NLD

I found someone like me who records memories for future self

I was reading a blog on NVLD when I came across a comment by Shava Nerad which read, in part,

My episodic memory is pretty good, but spotty. I can remember things going back to my toddler years. I started trying to remember events of my life when I was about eight years old when I realized that most adults didn’t remember what it was like to be a child anymore, and had the foresight as a gifted kid to try to “record” my memories for my future self so this wouldn’t be my fate (it worked!). My idea of my unfathomably ancient future self, in my mind at the time, was me-at-forty, lol, and here I am at nearly 60, still quite easily remembering my internal states as a kid.

I did this, too: When I was maybe ten, I read the Little House books, assumed they were all based on memory (not knowing that Wilder did some fictionalizing), and wanted to be able to do the same thing when I got older.  So I asked my psychologist to hypnotize me to remember everything.  I also started writing down everything, in diaries and letters and journals, and then backing them up: typing them, copying them, saving them on computers, locking them in fireproof vaults.  As I got older, saving e-mails became a new way of remembering.  Nowadays, I do my saving electronically, which is much easier to find room for and access at will.

So just like Nerad, I can remember many things from as far back as age one because I was determined to remember them.  I wrote down many old memories into Word Perfect; there are many things I’ve forgotten which I remember by looking back through these journals.  They are valuable to me, no matter if anybody else cares about the things I write about.  Even if nobody reads much of the memoirs I’ve posted here on my website, they are there for me to re-read and search through whenever I want to remember something.

And yes, I remember vividly what it was like to be a kid, to be a teenager, even at the ripe old age of 47.  😉  So when I see somebody my age post a comment online like, “Back in MY day, we didn’t act up in class/disrespect our parents/act like today’s spoiled rotten kids/etc. etc.,” I can say, “Um, yes, you did.  You were just as bad.  Spanking didn’t stop you.”

Too bad I can’t post a reply to Nerad.  I mean, I could, but this person’s comment was posted two and a half years ago….

Chris Rock has NVLD

When I saw the article blurb on my browser, and they just said “learning disability”–rather than saying “dyslexia” or “autism” etc. — I just knew what kind of learning disability Chris Rock had been diagnosed with.  So I read it and sure enough:

The far bigger commitment has been therapy, however; seven hours a week, he says with unmistakable pride. His decision to seek meaningful help for the first time in his life was precipitated by a friend’s suggestion that he may have Asperger’s. It prompted a nine-hour battery of cognitive tests earlier this year, from which doctors diagnosed Rock with a condition called nonverbal learning disorder, or NVLD. As he’s come to understand it, he has tremendous difficulty with non-verbal signals — which doesn’t sound too drastic until, as he explains, you consider that some 80 percent of communication is nonverbal. “And all I understand are the words,” he says.

Rock often takes things too literally as a result and, like others with the condition, suffers from a kind of all-or-nothing thinking. “By the way, all of those things are really great for writing jokes — they’re just not great for one-on-one relationships,” he says. Until now, it’s made much of Rock’s life uncomfortable. “And I’d always just chalked it up to being famous. Any time someone would respond to me in a negative way, I’d think, ‘Whatever, they’re responding to something that has to do with who they think I am.’ Now, I’m realizing it was me. A lot of it was me.”

You can read it in “This Is the Best Part I’ve Ever Had”: Chris Rock Talks ‘Fargo,’ Aging and Why He’s Spending 7 Hours a Week in Therapy

 

NVLD and missing social cues

An incident with the hubby–which took me entirely by surprise and confused me–meant more teaching him about NVLD and how to deal with it….Though I could swear I’ve told him this before.  Basically, don’t rely on me to figure out through body language or inference that you’ve asked me a question.  You must use WORDS.  And direct words, because vague questions don’t work too well, either.

Anyway, there are some problems from NVLD which can be helped through training: social skills training, a driving instructor who understands learning disabilities, tutoring, sometimes even the hard way because many of us grew up long before NVLD was identified.  (Even now, apparently a lot of people haven’t heard of it, even teachers.)

Of course, it can be hard to fix things as an adult if they weren’t dealt with in your childhood, because now you have to pay your own way–and if the NVLD hinders you professionally, it’s harder to make $$$ to pay for help.  Even a neuropsych exam to diagnose the NVLD can be prohibitive, so you have to rely on self-diagnosis, which doesn’t exactly open up resources for you.  But sometimes you can figure some things out as you go along, though a bit later than other people do.

But there are some things which don’t get “fixed” no matter how much you know about your NVLD or how to cope with it.  For me, I know that I miss social cues, but I only know this because sometimes people get angry with me out of the blue.  But whether they don’t know I need words, or I’ve told them but they either forget (hubby) or choose to ignore it (my narcissist ex-“friends” Richard and Tracy), if they don’t use the words, I’m not going to know the cues are there, either.

It made me reflect that this is the story of my life: Just going along, doing my thing, trying to be nice to people, and all of a sudden somebody yells at me.  Or scolds me.  Or starts rumors about me.  Or accuses me of all sorts of things which just plain aren’t true.

They say if you want to date, you need confidence.  Except how can you have confidence when all you’ve ever known is that people are going to hate or be angry at you without you ever knowing why?

They say, “You don’t need to be shy.  A lot of people like you.”  But how can you stop being shy when the haters keep coming around?  Or when you try to be social, or do things other people do, only to get either ignored or insulted?

Basically, you learn to be shy and retiring even if you weren’t born that way.  I think I was born that way because it runs in my family, but it can also be reinforced over and over again throughout life.

Many introverts have similar problems to the NVLDers because their brains work differently than an extrovert’s, so they have different social needs and conversational styles which lead to misunderstandings.  But NVLD adds on issues that an introvert may not have trouble with.

For example, organizational problems can make it hard for the NVLDer to make it places on time, so they’re labeled rude, self-absorbed, not caring about other people’s time.  But that’s not it at all, as the NVLDer may have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to make it there on time, but ultimately failed.

Or trouble with inference, hand-eye coordination, remembering directions, remembering landmarks, interpreting conditions and what to do when, can all make driving a lot harder than it might be for other people.  But if we refuse to do it, we may be accused of giving in to fear, not being a grownup, wanting other people to be our taxicab, etc.  I was terribly verbally and emotionally abused for this by my ex.  Even though if you aren’t comfortable, you’re not a good driver, and doesn’t everybody say that some people shouldn’t be driving?  Do you really want me on the same road with you?

But because our disability isn’t easy to see–unlike, say, blindness or paralysis or a broken arm–people often miss it and don’t understand.  If a blind person doesn’t drive, you say of course not!  You don’t look at them funny and say everybody has to drive.  Not if you’re sane, anyway.

But if someone with NVLD completely misses your cues or doesn’t know how to properly enter a group conversation, or doesn’t recognize your attempts to make conversation, we are, essentially, blind.  Not exactly physical blindness, because we can see.  But then, it kind of is, because we don’t see what you’re doing.  Or maybe we see it but can’t interpret, so it’s meaningless to us and disregarded just as when we see somebody blink.

So when we go through life experiencing people randomly blowing up at us, hating us, spreading rumors about us, dismissing us as friends or dates, that sort of thing–we learn that people are confusing and unpredictable.  This is why the usual advice doesn’t work for us: talk more, talk less, don’t be shy, be confident.

And also why, for a writer, putting body language into dialogue is like trying to write a dissertation on astrophysics when you couldn’t even pass Chemistry.

Basically, see NVLD as a kind of blindness, and maybe you’ll understand better that the NVLDer or Aspie isn’t trying to make you angry on purpose.  Getting angry at them only makes them upset and confused.

I’m not looking for sympathy necessarily here, but rather to help “normals” (“neurotypicals”) understand NVLDers and Aspies a bit better (NVLD is similar to Asperger’s).  And also to give some solace to NVLDers and Aspies who are going through what I’ve described, to show you that you’re not alone.