Category: NVLD

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


Reblog: Sociopaths rule America — but there’s an easy way to identify them. | Lucky Otters Haven

As a person with NVLD (similar to Asperger’s in many ways), I have trouble reading body language, which left me vulnerable to a couple who I believe to both be narcissistic sociopaths (story here).

Because I was so vulnerable, I didn’t understand why my wonderful, sweet best friend would turn on me so suddenly and betray me (and, with his wife, begin stalking me later), leading to a long, drawn-out, painful process of healing and recovery.

Over the years, a part of me has held onto the hope that one day, he’ll repent and come to my husband and me, looking for forgiveness and renewed relationship.

This despite the fact that he strangled and asphyxiated one of his kids shortly after we broke off relations with him and his wife.  The little girl reported him to the police and he was convicted.

Now his wife, I knew early on that she was a danger, which is why I resisted her attempts to force me into a close friendship with her.  (Normally it’s easy for me to befriend the spouses of my friends.)  Over time I finally got a word for the danger: narcissistic sociopath.  One day, I even saw her sociopathic smile of glee when an enemy (who, by the way, used to be a friend) had done something terrible.

But him?  A sociopath?  The more I learned about narcissists, the more I could believe he was one, but I thought he was one of the lower-level narcissists, incredibly self-centered but not out to actually hurt anyone.

But it seems I was wrong.  When he choked his kid, the newspaper published his mug shot on its website.  There was no remorse in that face, just anger, even contempt.  A couple of years later, I got a disturbing e-mail from these people which said I “don’t have all the facts”–which made me wonder, What the heck kind of fact can excuse that you choked your kid in a fit of pique because she wasn’t cleaning up?

But that wasn’t all.  When his probation (PROBATION?  no jail time?  SERIOUSLY?) started, the state took more mug shots which it posted online on a website which publishes offender information.

Just as I did with the first mug shot, I studied the new mug shots, trying to identify the expression on his face, a difficult thing with NVLD.  I can get common expressions just fine, but the more subtle ones are harder to catch and understand.  I used websites on facial expression and was pretty sure it was contempt.  I also saw posts on sociopathic smiles, but when they’re just words or just a couple of pictures, it can be harder to be sure if that’s what you saw.

Then Lucky Otter published a blog post with both descriptions and lots of pictures of various forms of the sociopathic smile.  For example:

Jack Brown, MD, is a physician who is an expert in reading body language and facial expressions. He said there is a particular expression that sociopaths and malignant narcissists use much more frequently than normal people: what he calls the Elevated Central Forehead Contraction with a Partial (Insincere) Mouth Smile. It’s a closed mouth, fake smile with the eyebrows drawn together as if the person is frowning. It’s similar to a smirk, but not quite. The overall effect is mocking condescension and cruel contempt. Brown says this expression is used often by serial killers, mass murderers, hardened criminals, and by everyday bullies and other people who lack empathy.

Source: Sociopaths rule America — but there’s an easy way to identify them. | Lucky Otters Haven

I highly recommend reading the whole post, of course; this little snippet doesn’t do it justice.  Anyway, thanks to this post, I pulled out the mug shots again, this time showing one to Lucky Otter.

Her verdict?  Sociopath–complete with subtle smirk and dead eyes.

Dang, I was so fooled by this guy.  Even to this day, I’ll think back to things that happened and think he’s not so bad, deep down, and just needs to repent and things will be fine.  I’ll think he just needs to get out of the sociopathic control of his abusive wife, and the real Richard will come back out again.  Heck, he wanted to be a priest!

…Er, yeah.  He can’t be now, because of the choking incident.  Think of the bullet that the Orthodox Church dodged here.

Especially with this couple *still* stalking my blog all these years later (a bunch of times just in the past couple of weeks), and now with a new group of sociopathic/psychopathic/abusive trolls stalking me here and on Twitter, sometimes I wonder if I should just remove everything I ever wrote about this couple and other abuse stories as well.  You know, for protection against whatever these creeps might be contemplating.

But then I think, No, people NEED these stories.  Victims and potential victims NEED to know what narcissists/sociopaths/psychopaths/other abusers are capable of, so they can protect themselves from future abuse, and heal from the past.

And that means putting my own story on the Web, dirt and all, without trying to sanitize it like some people might.  Saying “I never did anything at all wrong when dealing with my abuser” will not help you or other victims learn how to protect themselves.  And there may be times where I don’t recognize what I did wrong, but other people will, and that can help them figure out what to do in their own situations.

And my ex-friends need to know that

  • I know what was really going on,
  • I reject their attempts to project their crap onto me and make me think I was behaving badly and needed punishment,
  • and I won’t be vulnerable to them again.

So yeah, I don’t post this stuff just to help myself feel better.  I also post it to help others, because this problem is rampant in today’s society.  And check out Lucky Otter’s post to help you spot these people before they rip out your heart.

Comments are turned off because this is a reblog–and because I’m still being watched by these people.


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.


One way that NVLD affects marriage

An argument today demonstrated vividly for Hubby and me both that NVLD can affect marital harmony.

But this time we experienced a breakthrough that shined light on a problem we didn’t realize was there.

Basically, without getting into boring personal detail, Hubby made a comment that he thought would give me all sorts of information which he did not actually say out loud.  In other words, “subtext.”

I totally missed the subtext because of, well, NVLD or some related disorder (such as Aspergers; I don’t have thousands of $$$$ to get formally diagnosed).

So I made a request which seemed perfectly normal and reasonable to me.  He infused it with all sorts of offensive motivations on my part, because he assumed I caught the subtext.

Fight ensues.  I feel like I’m living with a timebomb.  He thinks I keep saying things and using tones which, well, I’m not at all.  I’m not the kind of person who would.

Somehow during the course of discussion afterwards, he explained the subtext, and he learned that it went completely over my head.  Also that I do much better with literal speech.

I may be a writer, may understand idioms I’m familiar with, but as a child, I took idioms more literally.  Even now I’ll occasionally discover that some concept I take literally, is supposed to be metaphorical.

Education has made me familiar with the concept of metaphor, but unless you tell me a book has it, I’ll usually miss that there’s any metaphor in there at all.  I read the book plainly without inferring; I don’t guess how it will end; I would never have seen the eyeglasses in Great Gatsby as a metaphor for God if the teacher had not said they were.  I often have to back up movies and TV shows and play scenes again, because I have no idea how Sasha ended up dead in the kitchen, for example.

So now Hubby understands that he needs to speak more plainly, verbalize things he thinks can be inferred.  And I wonder how many past arguments are based on me totally missing his subtext, and him thinking I understood it.

I’ve also noted that he keeps putting far more into what I mean by my tone, than what I actually do.  Or being particular about the words I use.  I’ve also noted that people keep taking me seriously when I’m making a joke.

I explained that misunderstanding of, and trouble using, tone are NVLD problems as well.  And that I’m an introvert forced to speak on the fly, so I don’t have time to come up with the perfect words.

(Introverts have to think before they speak.  This makes it almost impossible for me to think of the perfect words.  And he discovered that I don’t see the difference between using one particular word or another, while he does.)

(This is why I prefer writing to discuss things with people.  In person I say the wrong thing and sound awkward and can’t get my meaning across, especially when interrupted.)

I explained that it’s a lot easier to understand expressions on actors on TV, because I can back up the tape, and stare at them fully, unlike in real life, where if you stare they’ll think you’re creepazoid.

(Unless you’re German.  Apparently Germans keep super-steady eye contact, unlike Americans, who flick our eyes every few seconds.)

It also doesn’t help to be uncomfortable with eye contact.  Even after 22 years, I don’t even feel comfortable having prolonged eye contact with the hubby.  Even when we were dating, the concept of “staring into each other’s eyes” made me uneasy.

And then I start wondering about past relationships and–I start wondering if it’s too much navel-gazing 20 years after those relationships ended, considering that I already explored those relationships in-depth here, and much of the necessary context is lost in the mist of memory.  And, well, those guys also ended up annoying other people or treating other girls the same, so maybe my NVLD wasn’t the only reason for arguments.

But in this case, it sure didn’t help.  Hopefully things will go more smoothly after this, more understanding on both sides.




NVLD vs. Aspergers: Videos to explain

Richard and Tracy refused to believe in my NVLD, and it was the source of most of our problems (that and me recognizing her abuse).  But it is real, and the following video succinctly describes my childhood–and many of these problems have followed me into adulthood:

Another source of disagreement was Richard thinking that NVLD and Asperger’s are one and the same, so since I don’t act autistic, I must not have NVLD. But here the differences are clearly explained:

And this describes Asperger’s:


My struggles with reading comprehension: Another sign of NVLD

NVLDers tend to think in words and struggle with visualizing.  They also tend to have trouble comprehending what they read.

I just read this blog post by Paige Mead, who has autism–but does not think in pictures, so I found NLDers agreeing with her:

People describe things to me and I attempt to picture them in my head. It doesn’t really translate. I try to describe things to people. They don’t get a mental image from my descriptions, from what I’ve noticed. Granted, I do write these types of things better than speaking them.

I read books, and no matter how well written the worded images are, sometimes I still don’t visualize scenes. I just follow the words and the story and the narration and read for the words.

Yes!  When I’m reading, long descriptive passages are especially difficult to get through.  I get little fragments of pictures in my mind–visualizing individual parts as I read them–but I struggle to put them all together into one big whole.  It helps when I have a picture in my head of an actor, or a picture in front of me of a character or scene.

This is especially a struggle right now as I re-read The Lord of the Rings: I read through passages rich with description–the story of the Ring, or Bilbo’s poem of the traveler, or a description of some other thing–or even watch the movie’s quick version of the Ring.  And it takes such a long time, as I fight to put all the images together into a coherent whole.

I finally break down and just start reading the words without visualizing, so I don’t know what the heck is going on, but I’m getting to the next paragraph at least.  This is with or without music playing, and when I do play music, it needs to be as quiet and undistracting as possible.

Whenever somebody in a movie describes something, even the movie version of the Ring with its visuals, it still is too fast to comprehend.  Reading helps because I can go back and re-read, but I still get confused.

This is one reason why I take so much longer reading books than other people do.  No, it was absolutely impossible for me to read a Harry Potter book in one day, like others have done.

If I want to actually comprehend what I’ve read, then it’ll take an hour or two to read 20 pages, depending on the density of the prose.

When I read 100 pages a day of Clarissa back during a college break, or 80 pages a day of Jane Eyre in high school, it amazed me because normally I simply cannot read that much in a day.

It seems like I could understand the Bible a lot more as a teenager reading it the first time.  But for years now, I can read an entire chapter–whether prophecy, a story of a battle, or an epistle–and it’s all just a blur in my head.

But I can read an emotion-filled novel such as Jane Austen, and comprehend it much better.  Tolkien, however, is so dense as to cause trouble.

I have read entire books on theology, history and what caused the Great Schism of the East/West churches, but a couple years later, I could not tell you much of what was in them.  I don’t re-read books to find new things I never noticed before.  I re-read books to remember what was in them, because I forgot.

I tried going very slowly through Elrond’s story of the Ring today, and I kept having to go back and re-read names and descriptions from earlier in the passage.  So I think I mostly got it, but parts are still confusing.

It helps that I have seen the movie a number of times and read the book before, but I still have trouble putting everything together.  How did Isildor lose the Ring?

I’m still not sure, but was Aragorn actually using the broken sword, or did he just have it along with a sword he could actually use?  Because how can you use a broken sword?  Argh!

And all I got from Bilbo’s poem (which I read today) is that some guy was traveling on the sea and met some elves.  Then I just go on ahead to the next paragraph, accepting that I’m confused.

Also, in college placement tests, I scored highly on everything else but abysmally on reading comprehension.  So my adviser said I should take a remedial reading class.

For a writer who was in Advanced Placement English, who had–in high school–read all sorts of classic novels which were not assigned in class, this seemed ridiculous.

I took the class, but dropped out a week later because it was full of international students who knew English as a second language.  I read slowly and my comprehension suffers, but still I managed to graduate with honors.

This is one reason why I don’t go for jobs which involve understanding and explaining complicated rules (such as insurance or mortgage brokering).  I don’t comprehend what the person is telling me, so how could I explain it?

And I could swear it’s been getting worse over time.  As I wrote above, I used to be able to comprehend what I just read in a Bible passage.  Now I completely miss a Bible passage even if it’s read in church, or even if I read it to the church!

I also struggle to follow someone else’s writing when they read it in a Writer’s Club workshop without passing out copies.  This is one reason why I lack comments or suggestions.  I wonder if approaching the age of perimenopause is making it worse.

Children with Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism, and those with a condition known as “nonverbal learning disability” may have similar symptoms, however the underlying causes are very different, according to brain scans….

Children with nonverbal learning disabilities and Asperger’s can look very similar, but they can have very different reasons for why they behave the way they do. —Brain anatomy separates Asperger’s from Learning Disability


My friends tell me that Phil is controlling and possessive; My first Pentecostal church service: They speak in tongues–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 6

My friends tell me that Phil is controlling and possessive

I kept the engagement bird up on the living room shelf because I had nowhere else to put it.  Phil told me to keep it.

Though tempted to break the bird into a million pieces, I dreamed that I did and began to sob over the poor bird.  It wasn’t its fault.  So I didn’t break or even chip it.

I later put the game Crack the Case, which Phil had put in my safekeeping, into a cupboard below the sink.

At some point, Phil told me on the phone about things people thought of me and the “advice” they gave.  I objected.  He said, “Are you saying that Dave doesn’t know you?  That Peter doesn’t know you?”

What?  Peter’s problems with me were old and very petty, and Peter said he treated me the way he did because it was hard to deal with his feelings.  He hadn’t seen me much at all since freshman year.

As for Dave, he barely knew me.  He hadn’t seen me all summer, and before that he only saw me for a few months and only every once in a while, when Phil and I weren’t alone together.

He saw me in Botany class and labs, but that’s schoolwork, and I believe I was more into the class or the lab than into being sociable with him.  I still don’t see why he said “we don’t get along” when he had only just met me and I thought we got along just fine.

Dave told all sorts of lies about me, while barely knowing me.

Anyway, Phil used his statement (“do they not know you?”) to justify what his friends said about me: party pooper, Bible beater.

(Peter said nothing to him about breaking up with me, though, because Peter only knew we broke up, not why.  I don’t know when he found out or how he heard.  I believe he said in late winter that he hadn’t spoken to Phil in quite a while after the way the family treated him in early 1994.)

I said these people didn’t know me so well.  Also, what they supposedly said didn’t fit me at all.  I didn’t go to parties with drugs, alcohol, or sex, but usually to parties with my own friends.  I had a great time, so who would call me a pooper?

What did “party pooping” have to do with our relationship or anything else, anyway?  Nothing!  Marriage is not about partying.  (For him to even think so, shows he was not ready for it.)

And he only just said that I wasn’t a Bible beater “like Pearl.”  Even if I was, so what?  I was a Christian, and that was what mattered.  My lifestyle had kept me out of tons of trouble, and eventually, my life would be very happy because of it.

Neither of these so-called “problems” were any reason to break up with a person, and there were many people who wouldn’t consider them “problems” at all.

Phil was probably talking to one of those boring partiers who just wanted to get drunk and do harmful things all the time.  I had no patience with such people, screwing up their brains instead of protecting and using them.

My response was, “Maybe you don’t know me so well after all.”

He said, “Do you really want to be with a guy who doesn’t know you?”  But this is faulty reasoning.  The point is to get to know a person over time, not necessarily to know them very well at the outset.  How can you?  It takes time.

Now I understand that this is triangulation, as I describe here, a tactic used to make you think you’re the problem and that everybody agrees.  But at the time, it just came out of left field.

Phil said on the way back to Roanoke that this was the best summer of his life because he’d been with me.  Then, a few days later, THE END.  How could I believe anything he said to me that week?

I went through almost two weeks of trying to fight away the misery and trying to figure out whether or not we were ever really married.

Phil now said we weren’t after all, that now he wasn’t sure he even believed in marriage anymore, that he no longer thought sex was wrong if the couple loved and were committed to each other, that he was getting desperate and thought it possible he’d sleep with someone in the heat of the moment–all things that crushed me.


I heard tell, and could see for myself, that the freshman class was about as big as the three other classes put together.  And now the lunch lines went all the way back to the opposite wall, then doubled up and went all the way back to the outside doors!

The line seemed to take different routes every year: Freshman year, the line would go into the Muskie.  I think at times it had even gone around the other Bossard walls.  I believe sometimes it would also double up over by the Muskie.

Anyway, you had to be careful what time you went to Bossard for lunch, or else you’d get stuck in this line, whatever way it went.  Sometimes we would just sit down and wait for it to get smaller, because it would, eventually.  And what were we waiting for?  School food!  Ugh!  (Though it was better than public school food by far.)

I loved goatees junior year, but senior year–I don’t know, I guess too many guys were wearing them now.

Sarah, Tara, etc. used to say, “PEO-ple! It’s PEO-ple!”  (That came from a Bugs Bunny cartoon, one with a tennis-shoed, orange-haired monster in a scientist’s castle.)  Now Tara got us all saying, “PEEP-hole!  We want a PEEP-hole!”

We wanted a peephole on our outside door for safety reasons.  The door didn’t have a window, and neither did that whole wall, so we couldn’t see who was out there before opening it.  When Mike came along and banged on it in his own peculiar way, we didn’t know if it was him or a crazed Zeta.

I loved the honks of the geese by the lagoon.  Though they would threaten me if I went near them, I considered them my friends: Their beautiful sounds consoled me.

Sharon said the choir director complimented her on never having “S– hair.”  S– hair, in those days, was big, curly hair.


Now my friends told me the many reasons why they didn’t like Phil.  I always thought they just found his jokes annoying.

I didn’t realize it was the way he treated me, that he treated me like a child, that he was too controlling and possessive.  A couple of years late, Cindy told me she witnessed him yelling at me, and later at the girl he married, and she hated that.

After the divorce, he said the drunk guys at the party called me possessive.  In reality, I only objected when he leered at–not just looked at–or made crass jokes about other women, and when he said he wanted two additional wives.

I never acted like he couldn’t be friends with other women.  It’s not “possessive” to be suspicious of someone who gives you good reason to suspect him.  Apparently, he was just projecting his own trait onto me.

My friends said nothing because they thought I could see it and was okay with it.  But I’d been too blinded by NVLD to notice the things my friends noticed.

I can tell you for sure that this was not just them comforting me after a breakup, like friends sometimes do, telling you all the bad things to get you over him faster.  As I describe later, one of my acquaintances–not one of my close friends–told a friend at dinner one day that she needed to “warn” Persephone about Phil.  I never talked to this person about Phil.

Even after I graduated and got engaged, and no longer cared who Phil dated, my friends saw a new girl date and marry Phil.  They saw him do the same things with her, hated him, even tried to warn her before she married him.

It wasn’t just our opinion, either.  Even Persephone later agreed that he treated his girlfriends like children.  “Sure,” she said, “he’ll be respectful to a girl when she’s just his friend, but as soon as they start dating, he treats her like a child!”  She said maybe it was because he considered his mother a child, and was disrespectful to her.

Dad said Phil was very unstable, and a yo-yo, always going back and forth.  In their talks together, Phil often seemed “stupid.”  Mom said he made too much noise at night, and that in all the time he spent with us, he never lifted a finger to help with the chores, or to pay them back for things they bought him for work.

My first Pentecostal church service: They speak in tongues

One day, I sat in my room thinking, I’m so depressed and I think I’d like to go to church this Sunday.  The phone rang.  Out of the blue, Anna invited me to her church.  I thought maybe she did have a “direct line to God,” as Latosha used to tell her.

The most likely date we went to the church is September 11 (back when that day had nothing bad associated with it).

Anna’s church in S– was noisy, spiritual and full of activity.  I didn’t feel comfortable joining in with shouts or claps or any of that, being a Nazarene (though Dad told me once that Nazarene churches used to be a lot like that).  But a Pentecostal church is the perfect place to go when you’re upset.

Rather than the preacher leading them in prayer, for a time, the congregation was encouraged to pray privately–but out loud.  Anna knelt beside me and prayed in tongues.

I asked her later what the words meant, and repeated what I remembered.  She said she didn’t know, but she always looked them up afterwards in a special dictionary for people who speak in tongues.

I saw my old suitemate Tom there!  After the service, a man told me, “When he came to us, Tom was a messed-up Catholic!”  Then Anna brought him to her church, and there he was that day–a Pentecostal and (as they called it) full of the Spirit!  I couldn’t believe it.  He was so different from the partying suitemate I knew freshman year.

People found out I was a Nazarene (sort of a sister church), so they kept trying to convince me to turn Pentecostal, and that their doctrine on speaking in tongues is the correct one.  But they did this in a nice way, so I was more amused than annoyed.

I must admit, their stories were surprising–like young children speaking in tongues–and I was almost convinced.  But not quite.

Someone gave me a new King James Bible, the church’s usual gift for newcomers.

Anna and I went to school brunch together and talked about the breakup.  I asked what she thought of spiritual marriages, if they were real.  Her answer surprised me: She thought they can be more real than many “legal” marriages that are just a piece of paper.  But she also said we should follow the laws of the land.

Then we went down the Campus Center stairs and saw Phil in the foyer.  Anna left me with him, gushing about how wonderful it was that he was there and I could talk to him.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:


Phil vanishes without a word of why–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 4

That night, Phil still hadn’t shown up, so Pearl and I went to the semi-formal Opening Banquet in Bossard together.  I don’t remember why nobody else in our group went, but I do believe Pearl wanted me along for company.  There was a speaker, Bob Hall; his talk was called “Hands Off!  Let’s Talk,” and the subject was dating and sex.

At the beginning, I said to Pearl, “I guess I don’t really need to listen, since I’m engaged.”  (And married, I thought.)

Hall said to the guys in the cafeteria, “If she says no, let me introduce you to Mr. Hand!”  And later, in an unrelated comment, “Guys, she always knows where that hand is!”  Pearl went, “Mm-HMMM!”

Later that night, with still no sign of Phil, Pearl and I sat alone in the living room, talking.  I told her Phil had been building up muscles from working at the factory.

She said, “Sounds like lust to me!”

I said with a smile, “I’m going to marry him–I can lust after him!”

But sometime later in the conversation, I told her, “I’ve been losing some respect for Phil, but hopefully now that we’re living apart I’ll be able to build it back up again.”

She said, “That doesn’t sound good.  Maybe you two should try dating other people for a while.”

I said, “Well, I don’t want to see him with anyone else, and I know he doesn’t want to see me with anyone else.”  Not only that, but you’re not supposed to date other people while you’re married.


We put the new, blue, all-cushioned couch along the wall in the nook by the inside wall, the chairs around the TV, and the stereo in the nook as well.  Then the dining table went under the light in the more open, middle area.

And little metallic bears went all over the table and here and there in the carpet, Astrid-confetti from a party I missed on Sunday.  (Astrid loved to send us letters with confetti or little bears in them.  You learned to be careful opening her letters, or the confetti would get all over the floor.)  For the rest of the year, we kept finding these bears here and there, even when we thought we’d cleaned them all up.

We had a stove, fridge, many shelves and drawers divided among us (one each of each kind of drawer or shelf), a sink (with no stopper), and even pots and pans given us by the school.  Mom gave me an old dish drainer, which we needed.

The glass doors with their Venetian blinds were over by the dining table, and two other windows with Venetian blinds were along that wall. One of these windows was in the kitchen, the other in the living room.

There were bookshelves in the open area, opposite the glass doors.  My bird sat on the top shelf, where it seemed a porcelain bird should be, to watch over everything.  We put videos, tapes, CD’s and books on these shelves.  We each had one or two shelves, and it was understood that anything on the shelves could be used by anyone.

On the other side of the apartment, opposite the bathroom, were the two bedrooms.  First was my room with Sharon.  We bunked the beds because they didn’t fit side by side.  They were already bunked when I arrived, though at the end of the year I was told they were originally side by side.

We moved around the furniture in the rooms because the original arrangements, as usual, didn’t work either.  Now we had the beds under the window.  Sharon slept on the top bunk.

We each had a wire storage rack, and I put mine beside the bed.  Our closets were a little small, but they had shelves, and with the many storage racks provided for us, we found places to put everything.

So the room, though tiny, didn’t seem crowded, but rather neat and tidy.  (The living room was often messy, however, because we often left papers and textbooks lying around.)  These racks were like a stack of drawers, because you could pull them out to remove your stuff and then push them back again.

Pearl and Tara had their room (with its answering machine) next to ours.

We liked the bathtub, but not the glass door.  We started thinking of ways to cover up the door so no one could see us bathing, and may have even requested a curtain, which we never got.  The glass door should have been on the shower, and the shower curtain should have been on the bathtub.  The shower, after all, was in a separate room with a door.

Also, there would have been more room to pull the shower curtain wide open, and we probably wouldn’t have had quite so many mildew problems with it.  It had to be replaced halfway through the year.  So we never actually used the tub, except to store boxes, and it got really dirty by the end of the year.


Probably on Tuesday or Wednesday, I turned on my radio to change it from South Bend’s U93 to Green Bay’s WIXX.  Lo and behold, there was U93!  This happened only once that I know of.

I listened to U93 for a while.  Someone called in from Milwaukee and said, “I used to listen to U93 in South Bend.  I flipped on the radio here in Milwaukee and found it!”  If I knew U93’s number, I would have called and said the broadcast was traveling even farther than that.

Once over the summer, WIXX had come in on the house antenna.  Phil said they boosted their power, so that may be why it came in so far away.  However, I didn’t want to hear WIXX: it was on the same frequency as Q101.  I never heard WIXX in South Bend before or since that day.

Also, that same week I discovered Hot 102 had changed to an alternative format, which made the necessary break from Q101 much easier.


My first class of the year was at 9:15 in the morning, American Lit with Dr. Nelson, the teacher from New York.  He’d been there only a year, and soon after I graduated, he would move back to New York.  Yes, another American Lit class.  This was probably American Lit I, and the previous class American Lit II, because this one focused on an earlier period.

As I’ve noted before, Nelson, with his funny, New York accent, pronounced “illustrate” as “ill-yoo-strate.”  Whenever Phil imitated his accent, he always included “ill-yoo-strate.”

One day in September, Nelson said “ill-uh-strate,” like we say it in the Midwest, then stopped and corrected himself, saying, “ill-yoo-strate.”  I don’t know if anybody else noticed, but I found it funny.

While working in the library on Wednesday, I found some German dictionaries, some old and some new, and spent my time at the circulation desk looking up the words from “Undine” that I hadn’t been able to find.  Many of them were there.  There were still many words I couldn’t find, but they were much fewer now.  As soon as I saw Phil again that day, I gushed and exulted about it.

People kept seeing my bird, sitting up on the very top shelf of the bookshelf in the living room and looking out over us all, and they said how pretty it was.  Then I got to tell them it was my engagement ring until Phil finally bought me a real one.

(How disappointing that I didn’t already have one, since his mom took all his summer money for car payments!)

Somebody who parked in the apartment parking lot had a white Ford Bronco.  It was weird and funny because that was the same kind of truck in which OJ fled the cops.  Whenever Phil and I passed it, we’d say, “No!  Not OJ!  OJ’s here!”

In a similar vein, one day during the summer, Mom wrote “OJ,” or orange juice, on the pad of paper she kept on the kitchen counter.  Phil wrote next to it, “No OJ!”–meaning, no more OJ news.  Just think, we were already sick of it, and that was only the beginning of the news saturation.


Apparently Phil met me at the library, or soon after I left it, and we must have gone over to Krueger lounge.  We spent some time there, sitting with Dirk, a freshman named Sandy, and an elderly woman.  She had come to teach at Roanoke for half a year.  She lived in Krueger, since she was only staying in the area for a short time.  She had a southern accent and was very friendly.

Sandy was a freshman who lived in Krueger but eventually moved into Dirk’s campus apartment.  That sort of thing happened sometimes, though it wasn’t supposed to.  I don’t know how they got away with it.  Sandy was a dark-haired, pretty girl with glasses.

Phil and I were both confused about Dirk and Sandy.  We both thought they were dating, until Dirk told Phil they weren’t: Sandy was his friend’s girlfriend.  (Dirk later told me they finally realized they liked each other, and started going out; this hadn’t happened yet on Wednesday.)

But they certainly acted like they were going out!  He would slap her backside, they would make suggestive comments to each other–this was no platonic friendship!

They got engaged either that school year or the next.  Then in 1996 or 1997, I’m told, Sandy broke the engagement, complaining about how Dirk treated her.  Then she wanted him back, but he had a new girlfriend, whom he eventually married.  How could an obnoxious, plain know-it-all like Dirk keep getting girlfriends, while I had trouble getting dates?


You’ll remember that Phil vanished for an entire day, without a word to me of when he’d come again.  He never called.

I expected him at any time, and he knew I needed milk and orange juice for breakfast.  I had no idea where he was or why he never showed up.  I had to borrow milk and orange juice for breakfast the next morning.

Now that Phil was finally back, I complained, rightly so.  But instead of apologizing or explaining, he just said that one of my friends could have taken me for milk and orange juice.

Say what?  He took the passive-aggressive route by vanishing without a word, instead of coming out and saying he couldn’t/wouldn’t do it?

After we got back from getting the milk and orange juice, before I got out of the van I said,

“I love you and I want to marry you legally, so why do I have such doubts?”

Once, junior year, Phil said that if either of us were ever attracted to someone else, we should say so.  That way, if we were to break up because someone else came along, it wouldn’t be a shock to the “dumpee.”

He lived out this rule, constantly telling me who he was attracted to, even telling me he wanted three wives–and who they would be.  One was his own brother’s fiancée.

Well, after several days of Phil disappearing for long periods of time–even a whole day–without telling me when he’d come back, I wanted him to be around more.  When you’ve been married to a guy all summer and he suddenly vanishes, you feel like a part of you is missing.

Phil’s treatment of me all summer, and especially now, inspired the doubts.  I may also have subconsciously wanted to get back at him for a summer of telling me he wanted all those other women.

So I told him my fears.  I told him I was getting a crush on Mike.  I tried to reassure Phil I still loved him, though.

I had a crush on Mike junior year, before dating Phil.  I was attracted to his integrity.

He wouldn’t drink underage or smoke anything that was passed around at a party.  He didn’t make everything into a raunchy joke (just some things).  He was sweet.  He wouldn’t play tricks on his girlfriend.  He didn’t seem capable of making a woman feel like crap.

(In 2005, from e-mails and forum posts, I learned that he believed in total equality in marriage.  Also, from Facebook I see that he’s a loving, devoted husband.)

Phil left me with a choice.  We were both very sad.  He said to talk to Mike, and if he felt the same, I could leave with his blessings.  He didn’t want to see it, but he wouldn’t stand in my way.

I cried afterwards and decided I couldn’t leave him: I didn’t have the heart.  I loved Phil, and had only a tiny, insignificant crush on Mike.  Also, leaving a marriage wasn’t that simple.  So I said nothing to Mike.

I didn’t see much of Phil after that.

Also note that when Phil found other people attractive and wanted to include them in his harem, the relationship was not over.

But as soon as I found someone else attractive–boom, the relationship is over and he’ll let me go with his blessing.

So it’s only a crisis and insult if I find someone else attractive, but not if he does, not even if he wants three wives?


He claimed my friends kept dissing him; I saw none of this.  He claimed their body language showed it; I saw nothing but friends smiling at him and acting normally.

On Thursday, September 8, he gave me no word of when he would next come to see me.  So I made plans with my roommies.

My roommies and I were getting ready to watch My So-Called Life, and had friends over to join us, a kind of party.  I couldn’t wait to see it, and was excited to watch it with all these friends.

But then Phil suddenly dropped in and said he wanted to talk.  I thought it was about Mike and that I would soon turn away his fears, tell him I wanted him and only him and couldn’t bear to go to Mike.

It was very bad timing on his part, which he should have respected, and I figured it wasn’t so pressing that it couldn’t wait one hour.  After all, he gave me no clue when I would next see him, yet expected me to just drop everything and change my plans when he came over?

Not only was this unreasonable, but my NVLD made me resist changing plans on the spur of the moment like that.

But I did not yet know that he had this unreasonable and controlling attitude about it, that he expected me to submit to his every whim no matter how inconvenient.  I smiled and asked him to sit down and watch with me and see what this wonderful show was like, and afterwards we could talk.

I don’t remember how many people were there, but there wasn’t much room around the TV in that little nook.  All the chairs were taken, so someone suggested he sit on a cushioned milk crate, which my roommies and I often used as a chair or footrest.    He soon went down the hall instead of sitting down.

I thought he’d gone to the bathroom, so thought nothing of it.  My friends and I watched the show.

He took an awfully long time, so I wondered if he had diarrhea or something.  I eventually went to look for him in the bathroom or my room, but he wasn’t there.

He’d left without a word, and never came back the whole night!  Pearl and I both thought that was extremely odd, wondering where the heck he’d gone to, and why.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: