Category: introverts

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!

 

On Women Getting Over Upsets

These videos (From “Tale of Two Brains” by Mark Gungor, DVD here) have been very helpful for my husband and me both in understanding why getting over Richard/Tracy has been so rough for me:

The Nothing Box

Men’s Brains vs. Women’s Brains

It seemed mostly obvious to me: Richard’s friendship meant a great deal to me, we did all sorts of things together, had many things in common, talked about everything, made connections.

So not only was it emotionally devastating, but every single thing in my life and in geek culture reminds me of him in some way, so I would get constant nudges pushing the pain onto me over and over every single day.

But as he explains it, Hubby put Richard into a “box” which he has buried deep in a warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant, never to be dug up again:

So he couldn’t understand why I didn’t just do the same.

Because he got over it so easily (despite wanting, every time he saw Richard at church or at the store, to go up to him and knock him out), I began to feel like there was something “wrong” with me for not being over it yet.

But the above videos explain how in a woman’s brain, everything is connected to everything else.  You can’t just categorize your life in boxes which do not touch each other.

Movies don’t just remind me of that movie, but of whomever I was with when I first watched it.  Games remind me of whom I played them with.  Cthulhu reminds me of Richard for reasons I won’t get into.  Everything about Orthodoxy, my chosen path, reminds me of Richard, because he was the one guiding me into it and helping with my questions.

And also, as explained in the above videos, when we are stressed, when we are emotional, we must talk about it, or we will explode.  Being told by male friends or family members not to talk about it, just drove me crazy because the feelings were still there, but couldn’t be released.  Hence, this blog.

Of course, there’s also the issue that introverts tend to have fewer friendships than extroverts, so we put more meaning into those friendships, and feel the loss much more than someone who has 20 other friends to fill the void one leaves.

Also the same for those of us who tend to have trouble finding dates, and can’t just find somebody else next weekend to mend the broken heart.

So on both counts, it was hard for me to get over broken hearts in college, just as it’s hard for me now to get over the loss of Richard’s friendship.  It tells me that this is perfectly normal for women and for introverts.

So those of you who are extroverts, or men, please be patient and lenient with us introverts and/or women.  We don’t mend our hearts the way you do, feel our losses very keenly, and can’t just put that bad experience into a box we never look into again.  It’s not a character failing or some mental issue; it is the way God made us.

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So is it selective mutism?  Or is it introversion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is nothing wrong with being shy….

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

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

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

Michael Jones explains things this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selective Mutism: a collection of information on SM

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

Is your child an introvert?

Selective mutism vs. shyness

Waiting (not so) patiently for my child to speak

Selective Mutism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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