Sometimes I have to cut out advice columnists for a while, just as in the 90s I had to cut out talk shows (such as Montel), because they can be triggering. (I had bad experiences in college which these talk shows occasionally reminded me of.)
However, this is almost impossible because my newspaper runs an advice column, and you can’t help but read it with the comics. Because the advice column often has bad advice, I feel forced to go elsewhere–usually Carolyn Hax–for some sanity again.
So until newspapers stop running these things, or I stop reading newspapers, I guess I’ll keep getting triggered now and then. Just as bullies and abusers in my life tried to tell me I deserved their abuse, I’ll read what seems to say, “You deserved to be abused!”
This is why I had to drop a forum back in 2008, because people who knew nothing about the situation made it sound like I deserved to be bullied and abused.
I’ll read somebody else’s letter in an advice column and the responses, and it feels like over again, somebody is telling me, “You deserved to be abused!” Even though it’s somebody else, and usually the situation is very different, I get shaky and distressed, like it’s all happening to me all over again.
With NVLD (nonverbal learning disorder), which is sort of like Asperger’s (though not the same thing), I just don’t understand people.
I read the letter writer’s complaint at face value. When she said it was “perfectly natural” to discuss work with a co-worker, I thought, yes, of course it is.
I could agree with her that the girlfriend seems possessive and insecure to get all upset over work conversations between her boyfriend and the letter writer.
So when Carolyn and even the many commenters, on Facebook and on the Washington Post page, started ripping into the letter writer, I was shocked.
I just plain don’t get it. I get excluded from conversations ALL THE TIME.
Nobody does it on purpose; it’s just that I’m an introvert with NVLD, and most people are extroverts without NVLD. So they’ll be going on and on about something I don’t know a thing about, or that bores me, or somebody else makes my comment before I have a chance to.
I don’t whine about it; I only notice because often somebody turns to me and says, “You’re so quiet!” That annoys me. If you want to include me in the conversation, ask me a question; don’t criticize me and make me feel like a freak.
It happens in cars, just like with the letter writer and her two friends. The other two will be in the front seats and I’ll be in the back, which automatically excludes you from conversation.
They’ll chatter on and on and I can barely hear them; if I can hear them, either I have nothing to contribute, or nobody hears me when I do.
Richard and Tracy used to do this all the time, too, when they’d drive me someplace, and they’d be up front talking on and on about their right-wing politics or some other thing, and I’d be quiet in the back seat.
Or we’d be in my house or their house, and they’d start going on about things I wasn’t interested in, or politics I did not agree with, or people I didn’t know, or make comments I found appalling, so I’d just sit quietly and wait for the conversation to change.
(Which is why her complaints of feeling “snubbed” have always baffled me. Nobody was snubbing anybody, and if it’s “snubbing” to talk about things she doesn’t know about, then she “snubbed” me all the time.
(It was just the normal, natural progression of conversation, and if, when other people were around, I got a chance to talk to Richard about something I actually knew about and was interested in, it was so rare and wonderful that I was darn well going to take it. Everybody else did it to me all the time in their house; it was my turn, dang it.
(This is also why I preferred one-on-one conversations with him, because we had a rapport and interests that could keep us talking for hours, which is highly unusual for me except with a few people.
(Because it is so unusual for me, I see it as a rare treat, a delicacy, the caviar of friendships and social interaction. While extroverts apparently see it as Tuesday.
(But unfortunately, Tracy had such strict control that it was hard to see him without her, except on occasion, so when we got together, I wanted some of that rapport again for 10 or 20 minutes. The rest of the time, we usually all socialized together, playing a game or something.)
But back to the main point. It happens when more than two people are sitting at a table and the others inevitably steer the conversation toward subjects I cannot contribute to, or maybe I could but I can’t get a word in edgewise before the topic changes.
Or they talk about something I have no interest in, or about people they know but I don’t.
That’s why I prefer one-to-one conversations, because I can finally get a word in edgewise and talk about things I can contribute to, by helping to steer the conversation, instead of other people doing it.
Or sometimes I prefer the larger conversations because I don’t know what to say, and this takes the pressure off me to contribute.
Especially if I make a friend who I can actually talk to easily, I like the chance to just sit and chat with this person.
Introverts are like this: We don’t do well in group conversations, and just end up watching and listening. But one-to-one, we can do a lot better. Well, can. I don’t always. Often with one person, I still just sit there not knowing what to say.
But sometimes “magic” happens that I can’t explain, and I can chat easily with this person, probably because of similar interests and temperaments.
As for getting excluded–I get excluded when sitting at a meal with a group of people. Happened all through school. My college friends would go on and on every day about choir or their sorority, neither of which I was in.
Happened in the SCA, especially if they went on and on about something like sewing or SCA stuff (I was a newbie) or some bit of medieval knowledge that I know nothing about.
Happens every time I go to a social event and people chatter about things I don’t know about.
Happens at church every week, especially since I go to a Greek church and the people my age often talk in Greek with their relatives and older friends. If I go to the English-speaking table, they’re mostly 30 or 40 years older than me and I can’t relate to the conversation.
And you know what? That’s just frickin’ LIFE.
I know people don’t do it on purpose. You just frickin’ deal with it and don’t tell people what they can or can’t talk about, unless it’s something harmful, like making fun of someone or bringing up topics that are painful to you. That’s being controlling and self-centered.
(Heck, the one time I asked Richard not to talk around me about some guys who sexually harassed me, he said no.)
I think that people generally expect you to fend for yourself in conversations. If you don’t, you just sort of disappear.
The only thing that annoys me is when people turn to me and complain that I’m so QUIET.
So I’m baffled by the Carolyn Hax column, why people have so jumped on the letter writer and accused her of all sorts of horrible things for doing the SAME THING THAT ALL THOSE PEOPLE WOULD DO TO ME WITHOUT THOUGHT IF WE WERE ALL SITTING AROUND A TABLE TOGETHER.
I just don’t understand people. This is why I “hermit” so easily. Why I “hermited” so much as a kid, but actually enjoyed going up into my bedroom when the house was full of relatives, or being alone all day at home during summer break.
Because people don’t make sense to me. Oftentimes I had/have to deal with bullies, too.
Just when I think I have people figured out, they confuse me again. Cats are easy: Pet them and give them a warm lap, and they’ll be devoted to you for life.
The researchers found that the brains of children with nonverbal learning disability responded differently to the social interactions than the brains of children with high functioning autism, or HFA, suggesting the neural pathways that underlie those behaviors may be different. —New light shed on learning disorders
Going through the comments some more, I am greatly relieved to see at least two people who DO get it and don’t understand why the letter writer is being vilified. They are introverts and social misfits to whom exclusion in conversation is perfectly normal and just something you tolerate.
One extrovert scolded that they may not want to participate in the conversation, but extroverts do, so it hurts them.
Er…Excuse me, introverts WANT to participate, same as extroverts. We just get naturally shut out, which is frustrating.
But we do not rage about this or treat them as if they did it deliberately, because everybody does this to us. Our circles are small enough without chasing away all the extroverts we know.
One introvert, justaguy22, even sees the girlfriend as possibly abusive, possibly trying to control her boyfriend’s friendships and conversations, especially if she won’t let her BF see the LW without her, where they could talk shop! That’s how I might see it, too–especially if the boyfriend uses the “we must pacify her” tone.
In my case, I got a lot of “Tracy’s jealous,” “She screams at the kids,” “She has to approve my friends,” “She’s emotionally abusive to me,” so seeing her reaction as controlling and possessive came from that.
I saw it myself when we were roommates for six weeks, and saw her become very hostile toward me as well, just out of nowhere. I had no clue why.
And I was given a whole litany of things I did “wrong” around her that I could not even remember.
I said I needed help, such as her using words so I’d know when she wanted to converse with me, because I could not recognize it.
But no changes or help came from their side to help me change on my side, so I was continuously in the dark. She continued to be displeased with my behavior, but without telling me at the time what I had done, so I had no clue.
I did not monopolize the conversation when she was in the room, mostly letting them carry it; if he and I sat next to each other, I might chat with him for a while, but usually my husband was there for her to talk to, or she was on the computer or doing some other thing.
She did not start conversations with me. She did not even try with me, but instead expected me to come up with conversation when I have trouble with this in the best of social situations.
Most of the time there was something else going on in the room, or she was talking to everyone or to somebody else or screaming at a kid, so I didn’t see it as a time for starting conversation with her.
She criticized everything I did. She refused to accept that I was a shy, quiet introvert with probable NVLD, who had always been that way and always would be, that making conversation with her–especially with someone who bullied me and whom I had maybe just witnessed verbally abusing her husband, kids or somebody else–was practically impossible for me until she stopped the abuse and accepted me for who I was.
Feeling pressured actually closes my throat and cuts off my thoughts.
Even then, I needed to be accepted as a quiet person who will not say much most of the time, even among my best friends.
I tried to explain all of this to Richard, hoping that he would explain it to her and they would help make it easier for me to relax around her. But nothing ever changed, while I got blamed for everything and continuously punished for not being extroverted.
Also, after we broke things off with her, I had symptoms similar to PTSD. As I wrote in one of my webpages on the situation, I was afraid to make new friends, constantly felt on-edge, like people were judging me harshly for being quiet.
It was always a huge relief to be among people who did not even mention my quietness, did not call me horrible for it, did not keep their husbands from being friends with me for it.
Reading this column was like, after all that, people were saying to me, “You deserved the abuse! You deserved PTSD! You deserve to be lonely and sad!”
I don’t know, maybe it’s just that the Carolyn Hax column is an entirely different situation from mine, and far simpler than what I dealt with, so the letter writer’s actions get a different response from the public.
I know that my husband–who is allowed to disagree with me and give the other person’s side–saw Tracy as controlling, too.
Maybe this letter writer is monopolizing the conversation, while I generally sit quiet in a corner.
I’m not sure it’s so hard to talk about something other than work, but maybe it’s the only thing she can think of at the time. We don’t really know from one letter what all’s going on, and every letter that gets written to an advice column can get completely misinterpreted.
It happens, as we discover when somebody writes in with the “rest of the story,” whether from the original writer or from somebody else.
I believe I will now edit the full story of Richard/Tracy some more. Apparently readers need to be more educated on introversion and NVLD, and told up front that I did try to do what I could to not “snub” her but I’m a timid person who was very intimidated by her aggressive manner.
Otherwise, people will just assume you are well-versed in social rules, an extrovert, can read subtle cues, etc. etc., and judge you unfairly.
One of the commenters on the advice column, who is used to being around geeks, complained about this, because of how people remarked on the letter writer.
Someone may have suggested Asperger’s; if she honestly cannot think of anything else to talk about, that is a possibility. Aspies can easily fall into talking about their obsession even when you’ve already told them not to, but it’s not meant to hurt you.
Maybe I should incorporate this post into the introduction. This is what people all over are dealing with in social situations, not just me. All we ask for is understanding instead of vilification and writing us off.
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:
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 SCAevents, 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.
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:
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–
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Others may not understand but it’s all quite simple, really. My struggle to let go is because a huge part of me does not want to.
I have no trouble letting go of Tracy; if it were just about her, I would no longer struggle with anything. I have long since processed what she did, seen that her behavior was not my fault and nothing I deserved, and that it’s all her problem and not mine.
I am so happy to have her out of my life that if it were just about her, I’d have been feeling free and happy for the past couple of years.
Seeing her try to get into it again with another nasty e-mail and nasty behavior and trying to intimidate and stalk me–well, I expect that out of her, and it only confirms my decision was correct.
I could never be friends with someone who thinks behavior like hers is somehow okay and justified, who deliberately hurts people.
Such behavior–ripping someone apart and then laughing at their pain or if misfortune befalls them–is disgusting and reminds me of the mean girls and other bullies from elementary/middle school. And yes, it’s just as mature as elementary school.
My part is to have nothing to do with her and treat her like a tax collector and heathen. Because even after getting a full account from me of what she had done to me, how she made me feel, and the truth of what had happened and what had been happening, she laughed, and demonstrated a clear lack of regard for the truth or my feelings, or for anything but destroying me.
This is, in fact, exactly how “Edna” on a now-defunct blog claims to have been treated by an abuser:
A few days later, we were summoned to a meeting with B** where I was chastised very harshly and talked to as if all of his assumptions/assessments were right.
When I tried to speak up to let him know what had transpired, I was quickly hushed and told not to speak. He instead spoke AT me, and told ME what had “happened” and what HE supposed out of all of it.
To him, what he was saying was fact and therefore, I needed to listen and just agree that he was right in his assumptions. I was not allowed to share anything regarding the matter.
I have never, ever been treated this way by a secular boss, let alone a Pastor. I just sat there and cried, as my husband squeezed my leg to let me know to be quiet. That was hard.
So, I just sat there and and listened to his version of how he believed the situation had occurred, what he believed the motives were, and it was like B** was the Judge and Jury: case closed. At the end, I was told to drop it and never bring it up again.
Tracy threatened, intimidated, verbally abused yet again, and began to stalk me. That proved her to have no interest in anything but hurting me deliberately, something which she had already done many times to me. So I have no interest in having her around.
God (or karma, if you prefer) will deal with her.
Amazing how such people will treat you in such a fashion, then threaten you away from telling about it. That shows they do realize their behavior is wrong, and don’t want anyone else to know what they’ve done.
Not only did she try to threaten me into silence several months ago, but she tried to threaten me into silence two years ago as well, telling me not to tell my husband about all the nasty things she had been saying and doing to me that morning.
Then she switched into “reasonable, mature mode” (just as she did with Todd when she ripped into him then told the rest of the forum her version of what was going on), and used that to write an e-mail to my husband.
Obviously she wanted to get to him first. Same as she apparently wanted to get to my priest before I did. That’s a way to make everyone else think the victim is the crazy one. Smearing you to others and threatening you if you tell, is called isolating your victim, and is a common abuse tactic.
There’s also the question of, if you think your victim’s pain is so funny, then why do you feel the need to threaten your victim into silence?
I witnessed her smearing all the time: Richard would tell me things she was telling him about me, or I overheard things she told her mother on the phone about me, things that were lies, exaggerations or cuts on my character.
These smears drove a wedge between Richard and me, and I’m sure it was on purpose; meanwhile, I was forced to be friends with her even though I saw all this going on. I saw her smear Todd, telling everyone on the game forum lies which I could document and trace, because I had it all printed out.
Then there is what she posted on Facebook right after she sent me those vicious e-mails, about how she was having a GREAT day because she finally was allowed to tell somebody things she’s wanted to tell her for a long time–even though her accusations of me were all false.
I know she smeared me to her friend “Chia,” the flying monkey she sent several months ago to spy on my Facebook, because Chia had something in her profile about standing up for her friends when they’re attacked.
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she also smeared me to my priest that same day, when I saw them up there talking with him for quite some time. Probably telling him I was a liar, crazy, and who knows what else.
Tracy even falsely accused me yet again, not just in the many e-mails she sent me between 7/1 and 8/4/10 which severely distorted the truth and did not allow me to protest, but in the e-mail she sent me several months ago.
It falsely accused me of threats I never made, and then threatened to smear me as high as the court system if I did not give in to her demands not to tell my story! A “Christian” threatening another Christian with a lawsuit for telling how she’s been abused! (See Now I’m Being Stalked for the e-mail and a fuller explanation.)
Because her tactics are so obvious and juvenile, at this point she’s become nothing more than a fly buzzing around the house: just wave it off on occasion.
She can’t touch me, can’t harm me. I have strengthened my will and my self-esteem, strengthened myself against her, put up a wall against her attacks, so that it no longer bugs me to see them reading my blog, so that she can no longer scare me. She has no more power over me, no control over my healing. She cannot and does not define me.
She has no business telling me my “faults” until she stops blaming others for her own temper tantrums. Everything she accused me of, was false. Every criticism she made of me, was false. I am not that person she tried to convince Richard I was.
She tried to break my will, but it did not work. She’s welcome to come here and learn about her abusive behaviors, so she can abandon them. She’s also welcome to close her eyes to the truth and ignore my blog–and me–completely. As long as she keeps coming here, I will keep holding her accountable for the damage she has done.
Though my husband and I are both very puzzled why they’re so interested, why they don’t just shrug their shoulders and leave it alone. They do realize that this counts as contacting me, right?
I’m not contacting them; I do not go to their church or church functions; I do not try to find out what they’re saying on the Net; I avoid online games or IRC chat rooms where they could be; I did not tell them the blog posts were there; but they’re contacting me, repeatedly, by checking my blog all the time.
Okay, they know my version of events and how I feel about them; what else is there for them to look at? I’ve already stated that I have no interest in using real names here. Maybe they enjoy reading my rambles, then. Wouldn’t they soon tire of poking me, since they know I know they’re reading?
What kind of sick game is this, anyway? Do they get off on the attention, even negative? Are they trying to annoy me? They do realize I took off all the IP blockers and it’s no challenge, right? Is Richard using me as the subject of a psychology thesis?
It’s actually kind of funny because they were never so interested in my point of view about this before…. Could he, by any small, far-off chance, be actually, finally trying to understand my point of view?
So hey, give the readers what they want! Please my fans! It increases my blog hits!
Musings on NVLD/Asperger’s
At this point, these blogs are mostly a combination of catharsis and a ministry to others in my situation. And it’s also a combination of Asperger and introvert traits:
Part of it is our long, detailed memories of events and conversations. They also have certain favorite subjects which they can learn and talk about incessantly, and keep diving into, or perseveration.
Aspies are analytical; I need to analyze it from every angle, just as I do with NVLD, Asperger’s, Orthodoxy, previous abusive relationships, or whatever else is my current special/obsessive interest.
And those interests change, sometimes returning later, sometimes not. I used to be obsessively interested in Goth for at least four years, for example, but that’s died down since I had a child and couldn’t fit into the clothes anymore.
Over the past 10 years, I have repeatedly, and still repeatedly, analyze whether or not I have NVLD at some times, Asperger’s at others (since I have no resources for an official diagnosis).
I analyzed Orthodoxy for a year before I started going to an Orthodox church, filling a box with Web printouts on the subject (yes, I read them all), and continued analyzing it for two and a half more years before finally making a decision whether to be chrismated Orthodox.
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.
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.
There is some truth to the phrase “this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you”. When an Aspie is stirred to the point of outburst and/or meltdown, they can temporarily lose control.
When this happens, invariably something is broken, or something best left unsaid is said. At worst, someone may get hurt or a friendship may be damaged.
The aspie will agonize over this for a long period, often years after the event. The event does not have to be particularly nasty or even large to warrant long term Aspie guilt.
often, I will continue to blame myself for conflicts which others, particularly the victims or aggressors, have long forgotten. It is quite a surprise to me that they no longer think about the event however it still usually isn’t enough to make me lose the guilt.
Carrying an ever increasing amount of guilt around constantly is a fast road to depression.
Heck, ten years after the breakup with Peter back in college, I was still mulling over his behavior vs. my behavior, who was right, who was wrong, did I do anything wrong, etc. etc. Still talking about it at times with the Hubby.
Then I finished my college memoirs, and–started making edits to them as I kept mulling things over more. I still go back from time to time.
And not just with Peter, but also with Shawn and with the biggest abusive relationship I was ever in (before Tracy came along, that is), Phil.
Years later, I still revisit those issues on occasion. I will read about abuse in magazines or on the Web. I will edit my memoirs, which basically means I’ll put something in or take something out of the public version, or make a new observation in the private one.
I’ll make a comment about Phil on a forum in a thread about abuse or spiritual marriages. I used to tell Richard about Phil, so he’d know where I came from.
I’ve long since healed from these situations, but because they were so major in my life, I want to write about them. They go into my fiction as well, in various disguised forms, as all writers do with their experiences.
Though I’m not sure how to fictionalize this experience, because it seems like whatever I could do with it, I’ve already done in previous stories. Maybe I’ll just let it stand as this nonfiction version.
The more I learn about abuse, the more I reflect on my past experiences, and realize what was going on. Now, I’m looking back and wondering if Peter or Shawn were narcissists; maybe, maybe not, but Phil was one for sure.
Extroverts and non-Aspies may not understand, but this is just the way my brain works. I don’t want to change this about myself, either, for several reasons:
It’s the way I am, the way I’ve always been, something about my brain chemistry.
It allows me to continuously reflect on my own behavior and make improvements, while also learning how to recognize abusers sooner. Because of this, I recognized Tracy’s abusive behaviors right away; I only kept interacting with her because Richard kept forcing me to. If allowed to follow my own inclinations, I would have severely limited my interactions with her, long before she caused me so much harm.
It allows me to connect with and give validation and comfort to others who have been abused.
It gives me good material for my fiction, makes it more authentic.
It keeps me from sinking into that nostalgia that causes others to reconnect with old boyfriends and then have affairs with them. No, I do NOT want these guys back as more than friends, even when I do find them on e-mail or Facebook.
It could also be simply what happens when people are abused, because it is traumatic, because many of us are naturally very sensitive, because it’s not what is supposed to happen in loving relationships.
I find so many blogs from others who have been abused and do the same thing, even years later, still reading about abuse, still writing about it, still processing what happened to them and trying to make sense of it, even though they’ve said nothing about Asperger’s.
Part of it is because this is so unfathomable to me, how anyone can be so cruel and abusive to someone who had gone out of her way time and again, had put herself out, to help these people, people who are not even family, but whom I had “adopted” as family.
To someone who has always been described as “kind and caring,” “sweet,” not the kind to hurt others intentionally.
I certainly could not understand how my best friend could suddenly turn on me. I remember wanting to scream “WHY?” at him over and over. The whole day was just so baffling and mystifying. But then, I have been informed that
They complained about the food you were giving them while they were staying at your house and you helped them with their bills? wow. That’s some kind of arrogance, Nyssa. Real opportunists and users without an ounce of gratitude. Always always watch for “gratitude and remorse.”
Sounds like they used up your resources and instead of expressing gratitude for your generosity, they Put You Down.
They looked for reasons why your gifts weren’t good enough, or why you were mean, or whatever reasons they could find to diminish your generosity.
When people are narcissistic, they resist being seen as needy or dependent. So they “devalue” whatever people have done or given to them and then they don’t feel weak or dependent anymore. —CZBZ
I have to agree with a couple of Aspie bloggers–Aspergers Child[update: link no longer exists] and Woman With Aspergers–about the misunderstandings that arise from saying Aspies lack empathy.
The same is also said about psychopaths and narcissists, so–as I see just from doing Google searches–people keep confusing Aspies with narcissists. They think we’re dangerous because we “lack empathy” and so do narcissists.
But that’s not it at all. People “with empathy”–ie, neurotypicals–abuse and bully and misunderstand Aspies all the time. Sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists are supposedly “without empathy,” when actually they know how we’re feeling–it helps them manipulate us–they just don’t care.
While Aspies may not understand from your nonverbal cues what you’re feeling or why, but once explained, they can greatly empathize with your struggles and pain.
I remember one of my friends in college got upset with me because I did not say “I’m sorry” to her when her cousin died. I had no idea she was upset with me until weeks later when another friend told me.
My reason for saying nothing was not at all narcissistic or self-absorbed: I cared a great deal for all my friends, and did not want any of them to suffer. No, I just had no clue I was supposed to say anything.
And, well, men often have trouble knowing how to deal with sad, crying wives; does that mean they lack empathy? No, I do not lack empathy.
Neither does Tracy seem to lack empathy; she just doesn’t care that her actions and words continually hurt me, and it even obviously brings her pleasure.
(It’s pretty obvious when she writes, “I’m having a GREAT day!” on Facebook, basically smearing you to her family and friends over something you didn’t even do, because she’s just been ripping into you and cyber-screaming at you and now you’re upset and crying and devastated.
(It’s pretty obvious when she writes that “we had a good laugh” at your chronicle of all the fear and anger and pain they put you through. With her own words, she has pegged herself a sociopath.)
This is why I will never let her back into my life, no matter how much she accuses me of needing to “grow up” and accept her behavior as deserved, no matter how much she says I can’t be friends with Richard without being friends with her. I will only be friends with Richard, or with neither of them.
And I will not let Richard back in, either, unless and until he admits that what Tracy did to me was wrong, cruel and undeserved, rather than dismissing it as “a few harsh words” like he did.
I am so frickin’ disgusted by the way Richard treated me during this whole thing, too, that I’m not sure why I don’t hate his guts like my husband does. I should, I really should.
It’s extremely hypocritical of Tracy to treat me the way she has done for speaking up in anger, after the way she treated me, me whose only “crime” was to be shy, quiet, and frightened of a bully.
I felt like poison was being spewed at me but at the same time, I was surprised how calm and rational I was able to remain. I refused to accept the abuse and told them as much.
I was able to stand up for myself in a way that I never could have before I began to heal. I could see that what they were doing to me wasn’t my problem.
I didn’t ask for it or deserve it. I was just the current target but, they soon discovered, no longer an easy one. As difficult as it is to realize that some people can no longer be in my life, if they can’t give me the basic respect that I deserve as a human being—they don’t belong there. —Standing Up For Myself: Reclaiming My Self-Worth
I could swear I’m regressing into old behaviors. I’m escaping into special interests and spend most of my free time with them as they cycle from one to another.
The special interests don’t expect me to talk when I have nothing to say; I can speak when I wish, and I have much to say on those special interests. I used to chat with friends a lot more on Facebook; now I barely speak to anyone.
Orthodoxy had waned because of the breach with Richard making it all remind me of him, until I found a friend at church who brought it back out again. I would speak with this new friend on Facebook about Orthodoxy and remember again why I loved it. But now I barely even say anything to him.
It reminds me of when I was in school, before I went to college. Even my mother noticed that I was far more relaxed in the summertime. During the school year, I’d have to deal with social issues every single day, which was very taxing.
During the summer, I stayed at home all day, away from the mean people, where it was safe–after my bully brother left home, that is. This retreat is basically a very old means I’ve used to get away from the stress of socializing.
I struggle even more with eye contact even with my own husband. It used to be fairly normal with him, except when he’s angry and I’m too scared to look at him. But lately I can barely look at him even when he’s speaking in a normal conversation.
My eye contact is regressing to old ways, when I could barely look at anybody at all. It was highly unusual that I could hold eye contact for so long with Richard, which is probably why I–back in 2007/2008–felt I could “read” him so well. I could hold eye contact so well with him, more like a “normal” person, while with most people it’s a struggle.
I have to remind myself to look. I recall back around 2000, reading an article about how to properly hold eye contact, since I knew I had a severe problem with that long before I ever heard of NVLD or Asperger’s.
I used my newfound knowledge while discussing each day’s task list with my boss (I was a secretary). I was so proud of myself for holding eye contact with him, but without staring: You have to break it once in a while so you don’t freak out the other person.
With Richard, I still would usually look away while speaking so I could concentrate on thinking of what to say and saying it, then look at him as he spoke. But I’ve read this is how people normally do it.
Struggle with how Richard and Tracy treated me because of my NVLD/Asperger’s/Selective Mutism
Another thing that was different with Richard, was that somehow, my selective mutism vanished with him. When we first met in person, my usual chattiness on the phone froze up, but a day or two later, he broke through my reserve and we could talk normally again.
He got me going on music, then all of a sudden we just looked at each other like, “Whoa. We broke the ice.”
My give-and-take in conversation was perfectly normal with him, is perfectly normal with my husband. If I could talk to a guy on a first date, I considered him a keeper.
For me to talk with normal give-and-take with anyone, tells me I’m with a kindred spirit. It doesn’t happen often, you see. It’s a huge relief, and I want to be with that person a lot, whether it’s a friend or a boyfriend, because I can talk to him/her.
And Richard enjoyed the conversations as much as I did. It was like a miracle.
But she seemed to think that because I could do normal give-and-take conversation with her husband, who shared most of my special interests and much of my background and seemed sweet and gentle to me, that of course I must be capable of doing it with her. But I was not.
Normally I can warm up to people over time, while still being generally quiet in a group of even close friends, but she was far more frightening than your average person. Back in school, I had avoided girls like her, making friends among the nice, sweet, gentle kids of both sexes.
She had no appreciation or understanding for the fact that by forcing me to be friends with her or I lose Richard, that I could only be friends with him on her good pleasure, she was taking away the most precious, most “normal” friendship I had with anyone since college graduation scattered my friends around the state.
(Even my college friend Catherine in the next county, despite our years of friendship, I never could speak to with such fluidity. My college friends to whom I could talk like that, had moved far away.
(My other local friends, though I e-mailed them on occasion, had drifted away around 2002, probably because I refused to shun another friend they had trouble with, and kept inviting him to parties and games. I used to make fellow local geek friends easily through local online BBS’s, but those vanished with the rise of the Internet.)
It was so ludicrous as to be ridiculous that Richard and Tracy would refuse to believe I had NVLD or Asperger’s, that I was anything but stubborn, simply because Richard could pull out the “normal” side of me.
The side that was so normal that I could not only manage to talk to him on the phone, I would willingly call him wanting to talk for hours, and would actually often make arrangements with him for get-togethers!
You realize how extremely rare it is for me to easily talk on the phone with anyone, even longtime friends? to call someone regularly to make arrangements for anything? Did they really think that the way I was with Richard, was somehow “normal” for me?
(In high school, just calling to order a pizza was beyond me! In college I finally was able to do this, but imagine how hard it was to use the phone at my jobs: school library, first clerical job, second clerical job! For routine calls, I soon got used to it, but if I was dealing with an unusual situation, the old terror began to creep in again.)
Richard also seemed blinded by the common assumption that to have Asperger’s you have to be a severe Sheldon-type, to have visible autistic behaviors, when researchers are now finding that Asperger’s in females presents very differentlythan in males (I identify with a majority of the traits on the lists on that site).
Females are more socially adept and their obsessive behaviors more diverse and “normal” (ie, a mix of unicorns and fairies and other “girly” things, rather than being obsessively fixated only on trains).
As the results read, “32-50 is very high: Most people with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism score about 35.” “Average” was 11-22, with most women scoring 15. Above average was 23-31. In fact, NVLD and female Asperger’s sound so similar that I often wonder if they’re related.
In my teens, I did have the occasional girlfriend who would tell me some tip, such as that I needed to say thank you after she gave me a ride, or point out my lack of eye contact, clues which would help me start to do better.
But for me, being told by my psychologist (who also gave me social tips) in 6th grade to “have a slumber party,” made me think, “And who am I supposed to ask?”
This list of female Asperger traits fits extremely well with me: I match a large number of points in each section. For example, “Analyzes existence, the meaning of life, and everything continually.” My results are A–90%, B–100%, C–85%, D–62.5%, E–76%, F–78.6%, G–90%, H–78.6%, Exec–25%.
Teachers called me “unique.” Having Asperger’s/NVLD is not an unwelcome label for me; it’s far more welcome than “weird,” which I got labeled with in school.
It helps me understand why I act differently than others, that I’m not “weird,” just wired differently, and helps me recognize the many gifts that come with Asperger’s/NVLD. It’s not “dysfunction,” it’s just Linux rather than Windows.
The funny thing, the poetic justice, is that despite all Richard and Tracy’s pooh-poohing of the NVLD/Asperger’s, my webpage on NVLD is getting hits practically every day–people who will spend quite a bit of time on it, look at it several times in a day, then come back again and again in following days to the same page, either bookmarked or typing things in Google such as “nvld site:webpages.charter.net,” so I know they’re looking specifically for it…..
Obviously people are connecting with it and finding it very helpful. It gives me the same thrill as seeing keywords like “hobbitholes blog” for my blog, showing that people are connecting with things I post here.
So the struggle is not about Tracy, but about Richard
No, my struggle to let go is not about Tracy. It’s about feeling forced to break off a special, important, golden friendship with my best friend for the one mere fact that he’s married to Tracy, and Tracy’s behavior had become intolerable.
The break wasn’t about him. His friendship was far too special and important to me to want to lose for any reason.
In fact, the arguments arose during a time when I was trying my dangest to fix the friendship with him because he was suddenly being mean to me and I didn’t know why. I would try to talk to him, spend hours late at night talking to him or reading books trying to understand why males behave the ways they do, hoping that it could be fixed.
I had no clue why Richard was being so mean to me lately, just that it had been going on for weeks when I’d thought all our past problems had long since been resolved (including Tracy’s issues with me), and made me doubt our friendship, made me say to Hubby, “Are they really my friends or is it all just a facade?” (This article on gaslighting might explain things somewhat.)
No, the friendship with him was only broken because of Tracy’s rule that friends with Richard must hang out with and be best buds with her, too, and she was just not the sort of person I wanted in my life.
She was ruining my self-esteem and peace with her constant little snarks at me and deliberately mean treatment of me and of others, my loyalty to Richard would flare up when I saw her bully him, my love of the children would burn when I saw her doing things like smacking them on the head, and I could not have her around anymore.
So you could say the friendship with Richard was only broken out of respect for Tracy and her rules. If it hadn’t been for her rules, we only would have broken relations with Tracy.
So that’s why I can’t let go of Richard: Because he was not, was never, the one I wanted to let go of.
No, if I felt I had the option, I would have continued to fight to restore the friendship with him. I had no clue why he was being so mean to me lately, and it seemed that we were finally getting to the point where things between us were back to how they used to be.
The morning Tracy spewed her venom all over me and crowed in orgasmic pleasure over it on her Facebook wall because of a misunderstanding which she refused to believe was not what she wanted to think it was, I had only just been ecstatic because it seemed Richard and I had finally patched up our problems.
But no, this was a huge WTF moment, her pleasure over my mistake and all the vicious crap she pulled that day and afterwards, a moment when I looked evil full in the face.
For two years I have cherished a hope that one day, things would be different, and Richard would come to my husband and me looking for reconciliation. Why should I do any different? He was not the reason we broke off the friendship, though his behavior that day, and the threatening e-mail a few days prior, contributed to it.
I had no desire to end the friendship with my best friend and spiritual mentor. We had been close friends for five years! I had no reason to think that the breach between him and us had to be permanent; he was the collateral damage.
It’s perfectly normal for friends to miss each other even long after a breach and want it to be repaired. It just means that you cared that much. I’m also aware of old girlfriends coming back to him years later. He has that effect on people, whether male or female, platonic or romantic, of getting a tight hold on their hearts.
I’d like to go to him, always wanted to, but I can’t. Before, I couldn’t because Tracy was so insistent on being right and getting her way and not allowing me to even tell her she had it all wrong, that she wouldn’t even allow me to talk to him unless I allowed her to rant and rave and verbally abuse me even more than she already had, without letting me have a say.
(Yes, extremely controlling behavior–and exactly like the shunning that many abusive churches use to “discipline” members who speak out and/or leave. Such as Beaverton Grace Bible Church.)
I was sure that if I did try to repair things with Richard, she would hit me with a restraining order.
Now, I can’t go to him because he has shown no signs of repentance or remorse for the things he himself did, and no signs whatsoever that he has any compassion at all for me for how Tracy continues to treat me. He has to show those signs before any reconciliation would even be possible.
So basically, he has to be the one to make the move, or I will just be set up for more abuse. You’re better off alone than with friends who abuse you. This repayment for my many kindnesses to them, makes me want to hold my purse strings much tighter and not let anyone crash at our house.
I tried very hard to forget him. His own betrayal of me was both shocking and angering. Then his criminal case after the breakup, and his behavior several months ago, were very disappointing, very angering, showing that maybe I had been deceived in his character for the five years I knew him.
(He had admitted to abusing the kids, but he said it was in the past, that he didn’t do that anymore, that he was now protecting the children.
(Though it is true that when his friend Chris complained about his own wife smacking his kid on the head, Richard and Tracy both began joking about smacking kids on the head being “normal” discipline, which gave me pause, especially since I saw a teeny girl being smacked and then Tracy said she does this to her all the time!
(And especially comparing the enormous size and strength of the father compared to those young children!
(Just because some people in some cultures have abused their kids in the past out of ignorance of what it does to the kids, doesn’t mean modern generations should copy them. Lucy asked on Room With a View how Italians can be so kind but so violent. I suspect it’s because their mothers smack them on the heads! Violence breeds violence.
(I discovered from an episode of Donna Reed that even back in the 60s, they knew fear is no way to discipline children: Their son Jeff complained, did they really want him to start jumping to do what he’s told the first time he’s told? He said the kids he knew who did that, were afraid of their parents. This is not how Donna and Alex Stone wanted to raise their children, in fear.
(Also, the common response that “I was abused/belted/got my brains smacked around, and I turned out fine,” or “I deserved it,” is actually Stockholm Syndrome, and not the truth. Not only is it Stockholm Syndrome carrying on abuse to the next generation to scar it as well, but no, you did not turn out fine. You turned into a mean, selfish person who bullies people much smaller than you are, to get your way.)
How can you know a guy so well for five years and still not know him? It is hard to imagine. It’s also hard to imagine why someone who hates me for being a whistleblower, would–for the last several months–be reading my posts which have absolutely nothing to do with the situation between us and them.
Why would he care what my politics are? Why would he care that Thanksgiving went well, or that my son broke his wrist, or how my birthday went? Why would he care that I finally found out the titles of some shows I watched in childhood (which I had asked him about)? Why is he so interested in my story about Shawn from 20 years ago?
It brings me hope again, hope that maybe somewhere in his heart he recognizes I got shafted. That I was mistreated and abused. That it’s hypocritical of him to expect me to just take whatever Tracy throws at me, but I’m not allowed to be hurt or offended or angry or tell her to leave me alone.
That I’m telling the truth and never made the supposed “threats” Tracy accused me of. That I had no intentions of revealing their names on my blog. That anyone would react the way I did to the criminal case. That I did the right thing in order to protect him and his children.
It brings me hope again that he wants to find peace with my husband and me one day.
I don’t know how else to take it, because I clearly mark those posts as having nothing to do with them…..
Why is he showing so much interest in my life? (Not that I can be absolutely certain that it’s him, but I can’t imagine Tracy being at all interested in those posts.) I hope it’s because he still cares. If so, I hope he will soon try to make things right with us.
But if not, if he’s not at all the kind of person I used to think he was, if he’s actually heartless and evil and violent and vindictive, then I hope that he goes away, because it’s cruel to keep me hanging on, to keep me connected to him, cruel to keep me imagining that he is a good person when he’s not.
Stalking like this is one thing narcissists do to their prey; I see this happen to other abuse bloggers all the time.
I suppose it’s like so many parishioners or congregants who hear that their beloved priest/pastor is a molester, or abused his children, or is spiritually abusive, or is dipping into the funds: They don’t want to believe it, and instead turn on the whistleblower as being an evil gossip who wants vengeance, or money, or whatever.
I see this in two ways: as Richard’s response to me, and as my response to Richard. Richard turning on me, the whistleblower, as an evil gossip. Me having a hard time believing that Richard is actually evil, even when a mountain of evidence stares me in the face.
Because even though several times I thought for sure he was out of my heart, even though that day last October I hated him severely for choking his kid, reacted the way anyone of any decency reacts to someone doing such a horrid thing–just seeing him brought the grief back again.
Even though his behavior these past several months, going along with his wife’s revenge schemes and displaying sociopathic tendencies, made me so furious with him that I thought for sure he was out of my heart for good, a few months later the grief came back. After trying so many times to root out any philia I still felt for him, I finally just gave into it.
The question, of course, is what I should do about this. I really don’t know. One thing, of course, is to get more active about trying to get together with friends and chat with them on Facebook, as tempting as it is to dive into yet another website about Asperger’s or whatever I’m obsessing over at the moment. We are planning on getting more social with a couple we really like, one of them an old friend whom we lost track of for a while.
But giving up hope of Richard one day realizing just what he’s done and that I was a kind, sweet, loyal, giving friend who deserved absolutely none of his or Tracy’s nasty treatment? of him remembering just how good and kind of friends we were, that we went far beyond the norm in helping his family, and realizing how he screwed it up and then kept stabbing in the knife? I don’t think I can, nor do I want to.
(I mean, come on, I’m just writing stories of my life and what I’m going through, no different from when I or Richard or anybody else would post on a forum about life or problems. It’s also no different from an autobiography or abuse memoir, just on the Web instead of in a book.)
Even my old high school bullies and abusive exes have apologized to me eventually and restored some sort of amiability. If they can do it, so can he. And I also know some things about his history that show he does occasionally try to make peace with ex-friends or girlfriends.
So it could still happen…eventually. My husband is a huge pessimist, but I’m an optimist, and don’t ever want to become a pessimist.
It is comforting to read more about Asperger’s and find that not only do I most likely have it along with NVLD, but it also explains why I–for my entire life–have ruminated over past abuses, traumas and breakups so long that others start getting annoyed with me.
It’s comforting to find that no, there’s nothing “crazy” about this, there’s nothing “wrong” with me or my character, it’s simply one of the natural drawbacks to having Asperger’s. And writing has always helped me, especially writing which is meant for others to read, such as my college memoirs and little bits of my life which I stuck into my fiction.
I see his interest in my life in what he reads, things which he must know, from the title, have nothing to do with him. If Richard really wants to lay down his arms and make peace with my husband and me, he’s welcome to do so any time.
We can talk it out and work things out if he wishes. Then he won’t have to stalk my blog to find out what’s going on in our lives.
If not, then I wish he’d just leave me alone to heal in peace, so I can recognize his true nature and forget about him.
One of the most troublesome aspects of autism and Asperger’s can be the tendency toward repetitive thoughts, also referred to as stuck thoughts or ruminations.
While this trait is probably tied to the ability toward extreme focus that can be such a strength for those on the spectrum, it’s a problem when individuals can’t shift away from thinking about things that are not of their choosing.
2) We are innocent, naive, and honest. Do we lie? Yes. Do we like to lie? No. Things that are hard for us to understand: manipulation, disloyalty, vindictive behavior, and retaliation.
Are we easily fooled and conned, particularly before we grow wiser to the ways of the world? Absolutely, yes.
Confusion, feeling misplaced, isolated, overwhelmed, and simply plopped down on the wrong universe, are all parts of the Aspie experience. Can we learn to adapt? Yes. Is it always hard to fit in at some level? Yes. Can we out grow our character traits? No….
We may have sought out answers to why we seemed to see the world differently than others we knew, only to be told we were attention seekers, paranoid, hypochondriacs, or too focused on diagnoses and labels.
Our personhood was challenged on the sole basis that we “knew” we were different but couldn’t prove it to the world and/or our personhood was oppressed as we attempted to be and act like someone we were not….
We may hold grudges and feel pain from a situation years later, but at the same time find it easier to forgive than hold a grudge. We might feel sorry for someone who has persecuted or hurt us. —Asperger’s Traits (Women, Females, Girls)
Support groups, especially in anonymous weblogs, are the first step to diffusing the power of abusers. Others who have experienced covert abuse, know the truth. We share experiences and validate each others’ stories.
Abusers expect their victims to keep the secret of the abuse, colluding with them to hide the truth. They know that hiding the victimization gives more power to a shameful experience.
By hiding the abuse, the victim takes the shame of being abused, owns it, and becomes ashamed. Conversely, unveiling shame gives it right back to the perpetrator, where it belongs.
Of course, abusers will try to scapegoat the victim and portray themselves as the injured party, sometimes successfully. That’s why it’s so important to understand the scapegoat mechanism,to recognize it in all its disguises….
It helps to ruminate over the experience and turn those WTF? moments into AHA! moments. Once you understand the basics of shame and envy, you remember each memory from a different perspective.
The lies are revealed and the life you thought you had lived is reinterpreted. Memories become a new experience, filled with new meaning. Reality gives you back those years you had lost to lies.
The blog community, again, is a great source for triggering memories and helping to separate the truth from the lies you once believed….
Perhaps what psychopaths envy most, is our connection to God and community. Competition and rivalry is what they understand, but how do you appropriate someone’s ability to trust?
Psychopaths have a solution for that: If they can’t have it, nobody can. They plot to disconnect us from our ability to trust: in God and in humanity. They understand that if they can take away our faith, we become as alienated and soulless as they are. That’s their goal. —Steps to Healing From Domestic Abuse [Psychopaths]
I find it interesting that after so many years (about 5) I continue to think about the sociopath that gave me the reality slap. I am OK with it. And find, as you describe, that reframing continues to take place.
Initially I tried to keep myself from thinking about him. I worried that my rehashing was crazy and obsessive, and an indication that he was ‘winning’ and I was, conversely, losing.
Plus, in the beginning it was SO painful. But over time I found myself in a therapeutic place with it and many of the puzzling and WTF? moments WERE transformed into Aha’s!
I like that you included this as part of the healing path. It can often be overlooked, or seen as self-inflicted pain, that is simply ‘not getting over it’, and obsessing over the loss. And don’t get me wrong, it FEELS that way, initially. But with more knowledge about these pathologies, it takes on a different function.
Exactly. This is why I’m safe: I don’t go spreading lies about people. I certainly don’t go posting lies on my blog. I also don’t go naming people even though what I say is true. If that’s what they’re looking for, they’ll never find anything, so they might as well quit.
For an abuser to actually win such a case would have a chilling effect on abuse bloggers all over the Net–and on free speech itself. No, we need to keep speaking out on what’s happened to us.
From Recovering Grace, a blog about abuse, addressing the question bloggers often get, “Why don’t you just move on and stop being a victim?”
Sound familiar? What I want to know is this: Who says that those of us who write against spiritual abuse, using our own pasts, aren’t moving on?
Do they think that writing about what happened, about our own stories, means that we’re still stuck in that place? -That we cannot “get past it?” Why does it have to be either/or?…
Think about it…
How can you write about healing without first talking about brokenness?
How can you proclaim victory without first speaking of defeat?
How can you claim freedom without first describing bondage?
How can I “comfort those who are in trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” if I cannot speak of how God has comforted me?
How can I speak of salvation without talking about what I was saved from?
How I praise God for His forgiveness if I cannot remember for what I was forgiven?
Justice suffers from flashbacks. Sometimes Justice would read a story from my blog and it would trigger his/her own memories from the past. Justice would re-live what had happened to him/her all over again.
Sometimes it would take days to get rid of the memories so that the day could begin fresh. This has happened time and again since reading my blog.
It’s hard, but it’s pushing him/her one more step to healing. As time goes by, the flashbacks will diminish and be replaced with a calm peace with only a distant memory of the pain. But at least the pain will not overwhelm anymore.
When you have experienced emotional trauma in your life, one of the most scary feelings is the sense of being alone.
The cycle of triggering memories and re-living the pain has been difficult, but it was very helpful to finally realize that while Justice had once felt alone in these memories, reading the stories of others made him/her realize that he/she was not going crazy and imagining these situations.
These experiences he/she read about really did happen to others and it made Justice realize he/she was not alone. Even though the stories I have posted may not have occurred at the same time as Justice’s experiences, there was an emotional connection with the person in the story….
That is what this blog is about and I have been wonderfully thrilled to have a small part in this “gathering” place and discuss what was never, ever to be discussed.
People, if you have never experienced spiritual abuse, you need to really get this part of the picture – the emotional scars of spiritual abuse can take years and years to heal and only prolong in silence. In order for healing, the truth must be exposed and the heart needs to feel safe to heal. —Justice: Becoming Free
It’s true: Reading abuse/narcissism blogs and even just living my daily life, hearing a song, hearing a phrase, will bring flashbacks to the horrible experiences with Richard and Tracy.
But at the same time, as Julie Anne wrote, it’s leading to healing. Repression keeps you stuck; pushing through the pain eventually leads to healing. It happened with my past abuse experiences.
Or is it just normal after narcissistic abuse, and not NVLD/Asperger’s?
But here’s a blog by someone who has been in my place with a former narcissistic friend, and three years later, is finally in a place of not caring anymore: Missing Pretend Guy
From reading that and the comments, maybe it’s not about Asperger’s at all, but simply what happens when you’ve befriended a narcissist. They’re a lot harder to get out of your system than a “normal” person, because, as the writer put it in a comment,
I appreciate your friends telling you to get on with life…but what they don’t realize is that the N has sucked the life out of you, it is hard to know where to start.
It is like when the Dementors (a Harry Potter analogy here) suck the life out of a victim. No, this was no normal relationship, and the break ups keep happening.
It is certainly true that I feel the life was sucked out of me. Before Richard came, I was in a period of loneliness and isolation, having left my job to take care of my child, and all the people I knew there.
We also changed churches because my husband felt spiritually abused, and the doctrine had turned very Calvinistic. Nobody contacted us afterwards.
My husband had a falling-out with one of our friends, her husband stopped coming to D&D games, and my husband struggled to keep a game going with the couple who was left. We struggled to make friends at our new church.
Yet in general, my psyche was in a fairly normal state. I had my usual hobbies and household tasks keeping me busy and contented. I had a new obsession, Orthodoxy, and Richard and I had become great friends over the phone; I would tell him about my new Orthodox church and the experiences I had in the process of converting.
I began to make friends at my new church, because of the way coffee hours are done there, making it easier for introverts. I was getting better at body language and conversation, though I was still quiet.
Then Richard moved in, and everything seemed absolutely wonderful, because now I had a close friend who would be living right here in my town! It had been many years since that happened.
But at the same time, the constant dramas in his life put me on an emotional roller coaster. I was very empathetic, crying when he cried, listening to his many complaints of being abused, not just then but while he lived with his wife and family.
He also started criticizing little things that were simply the way we do things in our house, or little things about me, things that were none of his business. Then Tracy moved in and the drama stopped being outside of my house, and now all came into my house.
It was all very draining. Yet when he moved out three and a half months later, I cried and felt like I’d lost a huge part of what made my house a home. I couldn’t stand to watch TV, couldn’t stand to go online, just wanted him here with me, to talk with.
Over time that got better, but I still felt constantly drawn to be with him, like a magnet. I thought it was because he was such an awesome person and we were two peas in a pod, drawn to each other, close and dear friends, like brother and sister.
But then he began to act–different. He didn’t seem to treat our friendship as quite so important as he used to. Little things made me paranoid. He became more cutting and critical.
In 2009 or 2010, he complained about having to “pamper” me and began telling me things I did not know about him before, say there were things he’d want to say but not say. It made me really begin to wonder who he really was.
And when the friendship breakup came as a result of Tracy’s verbal abuse, I felt lost and alone. I was devastated; nothing could make me happy; I was torn to pieces, and questioning everything about myself and about our decision to end the friendship.
I’d read about Orthodox forgiveness, and it sounded like I was supposed to repent and beg for forgiveness even though I had done nothing wrong, even though it’s very wrong to require the victim of abuse to debase herself to her abuser.
Everything I saw, everything I did, every movie, every song, even my faith, reminded me of Richard or of Tracy’s accusations, so I could not get away from them.
The slightest trigger would send my brain into a constant spinning of wheels, like a mechanized track it had to follow until it worked its way back out again to a conclusion; I had to remember, ponder, figure out.
I think it took about a year for these tracks to stop, probably around the time I finished writing my account of what happened and could just re-read it if I started on a track again, and again find the conclusion I found before.
I trusted only the people I already knew, constantly afraid to make new friends, because they might turn out to be just like Tracy, or rip out my heart as Richard did. I even had terrible migraines that didn’t go away.
As they say, I felt like the life had been sucked out of me and nothing was left to keep me going. And it wasn’t just because of him, since I had two narcissists preying on me, him and Tracy. It’s no wonder I’m still processing it two years later.
Often you read about escaping a narcissistic lover or family, but here, finally, is an account of escaping a narcissistic friend. She suffered just as I suffer, but now the suffering is over. So it can happen, given time.
Like one of her commenters, I often wonder if I only suspect my ex-friend of narcissism to make myself feel better, if he really is what I thought he was, sweet and gentle and loving and such, but he’s got Stockholm Syndrome so that’s why he’s been acting the way he has.
But then, it’s often noted that a narcissist, in the “honeymoon period” of your relationship (romantic, platonic or work-based), will mirror yourself back at you, which hooks you.
I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt–if he ever asks for it. But be more watchful and careful after that–and not allow either one of them to watch my child again. Tracy, on the other hand, I have no doubts to be a malignant narcissist, so she would never get a second chance with me.
Shrink4Men on the removal of the Psycho Ex-Wife blog:
One of the things abusive bullies, high-conflict people (HCP) — whatever you want to refer to them as — fear most is exposure. They will fight tooth and nail against having their misbehavior exposed.
These types equally fear the loss of control. PEW probably represents both fears for Ms Morelli; exposure and loss of control.
Imagine the rage if your abusive ex, wife or girlfriend discovered that you read Shrink4Men and posting comments describing her toxic behavior here.
Who knows, maybe the flashes of pain and sadness and grief over Richard, rather than anger, are actually part of a process of forgiveness. As Christina Enevoldsen writes:
I continued to write and talk about my anger, fear and pain. One day, after months and months of processing, I woke up and actually wanted to forgive my mom and dad. I was shocked. The day before, I hadn’t felt anywhere near being able to forgive. Suddenly, I was prepared to drop of the baggage of offense.
Once I made that decision, I felt lighter, freer. I wouldn’t have believed how much of a difference it made.
Forgiveness didn’t mean the end of my pain. Actually, once I forgave them, I felt the most intense pain of my journey so far. Forgiveness opened my heart to compassion and understanding of them (not excuses for their behavior) and a view of them in a more balanced way.
In my anger and hatred, I only saw them as evil people without any redeeming qualities. Since nobody is all good or all bad, that was one of the lies I used to try to protect myself.
Once I admitted to myself that my parents actually do have good qualities, I started missing them terribly. I really wanted my mommy! This is a journey of finding the truth, so even though the truth brought pain, I welcomed it since it also brings healing.
I’ve worked through that pain now and I know the forgiveness brought me more strength. I don’t feel tied to the abuse like I used to. I always had the knowledge that I was stronger than the abuse, but the forgiveness process left me actually feeling stronger than it.