introverts

Reblog: Introverts and NLD

See Socially Unaware’s post on introverts and NLD here:

Introverts and NLD

A quote:

I know that people with Nonverbal Learning Disorder are commonly introverts, but I never clued in to how closely NLD is actually linked with being an introvert until I read this article.

A lot of the socialization and behavioural attributes tend to coincide with each other so much that the line between the traits of an introverted personality and symptoms of NLD seem almost blurred.

 

More Evidence of NVLD….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Extroverts bullying introverts; also, Letting go of Richard because he could not accept me as an introvert

Occasionally, I’ll find a search term in my blog stats which interests me, and go look it up myself.  (These are the terms people type into search engines, which bring them to my blog.)  Tonight, such a search term led me to this page:

Me: Extrovert.  She: Introvert.  Can this relationship survive?  Should it?

The title is self-explanatory.  In reading the question and the responses from introverts, I recognized myself in the girlfriend and the other introverts.

The writer’s feelings about her introversion, reminded me of all those irritating comments I get from extroverts: Why don’t you talk?  You’re so quiet!  Smile!  And, of course, the “helpful” advice on how to change myself and be more outgoing.

Or criticisms that I’m “not lively enough,” that my quietness/shyness is a character flaw that I must work to overcome, or else I’m “in my shell” or being stubborn or not pushing myself enough.

Or the manager at work who treated my shyness as a discipline problem, saying that others were “afraid” to talk to me because I was quiet, directing me to push myself, make more small talk, etc.  (I felt vindicated later on when the president of the company complained that people were spending far too much time socializing and needed to talk about work during work hours.)

Then, of course, my favorite, Richard telling me one night that maybe my friends get tired of me not wanting to leave my “comfort zone,” even though he did not know my friends, never met my friends, never spoke to my friends, and had no reason to think this.

The comments in the AskMetaFilter article reminded me of the early days of my relationship with my husband:

When we were first dating, my extroverted husband would take me to SCA events, but then run off and do who knows what, without telling me where he was going or for how long.

I’d spend quite a bit of time either standing around alone, or with people I barely knew, and feeling miserable, or looking all over for him.  I felt abandoned, bored, awkward.

He’d want to go there early in the day and stay for hours; I got drained, overstimulated.  I began to hate SCA events; this is why I stopped going for a long time, thinking it was the SCA itself which did not appeal to me.

The same thing happened once at a wedding dinner: After we finished eating, he just got up and left.  He went to chat with friends, but didn’t say where he was going or invite me along.

So I sat there at the table, with a stranger, and neither of us spoke; I felt miserable, abandoned, bored.  It wasn’t about him chatting with friends, but about me feeling abandoned.

Over time we worked things out as he discovered how I felt to be left alone among strangers, that I enjoyed SCA events much more if I was with him, that I wanted to be sociable but could only stand an event for a few hours.

The comments reminded me of my ex Phil, who during/after the breakup accused me of being a “party pooper,” told me other people considered me one because I am quiet, shy, and (allegedly) did not want to go dancing with him (even though we went to several dances, and even though I didn’t recall him ever asking me to go to a club before the night I had a concussion).

He twisted it into a character flaw and a good reason to break up with me, because my ideas of fun were different from his!

It is so very reassuring to read through these comments, and through various other blogs and articles I’ve found about introversion over the past several years, and find that I’m okay the way I am.  That it is not at all a “character flaw” to be introverted/shy.

For a while I thought it was selective mutism, but when I read about selective mutism, it seems more like extroverts pathologizing the more extreme introverts, and trying to “fix” them because they must be “wrong” and “unhappy” the way they are.  I read that “selective mutism” is not generally caused by abuse, and that it can run in families.  So…Couldn’t it just be extreme introversion?

This comment put words to one main reason why I could not be forced into friendship with Tracy, into jumping her hoops to please her:

You seem to be unwilling to let her be her. If she’s not comfy around your friends after six months, bitching to MeFi won’t change that. And neither will confronting her about it.

Now she’ll sit there quietly thinking “these are the friends I have to be OK with” the entire time. Sounds miserable to me, I’d stop seeing your friends ASAP if you told me that. –Brian Puccio, Comment

I’ve written about this in various other posts, and here (20,000-word version) and here (summary + option to read full story), so I don’t want to rehash it all.

But the above AskMetaFilter link reassured me that my husband and I made the right decision when we ended the “friendship” with Richard and Tracy.  Because they were extroverts who:

  1. showed zero empathy to my introversion, so much so that even my husband noted it
  2. would not accept me as I was
  3. insisted I was “making excuses” and needed to “push myself”
  4. insisted on pushing, guilting and punishing me into becoming extroverted, even accused me of being a “victim” by not becoming extroverted–but when I said “STOP trying to change me” said “I’m not trying to change you” and got petulant and said I needed to get over my hurt feelings before talking to him again
  5. even went so far as to go into narcissistic rages with cussing and fury and punishments and blame and physical intimidation and threats because I could not become the extrovert Tracy wanted me to be–so everything I did, even though Tracy was okay with other friends doing them, I was not “supposed” to do, (even after I was specifically told that I could do them)
  6. accused me of “false facts” and called me crazy for writing about all these things and calling them bullies, even though there is nothing “false” or “defamatory” about the truth

Because of all these things, I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my husband and I did the right thing in severing all relations with them.  Not just romantic partners, but friends, especially best friends, need to accept you the way you are.  If they can’t, then they don’t belong in your life.

I read through the comments in the AskMetaFilter article, and recognize so much of what Richard and Tracy did, and the things I tried to explain to them, that I see that no, what I wrote is indeed what happened, nothing “false” about it.  Tracy tried to force me to change to be an extrovert to please her, I resisted because at my age I knew it was impossible, so she punished and bullied me in various overt and covert ways.

Commenters in the AskMetaFilter article suggested ways to steer the introvert into conversations rather than leaving them to fend for themselves; Richard basically left me to fend for myself, with plenty of criticisms but no actual help at the times when I was around Tracy, and trying to force and guilt me into things I did not feel comfortable with, such as hugging Tracy.

Because Richard went along with her instead of actually listening to me and realizing that introverts cannot “push themselves” into being extroverts, that we’re not “making excuses,” that our quiet and introverted behaviors are not character flaws or deliberate attempts to annoy Tracy, that we need to be accepted as we are–

–He was not a good friend at all.  I think the more I accept and realize that he was not a good friend, the more I will let go of the false dream of him as my “best” friend.

I contrast it with how my husband has responded to my explanations of the introverted brain and how social situations tax me.  It is a huge difference.

 

Guide to Understanding the Introverted

See Guide to Understanding the Introverted on LOLSnaps.

Some excerpts:

Introverted people…naturally find most interaction exhausting and need time to recharge.

The article describes how to pleasantly greet an introvert, without pressuring this person into talking–which will naturally draw them to you if they want company.

Don’t demand to have energy spent on you when it’s not particularly needed.  Don’t take silence as an insult–It isn’t!  Introverts get lonely, too.

Llamapower writes in the comments:

That attitude is exactly the problem. Introverts are not in need of ‘help.’ There’s nothing wrong with us; we’re just quiet.

Why do so many extroverts think it’s okay to patronize us and treat us like there’s something fundamentally wrong with us as human beings, that they have to bend down from yon lofty heights to rescue the poor, lost souls?

We don’t need to ‘come out of our shells.’ We need people like act like that to realize that different people do different things, and it’s okay.

I think many extroverts are uncomfortable with introverts because they can’t readily know what we’re thinking. After all, we’re not announcing it.

And it makes them so uncomfortable that they set out to put an end to it, without realizing that if they showed genuine interest in getting to know who we are, they’d find out. No pushy antics required.

We aren’t obligated to be anyone’s entertainment, either, so that whole “She didn’t come search me out in a crowded room to say hi, so she must be a snobby bitch” thing needs to stop.

Maybe we didn’t see you. Maybe we were in a hurry. Maybe you were already engaged in conversation and we were raised not to interrupt someone mid-sentence.

Maybe we were lost in thought somewhere and didn’t realize it was you until the moment had passed. Maybe you’re a total freaking stranger, so why would we say anything?

I guarantee, though, that an introvert’s silence is not an insult. It’s our natural state. Even if you say something completely stupid, and we don’t respond to it, we’re not insulting you. In that case, keeping our mouths shut is preventing us from doing so.

If we bother to say something, chances are, as in this case, you pushed the wrong button at the wrong time.

Lastly, we generally understand extroverts quite well, as we’re almost uniformly good listeners. I have obnoxious extrovert ‘friends.’

And I have many friends who are extroverted and still perfectly capable of respecting my limits. In exchange, instead of coming *out* of my shell, I let them *in*.

They are wonderful, caring people and endless fun, and have earned a loyal companion who will talk to them openly, share in the jokes, and hold their hand through the heartaches.

Those who are neurotic attention whores… well, they get what they want, too: the perfect sounding board who won’t cut short their uninterrupted vocal stream of consciousness and let them wax poetic about their many accomplishments and frustrations all. Day. Long.

A free therapist, and a free punching bag when they need to project their insecurities on someone. Finally, someone they can make a project out of, all the while condemning the very personality traits that allow them to thrive. At least, that’s how my day went today.

 

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