On April 29, 2010, I read in Annie’s Mailbox,
Dear Annie: I’m a 14-year-old girl, and in my group of friends, there is one girl who never talks. “Nicole” sits at our lunch table because she has nowhere else to go.
The problem is, when we don’t invite her to our outings, she starts to cry. We don’t like including her because she’s no fun. I don’t know what to do.
We’ve confronted her many times and suggested many solutions, but she always uses the excuse that she’s shy. I’m — Out of Ideas
This letter burned me up. It reminded me not just of growing up quiet, shy and introverted, but of being a quiet and shy adult, with people thinking all you have to do is talk more so why don’t you talk more?
The girl who wrote this letter was like so many girls I knew in school. I wanted to give support to that quiet girl, and tell the world what it’s really like to be like us introverts.
My Facebook was also full of old classmates who I don’t think were mean to me, but probably didn’t understand my quietness. So on May 4, 2010, I posted on my Facebook,
When I read the letter “Out of Ideas” the other day, 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
On June 25, I posted on Facebook (NVLD=NLD):
I found this on an NLD (non-verbal learning disorder) support forum. It was posted by a parent of an NLDer as an example of what you can give teachers to help them understand your child. I think it’s so awesome, that I’m reposting here.
Much of it sounds so familiar. I wish I could’ve had something like this when I was in school, but nobody ever heard of NLD back then, so I was just the “weird” one that everybody misunderstood.
Two teachers, especially, were very hard on me, and I could never understand why because I was doing the best I could.
Several years ago, I found papers from junior high that reminded me just how much trouble I had in school. I was supposedly smart, but my best efforts resulted in sometimes mean-spirited teacher comments scrawled all over my papers. Whatever the reason why I didn’t number my paper properly, oh French teacher, it certainly wasn’t to tick you off.
There’s another thing I could’ve added, because people in college kept saying I wasn’t assertive, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck they were talking about. The only thing I can think of, is that they mistook my rule-driven inner code of how to treat people nicely and properly, as a lack of assertiveness.
But here is the post, with name removed:
• *** is a bright student, but his slow processing speed means that, at times, he can become overloaded with new material, and appear not to be retaining it. We have yet to find anything that *** has not been able to learn given enough time and a supportive environment. He may take a little longer to grasp something, but once he learns it, he won’t forget!
• *** does not handle novel situations or material well. This manifests as an extreme reduction in his processing speed, and rigidity of thought that can appear to be “oppositional”. Since, by nature, much of what goes on in a teaching environment is the introduction of novel material, this can crop up again and again during the school year, not just at the beginning of the year. ***’s speed increases when material becomes more familiar.
• People with NLD often have problems with both judging time, and with visual/spatial tasks. Don’t be surprised if *** has trouble getting to the right class at the right time for the first few weeks of school. Please be patient with him, this will improve!
• *** is EXTREMELY literal, honest and rule driven. Sometimes things that are said in a joking manner are taken very seriously by him. Try to avoid saying things in jest that you don’t really mean. He often doesn’t “get” sarcasm and often will miss double meanings.
• Please watch for other students taking advantage of him, because he often does not realize it himself. Even if he does, he often doesn’t know how to deal with it. This has become a particular problem since he has become more interested in the “social scene” in the last 6 months.
• If something *** says appears to be a “wise crack” type response, think carefully about his response. Often you will find that it is simply a too-honest literal reply to the question asked. Other times, he may copy something he heard elsewhere, but doesn’t understand that it is inappropriate. We’ve found that if he is told that the response is inappropriate, and is given a better alternative, is he usually quick to comply.
• If *** is being argumentative, it may be that something in the conversation has been misinterpreted. Most arguments with him stem from a basic miscommunication, but he will sometimes become really rigid and “stuck”. In these cases, it’s usually best to just disengage and approach the subject a different way at a later time. If necessary, call in someone who knows him well and whom he trusts to talk through the problem.
• Assignments that include the wording “Choose your favorite” or “What do you like least” will almost always result in *** becoming stuck. Try to word things as “Choose something you liked” or “Name one thing you didn’t like”
• *** is a very hard worker, and avoidance behaviors are a sign that something is very, very difficult for him. He is rarely able to verbalize or even identify what these difficulties are, and we adults have to work together to figure it out for him.
• Many times, even with us, the misunderstanding at the root of a problem with *** is only clear in hindsight. Flexibility and humor are the best tools in dealing with these misunderstandings.
PLEASE feel free to call us any time you feel that you are having trouble.
But now, after all the things I confided in Richard over the years, all my trust in him with my innermost thoughts–
After I posted the above Facebook post, that evening he sent me e-mails talking about the NVLD suspicion as if it were somehow making me a “victim.” (Do you accuse a blind person of playing the victim because they can’t see?)
He said he always had wanted to “strangle” me for still believing in it.
Apparently I should’ve bowed to his superior knowledge and wisdom back in 2007 when he laughed it off, because after some phone conversations, of course he knew far better than I did if I had struggled all my life with undiagnosed NVLD.
And apparently shaking it off would somehow make me more talkative so Tracy would be pleased.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as I was quiet long before I even heard of NVLD/NLD or Asperger’s.
Rather, discovering NLD in 2000 has meant discovering that I’m not a freak after all, that there are reasons why I have trouble driving, or crossing a busy street, or dealing with an automatic car wash, or talking to people, or knowing instinctively how to handle myself in new social situations like other people seem to do.
It explained why my college “friend” Shawn had so many criticisms of me that didn’t seem to fit or make sense.
It’s empowering to discover that you are not stupid because you don’t understand volleyball.
Discarding the NLD as a possibility would mean taking back on that lead cape of feeling like a stupid idiot and freak because of the problems I had dealing with life.
But apparently I was supposed to abandon all the research I had done into NVLD since 2000–
–obsessive research involving probably hundreds of hours, printed-up websites, books, surveys, and spending time on NVLD forums discovering my stories are like those of so many others with NVLD–
–because Richard said it was wrong. Or else he would want to “strangle” me. Such violent wording because I preferred to make up my own mind instead of listening to an arrogant know-it-all.
But for Richard to talk as if I were being a “victim” made me think back over all the things I’d ever confided in him, and wonder my gosh, what the heck did he actually think of me for these things?
I felt like he was judging me for not being an outgoing extrovert like him. I felt like I couldn’t trust him anymore.
Why did he think I didn’t have NVLD and say he wanted to strangle me for continuing to think it and I was making myself a victim?
Because he read in a textbook that it was the same as Asperger’s and he didn’t see any autistic traits in me.
Um, no, while some do think it’s the same thing, there are many differences between Asperger’s and NVLD–autistic traits being one of the major ones. NVLD is not the same as autism, is closer to Asperger’s than to High-Functioning Autism, and whether even Asperger’s is autistic, is debated:
It is a common mis-belief that individuals with AS are autistic–they are not. AS is a separate disorder and NOT just a form of higher functioning autism (as you will often hear). The deficit in social relationships in AS differ significantly from autism, as does the basis of the language disorder.
You can have both at the same time, with the Asperger’s diagnosis trumping the NLD diagnosis. But if you have NLD traits and don’t fit Asperger’s, you’re NLD. (An informative discussion on this very controversy is here.)
Here is an article by a director of neuropsychology which explains the many differences between NVLD and Asperger’s. Also, from Byron Rourke:
Final Note. Many students of AS and NLD seem to think that they are one and the same. Of course, they are not. Reflections on the relevant sections above and the NLD and Neurological Disease section will show this assertion of identity to be absurd.
So Richard’s claim that he would not diagnose me NVLD because I don’t have autistic traits, was based on a faulty premise.
And I know far better than Richard does what goes on in my head and how difficult social situations actually are, even more so than for a typical introvert.
I felt incessantly badgered by him over the past two years about this, badgered for being shy, badgered for not having the social skills he had, badgered for not thinking the same way he did on this and many other things.
Rather than assume my social problems were well-meant errors, Tracy would assume they were done on purpose to hurt her.
Then Richard would scold and, as the one who knew “better” about socializing, lecture me, and say how could I not know these things when even children knew this? This, by the way, is not the way to get an NLDer to behave the way you think is more socially acceptable.
In fact, the more I learn about NLD, add things to my NVLD page, and participate in NLD support forums, the more convinced I am that I have correctly identified this in myself: a mild or moderate form, but still there nonetheless.
The more I learn about NLD, the more I see things that could have contributed to my difficulties with understanding Tracy and her mysterious, always-changing rules:
- Were there things I would’ve been able to figure out if I were better able to generalize?
- Was it the fact that I only considered those things restricted that Richard actually told me were restricted, and didn’t apply it to other things as well?
Or was she crazy-making as an abusive person often does, so that even a neurotypical person would have had trouble with her?
It’s impossible for me to tell, to be honest, because I can see either possibility, especially since I’m not the only person she’s had problems with, or the only person whose friendship with Richard has been ended because of difficulties with her–and they can’t all have NLD.
But I did inform Richard of the NLD, so I did my part in helping them understand me.
(Jeff was told that it would actually be dangerous to mention a learning disability to Tracy because her mother had blamed her own abuses on something she had. So even though I never abused Tracy, I never mentioned the NLD to her. But she apparently found out about it somehow, since she ripped on me for it on 7/1/10. But I did tell Richard what I needed from Tracy to open up.)
If they had taken my concerns seriously, my identifying it as NLD, and my requests for how to deal with it properly, this whole situation could have had a very different outcome.
Also, whether my quietness was due to selective mutism or NVLD or Aspergers–
–or if it’s just that so many extroverts told me over the years that I’m behaving badly by being myself, and made me feel like a freak for being quiet, when it was actually just natural introversion–
–I was not being a “victim” just because I don’t behave the same way as extroverts in social situations.
Scientific studies (easily found through Google) have shown that introverted brains actually differ from extroverted brains.
We don’t speak so much because we have to think before we speak, while extroverts speak to find out what they’re thinking.
We need to listen to what’s being said, then go through our long-term memories for knowledge and experience about the topic. By the time we’ve done this, the extroverts have changed the topic.
We despise small talk because it’s empty and meaningless and our brain doesn’t start giving us things to say. If the conversation is in-depth and interesting, then we attend and can speak just as much as anybody else.
So extroverts telling us to “try harder” is actually a form of bullying, because “trying harder” will make no difference whatsoever.
It is impossible to change an introvert into an extrovert, because it’s a fundamental part of who we are, just as much as gender, and cannot be changed, in fact will cause all sorts of frustration to try to change.
We need to accept ourselves as introverts, and extroverts need to accept us as introverts and stop getting upset with us for not being like them!
The world needs both our “kinds,” because extroverts are the doers and introverts are the thinkers.
Everything I read on scientific studies into introversion tells me that my behavior was perfectly normal for an introvert, and that Richard and Tracy trying to force me into extroverted behavior to please Tracy, was a very bad idea, doomed to failure–and without me having to be “stubborn” or “hating” Tracy.
I was truly tired of being scolded or lectured for not measuring up.
I got too much of that from Shawn, that college “friend” who criticized everything about me,
lectured me on how I should be more social/talk more/talk to strangers,
took away the measure of self-confidence I had gained at college from my friends,
and made me feel like a social freak who didn’t dress right or act right or do her hair right or wear makeup.
He apparently saw me as freakish because I didn’t act like a goofy college kid, like I wasn’t worth being his girlfriend because of this.
Then my ex Phil’s friend Dirk talked to me in a similar fashion later on, telling me I’d end up an old maid because I didn’t do the things other girls did “instinctively.”
In my adult life, I got sick of people giving me social advice I had not asked for, such as one person who cornered me and said I should be more “lively,” the random people who said “Smile!” when I did not feel like it, and the constant “you’re so quiet!” remark rather than trying to draw me into the conversation.
I got so sick of it that I wrote an essay about it for the SCA, which was published in a newsletter.
Now here I was getting more of it from Richard, who wondered why I got mad at him for it, and being treated like a creep by Tracy because I wasn’t the kind of person they were used to dealing with in their former social circles back in their old region.
Richard told Jeff that I asked him how to be more social. But I never did, and can tell you this is nothing I ever would’ve done, not after how frustrated and annoyed I had been over the past 20 years at all the people telling me how to be more social!
“Mutism not only hijacks our words but also our ability to think. To use the ‘needle on the record’ analogy, the needle gets stuck on the same unpleasant lyric, and we can’t shake it free to move on to the next line.” —Aspergirls by Rudy Simone
Above all, “we hate people telling us how we can be more extraverted, as if that’s the desired state,” says Beth Buelow, a life and leadership coach for introverts. Many introverts are happy with the way they are. And if you’re not, that’s your problem. –Laurie Helgoe Ph.D., Revenge of the Introvert
Do you ever wish you were an extrovert?
Not really. That may be because my “faking it” skills are pretty good.
But I do think a lot of us are tired of being told that there’s something wrong with us–of this lazy assumption that if you’re not an extrovert, there’s something wrong with you.
I think my article may speak to people in part because of its defiant message. It says, “No, I don’t wish to be an extrovert. Not everyone has to be one. And why don’t you people get it?” –page on Introversion
Richard acted like he knew better than I did what was going on in my head. He became very short and cutting with me, when he used to be kind.
This was the weekend; I was going to go to a water park at the local fairgrounds with Jeff and my son, but Richard’s e-mails made me so upset that it affected me physically, so I couldn’t go.
They made me feel I had put my trust in the wrong person.
After all the private things I confided in him, all the trust and love and concern I had shown toward him over the years, I now regretted ever telling him anything about myself at all!
I wondered if the many things I confided in him, hoping he would understand me better, had instead made him think I was a freak.
I lost my trust in him. I no longer felt he had my best interests at heart. I had no idea who else to turn to, but it sure didn’t seem like I could turn to him anymore.
In fact, when I ponder these things, and see more evidence that his other BFF Chris, while a nice guy, is clinically paranoid–I realize:
At first Richard idealized me, called me the most awesome person he knew, and made me feel like his BFF, and like he wanted to spend time with me more than with any of his other friends.
But now Chris seemed to have taken over that role, and I couldn’t help a twinge of jealousy that Richard never seemed to have time for me, but had plenty of time for Chris.
So he valued the guy with the crazy paranoid political rantings more than he did me, the sane one who helped him out financially and emotionally during very difficult times.
And he was married to someone showing all the signs of Borderline, Narcissistic or some other personality disorder.
And his longtime ex also showed signs of BPD.
So–okay–apparently Richard prefers the company of personality disordered people.
And then he and/or Tracy calls me crazy–yeah, that’s so ironic and ludicrous as to be hilarious.
Yet he kept criticizing everything about me, practically accusing me of stalking all my friends because I like to keep all my e-mails and letters to and from them, treating me like I was somehow clingy because I wanted him to have enough consideration of me to either keep to his appointments with me, or let me know right away when he couldn’t.
He felt my nutritional choices were open to his critique.
He treated me like a prude for not wanting to go around nude in my house, or for not wearing my nightgown around him without a robe.
He called me a prude because I don’t like sex-soaked TV shows like Sex and the City, or gory movies like zombie movies or Alien. He even made it somehow personally offensive and inconvenient for him, because if he wanted to show me an exceptionally good movie like that, he couldn’t. (So? Show me something else, then!)
He talked like Jeff and I were prudes for our lack of sexual experience before each other, compared to his own extensive experience.
In the beginning he love-bombed me and treated me like I was wonderful, but now he kept criticizing me for things that were none of his friggin’ business.
One of his friends is a creep, but when this friend sexually harasses me, Richard makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me for being upset about it and considering this guy a creep.
I find conspiracy theories about government wanting to control us, to be a bunch of paranoid crap, so I’m the sheeple, the one who doesn’t care about personal liberties, who isn’t worth talking to about politics. Okay….Sounds like the lunatics running the asylum.
Same thing with Tracy, who in her own way–considering how she accused people of insulting her, lacking respect for her, and needing to grow up, while she herself was doing the insulting and raging, lacked respect for them, and needed to grow up–is the lunatic running the asylum.
Shows me just how much stock I should put in the opinions and criticisms of both Richard and Tracy.
As I described here and here, I was a lonely person who thought I finally found the Frodo for my Sam. We had bonded; we were a mutual admiration society; he was my brother, my friend, my BFF.
I loved him with pure philia and agape.
I trusted him with my deepest, darkest secrets, saw him as my spiritual mentor, leading me into Orthodoxy and helping me all along the way.
I saw him as the most awesome person I knew, and he once said the same to me. I saw him as pious and loving.
We’d been close friends for five years; he was interesting; my life seemed more exciting with him in it.
When I wondered around April 1 if he was really still my friend or not, he reassured me that he loved me like a sister, and often wanted to come visit me–but kept falling asleep instead.
it began to dawn on me…
IT WAS ALL A LIE!
Table of Contents
2. We share a house
3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me
4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children
5. My frustrations mount
6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends
7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build
8. The Incident
9. The fallout; a second chance?
11. Struggle to regain normalcy
12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other
13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary
14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges
Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing