Archive for March, 2011

“Social Anorexia”

March 31, 2011

I’m socially anorexic. I don’t have an eating disorder, but I go for long periods without connecting to others. When I do, I freak out markedly.

In social situations, I feel a loss of control. I hate talking in public. I think constantly of the next social situation I’ll be in, and how awkward, if not depressed, I’ll feel.

Part of me grieves the social removal and pain I struggle from. And part of me is just as used to it. Since I can do fine on my own, I don’t question it.

But I know at the end of each day, I am alone. If I’m not literally alone, I’m alone within my socially-awkward family. I’m not sure which is more difficult. Fortunately I have an awesome furry friend who keeps me company, but an animal can’t talk. Not sure how I’ll get out of these patterns, or if I will. I do beat myself up for it, though.

Please have compassion for our NLD social struggles. We can’t help them, and they’re not our fault. Thanks for listening, everyone. I look forward to your feedback.

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Clumsy School “Accommodations”

March 29, 2011

I was recently in a class where I received accommodations. I couldn’t easily meet the participation requirement, as we were assigned oral presentations. I was given permission to make a virtual poster in lieu of speaking to the class.

On presentation day, the teacher highlighted new technologies that enhance remote posters. If he’d told me, I would’ve used the prerecorded voice option, but he hadn’t told me, and I was docked points later.

I still did really well–we with NLD are often really good students–but didn’t feel satisfied with a presentation that could’ve gone better with the technological features. But I didn’t know, so I have to leave it at that. Still, teachers need to think through accommodations and how they will play out, how they will feel to the student.

Too often, they don’t think about it enough. And I am complaining because I’ve seen it happen time after time. Have you had similar problems? Thanks for reading and listening to this.

An NLD Day

March 29, 2011

So my first problem was some trouble estimating time in the morning, but I managed to leave home with enough time to reach school.

However, I don’t drive. On my walk to the bus stop, I saw three buses go by, so knew I’d have to wait up to 20 minutes for the next one. Where I live they expect everyone to drive, so the public transportation is second rate.

When the bus finally got there, I realized I’d grabbed the wrong set of keys, so didn’t have my bus pass on me. So I didn’t have correct change, and they don’t provide change. Thus, I had to pay twice the fare, and lost money, but had no choice.

Because I didn’t have much money on me, I kept looking around for spare change. I was 50 cents short. I made the goal of asking my classmates for a few coins.

Unfortunately, no one seemed to want to have a conversation with me. Everyone talked with each other, but not me. I couldn’t find a way in.

During the class, I found myself answering some of the questions, but once the words were out, I realized my comments missed the point by a small but noticeable margin. The same thing happened as I attempted to do a group assignment.

Also, my thoughts were totally out of sync with my comments. Anyone else in the class would’ve been comfortable enough to borrow the money, but because no one there takes much interest in me, I didn’t feel like I could ask them. And I felt stupid for forgetting my bus pass and correct change. I also felt, correctly, that most people wouldn’t understand being completely limited to bus transportation. Nor did I wish to make people aware that I can’t drive, in which case I would have felt inept for yet another reason.

I reminded myself it’s not my fault I have visual-spatial problems, but was only half-consoled from realizing this truth.

I ended up walking home, which took an hour, but at least I was wearing tennis shoes and not carrying much. I felt stupid, powerless, and like I was NLD turned inside out.

Another NLD sign: I was making a big deal out of a small problem, but I feel we have no choice sometimes; our visual-spatial problems–which again are NOT our fault–are so overwhelming, and too often no one reaches out in helpful (i.e., not insulting and respectful) ways to comfort us.

People aren’t very forgiving of our challenges, which causes chronic emotional pain. I see people’s uncertainty when I say something that’s unintentionally gaffe-ish, and then I don’t know how to backpedal, and I shut up. I can’t find a way back in to the conversation.

So my thoughts go out to every person with NLD (or similar LDs) who has been in similar situations. Hang in there.

NLD and Anxiety about Meals

March 28, 2011

I have some kind of swallowing disorder, where I must drink lots of fluids or food gets stuck in my throat. This is one of many things that makes me nervous about meals. I’m also embarrassed by all the foods I can’t stand. I’m just about as picky, as I’ve said elsewhere here, as a young child, which doesn’t help my social relating. Plus, I can’t eat and talk at the same time. So a normal activity most people relax doing is very hard for many with NLD. I know it’s not the same for everyone, but with socially inept parents and other relatives, that’s how it turned out for me.

Also, I love my readers. Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, and I look forward to more discussions soon.

NLD, Speech, and Physical Issues

March 17, 2011

My speech problems have a lot to do with prosody.  I find phrasing very difficult–there’s lots of starting and stopping.  So I sound choppy.  I have halting speech, which I tell people about.  This problem was unnoticed for many years.  I suffered for this reason, and am now in speech therapy.  Jaw tension and other issues make it hard for me to say complex phrases.  Just saying words can be hard.  When put together with concepts, I sometimes freeze up.  My thoughts interrupt each other, and suddenly, it’s a traffic jam or trainwreck.  Then I start mispronouncing words.  I don’t get out the thoughts I want, and sometimes my voice quivers.  Sometimes it nearly hurts to talk.  Just saying words takes great effort.  When I’ve talked at length, my throat hurts.  I sit in speech therapy wondering if Botox would help my voice, or if a surgery could help, and then I start wanting to cry because it’s such a burden having a speech disorder.  I still don’t fully know how to deal with it.

NLD, Spatial Confusion, Stress, Anguish

March 17, 2011

My high school over-valued sports.  If someone wasn’t good at competitive sports, they didn’t matter.  Kids with coordination troubles were made fun of K-12, which is one reason I eventually dropped out.  Even going to a gym can be a tough experience.  I didn’t grow up playing sports.  My university’s sports complex was a very daunting place for me, a non-athlete, to visit.  The different facilities’ varying hours really confused me, as did finding them.  I felt stupid as I walked around trying to follow the signs.  It was one of those times when a simple task was made near-impossible because of NLD.  I was already stressed–I take on too much–so I couldn’t totally focus.  I just really wanted to try working out.  It’s spring, and I need the stress relief, but I had the distinct sense I didn’t fit into the gym setting.  I want to return, but need to get over my embarrassment first.

I’ll return at a different time in the hopes of not seeing the same staff.  I felt embarrassed in the locker room, and very self-conscious, like a teenager.  A health club would be a little easier, but I have to do what’s within my student budget.  I felt so embarrassed getting lost.  I wish people wouldn’t act like it was dumb to get lost.  Visual-spatial disorientation is a truly hard thing.  We aren’t ignoring our surroundings.  We just see things differently.  It’s so hard having NLD.  I wish people would have compassion.  In this case, no one reacted in mean ways, but I just felt so alone.  I was the only confused one in a place where everyone else was so comfortable.  I wanted to go somewhere and cry, I was so stressed out, but I really wanted to get some exercise.  However, I have to return when the rooms are open.  It was hard just going into the gym building.  With no logic, I thought, if I can get here, I can exercise, but it was not the case today.  Another day, hopefully, it will be, and I won’t feel so overwhelmed by NLD, and people’s reactions to it.  Oh my goodness.

I sometimes think people’s reactions are harder to deal with than NLD.  When home, I still have visual-spatial confusion (i.e., not seeing things right in front of me, forgetting where I put something, trouble getting everything together before I leave, trouble fitting everything in my bags, et cetera), but nowhere near the stress I feel when out advocating for myself.

Templates

March 13, 2011

In learning new concepts, we often do well with access to templates. Sometimes we have creative ideas that we must adapt to new situations. Templates can set us on the right path, and make up for some of our visual-spatial challenges. For instance, when my classes assign papers and give us successful samples to read, I feel much more confident about completing the paper.

If they do not provide this (or a similar) resource, then I feel lost, anxious, and disoriented. Literally lost. I ask professors to please provide sample topics, but many do not want to. Maybe they think we can envision them ourselves, but I have trouble adapting my ideas to their requirements, unless they explain what they want to see. Then we’re, to use a cliché, on the same page.

Too often, way, way too often, we with NLD are deprived of same-page access. People don’t bother to explain in NLD-sensitive ways—ways that take into account our intelligence, and the many ways our observations lend strength (i.e., we are often creative, caring, sensitive, musical, research-savvy, capable of writing great things, et cetera). And ways that anticipate the anxiety we go through when assigned verbal presentations.

Will someone please just give us a template? Are they afraid we’ll copy it? They should know we’re awful liars. The lies show up in our expressions, and we learn not to lie or misrepresent very early on.

Sometimes we’ve endured excessive discipline and put-downs. In fact, I’d say it’s more common than not, and this needs to change, too.

I spend so much time tracking down templates, because I just plain don’t know enough about what people want (v. what I guess they want). Many people don’t ask because of shyness and/or being able to picture enough about the task to get by.

What about those whose visual-spatial struggles require more explanation—what of that in education? We sometimes need points of access to shape the beautiful, important, powerful ideas we deserve to express.

Please help us do this in positive ways, and listen to the needs we have. We can’t help our visual-spatial struggles, but our experiences learning can improve with these resources.

The Isolation of Abuse

March 12, 2011

I recently watched “The Narrow Bridge,” a film about a young man’s gradual decision to talk about the abuse he experienced as a child in a spiritual community.  The acting and writing are basic, but it’s still a good, important story.  This isn’t NLD-related, except insofar as the fact that people with learning differences are at special risk for abuse, and abuse is all too common.  So I post these links, in part because the music’s so beautiful, in part to help people understand these occurrences and what they do to someone even years later.  PTSD has incredibly long lives.  Also, I always make sure all links and blog content are appropriate for virtually all age groups (PG).  So even though I discuss some experiences in adult life, I maintain PG-related topic treatment.

“Time After Time”

March 12, 2011

Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”:

Frustrations with Family Members

March 12, 2011

I have a socially challenged family. Awkward social antics are commonplace. I was not taught proper social behavior. If we were together for dinner, my family read at the dinner table. Thus, I didn’t learn how to have conversations. So my family is horribly insensitive to my NLD struggles. They basically don’t realize what NLD does, how it makes me more exhausted, how I need help understanding some of the visual-spatial problems, et cetera. I guess they’re not capable of these skills, but I still feel angry, as I didn’t get the social coaching any kid needs, but someone with NLD more than requires.

These days I attend speech therapy, even though it’s a long commute, and I just plain can’t do all the things I’m supposed to work on. Progress is painfully slow. Often, my family’s been most of my social exposure, but many of the examples they’ve set have been confusing or counterproductive, let alone insensitive to my special, NLD-related problems. So many times, I just feel more stressed at family events. You see, my family doesn’t act much like a family, and not towards me. Friends are quite unusual, even though I’m open to making more. And a dating relationship–despite being thickly in the age when marriages are expected–feels obsolete.

As a family friend recently said, “you’re a beautiful young woman–you don’t have a boyfriend,” and I had to say no. Men don’t really acknowledge me. They may comment on my appearance, but don’t really try to know me. Luckily I’m very comfortable being single–much as a single young woman can be in our pressured times–but every holiday, I feel sad, as I know couples are planning romantic dinners, where they will celebrate their relationships. I’m glad for them, but sad for me. Year after year, I see the same thing again–me the wallflower on the side, writing about people instead of relating to them, a little like Emily Dickinson, wars in books, metaphors I play with. It’s easy to feel, in our impersonal times, that people around me don’t care, at least not in the ways I need, and don’t consider knowing me.

Day after day, I suffer from seeing the social realms other people experience. And so I feel stuck. If I could do some things again, I’d attend a smaller college where I could more easily make friends. I would also pick a major with more communication requirements. And I would never have stopped my musical activities. My family is unable to, or won’t, provide the social support I need. So I wallow in hope and despair.