Odd Girl In

How do I fit in?

Being Happy Despite NLD

Some people think that my happiness means my life with NLD was pain free.

Some people, not you, within the NLD community seem to think that I haven't suffered enough because my late teens, 20's and 30's were times of great happiness.

 They discount the years I went to sleep crying because I didn't have friends or enough friends. I cried because I was the last person picked on any team. I cried because I couldn't sing or dance. I cried because I couldn't draw non-abstract paintings or other artwork. I cried because people called me lazy. I cried because kids threw me into the bushes at the bus stop and called me names. I cried because I was teased.

I cried because I had many learning disabilities that precluded me from going to Ivy League or first tier colleges and universities when I, my parents and my guidance counselor knew that I was capable of the work. They didn't have accommodations or disability offices then

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I cried because people died or were cruel to others. My empathy scared my parents as I felt everything so deeply. I know— supposedly not an NLD characteristic but it was for me.

 I cried because I was scared of everybody. Kids would begin conversations with me and my answers would fly out of my brain. I loved talking to adults because they found me interesting and I knew they would talk to me. My father was my hero and he thought I was brilliant. But I hated when he would try to get me to play with other kids when we weren't at home. At home in Queens I had many friends. By the time I was eleven most had stopped speaking to me. I thought I deserved that treatment as kids should be good at team sports. Kids should be interested in what other kids were interested in. And I was. I was so interested in everything I overwhelmed my "friends" with knowledge.

When I was a bit older I cried because I was scared nobody would love me. I cried for many more reasons. It's funny. The outside world thought me a very happy child because I was always happy to see family friends and/or relatives.

 Being independent saved me. I never minded being alone. Actually my idea of a great day was reading with my best friend, then taking a long solitary bike ride and having TV dinners with my sister when our parents went out. Then I would listen to rock music, look for the key to life in the lyrics and sing along. My poor poor sister!

 When I was about twelve I became that weird girl who couldn't stop fidgeting. I stopped crying and began freezing. I froze when I should have been answering. It looked as if I weren't focusing when I was focusing almost too much. I froze when I was supposed to give a speech. No words would come out of my mouth.

 Today people might say I was a potential Adam Lanza though I never hated other people and I, having a great lack of spatial coordination, would have probably shot myself. (I do not mean in any way to justify his actions; they are beyond comprehensible to me.)

 That's just it. I never hated. I never blamed my problems on anybody but me. I desperately clung to tomorrow. Tomorrow I was going to be popular. Tomorrow I was going to learn to sing. (Sadly I really believed that one.) Tomorrow everything was going to be alright.

 Tomorrow came the day I began college. I don't know why I was able to make friends so quickly. I don't know why I found happiness; the happiness I always knew I deserved* and was going to have. Maybe I was just receptive to attention. Maybe I wasn't but attention found me. *I contradicted myself as life's a contradiction.

My roommate and the Resident Assistant hated me and tried to get me expelled for looking like a hippie and having male friends with long hair. I didn't make my bed properly. I didn't wear shoes in my room. The things they could give you demerits for if they wanted to were absurd. It was absurd to hate me so much. I never did a thing except be me to make them hate me. Never talked badly about them. Never made fun of them. Never did anything worth caring about. But they didn't like me being "popular." I didn't fit the specs. They had my cigarettes analyzed as the bottom of my bag was filled with loose tobacco. That backfired big time on them. I should have understood that I was now in a powerful position. I didn't.

I have bungled my way through life somehow succeeding at every corner. I can analyze other people and understand exactly why they act the way they do and explain their motivations to them. But when it comes to me I am as mind-deaf as I'm tone-deaf.

I haven't been posting lately for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is I'm going through an intense time of self-doubt. Who am I to think that people will be interested in my experiences?

 I know understanding people with NLD hasn't come far. We still categorize. We call people "weird." I could "pass" for normal. I chose to stand with all the people who were once called weird.

 I still become crazed on crowded streets. I still hate crowded stores or going shopping with others. I still can't do complicated math or copy a diagram. There's a lot I can't do but if I spent my life focusing on that I wouldn't be able to focus on what I can do.

So I bungle on!

Happy belated Hannakuah

Merry Christmas

Happy Kawanza

Most of all––have a great Festivus. May your pole not break and your grievances be aired!

Pia Savage is a writer, journalist, and former social worker diagnosed with Non Verbal Learning Disorder.

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