Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Category: Asperger’s (page 1 of 8)

NVLD vs. Aspergers: Videos to explain

Richard and Tracy refused to believe in my NVLD, and it was the source of most of our problems (that and me recognizing her abuse).  But it is real, and the following video succinctly describes my childhood–and many of these problems have followed me into adulthood:

Another source of disagreement was Richard thinking that NVLD and Asperger’s are one and the same, so since I don’t act autistic, I must not have NVLD. But here the differences are clearly explained:

And this describes Asperger’s:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

NVLD: I just don’t understand people

Sometimes I have to cut out advice columnists for a while, just as in the 90s I had to cut out talk shows (such as Montel), because they can be triggering.  (I had bad experiences in college which these talk shows occasionally reminded me of.)

However, this is almost impossible because my newspaper runs an advice column, and you can’t help but read it with the comics.  Because the advice column often has bad advice, I feel forced to go elsewhere–usually Carolyn Hax–for some sanity again.

So until newspapers stop running these things, or I stop reading newspapers, I guess I’ll keep getting triggered now and then.  Just as bullies and abusers in my life tried to tell me I deserved their abuse, I’ll read what seems to say, “You deserved to be abused!”

This is why I had to drop a forum back in 2008, because people who knew nothing about the situation made it sound like I deserved to be bullied and abused.

I’ll read somebody else’s letter in an advice column and the responses, and it feels like over again, somebody is telling me, “You deserved to be abused!”  Even though it’s somebody else, and usually the situation is very different, I get shaky and distressed, like it’s all happening to me all over again.

With NVLD (nonverbal learning disorder), which is sort of like Asperger’s (though not the same thing), I just don’t understand people.

I was reminded of this again last night while reading a recent Carolyn Hax column and the responses from readers:

I read the letter writer’s complaint at face value.  When she said it was “perfectly natural” to discuss work with a co-worker, I thought, yes, of course it is.

I could agree with her that the girlfriend seems possessive and insecure to get all upset over work conversations between her boyfriend and the letter writer.

So when Carolyn and even the many commenters, on Facebook and on the Washington Post page, started ripping into the letter writer, I was shocked.

I just plain don’t get it.  I get excluded from conversations ALL THE TIME.

Nobody does it on purpose; it’s just that I’m an introvert with NVLD, and most people are extroverts without NVLD.  So they’ll be going on and on about something I don’t know a thing about, or that bores me, or somebody else makes my comment before I have a chance to.

I don’t whine about it; I only notice because often somebody turns to me and says, “You’re so quiet!”  That annoys me.  If you want to include me in the conversation, ask me a question; don’t criticize me and make me feel like a freak.

It happens in cars, just like with the letter writer and her two friends.  The other two will be in the front seats and I’ll be in the back, which automatically excludes you from conversation.

They’ll chatter on and on and I can barely hear them; if I can hear them, either I have nothing to contribute, or nobody hears me when I do.

Richard and Tracy used to do this all the time, too, when they’d drive me someplace, and they’d be up front talking on and on about their right-wing politics or some other thing, and I’d be quiet in the back seat.

Or we’d be in my house or their house, and they’d start going on about things I wasn’t interested in, or politics I did not agree with, or people I didn’t know, or make comments I found appalling, so I’d just sit quietly and wait for the conversation to change.

(Which is why her complaints of feeling “snubbed” have always baffled me.  Nobody was snubbing anybody, and if it’s “snubbing” to talk about things she doesn’t know about, then she “snubbed” me all the time. 

(It was just the normal, natural progression of conversation, and if, when other people were around, I got a chance to talk to Richard about something I actually knew about and was interested in, it was so rare and wonderful that I was darn well going to take it.  Everybody else did it to me all the time in their house; it was my turn, dang it. 

(This is also why I preferred one-on-one conversations with him, because we had a rapport and interests that could keep us talking for hours, which is highly unusual for me except with a few people. 

(Because it is so unusual for me, I see it as a rare treat, a delicacy, the caviar of friendships and social interaction.  While extroverts apparently see it as Tuesday. 

(But unfortunately, Tracy had such strict control that it was hard to see him without her, except on occasion, so when we got together, I wanted some of that rapport again for 10 or 20 minutes.  The rest of the time, we usually all socialized together, playing a game or something.)

But back to the main point.  It happens when more than two people are sitting at a table and the others inevitably steer the conversation toward subjects I cannot contribute to, or maybe I could but I can’t get a word in edgewise before the topic changes.

Or they talk about something I have no interest in, or about people they know but I don’t.

That’s why I prefer one-to-one conversations, because I can finally get a word in edgewise and talk about things I can contribute to, by helping to steer the conversation, instead of other people doing it.

Or sometimes I prefer the larger conversations because I don’t know what to say, and this takes the pressure off me to contribute.

Especially if I make a friend who I can actually talk to easily, I like the chance to just sit and chat with this person.

Introverts are like this: We don’t do well in group conversations, and just end up watching and listening.  But one-to-one, we can do a lot better.  Well, can.  I don’t always.  Often with one person, I still just sit there not knowing what to say.

But sometimes “magic” happens that I can’t explain, and I can chat easily with this person, probably because of similar interests and temperaments.

As for getting excluded–I get excluded when sitting at a meal with a group of people.  Happened all through school.  My college friends would go on and on every day about choir or their sorority, neither of which I was in.

Happened in the SCA, especially if they went on and on about something like sewing or SCA stuff (I was a newbie) or some bit of medieval knowledge that I know nothing about.

Happens every time I go to a social event and people chatter about things I don’t know about.

Happens at church every week, especially since I go to a Greek church and the people my age often talk in Greek with their relatives and older friends.  If I go to the English-speaking table, they’re mostly 30 or 40 years older than me and I can’t relate to the conversation.

And you know what?  That’s just frickin’ LIFE. 

I know people don’t do it on purpose.  You just frickin’ deal with it and don’t tell people what they can or can’t talk about, unless it’s something harmful, like making fun of someone or bringing up topics that are painful to you.  That’s being controlling and self-centered. 

(Heck, the one time I asked Richard not to talk around me about some guys who sexually harassed me, he said no.)

I think that people generally expect you to fend for yourself in conversations.  If you don’t, you just sort of disappear.

The only thing that annoys me is when people turn to me and complain that I’m so QUIET.

So I’m baffled by the Carolyn Hax column, why people have so jumped on the letter writer and accused her of all sorts of horrible things for doing the SAME THING THAT ALL THOSE PEOPLE WOULD DO TO ME WITHOUT THOUGHT IF WE WERE ALL SITTING AROUND A TABLE TOGETHER.

I just don’t understand people.  This is why I “hermit” so easily.  Why I “hermited” so much as a kid, but actually enjoyed going up into my bedroom when the house was full of relatives, or being alone all day at home during summer break.

Because people don’t make sense to me.  Oftentimes I had/have to deal with bullies, too.

Just when I think I have people figured out, they confuse me again.  Cats are easy: Pet them and give them a warm lap, and they’ll be devoted to you for life.

The researchers found that the brains of children with nonverbal learning disability responded differently to the social interactions than the brains of children with high functioning autism, or HFA, suggesting the neural pathways that underlie those behaviors may be different. —New light shed on learning disorders

UPDATE 2:02PM:

Going through the comments some more, I am greatly relieved to see at least two people who DO get it and don’t understand why the letter writer is being vilified.  They are introverts and social misfits to whom exclusion in conversation is perfectly normal and just something you tolerate.

One extrovert scolded that they may not want to participate in the conversation, but extroverts do, so it hurts them.

Er…Excuse me, introverts WANT to participate, same as extroverts.  We just get naturally shut out, which is frustrating. 

But we do not rage about this or treat them as if they did it deliberately, because everybody does this to us.  Our circles are small enough without chasing away all the extroverts we know.

One introvert, justaguy22, even sees the girlfriend as possibly abusive, possibly trying to control her boyfriend’s friendships and conversations, especially if she won’t let her BF see the LW without her, where they could talk shop!  That’s how I might see it, too–especially if the boyfriend uses the “we must pacify her” tone.

In my case, I got a lot of “Tracy’s jealous,” “She screams at the kids,” “She has to approve my friends,” “She’s emotionally abusive to me,” so seeing her reaction as controlling and possessive came from that.

I saw it myself when we were roommates for six weeks, and saw her become very hostile toward me as well, just out of nowhere.  I had no clue why.

And I was given a whole litany of things I did “wrong” around her that I could not even remember.

I said I needed help, such as her using words so I’d know when she wanted to converse with me, because I could not recognize it.

But no changes or help came from their side to help me change on my side, so I was continuously in the dark.  She continued to be displeased with my behavior, but without telling me at the time what I had done, so I had no clue.

I did not monopolize the conversation when she was in the room, mostly letting them carry it; if he and I sat next to each other, I might chat with him for a while, but usually my husband was there for her to talk to, or she was on the computer or doing some other thing.

She did not start conversations with me.  She did not even try with me, but instead expected me to come up with conversation when I have trouble with this in the best of social situations.

Most of the time there was something else going on in the room, or she was talking to everyone or to somebody else or screaming at a kid, so I didn’t see it as a time for starting conversation with her.

She criticized everything I did.  She refused to accept that I was a shy, quiet introvert with probable NVLD, who had always been that way and always would be, that making conversation with her–especially with someone who bullied me and whom I had maybe just witnessed verbally abusing her husband, kids or somebody else–was practically impossible for me until she stopped the abuse and accepted me for who I was.

Feeling pressured actually closes my throat and cuts off my thoughts.

Even then, I needed to be accepted as a quiet person who will not say much most of the time, even among my best friends.

I tried to explain all of this to Richard, hoping that he would explain it to her and they would help make it easier for me to relax around her.  But nothing ever changed, while I got blamed for everything and continuously punished for not being extroverted.

Also, after we broke things off with her, I had symptoms similar to PTSD.  As I wrote in one of my webpages on the situation, I was afraid to make new friends, constantly felt on-edge, like people were judging me harshly for being quiet.

It was always a huge relief to be among people who did not even mention my quietness, did not call me horrible for it, did not keep their husbands from being friends with me for it.

Reading this column was like, after all that, people were saying to me, “You deserved the abuse!  You deserved PTSD!  You deserve to be lonely and sad!”

I don’t know, maybe it’s just that the Carolyn Hax column is an entirely different situation from mine, and far simpler than what I dealt with, so the letter writer’s actions get a different response from the public.

I know that my husband–who is allowed to disagree with me and give the other person’s side–saw Tracy as controlling, too.

Maybe this letter writer is monopolizing the conversation, while I generally sit quiet in a corner.

I’m not sure it’s so hard to talk about something other than work, but maybe it’s the only thing she can think of at the time.  We don’t really know from one letter what all’s going on, and every letter that gets written to an advice column can get completely misinterpreted.

It happens, as we discover when somebody writes in with the “rest of the story,” whether from the original writer or from somebody else.

I believe I will now edit the full story of Richard/Tracy some more.  Apparently readers need to be more educated on introversion and NVLD, and told up front that I did try to do what I could to not “snub” her but I’m a timid person who was very intimidated by her aggressive manner.

Otherwise, people will just assume you are well-versed in social rules, an extrovert, can read subtle cues, etc. etc., and judge you unfairly.

One of the commenters on the advice column, who is used to being around geeks, complained about this, because of how people remarked on the letter writer.

Someone may have suggested Asperger’s; if she honestly cannot think of anything else to talk about, that is a possibility.  Aspies can easily fall into talking about their obsession even when you’ve already told them not to, but it’s not meant to hurt you.

Maybe I should incorporate this post into the introduction.  This is what people all over are dealing with in social situations, not just me.  All we ask for is understanding instead of vilification and writing us off.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

More Evidence of NVLD….

Just now, I was looking through my family genealogy book, put together by my aunt, so I could put my grandma’s obituary in it.  (RIP as of Thursday.)  On the way to find her page, I found mine–and discovered that my aunt had included my worst possible high school picture!

It couldn’t have been the pretty freshman year one, with my hair pulled back and curled, or the senior picture.  No, it was THAT one, with shaggy hippie hair, where I looked like I was about to kill somebody.

(Fortunately, a very pretty picture of me with my little family in 2004 was also included, so I’m not immortalized in this book as the ugly duckling of the family.)

And yet I seem to recall, when I took THAT picture, thinking it looked like a smile.  Or at the very worst, a neutral expression.  Certainly no anger, or anything at all negative.

I know I tried to smile for it, because I always would smile for my school pictures.  Yet in my teen years, those smiles seemed to vanish in the finished product.

Also, for many years I felt my yearbook picture for senior year, which I myself chose out of several options, had a playful smile that revealed my personality.  Now, it looks more like a grimace.

What the—?  How could my impression of my own expressions change so much over 20 years?

To me, this is yet more evidence that I have NVLD.  That it has improved over the years, that I’ve gotten much better at “reading” people and their expressions, but that I had an awful time reading body language while growing up.  (See here.)

One day I might get it professionally diagnosed, if I find myself with a few thousand extra bucks (not likely).

But as I read over old diaries and revise my college memoirs for this blog, I find all sorts of evidence I had forgotten, things I struggled with in the first half of my life which are no longer big issues.  I have learned to deal with them over the years, learned to go with the flow more often, gotten better socially.  I’m not sure a professional diagnosis is still needed.  But I sure could have used one as a kid.

I think I was tested for something in elementary school, but I’m not sure what, or what the results were.

NVLD was identified but not widely known in those days, and I was good at reading and spelling, so my teacher’s solution to my social, math and handwriting problems was to scold and scold and scold.

Didn’t work; it just made me feel more freakish, because I had no clue why I couldn’t live up to her expectations, or how to change to please her.

I just knew that whatever I did was wrong, that my handwriting looked awful no matter how hard I practiced, that my middle school teachers found my work disorganized, hard to read and not according to directions, and that 8th grade math made no sense to me.

This was certainly not for lack of trying, or for deliberately defying directions.  I remember puzzling through study periods, wondering why I couldn’t get my math problems to match the answers in the back of the book.

Today’s kids have it easier because they can get diagnosed early with NVLD or Asperger’s.  This did not exist back then.  There is hope for them; they don’t have to learn the hard way, like I did, and struggle through life until they start to get it right.

I was good at algebra and geometry, but still can’t figure out how to calculate my credit card’s interest rate fees (8th grade math).  I became a clerk, then a stay-at-home mother, because I can do that well.  I can also write; at least, that’s what I’m told.  🙂

Another thing I found in the family book: a eulogy of my paternal grandfather.  He’s described as quiet and hard to get to know, but friendly and full of character.  Not quarrelsome, but won’t put up with getting pushed around, either.  Whether through genetics or other means, I see this is a family trait, because I’m the same way.  🙂

The encouraging news from Murphy’s book is that, with the right support and interventions, people with NLD cope much better as they get older….

“It can be devastating,” Lewis says, “if no one in their world is knowledgeable about NLD.”

That is all too often the case, given how frequently it goes undiagnosed. “The reason it’s very hard to get a diagnosis is that it usually exists in conjunction with other disorders,” says Sandra Newman, a learning consultant in the Hawthorne school district who diagnosed J.C. when she was in private practice in Fair Lawn in 2001.

As is the case with autism spectrum disorders, NLD is marked by deficits in social awareness or judgment. As a child who has not had appropriate interventions moves toward adulthood and expectations increase, social misperceptions and blunders occur more frequently and are more deeply felt…..

“Mike and I will be talking,” Wolin says of his stepson, “and I’ll say it’s 4 o’clock, and he’ll say, ‘No, it’s 4:03.’ So often the drive for precision in the detail distracts you from the larger issue — that we’re supposed to be somewhere at 4, and we’re late.” –Ellen Chase, Children, adults with non-verbal learning disorder develop strategies for using talents, navigating around deficits

That last paragraph reminds me of my ex Peter complaining that I would give the exact time, rather than saying “o’clock” or “quarter till” etc.  I couldn’t figure out what the fuss was about: He wanted the actual time, didn’t he?  I thought everybody did that!

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Reblog: Conspiracy Theories, Autism, Fear, and Life on the Crazy Train

So why do I say that I’m fed up with conspiracy theories?

Aside from the lack of logic and evidence in many of these theories, I’m also sick and tired of the worldview which is engendered by the most ridiculous, extreme, and far-out of theorists, which goes something like this:

everything is a ploy to undermine our cherished way of life – the immigration of Muslims to the United States (this particular belief is included as part of the rampant Islamaphobia present in the U.S. today), affirmative action, gender equality, religious tolerance, interracial marriage

(I’m not shitting you – back in the 1960’s many conspiracy theorists such as Myron Fagan were espousing the view that racial equality, interracial marriage, and the Civil Rights movement were part of a Communist agenda to ruin America), etc., etc. etc.

Included in the latest of these as accounted by a fellow autism blogger on Facebook is a notion that same-sex marriage is part of a Communist plot to take over America.

And a little closer to home is the insistence by some that vaccines cause autism…and supposedly, it’s a plot cooked up by a secret shadow government.

–from Conspiracy Theories, Autism, Fear, and Life on the Crazy Train by Woman With Aspergers

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Selective Mutism: Disorder or Extroverts Pathologizing Introverts?–Examining the Natural and Childhood Sources of my Quietness

I really struggle with this one.  I fit all or most of the selective mutism characteristics, because I am very quiet, even as an adult, and I’m also very shy.

But the more I learn about introversion, the more it sounds like quietness is a perfectly natural part of introversion, because of the way our brains process information and social situations, as contrasted to extroverts.

Since I am also very quiet most of the time even in groups of friends I’m familiar and comfortable with, my shyness is not the direct cause of my quietness.

Rather, it’s because I need time to process and come up with responses, which often leaves me left in the cold as extroverts talk over me when I try to talk, or the topic has already changed by the time I come up with a comment.

Or I just plain don’t have anything to contribute, because I don’t know enough about, or am not interested in, the topic.  Whatever I might say, others say before I get a chance.

I used to go to planning meetings for my church’s GreekFest, but stopped because I had nothing to contribute, and somebody even mentioned that I say nothing.

I’ll say almost nothing at a general assembly meeting for my church, then get home and e-mail thoughts to the parish council, thoughts which I could not properly formulate till I was at home with my keyboard.

While at home, with my husband or parents or roommate or best friend, I can be quite the chatterbox, though if I have nothing to talk about or my brain is taken up with my latest perseveration, I say nothing.

If I’m called upon to read aloud–at church, at school, wherever–I can do it with ease.  People have often complimented my reading skills, from as far back as at least middle school, and they do so when I read the Epistle at church.  I’m often called upon to read passages during Lenten services as well.

I do not have to think what to say; I simply read the text, make myself forget that a whole church is listening, and do not stumble over difficult names.

But I’m also very shy.  I don’t initiate conversation with strangers.  I struggle to speak to people who make me uncomfortable, especially if they are mean to me.

So is it selective mutism?  Or is it introversion?

Or have psychologists labeled an introverted trait as a “disorder” because we now live in a society which values extroversion, when in the olden days introversion was acceptable, and character was valued over personality?

I do know that research has shown that forcing a selective mute to speak, through shame or anger or punishment, is counterproductive.  I also know that research has shown that forcing an introvert to speak doesn’t work, since our brains are simply wired differently than an extrovert’s.  So–regarding the use of force, both are the same.

Susan Cain describes this eloquently in her new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Prior to the 20th century, we lived in what she terms “the culture of character.”  Individuals were judged primarily on the content of their character.

By the 1920’s, as America became more urbanized, and salesmanship became a vital part of the economy, people started being judged on their apparent personality. First impressions took on greater importance.

It was vital to be perceived as “captivating” and having a strong personality.  Winning friends and influencing people became the goal. –Greg Markway, PhD, Introverts Need Not Apply: The Problem With a World That Chooses Extraverts

I recommend Shyness is Nice, a blog about the value of shyness and quietness.  Some quotes:

The real revelation for me, though, is that being shy isn’t even necessarily a social handicap. Shy people have a great gift: their gut about whom to trust. It comes from years of observing people and a deep fear of being burned, and it pulls us away from the frigid, hateful and fake. –Celia Ampel, I’m Shy and I’m OK

Socially, I remained very reserved. I didn’t say much, other than to the small group of nerdy friends I regularly ate lunch with. I remember one day being stunned when a girl at school asked me, “Why are you so stuck up?”  –Greg Markway PhD, Introverted? Shy? How the World Misperceives Us

Yeah, I’ve gotten that one too, a few times.  It’s totally off-base.  I’m far too scared of people to think myself better than them, far too awkward and uncertain of myself, while they seem to know just what to do or say.

Today, Emily would be diagnosed with selective mutism.  The subtle, but significant, change of words from elective to selective represents a major advance in how we think about the condition.

Selective mutism is a variant of social anxiety disorder in which a child, who is normally capable of speech, is unable to speak in given situations, or to specific people.

Emily made progress even though I knew very little about what I was doing at the time. She had wonderful parents who accepted her struggles while also helping her gradually take tiny steps out of her comfort zone.

October is Selective Mutism Awareness Month, and I thought this would be a good time to discuss briefly some facts and myths about the disorder:

  • We now know that children with selective mutism desperately want to speak. Some children have described feeling that their vocal chords “freeze up.”
  • It is not a matter of will or stubbornness; it involves an underlying anxiety disorder that literally prevents speech in certain circumstances.
  • Children with this disorder tend to have shy, inhibited temperaments. They frequently are “highly sensitive persons.” –Greg Markway PhD, Scared Speechless: Children with Selective Mutism

In Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, she describes some extremely important research dealing with this issue of culture. The study, conducted by Xinyin Chen and Kenneth Rubin of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and Yuerong Sun of Shanghai Teachers University, compared children in both cities to determine what traits made children popular.

Among the group of 480 students in Shanghai, “shy” and “sensitive” children were the most sought-after as friends. In contrast, among the 296 Canadian children, shy and sensitive children were the least desirable.

This study shows that whether you’re accepted by others can have little to do with you personally and much to do with the prevailing cultural norms.  –Dr. Barbara Markway PhD, Quiet is Not a Four-Letter Word

Westerners tend to focus more narrowly on individuals, independence and on individuals taking action, while Asians are more likely to focus on context, harmony, and interdependence. –Greg Markway PhD, Shy and Popular? Depends on Where You Live

Recently, there was a letter to Dear Abby about a little girl who was too shy/anxious to talk with her aunt on the phone. When the aunt would visit, the girl would hide in her bedroom and not come out. The aunt asked Abby for confirmation that this girl was rude.

I thought for sure that Abby would suggest the aunt be more understanding of a frightened child. Instead, Abby labeled the girl as rude, but allowed that the child might need therapy.

What gives the aunt, or Dear Abby for that matter, the right to pin a negative label on a shy and sensitive child? Why does our society consider the shy and anxious to be defective? While I agree that this child may need help, what she needs most is to be accepted and understood.

As a therapist, I learned long ago that the quickest way to help someone change is to accept who they are first….

There is nothing wrong with being shy….

However, labeling this little girl as rude or obstinate will only compound the problem.

A healthier (and more effective approach) would be to accept that the child has a shy/anxious temperament.

Understanding friends and family members could tell the little girl that it is ok to feel anxious, that most people feel this way at times. They could help the child gradually practice small steps in being more sociable, to try things that take the child slightly out of her comfort zone. –Greg Markway PhD, Rugrats Vs. Dear Abby: The Wisdom of Chuckie

Michael Jones explains things this way:

It’s just not so. Children who are very quiet in school, and who are unhappy about it, are probably shy or are introverts. Children who are totally silent in school, but talk a lot at home with their family, may have selective mutism.  What’s the difference?

A shy child is keen to join in, but is anxious about how other people might react to them having a go at something, or talking in a group. Their anxiety can be so great that it stops them from joining in.

A child who is an introvert will enjoy being with other people, and may join in, but will be energised by being on their own: to think their own thoughts and to ‘do their own thing’.  Or they may operate best when working in pairs or small groups because they prefer the company of a few people at a time.

A child with selective mutism has developed an extreme anxiety about talking outside their home. They may have developed a dread of talking, or the possibility that someone will try and make them talk. They can be so anxious that they may ‘freeze’ physically and be unable even to move. —Shyness, Introversion and Selective Mutism Explained

So what is it if you’re just naturally quiet among friends and co-workers but not a bit shy, but shy and quiet with acquaintances and strangers?

I have no anxiety among friends and very little with co-workers with whom I have a good social relationship, yet I’m still quiet with them; that’s completely introversion.

But I’m shy with strangers and people I don’t know very well, speaking only when spoken to, so is that selective mutism?

Could my quietness be related to bullying, or is the bullying related to my quietness?

Hard to say in the early years.  I was always shy and uncertain.

I do recall a group of kids I tried to join in my early years of school, but they always ran away from me and made fun of me, and I had no clue why, so that helped teach me subconsciously that reaching out to make friends was “wrong.”  That it was bad to try to join a group.

In more adult terms, that me trying to make friends with somebody was stalkerish, that they had to invite me first.

This was reinforced in later years a few times when I would try to call a friend on the telephone, like other girls do, and they’d say I called too much, or ask in puzzled tones why I called.

I was always just as happy playing by myself with my dolls and imagination, as with other kids.  Even on the playground, if with friends I often played pretend games based on imagination, or played pretend by myself while surrounded by other kids.

To my friends and I, the brown tunnel (a drainage pipe painted like a log with a knothole) became the forest home of us, a family of foxes.

Yes, I did have friends, sweet and kind kids who didn’t care that the others called me weird; I could talk to them, while I was shy with other kids.

While the other kids simply played on the Kee-Klamp (a kind of twisted pipe with ladders), to me the Kee-Klamp was where the human settlers of the 10th planet from the sun (Spimpy) stayed to keep off the poisonous ground.

My imagination was fertile enough to keep me occupied even if I was alone.  That’s not anxiety, that’s introversion.  I often wish I could remember more of those games and worlds, so I could write them into children’s books.

I was bullied practically from birth by one of my brothers, who is still a bully to this day, so I have distanced myself from him in adulthood.  I live in a different state, making this easy.

I was also bullied all through school, starting in first grade, not ending until I graduated high school, so I had no reason to expect good things from new kids.

While most of my teachers were kind to me, I have had a couple of teachers who tried to shame and force me into being more outgoing: my teacher in 4th/5th grade, and my college German teacher.

Their shame and force did not work.  I couldn’t control which teacher I had in elementary school, and being in a MACPO school for gifted children, I expected to have the same teacher from 4th through 6th grade.

(I’d include a link, but all I get when Googling “MACPO” is a Minnesota group for probation officers.  MACPO was around in the 80s, but appears to have been replaced with PACE or Montessori schools.  My childhood school now has an entirely different structure.)

But when the structure changed in 6th grade, I was put in a class with just 6th graders and a brand-new teacher.  She had more rules of behavior, more structure, rather than the go-at-your-own-pace which had inspired me to slack off.  She was also kinder, gentler.  Both points helped me thrive under her direction.

I’ve always gravitated toward kind people, and been repulsed by fiercer personalities.  In college–as you can see in my college memoir posts about freshman and sophomore year–I was bullied by my German teacher, and could not understand why she was complaining about things which other teachers did not complain about.  I ultimately dropped German, and did much better with other teachers.

I was also very outgoing the first month of my freshman year of college (though my “friend” Shawn tore it all down by saying I was too shy).  I didn’t go up to random strangers and say hi (which Shawn told me to do), but I did quickly warm up to other students and my suitemates.  I knew why this was:

During orientation activities, we were told that we freshmen were all in the same boat, all among strangers, all by ourselves, so reach out to others.  Since I knew the other freshmen were just as alone as I was, I was able to break that reserve and make friends within the very first week.

I went into more regular patterns eventually, but that initial outreach gave me people to sit with at meals, leading to more familiarity with them, and their friends coming into my social circles.  It’s a lot harder to break in when everyone else already has established friendships and connections, and you’re the newcomer.

I also went through a couple years of counseling with a child psychologist in the later elementary grades.  I don’t recall precisely which years, though it started after 5th grade, on recommendation from my aunt (probably borderline because of all the people she’s pushed away recently), who tried to push me into social skills through force and criticism, then declared she could do nothing with me.

But with the psychologist, I made considerable improvement socially and in my attitude at home, according to my mother.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of NVLD and Asperger traits overlap with introversion, making me wonder at first if NVLD and Asperger’s were also pathologizing introversion.

But no, NVLD and Asperger’s are not just about social awkwardness.  NVLD includes such things as visual-spatial issues, math problems, handwriting problems, trouble with maps, novel situations, organization; Asperger’s includes various forms of stimming, perseveration, trouble driving, fixed routines.

Because I have all or most of those issues, overcoming handwriting and organization problems but still struggling with others, I still consider NVLD and/or Asperger’s to be extremely likely for me, even with the explosion of information about introversion in recent years.

I also am nowhere near the levels I was as a child.  While I am still very shy and very quiet, I did blossom somewhat as I got through my teens and early adulthood.

This is one reason why I’ve never gotten officially diagnosed: The times when it was truly a problem, when a psychologist or neurologist may have easily made a diagnosis because I exhibited so many traits of selective mutism, NVLD and Asperger’s, nobody had heard of such things, so I was never tested.

I was tested once for something, probably a learning disability, but nobody ever told me the results or what it was all about.  I just remember things about it that seemed unusual, and I believe I was the only kid in my class put through that test.  It was probably in 4th or 5th grade, with that teacher who criticized me all the time.

I always knew I was different from all the other kids (even in the “gifted” school which should have been full of socially awkward or imaginative kids), but didn’t know why, or even why they were not like me.

But in adulthood, when I finally discovered the probable source (NVLD), I had overcome and progressed in so many challenges that I no longer needed a diagnosis so much.

I keep reading about people with autism or Asperger’s or NLD or other social challenges getting early intervention and succeeding in school and life, so we are capable of improvement, and this does not negate a diagnosis.

Susan Cain has a blog, The Power of Introverts: Join the Quiet Revolution.  I intend to start following it.  This is good: After 40 years, I finally find that my way of being is not “wrong,” and have a way to explain why I am the way I am.  Whether it’s “selective mutism” or just introversion, it is the way I am, and I have a right to be so.

After all these years, I can finally be more comfortable with myself, and know that I have valid reasons to expect others to accept me as I am, rather than trying to change me or (as Richard did) accusing me of being a “victim” or (as Tracy did) accusing me of needing to “grow up and TALK.”

No, if you can’t accept me as an introvert, as the quiet one, if you want to force me to change to suit you rather than working with my natural temperament, then YOU are the one with the problem.

Selective Mutism: a collection of information on SM

Some more on the confusion about Selective Mutism, shyness and introversion, to help us answer the questions posed at the top of my post:

Is your child an introvert?

Selective mutism vs. shyness

Waiting (not so) patiently for my child to speak

Selective Mutism

Now to post this without proofreading because I really ought to get to bed: church in the morning…..

[Note: This post seems to have inspired some confusion here and here.  My response is here

Finding these criticisms of me for having questions and looking for answers and keeping a log of what I find and what I think of–That’s a good way to shut up someone who already struggles with speaking up.  If I’m just going to be beaten down for having questions, why speak?

I thought other people with SM would understand the questioning and confusion, not criticize someone for asking and searching.

In summary, I only bring up questions here which kept concerning me as I researched selective mutism between 2008 and the writing of this post.

I explore various possibilities as I ponder whether selective mutism describes me.  I quote articles which seem to help answer the questions.  I examine how the articles on selective mutism relate to my own experiences. 

Apparently I neglected to mention my childhood anxiety, which “froze” my vocal chords.  (Though I did mention my psychologist, which apparently got missed.)  And that in 4th grade, of all the class stuffed animals, I preferred one cat puppet, because through that I “spoke.”

And that the common response to my adult quietness–even from other introverts–was to make me feel like it was “wrong” to be quiet.  Making me sensitive to quietness being labeled a disorder, even severe shyness/quietness on the level of selective mutism. 

I instead wanted it to be called simply a variation which should be accepted, rather than forcing the quiet ones to speak through ostracism, pressure, scolding, etc. 

I wondered if half the problem with selective mutism is actually the reactions of others causing anxiety in the mute child.  If accepting it as a variation would help draw out the mute, who would feel safer.

Apparently you’re not supposed to have questions, just know all the answers.]

Some more of my posts on selective mutism, but not all:

Selective Mutism strikes at a Zeta party
Why I Struggle to Let Go of Richard; Also, Musings on NVLD/Asperger’s
NVLD (this page explains in more detail why I was offended by extreme shyness being labeled a disorder)
I must be accepted as I am–introversion, NVLD and all–or you’re out
How to bully an introvert–and assets of NVLD

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Olderposts

Copyright © 2019 Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Powered by ClassicPress | Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: