I feel as if my entire life has been a lie. Floundering where I should have been walking tall. Walking tall when I should have been garnering support.

 Maybe not my entire life but the years since 1996 when I finished grad school and realized my internship had been a farce. That my diploma and license had come too easily and weren't going to lead anywhere because did I really want to be a member of a club that accepted me so readily?

 My life was falling apart. My father had died five years earlier. My mother was becoming blinder and more dependent on my sister and I. My sister could handle everything with grace and elegance. I on the other hand felt like the court jester who was wearing clothes and expressions that exposed my innards.

 I bought an apartment. It took over a year to find one that passed most of my specs. Still it lacked something essential––a true working kitchen. My one great purchase and it was wrong. I went back to work at the nursing home. Easier and paid more than most social work jobs. I felt like somebody who was highly paid for buying old people underwear, and signing my name and title to too many reports.

 I left and was about to get myself truly together when that clear blue sky day happened. I volunteered but was turned down. It was my fault. I didn't ask the right people. 9/11 mostly happened in my borough (county) of New York and I needed to contribute.

 Didn't assert myself enough and show how truly qualified I was. I had always been excellent with families of the dying and the recently dead. Private Benjamin/Savage learned to face horror.

 Only I wasn't prepared for the call I got at 3:30 AM Sunday morning October 14. My mother had fallen into her shower. She died fifteen minutes later crying the entire time that she didn't want to die. For reasons I don't want to go into we heard the tape her Companion Button recorded.

 It broke me into shattered pieces. I'm not sure all the pieces have been put back together. The day of my mother's funeral I got two unsolicited grief counseling offers. It hurt so much to realize that I would be in worse shape than a lot of the people I would be counseling. They were getting empathy, love from the entire city and world (or so it seemed to me then.) I was getting "you didn't bring the right forms, idiot." OK they didn't say the last word but every time I went to the bank they would change the forms needed on me. I would bring the list of things needed they had given me along with the forms and it still wasn't right.

 I understood that in a city tired of death I was an interloper. Some people who had relatives die then but not in the attacks thought it was unseemly to have funerals. How could anybody we love not be memorialized? And maybe my sister and I needed to see a crowded funeral home.

 I'm a naturally guilty person and I felt so much guilt for mourning my own mother. The week after she died somebody I considered to be a good friend said: you're still mourning her? It's been a week. Think of all the young people who died.

 I'm much better now. For nine years I hated August through October as I felt so sad. Now the sadness begins on 9/11 which I suppose is fitting and is much more muted.

 In June 2007 I found out about NLD and had myself tested. It fit and I was incredibly happy. But then I began reading. I found out I wasn't supposed to understand metaphors, smilies, sarcasm. I found out I was supposed to be naive and put too much trust into people. Always, I had been just a little cynical. I handled my resources by myself and was good at it. People with NLD aren't supposed to be good with math (I'm not past arithmetic and for some reason statistics) or money. I totally lost my faith in any ability I had to make my own decisions.

 A stockbroker I had known forever asked for the chance to make me "real money," or ten percent on funds. I kept saying "ten percent of nothing is nothing, if it loses and it will." He said "have a little faith in me." (OK Percy Sledge said that but...) I should have given him just a bit. It wasn't as if I had that much to begin with. Remember that date——June 2007. For a few months it felt like money for nothing. Then I kept losing, losing, and losing. He said to do nothing and would advise me to sell on the worst days. I finally began thinking for myself again and have made back enough not to panic everyday.

 When I found out about NLD I looked desperately for help. The mental health professionals I knew liked me too much. Rather than take this as a good sign I took it as a sign that they knew nothing about NLD and found me too much like Goldie Hawn in Laugh In. The perfect ditz––that was me.

 I got my apartment ready to sell. Spent way too much money on getting it ready but instead of taking charge as I normally would have I let other people make the decisions.

 I put my apartment on the market and moved to South Carolina. There were so many times I wanted to say to the realtors: take it off; I can't go through with this. But I didn't want to disappoint. Most of their sales went for much more money than mine. It would have been so simple. But...The kicker was that the buyers ordered me to take down a wall unit that had been built for the apartment and while I was at it paint the living room. This was Manhattan. It wasn't cheap. Somehow that hurt incredibly. Almost as much as no longer being a Manhattanite.

 So that's how I sold a wonderful Manhattan apartment in 2008. I liked it down here but did I like it enough to buy a house? I had been living here eight months. That's the better part of a year. Would I be happy anywhere? Did I deserve to be happy?

 The thought of traveling to different states and trying out different lives was overwhelming. I found a house I really liked. Not a big house but one with a second floor deck. It was reduced one third the night of the presidential election. I will never be anymore political in this blog than I am at this second but I liked the idea of people running scared because a Black man was going to be in The White House.

 The realtor and I had looked at other houses. She had urged me to take my time. This one she insisted I go into contract immediately. I should have walked. Nobody had that right——especially at that time. But she wanted to get into the seller's realtor's good graces. She kept telling me how horrible New Yorkers were but I was so nice. Give me horrible New Yorkers any day!

 I will never get back the money I put into the house.Bamboo floors, black granite, and plain maple cabinets made by real Amish people aren't big selling points here. I did make the house, and the grounds nobody knew I had come alive. There aren't too many fucshia living room accent walls or turquoise offices in North Myrtle.

 The recession made people here very conservative and very religious. I'm an agnostic Jew. Perfect fit!

 In many ways I love it here but I wish I had waited a year more. I have changed a lot since I sold my apartment and bought a house. I'm a much stronger person.

 But damn——it would have been so helpful if I had spoken to just one professional in adult NLD. Just one maybe even just once. I deserved that.

About the Author

Pia Savage

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

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