps her mouth shut instead.

All that pestering about her not “behaving” properly, saying her shyness is just an “excuse,” and constantly excluding her from fun activities, is probably making her feel like a freak and pushing her further and further into her shell.

The way to draw out a shy person is to ask for her opinion on a subject, maybe make a compliment or two, because maybe she just hasn’t been able to push into the conversation before the topic changed.

Another way is to have some one-on-one time with her, give her a chance to talk. If she’s included in activities, she may surprise them with being a fun person after all.

There is something called “social mutism.” I don’t like the term because it, once again, makes a quiet person feel like there’s something “wrong” with her, instead of just accepting that she has a different idea of when it’s time to speak.

Still, research done into social mutism has shown that pestering and scolding a quiet person is counterproductive. This person needs to feel safe enough to open up, or it just isn’t going to happen.

Also, the extrovert brain has also been shown to work differently in social situations than an introvert brain: The extrovert can easily make small talk, while the introvert simply cannot keep up.

The quiet person may actually despise small talk, but if allowed to mull over an issue, can come up with something brilliant to say. Is quantity really more important than quality?
–A Quiet Person With Lots to Say

This site is run by a woman with NVLD.  It hasn’t been updated since 1998, but it’s still useful.  I especially love when she says that, as a highly verbal person, she relates to the world primarily through words–and writes a lot of things.

Particularly telling paragraphs from Sue Thompson’s “Nonverbal Learning Disorders”:

This child is unable to ‘look and learn.’ He does not perceive subtle cues in his environment such as: when something has gone far enough; the idea of personal ‘space’; the facial expressions of others; or when another person is registering pleasure (or displeasure) in a nonverbal mode.

These are all social ‘skills’ that are normally grasped intuitively through observation, not directly taught.

I’ve learned many things about body language and other social skills, but had to pick them up through articles and becoming aware that such things existed, not intuitively.  So I do much better these days, and can understand much of the more subtle body language I observe in movies.  However, I still miss many things.

For example, I now know that an NVLD person has trouble picking up that someone wants to start a conversation.  It helps to know this, but I have recently discovered that I am still woefully bad at picking up that someone wants to start a conversation with me.

Even if I do pick this up, my brain often freezes, so I don’t know what to say.  The person becomes offended, thinks I don’t like them, etc.  So knowledge helps, but doesn’t always fix the problem.

If a child is constantly admonished with the words, ‘I shouldn’t have to tell you this!,’ this should alert everyone that something is awry because you do have to tell them (everything). The child’s verbal processing may be proficient, but it can be impossible for her to receive and comprehend nonverbal information.

Such a child will cope by relying upon language as her principal means of social relating, information gathering, and relief from anxiety. As a result, she is constantly being told, ‘You talk too much!’

The child with NLD often develops an exceptional memory for rote material; a coping skill he has had to hone in order to survive.

Since the nonverbal processing area of his brain is not giving him the needed automatic feedback, he relies solely upon his memory of past experiences, each of which he has labeled verbally, to guide him in future situations.

This, of course, is less effective and less reliable than being able to sense and interpret another person’s social cues (because of the vast array of differences in human nature).

Cumbersome monologues are another trait of a child with nonverbal learning disabilities. Normal conversational ‘give and take’ seem to elude her. Teachers complain of a child who ‘talks incessantly’ and parents report, ‘She just doesn’t seem to know when to be quiet!’

(Though some of you may not believe this, I have been accused of this before.)

Owing to visual-spatial disturbances, it is difficult for this child to change from one activity to another and/or to move from one place to another. A child with NLD uses all of her concentration and attention to merely get through a room.

Imagine the frustration produced when attempting to function in a complicated and/or new social situation. Owing to her inability to ‘handle’ such informational processing demands, she will instinctively avoid any kind of novelty.

The importance of identifying and servicing children with nonverbal learning disorders is especially acute. Overestimates of the child’s abilities and unrealistic demands made by parents and teachers can lead to ongoing emotional problems.

A favorable prognosis seems to depend upon early identification and accommodation. The child with NLD is particularly inclined toward seriously debilitating forms of internalizing psychopathology, such as depression, withdrawal, anxiety, and in some cases, suicide.

Dr. Byron P. Rourke of the University of Windsor and his associates have found that nonverbal learning disabilities ‘predispose those afflicted to adolescent and adult depression and suicide risk.’

The child with NLD is regularly punished and picked on for circumstances he cannot help, without ever really understanding why, and he is in turn often left with little hope that his situation will ever improve.

After amassing years of embarrassing and misconceived unintentional social blunders, it is not too difficult to comprehend how a person with nonverbal learning disorders could come to the conclusion that his environment is not structured to accommodate him.

For more, go to the “Social” section of the above linked article.

Though I myself haven’t been accused of harassment or stalking or racist remarks, people with NVLD are sometimes accused of obsessive behavior because they don’t understand limits.

They’re not psychotic or stalkers or evil: They’re just learning disabled, the same as a person with dyslexia or autism or ADD.  This is especially a danger if the NVLD person is lonely and someone pays attention to him/her.

Common workplace behavior is described here: NLDline‘s “Adults with NLD” section, then “Employment Information for Adults With NLD,” then “Kelli Bond–Nonverbal Learning Disabilities from 9 to 5.

This article goes into the handwriting and math difficulties of NVLD.  It also helps explain why, for example, I’d much rather have a conversation than play a board or card game.  But of course, always keep in mind that articles on NVLD give many examples from the severe end of NVLD.

What is Nonverbal Learning Disorder: In A Nutshell

NLD and the Middle School Transition

Someone who loves having NLD

The Syndrome of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (shows how people with NVLD can have different strengths and weaknesses, and how oftentimes problems can be overcome with enough practice)

What is Nonverbal Learning Disorder?

NLD on Facebook

Non Verbal Learning Disabilities: Impact on Social Functioning; And Interpersonal Skills

“A Matter Of Degrees: Nonverbal learning disorder differs in each person.”

“The Disorder That Gets No Respect: Non Verbal Learning Disorder does not play by any rules.”

Writer Nalo Hopkinson on Learning ABILITY not DISability

Sites discussing the possibility of subtypes, which would explain the diverse variations in people diagnosed with NVLD:

NLD Subtypes

Subtypes of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities: A Neuropsychological Analysis

Palombo’s Theory on Subtypes (page 18)


The article Developing an Educational Plan for the Student with NLD gives many examples of how NLD affects a person day-by-day.  For example, getting lost, being late, trouble with changes, trouble following multi-step instructions.

Dirty Filthy Love is the strangest movie I’ve ever seen–but, even though I do not have OCD or Tourette’s, I felt a kinship with the characters because “normal” people did not understand them.

This article on eye contact explains not only my trouble with making eye contact, but my difficulty in understanding or being understood through the use of eye contact.

While my eye contact has greatly improved over the years, and the article is from the point of view of an autistic person (which is at the extreme other end of the spectrum), eye contact still gives me many of the problems described in this article, and can be tiring.

So often I’ll just look away while speaking, or even while listening, if I’m having trouble focusing on the words.

The NLD ties in quite well with ISFJ, or the Protector Guardian on the Keirsey Personality Test.  ISFJs are attentive to detail, prefer schedules, like to have things laid out ahead of time, and are not very intuitive.  ISFJs are also often misunderstood.

On the one hand, I used to have lots of, and still have some, trouble understanding people and social norms–the NLD side.  On the other hand, I am an extreme introvert (100% on the Keirsey Test).

I do not easily open up to people until I consider them trustworthy and “safe.”  With most people, this never happens and it’s hard to get beyond “hello” with me; with a few special ones, it happens either immediately, or in a short period of time.  If I consider you a close friend, my introversion vanishes.

With ISFJ, “families are the centers of their lives”; they “are extremely warm and demonstrative within the family circle”(ISFJ)–which means if you become one of the very few whom I adopt into my little family circle, I will easily hug you, maybe even cuddle up to you.  But I keep most people at a safe physical distance.

They are not as outgoing and talkative as the Providers, except with close friends and relatives. With these they can chat tirelessly about the ups and downs in their lives, moving (like all the Guardians) from topic to topic as they talk over their everyday concerns.

However, their shyness with strangers is often misjudged as stiffness, even coldness, when in truth these Protectors are warm-hearted and sympathetic, giving happily of themselves to those in need.

Their quietness ought really to be seen as an expression, not of coldness, but of their sincerity and seriousness of purpose (About the 4 Temperaments).

So I’ve been hit on both sides with the potential for misunderstanding, while the people closest to me usually know better.

This webpage goes into the strengths and difficulties of NLD adults in their jobs, and how in the past they would have found it easier to make a successful career.  Especially with how these days the clerk or secretary often has to do receptionist duties as well–a mix of filing and other solitary clerical duties that are great for an NLDer, with duties that are best for extroverts with great social skills–it’s gotten harder to find that suitable job.

At my last job, I did wonderfully with the clerical tasks, but–though I did always try to be polite and kind with my boss’ clients–dealing with clients was a severe weakness.  I had trouble with thinking on-the-spot of what to say or do, especially if they were upset about something.

I also had trouble stopping what I was doing to answer the phone.  I admired other secretaries in the building who handled these situations with ease.  I often had to stay after about 15 minutes or so to finish the day’s clerical work, but I did it well.

Fortunately, many of the deficits of NVLD are not life sentences: With intervention, NLDers can be taught to function more normally in many ways.  However, for older adults who missed out on being diagnosed while they were children (unlike many kids and young adults today), unless they find some way to finance and find time for a diagnosis among their many adult responsibilities and bills, they are at a disadvantage.

I have spent years primarily studying actors in movies and on TV, and struggling to maintain better eye contact, to improve my social skills.  They are much better now than when I was a child.  I also have, since my teens, read many things in magazine articles, books and websites about such things as psychology, facial expressions, and the like.  There are also the insights and advice of friends and other counselors.

So I have been able to build some of the abilities to read and understand others, that other people may be able to figure out instinctively.  It still needs some work, however, as recent experiences have shown.  Also, there are often times when I can tell someone is angry, but haven’t a clue why, even when they’re angry with me.  So being able to read people is not just about reading their body language when they’re angry, but their verbal communication with you.

2006 Book on NLD

Survival guide for people with Asperger’s

Website for people with autism or Asperger’s; about being targeted for domestic abuse because of their special issues

Why people with Aspergers seem so awkward around others: Why are Aspies so weird? Why can’t we just “get over it” or act normally?

Comments on blog asking How can a positive diagnosis of Asperger’s help an already established adult?

Comments on this blog post go into self-diagnosis and whether it can be taken seriously.  Note that for adults, it can be quite expensive to get tests done, you don’t have a school helping you with this, and things you may have done as a child that would fit the diagnosis, you’ve since learned to stop doing.

There are many things I struggled with as a child or teenager–such as handwriting, various social skills, eye contact, spontaneity/change of plans–which I have either overcome or greatly improved over the years.

In an old diary, I discovered that in 1992, I had written that if my boyfriend wanted to change date plans and go rollerskating instead, or my friends decided at midnight to go sledding, I didn’t like to do that, even though the activity itself would be a lot of fun.  What I didn’t like was the change in plans, but my boyfriend thought I didn’t like rollerskating when I actually loved it and did it all the time as a kid.

I had forgotten this trait was so pronounced back then, since over the years I’ve gotten far better at handling spontaneous changes of plans; this makes me think mild Asperger’s is still a good possibility.  I did remember how upset I’d get in the late 90s if my household routine/laundry schedule had to be changed, while now I can just switch days around if I have to.

It’s one reason I don’t get officially diagnosed, because a diagnosis would have helped me a lot more when I was a kid or young adult, but now as I near 40, my “symptoms” have diminished enough that a diagnosis may be harder to get anyway.  Driving is still a problem, as is socializing (I’m extremely quiet and shy even around family), but I’ve learned to be far more organized and I take good care of my house.

Here are points from a list I’ve begun to make of questions to ask a doctor, when/if I ever get the money/time to get diagnosed:

–In earlier grades, the discrepancy between math/science and English didn’t show up right away.  By 4th or 5th grade, as math became more complex, my trouble with it showed up as disinclination to do math work (we were work-at-your-own-pace).  It took a long time to learn multiplication, division and complex fractions.  I was still in the 4th grade book in 5th grade.  Spelling, English and Reading, however, were beyond grade level.

In middle and high school, the discrepancy became more prominent.  Middle school put you in different “teams” depending on your perceived ability, so I was in the “smart group” for all my basic core classes.  However, my trouble in math became especially prominent when trying to sort out percentages, interest rates, and the like higher math.

English and Reading, however, were fine.  Social Studies mostly had problems with organization of homework, completion of homework, filling in maps, coloring maps properly (colored pencil only and all in one direction per instructions of teacher), and handwriting (greatly improved but I “drew” in various ways rather than writing, making the teacher wonder what the heck I was doing).

–In high school, where I could finally enroll in each individual class based on my own ability and the team’s, I was able to improve my GPA.  I discovered that higher math and science classes would result in poor grades.

So I took regular math and science classes, where I excelled above the other kids (except in Chemistry, which I did very poorly in, but the teacher was a jerk and everybody hated him).  For English, however, I soon went from Honors to AP and did very well.  I also did well in language courses.

I did note that the set of kids in the AP/Honors level courses was very different from the set in the Regular courses, telling me that most of the “smart” kids were smart in everything, while I was only smart in certain things.  In college, we were permitted to choose between foreign language and math, I had a writing major, and I could fulfill my science requirement with botany and astronomy.  So I was able to maintain a high GPA.

–Several years ago, I came across various school papers (now probably discarded) from different grade levels starting in 3rd-6th grade.  The early grade papers were full of illegible chicken scratches and red marks from the teacher, complaining.

As the years progressed, my letters became better formed, but I had trouble spacing them (and, also, lining up numbers properly on math homework, which was always a mess).  When I began learning cursive, my writing became unreadable again, though at least now the words were separated and a bit easier to make out.

Teachers would write on my papers that they were giving me poor marks because they couldn’t make out what I had written, not because the answer was necessarily wrong.  I was given handwriting practice papers many times.

By 6th grade, my handwriting had much improved, but somewhere around 7th grade, I began “drawing” to make my writing prettier.  This resulted in strange-looking writing that the teachers complained about.  I stopped doing this before entering high school, resulting in writing that was, at last, legible and nice-looking.

–My French teacher in 7th grade constantly wrote nasty notes on my papers, complaining that I was not following directions.  I’m sure this was not deliberate on my part.

–My teacher from 4th-5th grade was constantly criticizing me about my behavior.  I was a good child, not the sort to act up in class, so much so that when a tyrannical substitute teacher made me write my name on the board, the whole class was shocked and considered it a grave injustice.  But my teacher found plenty to criticize just the same.

I can’t recall what, anymore, though I do still have a report card from her, available on request.  Past report cards said I had self-discipline and could take criticism; she said the opposite.

Once she asked me a question in a one-on-one conference at her desk, and I had to think a bit to figure out how to answer.  She scolded me for taking too long to make up my mind, calling it “babyish.”  Yet it’s always been hard for me to make up my mind about difficult things, long since babyhood.

I did improve greatly in 6th grade.  I don’t know why they changed my teacher–did my parents request it?–but they did, to a far more easygoing teacher.  Well, she was easygoing as far as, she was nice and didn’t criticize my every move.

But the class was far more structured, with set homework and set times when we all had to work and be quiet.  My previous teacher just let us do whatever all day long, so I often avoided working on subjects that caused me trouble.  But because of this teacher’s imposed structure, I did far better.

–Once during 3rd grade, while our teacher read from a storybook, we were all sitting/lying on the floor around her.  I was lying belly-down, propped up with my arms.  I think my socks had fallen down; for some reason, probably because it was the quickest way to pull them up, I reached down underneath my body and yanked them up quickly.

To my surprise, when I returned to my regular position, the teacher was giving me a strange look and the kids were all laughing.  I had no idea what I did that was so funny.  One of the kids mimicked me and put her butt up in the air, but that wasn’t what I did at all.

I was so embarrassed that I wanted to go away, but I couldn’t figure out why my actions were so funny or why people thought I had stuck my butt up in the air.  All I did was pull up my socks.  And this was hardly the only time the kids and/or the teachers thought I acted oddly.  I can’t give details anymore, but they were many.

–In 3rd and possibly 4th grade, I was still playing with my hands, as I had done since I was still in the crib.  I had progressed from simple hand-men to various creatures: dogs, cats, dogs with different ears, Figure 8, the tiger-kangaroos Sally and Hedreda (started in Kindergarten), etc. etc.

I had a highly imaginative fantasy life and had no qualms about acting it out when others were around: playing with my hands, acting out my own little stories on the playground by myself because nobody else would know how to play the characters right, reciting the voices of the people and creatures in my fantasies while walking to school K-2nd grade….

My 3rd or 4th grade teacher began shaming me for it, saying I was far too old to play with my hands.  I began only now to notice that other kids did not do it.  I taught a male friend on the bus how to make my hand puppets, and the other kids made fun of him for it and said we were boyfriend/girlfriend, which at that age is embarrassing.  Eventually, I stopped, tired of being made fun of.

I don’t recall how long I continued to act out stories on the playground or in my backyard or while rollerskating around the block.  Some of the neighborhood kids–even adults–began saying that I “talked to trees.”  This upset me because I was not doing anything so strange.

–Sometime in elementary school, I started walking up on the bank next to the fence when walking from the back door to the garage, whenever it was time to get into the car.  Everyone else in the family walked down on the sidewalk.

During the wintertime, it was snowy up there, making it harder to walk.  So one day, I asked to use the shovel.  Mom said okay, thinking I was going to shovel the sidewalk.  Instead, I shoveled the top of the bank where I walked.  It seemed perfectly reasonable to me.

But then a couple of guys stopped their car and called out, “What are you doing?”  I assumed dignity rather than shame and smiled at them. But then, only then, it struck me that maybe what I was doing was a bit peculiar.

–Sometime in elementary school, after I had spent a year dealing with a couple of bullies at my lunch table (assigned seating), I went to visit my aunt and uncle for several days.  My aunt criticized me constantly (which she also did to her mother).

I told her about the bullies at the lunch table, and she said next time, ask the boy when he last changed his underwear.  Not until my 30s, after some family upheaval that involved my parents but not me, she revealed to my parents that she had always believed my dad or brothers had sexually abused me!

One of my brothers constantly bullied me, teasing me and criticizing everything I ever did, said or liked (which he does to this day, so I have very little contact with him).  But none of them had ever laid a finger on me in a sexual manner.

Her reason for believing this: my behavior when I stayed with her for that week!  I’m not entirely sure what I did or said that caused her to think this.  (By the way, she is now estranged from most of the family, with whom she never really got along, I hear.)

–Probably in 6th grade or middle school, I came up with a planetary society which wore afghans as robes, rather than sweaters.  The explanation, told in their peculiar speech, was, “We like com-fert more than warmth.”

–College: My college required all incoming freshmen to take a series of SEED tests, which were used for placement.  My advisor informed me that I did poorly on reading speed and comprehension.  He recommended that I take a remedial reading course.

So I did, but soon discovered that my classmates were mostly international students and others who had deficient English skills.  I had been in AP English, so I felt this course was a very poor fit for me, and dropped out.

This test did show a problem with comprehension and people have complained about/commented on how slowly I read, so it’s not imaginary.  But if given ample time to read and sort out what I’m reading, I do all right.  Hence, the AP English classes, where I made high grades!

I was doing very well in classes, but social issues were quite another matter.  I was very shy and had trouble making friends at first, but did manage to get a boyfriend, my first significant boyfriend ever, first kiss.

However, I was very naive with the boys and they preyed on me.  I didn’t have many boyfriends, and was not at all promiscuous, but I did get used just the same.

I learned later that my first boyfriend had lied to me about who he was and probably other things as well, to get me to like him–something I’m told he later did to all sorts of girls on a local BBS.  I had no idea, and thought the boy I knew was the real him.

Then he tired of me and became another boy entirely.  My heart was broken and I had no idea what was appropriate behavior for dealing with it.  I was very naive.  He got very angry with me, and I had no idea why.

Another boy came along and began using me when he was feeling lonely, but refused to actually love me.  He did this for many months, until finally I began to wonder what the heck was wrong with me that I would keep allowing him to do this.  I began to see a counselor and got the strength to let go of my need to let him.

The following year I finally found a guy I thought would make it all go away.  He seemed perfect for me in the beginning. We got engaged and then spiritually married.  But as time wore on, he grew increasingly emotionally abusive, and used guilt and force to make me do things I didn’t want to do.

I also began to learn that he had been manipulating me by pretending to be asleep and act out his dreams.  It turned into an elaborate act: his “subconscious” coming out while he slept, to be the kind of husband he was in the beginning, telling me the inner secrets of the conscious husband’s behavior and heart.  I believed all of it because I thought he would never lie to me.

After he finally revealed the truth, I was devastated at his treachery, and nearly broke up with him.  But I was too entrenched by then to just give up our relationship, and it continued until he finally ended it.

But even then it took me a few months to really let go and start looking for a healthy relationship.  I had lost so much confidence in my own ability to find a decent man that I asked my friends for help.  They had hated my fiancé during most of our relationship, seeing plainly what I had missed.

–I was made fun of all through school.  In elementary school, I was “weird” and constantly bullied verbally.  In junior high, I was dorky and kids put a sign on my back one day during a fire drill–and even the teacher laughed!

In high school, the girls stopped bullying so much, but some of the boys sexually harassed me.  Fortunately, the kids seemed to like me better, and one of the girls said, “You don’t need to be so shy: A lot of people like you.”  But the sexual harassment was devastating.

In college, frat boys made fun of me behind my back for coming to a movie party and then barely speaking to anyone.  I was too terrified to talk to most of them, but I did speak to the boys who were my friends.  Unfortunately, my ex-boyfriend who hated me was a member of this frat and arrived later, making me more tense.

After college, I began working.  Adults were less likely to make fun of me except for friendly teasing; however, I soon discovered that they could be just as difficult to deal with.  People were supposedly “afraid” to talk to me, even though I was the gentlest person anyone could approach.  I didn’t talk enough to people.  I resented being made to feel like a jerk just because I was quiet and shy.

–In high school, one day in Drawing I thought I was supposed to do the day’s assignment one way, according to what the teacher had said.  So for most of the hour, I did it that way.  Then some kids started telling me I was doing it wrong.  These kids already bullied me quite a bit in general.  I don’t remember details, but it turned into me feeling absolutely mortified as the whole class laughed and the teacher yelled about HIM having a bad week.

I went home and cried to my mother that I was weird, after I had only just thought to myself that finally I no longer felt weird.  Another time, during graduation rehearsal, the teacher said do such and such and then go back to our classrooms.  So when we finished such and such, I began going to my classroom.  I soon realized that everyone was still in procession and heading back to the GYM!  I have no idea what happened.

–I have always had trouble remembering multi-step directions.  I have to hold back and watch other people do it before I can do it.

–I expect people to say what they mean.  If they don’t verbalize, I often miss it, only to find out later (from somebody’s complaint) that I missed it.  But I’m not completely blinded by nonverbal communication; I’ve gotten better at it over the years, especially from reading about it and watching movies.

Still, one time in college a friend kept saying, “So what else is going on?” all through the night.  So I kept coming up with more things to tell him, since he kept asking for more.  Finally, he told me I was being very rude keeping him up so late. HUH?

–My first college boyfriend complained of me “shadowing” him.  I had no idea what he meant.  I thought I was behaving just like any girlfriend and that he liked it.  He also complained that I waited outside the bathroom for him.  I had no idea this bothered him, until he complained about it to “warn” my ex-fiancé when we first started dating.

Neither of us knew why this was such a big deal to my ex-boyfriend.  I wasn’t, like, showing up out of nowhere and lurking there to wait for him; we had gone there together and separated to go to the bathroom, to meet up afterwards.

Both that ex-fiancé and the man I eventually married, found my behavior re: bathrooms to be perfectly normal, expected and preferred, and no other guy complained about me “shadowing” him, so these may have actually been that one boyfriend’s problems, not mine.

–I can’t stand loud voices (which also make me yawn), sweaters, jeans, sweatshirts, anything tight or constricting, turtlenecks, anything rough, things which other people seem to love wearing and consider comfortable.  I don’t like how they feel.  I need super-soft clothes.

I often cover my ears when voices get too loud, and afterwards feel like I’ve been at a rock concert.  I don’t like wearing wristwatches or bracelets, so I used to either carry my watch in my pocket or wear a necklace-watch.  Normally the only jewelry I wear is my wedding ring and at least one necklace.

–I’m so meticulous with spelling and punctuation that I used to get after people online for making spelling/grammar mistakes.  After being told that this annoyed people, I stopped.

After college, I took tests at the local SEEK to determine what kinds of jobs I’d be good for.  The tester told me that I had no errors on the punctuation test, and that I was the only one to do so well.  I also took far longer to complete all the tests than people normally do, but I did very well on all of them.

–I found a report card which called me “unique.”  Teachers usually liked me, and I usually did pretty well, and behaved well, but I was “unique.”  I knew I wasn’t like the other kids, but didn’t know why or how.  I just didn’t have their ways.

–I walked oddly.  I couldn’t always tell because I couldn’t look at myself.  I had to find out from others’ reactions.  Once on a trip, I saw my family swinging their arms while walking, and thought it looked ugly and weird.  So I made sure to not swing my arms.

As time passed at school, kids began saying I walked like a zombie.  I couldn’t understand what they meant.  Then a janitor said, “Swing your arms!”  Huh?  Eventually I began swinging my arms again; I had to retrain myself to get it properly coordinated, arm-to-leg.

Once in maybe 5th grade, I walked by glass doors and caught a glimpse of my terribly hunched posture.  In 7th grade, I overcompensated and kids began saying I walked like a prostitute.  I never have felt comfortable in my own skin, and often prefer wearing a jacket or carrying a bag so my posture isn’t so “exposed” or something I have to think as much about.

–I completely missed most fashions.  I lived through them but only had a vague idea of what the popular kids were wearing.  I noted some things, but kept missing other things.  I had no idea why my middle school jeans wouldn’t go on over my feet without much struggle, because I didn’t realize that pantleg bottoms had now become extremely narrow.  I had no idea why the kids jeered at me for wearing “bellbottoms” (comfortable hand-me-down pair of pants).

I never saw rolled pantlegs until college, but wore them that way well into the 00s when my pants were too long.  I’d wear something that I saw other girls/women wearing, yet for some reason I’d get funny looks from other women like I was some freak.

In middle school they told me my clothes don’t match, said that one boy wouldn’t go out with me because of it, and I didn’t understand it.  I have more of a “man’s” vision of fashion and don’t understand why women make fun of certain clothes combinations.  Yet a BOY in high school told me one day in passing that “blue and green don’t go [together].”  (I shot back, “Yes they do!”)

These days, I mostly stick to neutral pant colors so I can be reasonably sure of matching them to my blouse/shirt.

–I love movies, not action movies which are too violent and have too much action, too little meaningful dialogue or character development. But I prefer books because they tell me what people are thinking.  In late 2007, I saw a version of “Batman” made in the 00s which my husband loved and followed with no trouble, but it was just a jumbled mess for me that made no sense.

–I trudge through long description rather slowly, trying to visualize, doing better with individual bits but having trouble with seeing the entire picture.  However, a particularly well detailed description of a person can occasionally give me a vivid picture which stays for some time.  Most of the time, however, I see only shadowy figures.

I like to look up fashion pictures so I can imagine what the characters are wearing for their time period.  Many times, I’ve even drawn pictures of the characters and looked at them while reading.  I can draw decently, though my brothers draw far better.  My pictures focus on the person, not on the landscape or furniture around them.

My brother Larry, by the way, also writes, and his left-handed handwriting looks much like my writing did in elementary school.

–When I get interested in something, I will usually obsess about it, gathering all the information I can, or writing stories/drawing pictures about it.  This is not a lifelong obsession that I know every single detail about, but does usually remain an interest.

As a child, I would pore over encyclopedias; as an adult in the computer age, I will often spend hours upon hours scouring Google for the information I seek until I am satisfied.  Then maybe, months or years later, my interest will spark again and I will do more searching.

–I used to have a terribly disorganized bedroom, desk, locker.  When I got a roommate in college, I determined to be a good roommate, and began making chore schedules for myself.  During months when I had no roommate, papers would start littering my room.  But when I did have a roommate, I kept my things as orderly as I could, dusted, cleaned the floor, etc.  After college when I began setting up housekeeping, I would write down chore lists in my day planner.

Then I started making detailed chore and laundry schedules which spanned several weeks, to be used over and over, until I learned them by heart.  This has put a comforting order into my life which I would disdain to lose.  Whenever something disrupts my schedule, I don’t fall to pieces, I’ve learned to adapt, but I DO NOT LIKE IT.  I also have little comforting rituals for dealing with various things throughout my day, not life-disrupting or annoying like OCD.

–I am very introverted, but do like having a few friends.  However, my introversion makes it hard to make friends at times.  I am very quiet in groups, disdain small talk, blend into the furniture, but one-on-one can be very talkative (if you’re “safe”).  My mom used to say I’d talk your ear off.

–I had an excellent algebra teacher who explained everything step-by-step so well that I aced the class, and was able to go on to algebra-trigonometry with a sound basis and little trouble.  I also did well in high school geometry.  (Note that they were both Regular classes.)  But I always had trouble with story problems, complex fractions, and other things already mentioned.

–I often have trouble paying attention.

–Saw a guy in college who criticized everything about me: my behavior, my clothes, my hair.  I didn’t act “right.”  I wasn’t outgoing enough, was too reserved, didn’t wear makeup, didn’t dress like I wanted guys to notice me.  A couple of years later, also knew a guy who told me similar things and said I’d end up an old maid if I didn’t go to parties, dress right, etc.  (He was wrong, by the way, since I met my husband a few months later.)

–The many aspects of driving are overwhelming, too much all at once: difficulty navigating the car, figuring out where to go, watching the road and other drivers, all at once.  I especially had trouble parking and turning corners.  Occasionally still dream about not being able to negotiate turns and curves.

–Ever since childhood, I have certain OCD-like things: I like equal/even numbers, letters, and other things.  My eye will pass over numbers or letters, grouping them and hoping to find them equal/even. It’s hard to explain precisely, since it’s something I do almost without realizing it, in many different situations.

If a plastic hangar or a pair of pants I’m hanging up hits me on one leg, I won’t feel right until I hit it against the other leg as well.  When I go out walking, if one foot steps on a crack, I’m agitated until the other one does as well (though I keep it all inside).

This does not affect my life overmuch, at least not so anyone notices, but I do them all the time.  It’s soothing in a way.  I remember starting these things consciously when I was small.  Even though I had never done them before, and it felt like I was making a conscious decision to do them, I started them and have never even tried to shake them.

–In college, my first boyfriend noted that when asked for the time, I was always precise, and it drove him crazy.  He said other people would say “quarter to” or round up/down to the nearest time, but I would always say “4:02” or “8:57” or the like.  I was surprised because I thought everybody did that.