Tracy refused to accept the NVLD and introversion–but they are real

Warning: The following contains venting of anger, to get it out of my heart and onto the page, to make the story authentic, and to show other victims of abuse that I feel your rage.

As I described above, Tracy ripped into me (via an e-mail to Jeff) as if the NVLD (also NLD) were all in my head, just an excuse, like I could just choose to be as sociable as anybody else and it would be so.

Her criticism was so profoundly ignorant as to be laughable.

She has no clue what it’s like to be me, what it’s like to have high intelligence but struggle just to drive a car or use an automatic car wash, what it’s like to not know how to get around in the city you grew up in, what it’s like to struggle to figure out why somebody is acting mad at you or what you’re supposed to say next (if anything), what it’s like to feel paralyzed because you’re faced with a new situation and don’t know what to do.

Part of my struggle was from introversion, and where introversion ends, NVLD begins.

Comments on this blog go into self-diagnosis and whether it can be taken seriously.  This is a blog about Asperger’s, but you can easily extend the comments on “self-diagnosis” to NVLD.

I especially love Amber’s comment, #83, that people who “get on you” for that are “obviously ignorant.”

And #88, who was professionally diagnosed years ago, wrote, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s professionally or self, it’s all the same.  The first anonymous is so ignorant, it’s amazing.”

Anonymous wrote,

I have been very much an advocate of getting a clinical diagnosis — not because I believe my wife’s symptoms are made up, but as a way of shutting down some of the ignorance we’ve seen posted here….

It is important to understanding AS that many people will not see it as “real” without some professional validation.  Those folks should never take an asprin or cold medicine again without a REAL doctor confirming that they actually have a headache or a cold 🙂

Chris wrote eloquently,

My name is Chris. I am “self-diagnosed” as well. I’m growing more comfortable each day, though the fine line of self/professionally diagnosed sometimes leaves me feeling at odds.

To those who wish to degrade the “self-diagnosed” – I do not know what to tell you.

We do not diagnose ourselves in an attempt to outrage anyone, nor do we do so in some vain attempt to fit in.

But when an answer to a long asked question comes along and not only answers the question but makes us feel more at ease with who we are and why we are that way… it’s an answer warmly welcomed.

Something that helps us understand why we are the way we are, why we’ve done/said/felt things the way we had, why we can’t turn our focus away easily or why we focus on something so much or why the thoughts have taken permanent residence floating in our head…

So a lot of people can fit this descriptor or that as far as Asperger’s goes. It’s not just this descriptor or that one which makes us feel a self-diagnosis is relevant.

I believe I can safely say that virtually everyone who is self diagnosed can say that they spent time searching – the internet, books, and themselves – before just “jumping to a conclusion”… they didn’t see the word “asperger’s” and go “that’s me!”… they learned what it entailed.

I’m sorry for those who are so terribly uncomfortable with that sort of diagnosis. We’re not prescribing medications nor are we prescribing some ridiculous label just to show off…

it gives us a chance to be better armed – when dealing with society, when dealing with friends and family, and when dealing with doctors. For those who choose to seek professional diagnosis, this is a much better starting point than we had before.

Some of us have needed an answer. Not just some answer, but one that will help us feel comfortable with who we are and will help us deal with daily life.

Note that for adults, it can be quite expensive to get tests done (I’ve seen numbers in the thousands of dollars), you have adult obligations to tend to, you don’t have a school paying for this, it can’t be “cured” like a disease, and things you may have done as a child that would fit the diagnosis, you’ve since learned to stop doing because of social pressure.

I’m almost certain that if you told my elementary or middle school classmates or teachers that I have NLD, they’d say, “That explains a lot!”

Matt also writes, “I am self-identified, and I have no need for diagnosis.  Diagnosis is prohibitively expensive for adults, and not necessarily reflective of the diagnosis I might have had as a child.”

It doesn’t matter what Tracy (or Richard) thinks about the NLD because the behaviors and brain processes on which I base this “self-diagnosis” are still there, still exist, and it’s the way my brain works, no matter if I have NLD or Asperger’s or not.  

My brain is not telling me the things I need to know and do, things which I read and see that other people can do instinctively–and calling me a “victim” or a liar does not change that, just vilifies me for something I can’t help and didn’t ask for.

Since I had tried time and again to explain to Richard why I behaved the way I did, and what would get me to feel more comfortable around Tracy, and her knowledge of the NLD shows that he must have told her about it, her words qualify as bullying and intolerance.

If I had never explained to either of them, it might make more sense for her to take it personally, but since I did explain it, and told Richard what he needed to tell her to do to help me, she has no excuse.

She also has no excuse because multiple adults in my life have quickly learned it’s just the way I am, decided I’m sweet and nice and “just quiet,” and let me be, not bullied me as if they were still in middle school–and that’s without ever hearing about the NVLD.

(Because Tracy is his wife, and I did not feel comfortable speaking with her on these things, it seemed appropriate to tell him.  From what I’ve gathered over the years, from life and from advice columns such as Annie’s Mailbox, this is the proper way to deal with issues with the wife of a friend, or your husband’s mother, or whatever. 

(I also see the wives on My Five Wives–a polygamous family–deal with each other through their husband, and if forced to deal with it themselves, bad things happen.)

I have to wonder if some of this bullying came from an honest letter to Annie’s Mailbox, which I copy here, something I posted on Facebook on May 4, 2010 because it didn’t get printed in the column, if maybe instead of listening to what I had to say about dealing with shy, quiet people, Tracy somehow took offense to it.  Since, after all, she takes offense very easily.

But I was very upset at how the original writer had been treating the poor quiet girl at her lunch table, knew exactly how the quiet girl felt because it happened to me so many times growing up, so I wrote in to stick up for the girl.

Then my letter was never printed, even though I wanted it to be printed for all the quiet kids out there.  So I posted it on Facebook for my friends to read.

It also was a kind of explanation for all my old classmates, since my Facebook friends list is full of people I knew growing up who would have recognized someone like me in that girl.

Tracy may have taken it as yet another offense toward her, but it was impossible to know for sure, because she never said anything about it–just as she never said anything about anything, it seemed, just kept me oblivious.

Being told that just being myself was offensive, could hardly open my mouth or get my brain working.  The quietness that already exists when I’m with most people, becomes even worse with hostile people.

So for Tracy to scold me for not following dictates that she claimed a 5-year-old could understand–how could she possibly think that would make me want to run and bow down at her feet and beg her to forgive me and be my dearest friend?

How could she possibly think that would open my tongue and get my brain paths working when she was around?

How could she possibly think that would magically make me able to understand what she wanted when she wanted it?

My inability to do so, rather, is very strong evidence that I have “self-diagnosed” myself correctly!  Also, introversion and NVLD often overlap socially; introversion also explained much of my quietness, and it’s perfectly acceptable to “self-diagnose” that!

And here is more strong evidence: Richard’s various behaviors confused me to no end, yet I was somehow accused of base motivations for accepting his explanation that everything he did was just in friendship and it was okay for me to do it as well.

Then he would say a certain thing wasn’t okay anymore, or he would never say it wasn’t okay, but then all of a sudden there was Tracy yelling and screaming over it.

Or he would say something wasn’t okay and then he’d turn around and do it himself.

Or I’d see him do something with another friend and think it must be okay for me to do it, but then Tracy would find out and get upset.  And then of course he let me know that all the restrictions were now gone, but now they acted as if they never were…..

If I had actually sent this e-mail with nefarious intent, if I had actually meant to start some sort of affair, as it was apparently taken–then sure, I would’ve needed to get down on my knees, apologize profusely, etc. etc.  I would’ve deserved a scolding.  I would’ve needed to cite my crimes, etc. etc.

But it was not: It was all a misunderstanding.  My e-mail was innocently meant as an expression of friendship, and nothing more.  

It was meant to inspire Richard to write, “Awww, how sweet,” and then go on about his day with a warm fuzzy.

In no way, shape or form was there “suggestive” subtext.  

(I wondered where on earth Richard, of all people, knowing the context of the hugs, would see suggestive subtext, and could only assume that he was lying to Tracy and to Jeff to cover his butt.  This, by the way, is also what Jeff thought.)  

This was a misunderstanding between a more literal-brained person speaking literally, and neurotypicals expecting and reading in subtext where there was none.

I take people at their word, don’t expect them to lie, don’t expect them to add nonverbal shades of meaning.

I did not expect anyone to read subtext into my e-mail, especially Richard who knew the truth of the hugs, since at that time I wasn’t even aware that other people use so much subtext!  (I only just heard about neurotypical subtext in 2011!)

I expected only Richard to read it, and for him to take it literally with full knowledge that the hugs were innocent.  If there was any subtext at all, it was the unstated question of, “Why haven’t you hugged me this way since you moved out?  Aren’t we close friends anymore?”

My e-mail was literally written and literally meant, with no hidden meanings other than what I just stated.

To be honest, human beings lie. Some people tell outrageous lies, adding juicy details to enhance their fabricated facts.

But most of us are more apt to lie by remaining silent, telling “lies of omission.” Neurotypicals almost expect this to occur on a regular basis and we tend to forgive “little white lies” very easily.

Mary was quick to help me understand that all lies are a violation of trust for individuals on the spectrum. If someone with ASD asks you a question, there are only two good choices to consider.

First, you can answer the question directly. It is best to provide the clearest explanation possible, leaving out any subtext. Or you can say, “I’m not comfortable answering that question.”

Some individuals with ASD may not understand your desire to keep certain information to yourself and may ask why you are not comfortable answering the question. This situation may present its own unique challenge, but at least you have not violated their trust by telling a lie….

While misunderstandings can arise in conversations between any two people, they are more likely to occur in a conversation between an individual with ASD and a neurotypical.

Why? Because neurotypicals often speak using idioms and abstract concepts. In addition, our conversations sometimes have underlying subtext–unspoken opinions and emotions that can be easily misinterpreted or misunderstood, even by neurotypicals.

Mary understands that we neurotypicals often speak this way without being aware of it. Yet, these are exactly the communication issues that most challenge people on the autism spectrum.

We can improve communication by better monitoring these patterns in our own speech when we interact with a person with ASD. —Learning Each Other’s Language: Strategies to Improve Communication Between Neurotypicals and Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

(Note: Though these refer to people on the Autism Spectrum, they can also apply to people with NLD, since even though NLD is not autistic, it does share many of the same traits as Asperger’s.  Also note that Asperger’s is not Kenner’s Autism, not classic autism, though it is on the Autism Spectrum and shares some autistic traits.)

I always expected Richard to tell me the truth, no lies, no little white lies, very few lies of omission.  I don’t expect people to lie to me at all, especially not on a regular basis!

After reading this passage, which sounds exactly like me, I have to wonder if there was a lot of this subtext going on, being transmitted from Richard to me, but with me picking up none of it, because there was a serious lack of communication over these few years.

I was constantly surprised by things he did tell me, things I’ve already mentioned in this account.  I “read” verbal far more than nonverbal communication, and expected him to always tell me the truth.

And I communicated mostly by words myself, without subtext, but telling him directly how I felt about various things, though sometimes trying to do it diplomatically if it was a sensitive issue and I feared I would hurt his feelings.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing