Yes I'm very aware that there's a dearth of research on adult NLD.There are very few therapists who know about NLD. I know that I'm not willing to pay a therapist to learn about NLD as in my opinion the sessions while the therapist is learning would probably be a waste. That's solely my opinion and based on a lifetime of trying to get help

 I'm not even going to try to justify that with "children are the future so they're more important." There are an amazing amount of people in their late teens to 30's being diagnosed with NLD. They too are our future.

 I think it's important for people with nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) to remember that many neurotypicals are shy, anxious, depressed, convinced that the world or many people hate them, insecure, unable to start or sustain conversations and much more. Yet we seem to assign these problems to us only.

≈≈≈≈≈≈The most important advice I can give is that we're not the only people with problems. It's OK to give into problems for a day or two. It's better and very important to keep trying.

 The other day I read a Facebook comment thread about people with NLD having weird, sad or angry facial expressions. When I was young that was considered to be a good thing (at least by my father) because men hit on me and I spent a lot of time in the city without parental supervision.

 Now I make sad, weird or angry faces when I'm tired, anxious, drained, overwhelmed or lost in thought while walking. Please don't think all people, who do this, with NLD are unaware of this. It might be one of the things that add to our anxiety. Don't forget this happens while we don't notice people who might be interested in us as friends and/or partners. (Somehow when I was in my late teens and 20's these totally horrible expressions often added to my appeal.) But still I know I missed out on some potentially great relationships, and friendships. Don't feel sorry for me I had some great relationships, many wonderful friendships. I chose to leave my careers for reasons that seemed valid then. It's the "I could have been so much more" that gets to me.

 I don't smile more when strangers scream out (and here in the South everybody feels entitled to comment on other people): "Why are you so__" (Feel in the blank——angry, sad, drained or tired.) It does help when friends smile at me. I have trained myself through the decades to try to always look animated and happy when with family, colleagues or friends.

 Sometimes I would be with a group of people in a restaurant or meeting. I would have much to contribute to the conversation but people would overlook me. I assume because my face looked strange and/or I was talking funny. I try to meet with people in restaurants that have round tables as that helps. So does keeping the group smaller. Other times I could be at an event in a long table in a restaurant and everybody will listen to me. I assume my face looks more "normal," and my voice is both just loud enough and well-modulated. It's the not knowing how I will come across that makes me anxious. I don't need to feel more anxious.

 I am the queen of anxiety. Nobody knows if anxiety is a part of many people's NLD or it happens because we have so much to be anxious about. I have read that panic attacks can only last 20 minutes and are never physical. Really? Then why if I have an EKG while having a panic attack is it abnormal? Why do my panic attacks last as long as it takes the med to work?

 As NLD doesn't get the respect other disorders do, anxiety doesn't get the respect depression does. That sounds harsh. "Everybody knows" depression can lead to self-harm and/or suicide so how can anxiety be as harmful? Chronic anxiety can lead to self-harm, depression, and problems with physical health such as heart diseases. Chronic anxiety can be a killer. It's often treatable with meds or better a combination of cognitive or behavioral therapy and meds.

 People aren't ashamed of the problems depression and or bipolar disorder brings them. Yet often anxiety will be brushed to the side as if it's something the person suffering from could get over. If only she practices yoga. If only she learns breathing techniques. If only she exercises more. If only she learns not to feel shame or guilt. All those things are helpful. Some may even "cure" a person. But I know the affect was ony temporary for me.

 Anxiety manifests in many different ways. It can make me talk louder and faster——as fast as a Japanese bullet train, or my mouth can dry out and no words will come out. While that hasn't happened since I was thirteen it has kept me from fully participating in some conversations. I would assume that my words wouldn't come out so I wouldn't participate. Then I developed an "I don't care; I have more than most to say and every right to say it," attitude. That helped both in large groups and smaller restaurant table ones.

 Walking used to help reign in my anxiety. I was a compulsive walker. it's still one of my favorite things to do. But I'm getting older and I think all the years of anxiety are beginning to take a physical toll. I don't know yet for sure. Please don't tell me to do yoga or anything else that entails muscle memory as at this particular juncture in life that makes me feel like the dimmest bulb in the universe.

 Anxiety or worrying that I will become anxious have been my constant companions most of my life. I do believe that had I known about NLD I could have attacked it more fully.

 At the same time I have been aware forever that it's up to me to be considered likable or strange. That I would make a truly horrible recluse. Fortunately despite everything that I have written above I have always known that a certain number of people won't like me and other people will find me more than slightly appealing.

Probably the second most important advice I can give is——learn to feel comfortable with the knowledge that not everybody has to like everybody. Keep trying. We only fail when we stop wanting to grow. Learning about ourselves and what makes us happy is a lifetime mission. For most people not just people with NLD.

 We can't expect others to do all the work despite our missing signals, not giving off "normal" facial expressions, being very anxious, and/or depressed.We can work on learning signals, training our faces to look interested in others and happy. Working on not being anxious isn't a "can" but a must.

 We can have a sense of humor about our problems. We can understand that while the knowledge others have it worse shouldn't be comforting it can help us maintain perspective.

 The earlier NLD is detected the easier it will probably be in the long run. But as it's just beginning to be truly learned about many of us adults learn in adulthood and learned long ago that these strange problems don't define us. We are human. We bleed red. And no human is perfect!

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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