Sexual Relations with Shawn (sexual user): The Downward Spiral to a Crash; Counseling–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–February 1993, Part 2

Sexual Relations with Shawn: The Downward Spiral to a Crash 

I discovered in February that the leader of our S– Nazarene church wasn’t actually a pastor.  He and his wife had full-time jobs, so trying to run the church was getting too taxing.  They closed the metaphorical doors of that church, so that was the end of my churchgoing for a while.


Around this time, Shawn asked for a wakeup call.  So I said, “This is your wake-up call, Shawn.  Do not, I repeat, do not roll over and go back to sleep, or you will die a horrible death, suspended by a string and by your fingernails over a pool of piranhas.–And with your weight, the string will immediately break.”

…So he rolled over and went back to sleep.  When I found out, I told him, “You know what I’m going to have to do to you now.”  As he talked with Frank, I said to Shawn, “I guess I’ll have to take you down to the lagoon–as soon as I get a string and some piranhas.”  He smiled, and Frank cracked up.


On the late night of the 6th, Shawn called me over to watch TV.  We played with each other for a while, then were enflamed with passion and did all sorts of things we shouldn’t have, oughtn’t have done.

In fact, when I read what had been going through our heads for the past several weeks, and what all we did do, which did qualify as sexual relations, what astounds me is what we didn’t do that night: go all the way.  I’m sure that one word from me, and it would have been done.

And our lives could have been irrevocably changed.  According to my calendar, I was probably not fertile, but–Pregnancy, change in life plans, married to someone who wanted to change everything about me, him dealing with this and his brother’s illness/eventual death at the same time….

Or if not pregnancy, then would he have hated me afterwards?  Or would he have fallen for me?  Who knows.  But if nothing else changed, then the end of the year still would have been that much harder to deal with.  And, as you will see, it already became excruciatingly painful to part because of the things we did do, because of the contempt he felt for me because of them.

Eventually we fell asleep in each other’s arms, and it was sweet.  But then he woke up around 5am, got angry with me for still being there, and unceremoniously tossed me out into the cold.  I hoped he was just cranky from being tired.

There was no “talk” afterwards this time, however.  In the days following, there was none of the usual tenseness when we saw each other around campus.

I felt good when he looked at me–which he did a lot–and his eyes showed so much tenderness, and some kind of love, though I wasn’t sure what kind.  Then on the 8th, we sat across from each other in Bible Study.  Not what you usually expect to be between two people sitting in Bible study….

Even Clarissa noticed something different about him.  He seemed happy and hyper when in my view, but Clarissa saw him walking with his head down a little.  She thought she saw something there that she didn’t see before.

He sat at my table a lot and also gave me little things, like red-hot candies or a certain picture.  I thought that, for sure, he must be in love with me now.

On Valentine’s Day, we were together in his room.  As we made out I thought he really meant it this time, that we were finally a “couple.”  But then, while I was still basking in the glow of my happiness, he told me he wasn’t attracted to me and I wasn’t what he was looking for, though he didn’t know what that was.  (Flashback to Ned and Catherine!)

This got me so upset that I decided to start seeing the campus counselor, someone older whom I could talk to.

Monday of the next week was intense.  The thing I did not want him to do to me during the scary scold session in January, he did now, suddenly and forcefully from what I recall, taking away my innocence and filling me with thoughts I could barely control.

(Not what is clinically called “coitus,” but another thing which I do not want to name on the Internet.)  And even though he himself had similar thoughts and told me about them, he judged me for mine when I confessed them to him.

My diary entries for late February and mid-March show that I felt as if demons had taken hold of my thoughts.  After Bible study one night, I confessed them to Pearl.  We prayed about it, and I confessed my thoughts to Shawn.  As if I’d snapped my fingers, the darkness flew away.

But this was the last time Shawn and I did anything physical for a while, to help me get those thoughts out of my head.  Sometimes we did spend time together and talk on the phone, but he started sitting elsewhere at meals.

People got mad at him for not being nice to me, but I didn’t agree and was indignant at them (probably Stockholm Syndrome).  He didn’t understand why they thought that.  For example, one of my friends was mad at him, and he complained to me about it.  I referred to this at a meal one day, so she got mad at him again for not keeping her opinion between them.


I first met with the school counselor on February 23.

After Shawn had pulled so much crap with me over the past few months, as a sexual user:

He played with my head and my body,

took my innocence and led me into sexual experiences that I should not have done and convinced me they were not sinful and then spoke to me like I was a slut,

asked or begged me to do things that were consensual and enjoyable but then scolded me for doing them and made me feel like he was just doing it to humor me,

insisted or even coerced me into some things so I had to stop him or felt I could not stop him,

wanted to coerce me into more,

lusted after me and said he had fantasies about me yet told me he was not attracted to me,

led me on and tore me down over and over again–

So I became a wreck, and decided that only a counselor could help me get my life back together now.

Things he had said about me, and things he would say later on (in March, which I address in this paragraph, too), haunted me for years, even though all my friends and my counselor assured me they were not true.

I could not understand why he would accuse me of them.  They became some of the main bases for me to consider NVLD as a possibility, because those very things were listed as signs and misunderstandings of people with NVLD.

Such as, people with NVLD/Asperger’s are very concerned with accuracy, which sometimes exasperates others, makes them think we have to be right, when no, we just want to be helpful and keep you out of error.

We don’t understand why this upsets others, and become mystified when they get angry and accuse us of having to be right.  We think, Don’t you want to be accurate?

It’s also an introvert thing, since I have to think before I speak, and oftentimes need far more time to prepare a response than I get.  So I’ll think of something later on and say it.

To me this is perfectly valid, but apparently extroverts get annoyed by it at times.  But extroverts need to deal with it, because otherwise we introverts aren’t capable of giving them the responses and ideas they want.

It was one of the many things Shawn said he hated, that I took too long to respond to his questions.  But this was nothing I could help, and he needed to be more accommodating and patient.

Or, as Pearl did say, the time I didn’t ask Sharon how she was doing after her cousin died, but this was not because I didn’t care or was selfish (I did very much care about my friends and how they were feeling), but because I missed the social cues and did not realize I was supposed to say anything.  Until Pearl said something, I had no clue I had even offended Sharon!

I tried so hard to be nice and sweet to people, but again and again I’d be misunderstood and accused of things that were not in my mind; Shawn did plenty of this.  NVLD/Asperger’s explains why on earth people would think such things of me, and also why I had so much trouble understanding these social cues that others know instinctively.

The constant criticisms from Shawn haunted me years later when another best friend, Richard, did the same thing to me, telling me everything I did was wrong in some way, from what food I ate to how I socialized.

And I would have no way of knowing for sure if I was really as bad as these critics made me sound, or if there was something in them that made them find fault in others to an excessive, abusive degree.

Starting in January 1993, as I have shown, and continuing through May 1993, as I will show, I witnessed various outbursts from Shawn which scared or upset me greatly.  He increasingly said hurtful things.

I also noted during that time that he even criticized how I kissed him (while Peter said I was a great kisser, an expert, told Phil this, and Phil agreed); I wrote that if he didn’t like it, then teach me how to do it better, don’t cut me down.

There were also things related to his Winterim class which were serious and which I have not described, that caused him stress.

It’s also very possible that his brother’s health was deteriorating.  Could Shawn have been heading to another nervous breakdown and taking me along with his precarious mental state?

It was possible, especially with what happened in May 1993, and how it affected him.  But I had no way of knowing with my limited knowledge, could only think he was doing these things on purpose to hurt me.

I see from my day planner that I planned to ask the counselor the question, What in the world is making me depressed all the time?!  Shawn might say I wanted to be, but no, it was because of what was going on in my life freshman and sophomore year.

I had six counseling sessions free before my parents would have to pay for it, so I decided to take advantage of this.  It seems we only had 20 minutes to talk on the 23rd, but she called me that night to talk some more.

The first little session took care of things like insurance and stuff, and didn’t get into what I really wanted to talk about.  So on the phone, I told her my problems: the Shawn situation, as I called it, and the Peter situation.

She asked how often I thought of Peter still, and I said at least once a day.  She said that was a lot and we’d have to talk about that, too–but I neglected to say that I thought about him that often because I was praying for him every night.  These prayers were for his soul, not for our old relationship.

The counselor kept talking about shyness and how to break free of it, but this wasn’t my problem.  I kept trying to get the discussion back to the situation with Shawn.

All sorts of Christian denominations, from Orthodoxy to Baptist, say that Christians should only marry Christians.  Youth advisers naturally extended that to serious dating, and sometimes even casual dating.  The counselor said that part of my problem may have been that I didn’t have much of a pool to choose from (something I, ironically, had tried to avoid by going to a Christian college).

She didn’t suggest I change my beliefs; rather, she looked through the phone book and suggested some churches I could try going to.  However, they sounded very different from my own church, such as Baptist and Dutch Reformed.  S– doesn’t have a huge variety of churches, such as you might find in South Bend.

Though at times I wondered if they helped at all, in the end (April 6) I decided these counseling sessions had done me a world of good.  More on this later.


One day, I told Shawn that Peter never said anything to me, not even hi.

Shawn said, “Maybe he’s waiting for you to say it.”

That shocked me, since I had tried to start up a friendship with Peter a couple of times already, only to be spurned.  But I tried it anyway.

On the 19th, I saw us about to pass each other outside.  I didn’t know if I could do it, if he’d hear me, or if he’d even answer, but I looked back as we passed, and said hi.

For a moment I expected nothing, but then I heard, “Hi.”  Another time, he even said, “Hey, how ya doin’?”


On snow days (and on days when the water went out), paper cups, bowls, plates and utensils were used.  The RA’s helped in Food Service because the cooks and other non-student workers couldn’t make it to the campus.

On one snow day, Rachel helped us clean up in Food Service.  She stood next to me and said,

“Some people think you’ve gained some weight, but I don’t think so.”

“Nope,” I said, tugging on the leg of my pants.  I had been wearing them since I came to Roanoke; they now billowed around me.  Roanoke had made me 120 pounds, the perfect weight for a small-boned woman of barely 5’5.

I had no idea Rachel was testing me out.  I later discovered that, because I wrote a poem about a pregnant girl and usually wrote about my own life, people thought I was pregnant by Shawn.

Despite the things we did do, Shawn and I had done nothing to cause pregnancy, so it was funny.  And here I’d been afraid people would think my poem was about another girl on campus, who really was pregnant.


A Zulu dance group, Shikisha, performed in the Bradley in February.  They did African dances and original songs.  The first hour was just Shikisha (3 women) and their male drummer.

After the intermission, a rock band, with black members from such places as France, the U.S. and Nigeria, joined them, and we got a rock concert for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

I got so caught up in it that I felt sorry for people who didn’t come, and I had to get a tape of them.  I kept thinking of the PBS miniseries Shaka Zulu, especially with the way they were dressed.

Afterwards, I found Anna, Latosha and an exchange student from Nigeria.  Latosha wanted a tape for, as she called it, “my kid.”  That’s when Latosha told me she was pregnant by E—, the guy who had caused her so much grief freshman year.  I said I wanted a tape, but they’d already cleared them away.

Latosha said, “We can go backstage and get one.”

She led us back, and we got to meet all the performers–once they were dressed in normal clothes.  I got a tape, and the drummer said, “Don’t you want any more, for your family?”

“I can’t afford it,” I said.

“She can dub it,” Latosha said.

“Ohhh!” he said.

We met the three dancers a few minutes later, and they autographed our tapes.  We talked with them for a while, and found out the youngest one, who looked 12, was 19.

One dancer had a shirt in the first act that was cut differently from those of the other dancers; it kept slipping dangerously during the dances.  (They dressed in traditional Zulu clothes, so she didn’t wear a bra.)  Anna or Latosha said she was quick about pushing it back up.

The oldest dancer had long hair, maybe waist-length, put in tiny braids.  The youngest one asked for our names and made a little song out of them.


On the 27th, Shawn and I visited a student from Cambodia, S–, to play with his Sega.  Shawn and I beat up street thugs for a while, then S– and I watched Shawn get beat up by a gorilla in “Spiderman.”  Shawn insisted he used to be good at it.

Then he showed me Sonic The Hedgehog 2.  I did terribly at it, during a race against Shawn, since I had never played the game before.  “Two-year-olds play this better than you!” he said.  (I was playing with dolls at two.)

But, hey, I’ve never been adept at video games.  I think the whole coordination thing gets me, probably because of NVLD.

So obviously Shawn and I were still hanging out from time to time, still friends, despite everything.  I also wrote a long list of things to talk to him about, probably to do what we originally were going to do–back away from the physical and learn more about each other as people, not lovers.


Sometime that semester, the women of the campus were shaken up by stories of a rapist loose in S–.  Cindy said her mom saw him in the laundromat late one night, that he knew her and was after her for some reason.  I think he had kind of a Hitler-look, maybe with his hair.

There were rumors of him being spotted on campus, based on people seeing a guy who looked like him but was just some innocent husband of a non-trad.  He never actually did step foot on our campus, as far as we knew.

But the fear of him inspired warnings that we women shouldn’t go anywhere alone at night, and I would have Clarissa go with me just to do my laundry at night.

This may have been when the dorms were now locked up at all times, accessible only by key, meaning that I could no longer go from the suites to Krueger’s side door to get snacks or see people whenever I wanted to.

Mom had always worried that I would get raped at college, so I never did tell her about this rapist.  I told Dad, but with strict orders not to tell Mom or else she would be a nervous wreck.

I found a rapist warning in the school paper for April 30, and I don’t believe I found one any earlier.  But I keep thinking it was in February.  The May 7 paper explains that a “suspect,” though heavier and with glasses, in the rape cases was confronted in the Roanoke College library on May 5; this is probably the guy who was just somebody’s innocent husband.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

My Mental/Visual/Touch Stimming: Could it be Asperger’s?

To me, NVLD and/or Asperger’s is a fascinating look into the differences in how our brains work.  I find the differences awesome, and hope that one day they will be accepted, not labeled “disorders” which must be “fixed.”

They also explain many things about myself that never made sense before, make me “normal” among people who have these same “abnormalities.”  It makes me okay the way I am.  They’re also not related to introversion, so can’t be explained away that way.

NVLD/Asperger’s quickly became, back in 2000, one of my many long-term, obsessive interests, because finally I had a reason for why I do the things I do, why my brain works the way it does, why others don’t do these things that seem perfectly normal and logical to me, or which I’ve always done but not known why.

For example, I have various little things I do which I’ve done since childhood, but they’re so subtle that I doubt anybody notices but myself.  They seem to increase when I’m going through anxious periods.

For example, sometimes I’ll feel my heel strike a crack in the sidewalk, and I don’t feel right until the opposite heel strikes a crack in the sidewalk as well.  I’ll stare at tiles and find patterns.  I alphabetize my music and movies.  I’ll stare into space, or my eyes will cross, as a form of relaxation when visuals are getting a bit overwhelming.

If I’m folding laundry and a sock or towel hits my leg, oftentimes I won’t feel right until I hit one against the other leg as well.  I do the same thing with my fingers.  I keep nibbling on the inside of my mouth without realizing it.

It doesn’t always happen, but as I noted, seems to increase in times of anxiety.  For the past 2 years, while dealing with a very emotionally traumatic situation, I’ve been doing these things more often, and added a couple of new ones.  Now my eyes vaguely cross a lot, intentionally.  Not sure why.  I try to stop it because it gives me a headache, but do it anyway.

I recall, as a kid, one day just looking at the ceiling and deciding I would start doing one of my stims, which I have never stopped doing: counting, looking for even numbers in things, such as tiles on the ceiling.

I count letters in words in titles or signs, hoping for even numbers of letters or words as my eyes sweep back and forth over the word in various patterns, doing this until it “feels finished.”  I look for symmetry.

I prefer round letters and numbers because they make easier patterns; I’ll even make a pattern with an individual letter or number.  As a child, my favorite number was 8 and numbers related to 8, such as 16–because 8 is a round number.

I’ll do the same thing with letters or numbers or pictures or other objects, my eyes sweeping over an object back and forth an even number of times to form an even pattern.

I do it to titles on books, to words on a page I’m reading, to tiles on the floor, to the iconostasis (wall with all the icons) at church, to the golden objects (crosses, etc.) on the altar, to the incense holders hanging.

I count them, see there’s this number on one side, this number on the other, back and forth, until finally the service begins.

I see a line or a word and think of the capital letters opposite other capital letters, the lowercase letters in contrast, try to form a pattern with the capitals on the outside.

An embedded web video stuck on an endless loop (such as in forum avatars or on page 3 of the below-linked forum discussion) can drive me crazy, as I start wanting to see it go through the loop a certain number of times before I turn it off.  I don’t even know how many times; just until it “feels finished.”

I’ll often look at a word or phrase again and again after having just read it, until I’m “done.”

And my brain has done these things for as long as I can remember.  It’s usually not at all related to anxiety, though anxiety can increase the frequency of some of them.

Riding in a car also sometimes drives me crazy as I start forming patterns with every sign and wire I see.

Sometimes I will sit and stare, a kind of “rest,” or just let my eyes go unfocused (crossing them, apparently) because it’s restful.

As a child in Kindergarten, and even now, I see numbers as male or female.  Male: 0, 1, 4, 5, 7.  Female: 2, 3, 6, 8, 9.  Yet 16 is female, and so is 20, even though they are mixed.

It’s something about the way they look.  I’m not sure what, exactly, because 0 and 5 are round, same as 3, 8 and 9, and 2 has a straight line just as most of the “male” numbers do.

Thoughts will circle in my head until they’re said in just the right way or I feel them in my throat the right number of times (something about, I haven’t really “thought” it unless I can feel the word in my throat).

Certain phrases will go through my head again and again and again until they interfere with other thoughts and activities and seem about to drive me crazy.  (These are not “voices in my head,” but my own thought-voice.)

It’s words I hear or read, or a few near-constant stock phrases which have been with me for years/decades (such as “Lord have mercy” since I became Orthodox, and “please forgive me” before that).

(In fact, Orthodoxy encourages stimming on “Lord have mercy” as a spiritual exercise.)  Sometimes I’ll start humming to get an unpleasant thought out of my head.

Up until now, no one has known about these mental/visual/tactile stims which I have done all my life.  Because they’re mostly in my head, nobody knows they’re going on.  Only recently have I told my husband these things go on in my head constantly.

I’m not sure if NLD has traits like these, but Asperger’s does; a quick Google search on “mental stimming” brings up a forum discussion on this very thing.

Some of these things will go endlessly through my head so much that I barely notice it, or they die down for a while, but start up again in periods of depression or anxiety or deep thought.

A blogger with Asperger’s describes stimming here, and one of his commenters described my thing with sidewalk cracks here:

However, I do the crack thing, I have to step on the cracks, or i have to step on a crack with my left foot, then step over the next crack with my left foot so that my right foot touches the next crack. I must say, you’re right about looking insane when walking. I have jumped to get to the next crack, and every time I walk it’s different. Sometimes it is not stepping on the cracks, sometimes it’s stepping near the cracks. It’s very calming.

Apparently people with normal brains stim too, so I don’t know what the difference is between “normal” and “Asperger’s” stimming.  Needs more research….If what I do is normal, then NLD is more likely, as it’s more mild than Asperger’s.

Everybody stims, Aspies and NTs alike and usually they’re unaware of it.

Aspies tend to stim more often than NTs and it tends to be more for stress/anxiety relief.

Most aspies won’t be aware that it’s a relief mechanism, they’ll probably just tell you that it feels good.

Virtually any kind of repetitive behaviour without a specific point other than “feel-good” can be a stim. The difficulty involved in stopping the stim and the frequency at which it occurs is what distinguishes an aspie stim from a neurotypical stim. –Gavin Bollard’s comment, Life With Aspergers: What is Stimming


Here a blogger, who after her children were diagnosed realized she herself had grown up undiagnosed with Asperger’s, writes that she can never stand still.  She shifts her weight back and forth from one foot to another.  She was sure lots of people do this, until she started watching, and saw almost nobody doing it.

I do this in church.  Since I go to a liturgical church, I can say with certainty that I’m not moving to upbeat praise and worship music (which tends to make me want to avoid swaying, anyway, in defiance at musical manipulation).

When I’m not in church, but standing at a corner waiting to cross the street, or standing in line, I rock back and forth on my feet.  I just can’t stand still without a lot of effort.

My husband does this too, so the question arises: is this common or isn’t it?  Some comments I find on blogs are that everybody stims; it’s just a question of how socially acceptable the stimming behavior is: making strange noises vs. tapping your pencil, for example.

Here the same blogger goes into detail about stimming and where she thinks the line is drawn between “normal” and autistic/Asperger’s stimming.

I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve done most of these stims since childhood.  I am getting some new ones, however, due to excessive anxiety, which is quite annoying.

Threads on this from the Asperger’s Wrong Planet forum, with which I identify so strongly that I keep saying, “Yes!  Yes!”:
Mental Repetition of Phrases/Words?
Mental Stimming

I started watching Mozart and the Whale and I realized that the guy in the movie, Donald, when he is looking around he notices things and makes combinations and associations in his mind, which is also what I do.

I do it at home and also when I am sitting somewhere in public. While seeing him in the movie, I realize that when I am doing this my eyes must be moving in a way that must come across as very bizarre to other people.

…Anyway, do u have the same thing? do you look around and make combinations all the time and observe lines, numbers,colors etc —How do you move your eyes?

Why, yes, yes, I do.  Yes, I trace things with my eyes, as well.  From that same thread, I also identify with this:

For instance, looking at a sentence on a billboard, I end up counting the letters and spaces so I can find the figure or space that is the middle of the sentence, the fulcrum of symmetry if you will.

Or if say a sentence has an odd number of words, like 3 or 5, i cut the sentence in half and count how many letters I’d have to add to one side or the other to make them symmetrical.

In case you didn’t notice, I have huge issues with symmetry and constantly striving to achieve it in everything I observe.

You’ll note these threads also comment on perseveration, which is related to the same things going around in your head all the time, or a child with Asperger’s getting so latched onto a subject/interest that you can’t get him off it.

I do that constantly, whenever I’m going through some emotional issue, or I’ve gotten interested in some new thing, such as ancient Egypt when I was 12 (or re-interested in some old thing, such as my curiosity in NVLD/Asperger’s taking a rest for months and then popping up again and I have to do more research on it), or I’m so deeply interested in a writing project that I think about it while doing other things.  It keeps going whether I want it to or not.

It’s always been this way.  No matter what it is–perseveration, or mental stimming, or visual stimming–my mind is constantly very busy.  It makes it hard to fall asleep sometimes.

Perseveration is the reason I would research as much as I could into whatever I was writing about; of course, before the Internet exploded, it was hard to find good materials.  Now, I have them at my fingertips.  It’s a perseverator’s dream!

When I got curious about Orthodoxy in 2005, I became so obsessed with it that I bought books, printed hundreds of website pages, went on forums, spent months–maybe a year–researching it heavily before visiting the local Orthodox church in November 2006.  My research filled a whole box when it became far too thick for its accordion file.

Related to perseveration and thoughts constantly replaying in the head:

Inability to get over it.
I blame the long term aspie memory for this. Many of my present actions are shaped by my past experiences. I find the past very difficult to let go of and it permeates into everything I do.

I’m terrified to let people near my stuff because of something that happened when I was in year 5 at school.  I’m difficult and resentful in certain situations at work because of a problem that happened four years ago (that everyone else has forgotten).

It’s even becoming something of a catchphrase of my wife’s; “Get over it!”. Of course, that’s just the point… I can’t. —Life With Asperger’s

One of the most effective coping mechanisms I employ is “conversation recording” where I attempt to remember an event in its entirety for later analysis.

In aspies with particularly well-developed coping mechanisms (typically, older aspies), event recording is virtually “second nature”. It often occurs without any conscious decision on our part.

When an event is “recorded”, a lot of things, particularly tone and body language which are not accessible at the time are retained.

The funny thing about this type of retention is that although a lot of input is captured, it usually isn’t available to me until I review the “recording”. Something I may not do until hours or days later – and often, unless I have a reason to do so, not at all.

I’m in the habit of reviewing “recordings” whenever I get an unexpected response from people or whenever I deem that a conversation is important and could be carrying more information than is immediately obvious. —Life With Asperger’s

Yep, I do that.

A lot of things come back to the aspie memory. Aspies often have very clear memories of events and quotations.

In conversation, they may drop a remark which links back to a particular memory but even if the NT was present at that event, it could have been years ago, or the particular part of the event to which the Aspie is referring may not form a large part of their memory. —Life With Asperger’s

There’s no doubt that vivid memories (trauma) are remembered both by animals and people. There’s also little doubt that these memories, both negative and positive affect our future actions.

Where I think the aspie differs is that key memories don’t necessarily need to be large or traumatic in order to be “vivid”.

“Can’t move on” is a phrase that is often associated with Aspergers. In fact, I’m sure it appears somewhere in the official criteria.

The inability to move on is due to a number of factors including; change resistance, routine, insecurity and memory.

Children with aspergers seem to take things in like sponges and retain them forever. They revisit those memories over and over again and after a time, even the smallest and least traumatic of them can become a major influence on their lives. —Life With Asperger’s

How can a having a good long-term memory be responsible for depression?

The key to understanding this is to approach it from the point of view of an NT [neurotypical, or “normal” brain].

Most of the time, it seems to me that detailed memories just aren’t available for NTs without external assistance. By external assistance, I mean the use of video cameras or photo albums.

In the movie One Hour Photo, Robin William’s character says, while looking at birthday snaps, “Nobody takes a picture of something they want to forget”. I think that this is particularly relevant to the issue because it means that NT’s tend only to remember the good things in any detail.

The Aspie however, with their long term memory often has perfect recall of past events and conversations. They will spend hours analyzing a conversation that occurred years ago and will often take negative feedback on board even if it was provided in the heat of the moment.

The long term memory of the Aspie therefore can be their worst enemy for dredging up guilt and other negative emotions.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not entirely where the lines are drawn between Asperger’s and Obsessive Compulsion. It is obvious that people can suffer from Obsessive Compulsion without having Asperger’s Syndrome but I’m not convinced that it works the other way around.

To be specific, I think that the Asperger’s condition carries with it certain obsessive compulsive influences which manifest themselves in different ways. —Life With Asperger’s

Blogs by People with NVLD or Asperger’s

Musings of Someone With NLD
I am learning disabled

Life With Asperger’s
Asperger’s and the Alien

Here are blog posts by an Aspie about perseveration.  I also agree with her about transitions: I would deal with it because I had to.  But when I was at work and the phone rang while I was hard at work on something, it was very annoying and shattering to my brain.  Also, my mom noted to teachers that it was hard to pull me from one activity to another.

Here Amy Murphy writes about selective mutism in a post which, all of it together, sounds extremely familiar:

Don’t call it a disorder..I’m really starting to frown on this whole, this is a disorder and thus and thus needs treatment and bullsh**…f**k it. Life should not be this much conscious work. This is who I am and what I am so suck it up or shut up.

Being an introvert, combined with all these other things, has always made social situations extremely difficult to navigate.  There are various things I deal with which are normal for introverts, but I believe they’ve been intensified because of the issues of NVLD as well.

I know other introverts who don’t seem to have a lot of the issues I do.  Such as, they muse about things, but don’t perseverate to the extent I do.

I list here both NVLD and Asperger’s blogs because there is overlap between the two.  The two are not the same thing–Asperger’s has issues NVLD does not, being on the autistic spectrum–but they do share many similar characteristics and challenges.

The more I learn about Asperger’s, the less I identify with it, but the more I learn about NVLD, the more I identify with that.  But I do identify with Asperger’s issues such as mental stims, perseveration and selective mutism (which was far worse when I was a kid, but still exists).  From my NVLD page:


This is me to a T: “Perseveration and the Broken Record.”  [This blog post by Aspie Teacher no longer exists, but I think it may have been moved here.]  Pertinent quote:

I especially have trouble derailing myself when I am having trouble processing something. This can cause me great stress. I can feel that I have gotten stuck in a feedback loop.

My husband has been known to get very irritated with me when this happens. This only makes it worse, because I end up feeling guilty, stupid, and helpless that I can’t do anything to break the feedback loop.

Since receiving my official diagnosis over a year ago, my husband has tried to think of better ways of helping my brain switch gears when it gets stuck. Usually I just need to talk and have him listen without him judging me or trying to solve any problems.

I have come to realize that verbalizing what in in my head helps me process it, but this is not always an easy thing for me. I can’t always find the words to convey what I need to say.

Writing has become my voice. It helps me process the chaos that can develop in my brain. I also have found that what I need is understanding and encouragement. These two actions can do so much for a person.

Another blog post by someone diagnosed with perseveration:

Sometimes it happens when I am trying to diagnose a problem and I keep barking up the same solution.  Other times, it happens  emotionally.

My brain can get stuck on something emotionally and I keep going over it again and again.  Ruminating over past incidents becomes a bit of a tape that gets played over and over again.  I find I can ruminate over unhappy or unfair things a bit excessively. –Carol Ng, The Broken Record of Perseveration

I have the words and phrases that keep going through my head over and over again.  I have the recurring obsessions over various special interests, though not to the level (or strangeness) of an Aspie.  And I have the emotional upsets that keep going around and around in my head even months or years after the incident that triggered it.

You could ask anyone who’s been around me during tough times of my life–parents, college friends, college acquaintances, old roommates, my husband–and they’d tell you how I go over and over things again and again and again.

I’d hear of people wanting to go inside themselves and not talk after a difficult incident, and their loved ones trying hard to pull them out so they’ll feel better–and I’d wonder how anybody would want to keep that inside.  I, on the other hand, want to talk about my problems, far more than anyone wants to listen.

I had no idea I did this until my first big heartbreak in college.  I’d been heartbroken many times during my childhood and adolescence, since I was boy-crazy from a young age but it was usually unrequited.  It would bug me for a while, but I would deal with it, maybe cry once or twice.

But I was not prepared for what it felt like to have a guy love you back (or at least say he did), promise he would marry you, tell you you were meant to be together, and then break up with you.  I was devastated, and had no idea what to do or how to get relief, or how to get him back.

I talked to anyone who would listen: acquaintances, friends, roommate, suitemates, Mom, Dad, best friend back home.  I wrote a few letters to the guy to try to change his mind, pouring out my feelings and argumenta (not a typo) for why we should get back together, but they didn’t work the way I expected, so I stopped doing that.

I had no idea that my discussions of the guy with other people had gotten to be too much for them until one of my friends told me so one day, that they were tired of hearing about him.  It just never occurred to me that I could be talking about him too much.

So after that I went within myself, because even though I stopped talking about the matter, I didn’t stop thinking about it.  I couldn’t stop.  I filled diaries with my thoughts about it.  I wrote it into stories.

This perseveration happens again and again with various issues in my life.  Years later, something will trigger a memory and I’ll start wondering again: How could I have done that?  How could they have said that?  How embarrassing!  How infuriating!

Being upset over a breakup may be long past because I don’t want those guys anymore and am happily married.  But I’ll still remember the nasty things a guy did or said.  One reason why I keep a record of my life is to get these thoughts on paper and–I hope–leave them there.

I try to limit how much I talk about something to keep from annoying people, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone from my mind.  Normally, it’s constantly present until my mind finally moves on to something else.  And apparently I still talk about things enough that my husband starts to talk about me “going around and around.”

…I have various little things I do which resemble OCD, which I’ve done since childhood, but they’re so subtle that I doubt anybody notices but myself.  They seem to increase when I’m going through anxious periods.

For example, sometimes I’ll feel my heel strike a crack in the sidewalk, and I don’t feel right until the opposite heel strikes a crack in the sidewalk as well.

I’ll stare at tiles and find patterns.  I’ll stare into space, or my eyes will cross, as a form of relaxation when visuals are getting a bit overwhelming.

If I’m folding laundry and a sock or towel hits my leg, oftentimes I won’t feel right until I hit one against the other leg as well.

It doesn’t always happen, but as I noted, seems to increase in times of anxiety.  For the past 6 months, while dealing with a very emotionally traumatic situation, I’ve been doing these things quite a bit [this part was probably written around February 2011].

I count letters in words, hoping for even numbers of letters as my eyes sweep back and forth over the word in various patterns.

I’ll do the same thing with letters or numbers or pictures, my eyes sweeping over an object back and forth an even number of times to form an even pattern.

A web video stuck on an endless loop (such as in avatars or page 3 of the below-linked forum discussion) can drive me crazy, as I start wanting to see it go through the loop a certain number of times before I turn it off.

Sometimes I will sit and stare, a kind of “rest,” or just let my eyes go unfocused (crossing them, apparently) because it’s restful.

Thoughts will circle in my head until they’re said in just the right way or I feel them in my throat the right number of times.  Certain phrases will go through my head again and again and again until they interfere with other thoughts and activities and seem about to drive me crazy.  (These are not “voices in my head,” but my own thought-voice.)

I also tend to chew the inside of my mouth, absent-mindedly.  It hasn’t caused major problems, though occasionally I bite myself.  ?

I’m not sure if NLD has traits like these, but Asperger’s does; a quick Google search on “mental stimming” brings up a forum discussion on this very thing.

Some of these things will go endlessly through my head so much that I barely notice it, or die down for a while, but start up again in periods of depression or anxiety or deep thought.

A blogger with Asperger’s describes stimming here, and one of his commenters described my thing with sidewalk cracks here.  Apparently people with normal brains stim too, so I don’t know what the difference is between “normal” and “Asperger’s” stimming.  Needs more research….If what I do is normal, then NLD is more likely, as it’s more mild than Asperger’s.


From Is it NVLD or Asperger’s?:

In keeping with autistic symptoms, children with Asperger’s Syndrome often become fixated on repetitive behaviors and compulsive organization in keeping their routines, as well as intense focus on discussing a particular topic repeatedly (a behavior known as perseveration).

The Relief of Being With Friends Who Do Not Abuse You

After the trauma of being bullied for more than two years for being shy and quiet, of being hounded for it–

treated as if I had nefarious motives–

punished by withholding me from my best friend–

screamed at via e-mail in vicious, foul language–

and even turned on and blamed for this abuse by my own best friend–

then ridiculed by them both for being traumatized by this and not wanting to see either of them again–

then intimidated by them by sending me a nasty message and stalking my blog after being banned from it for malicious behavior–

then intimidated into silence through threats if I dare to tell my priest what they’ve been doing–

It is a balm to my soul every time I am with my friends, every time I am with nice people.  At church, I’m accepted as I am.  I am an introvert, mixed in with elements of selective mutism and nonverbal learning disorder, so I sit quietly as others around me at church chat with each other; yet they still smile at me and accept me as I am.

When I am with friends, real friends, good friends, such as I was yesterday for July 4, they accept me as I am.  I sit there quietly most of the time, listening to the conversation, contributing if I have something to say on the subject, but mostly just listening.

This is the way introverts are; it’s the way our brains work; it’s the way we were born to be.  And my true friends accept this.

I was with a friend of 20 years yesterday; she and my husband spoke far more than she did with me, but it was all okay.  She’s an extrovert, but she knows I am this way, always have been, always will be.

There was a time when some extroverted friends tried to get me to talk more, even to strangers, but they were gentle about it, just made a couple of comments they saw as helpful, and now they just know it’s the way I am.

Years ago, at my last job before becoming a housewife, one of the secretaries made some snarky comment about my quietness to the other secretaries.  I didn’t hear it, but I certainly heard of it, as all the other secretaries were incensed with her for what she said about me, as they considered me a sweet person who didn’t deserve it.

So even though there might be the occasional person like Tracy, bullying me for being quiet, most of the adults I’ve known since leaving school, have been far nicer about it.

The emotional trauma of being bullied for so long and so viciously is still with me, still affecting me every day.  But every time I am with people at church or my real friends, it is a huge help.

It reminds me that not everyone is like Richard and Tracy, that most people I know are not like Richard and Tracy, that most people, period, are not like Richard and Tracy.

This reminder helps a little in drawing me a bit out of that shell that’s been around me ever since they emotionally eviscerated me for being shy and quiet.

Why Are Women So Mean to Each Other?
Female Bullying
The Medium is the Message
Bullying in the Female World
Cyberbullying: The New Female Terrorism

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.

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