Official promo piece from Disney
Source: Official promo piece from Disney

I would freeze or act inappropriately when I was supposed to react or act differently than I should have. People talk about how people with nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) "think differently." But maybe because of our spatial and other problems we subconsciously become too scared to act. At other times we blurt out inappropriate answers because of the same problem. 

Sometimes when I look at my computer screen and/or try to record my thoughts, I freeze. And then I'm reminded of how too much of my life was spent frozen, unable to come out with the thoughts I knew were there.

I knew that I wasn't an introvert nor really shy. I knew that I was bright, and had much to say, if only I could say it.

Blake Verdoon, used with permission
Source: Blake Verdoon, used with permission

Somehow I was able to make many friends anyway, fall in love, and achieve some workplace success. I say "some" only because it wasn't the success my father wanted for me. He knew I was capable of much more.

My father made me freeze more than anyone. Yet he was, in many ways, my greatest supporter, and the person I had the most to say to. And said it——it's not as if I were mute. But there was so much more.

It's hard when you know that you're different, yet don't know why or how you're different.

I knew that I thought differently than most people, but as I didn't know how they thought. I had no idea what I could do to think more like them.

Thinking differently isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm sure many people said: "Oy, Albert, why can't you try, just a bit?" Then later they bragged about knowing Einstein when he was young.

But I'm not Einstein.

I'm just a woman who can't organize an empty paper bag. That's a skill, or lack of one, I should be proud of....

 I can think in sync with the world when it's about somebody else. It's only me I have and had difficulty with.

I don't think I ever had horrible judgment. I had fears and phobias. Ones so ingrained I either wasn't aware of them, was too ashamed of them to say anything, or the therapist de jour didn't think them important. I knew they were important. But I would freeze. Or bow to authority.

No words would come out of my mouth. Or I would hear myself say something completely different than what I had carefully planned to say. Sometimes I would be amazed at the things that came out my mouth.

I sounded so rational even if I didn't mean a word of what I was saying. Fear took over, and fear made me speak.

Fear made me sound arrogant. Fear made me do things I hadn't planned on doing. Fear could even make me sound cocky.

Fear made me mute. Fear made me listen to others though I knew they were wrong.

Fear made me into somebody I wasn't.

Fear also made me live. I was so scared I wouldn't live a rich, full life I forced myself into living it

I made good choices, meaningless choices, and some horrible choices. I can't apologize for that as I think everybody does the same to one degree or another. 

But everyone isn't looked at, and discussed. People don't say about most people: "I knew if we let her live on her own she would___" (Insert horrible choice.)

Fortunately my parents didn't know about NLD. Fortunately my parents never stopped me from living or attempting to live.

When I was older my father told me he had "the rule of 30," about me. "Will she hate me at 30 if I try to stop her from___?"

Usually, he realized I was testing my own limits.

I also had an incredible survival instinct. I was the one to rescue people from bad decisions. When I went to the former Soviet Union people had to go on tours or see family. On my tour, I teamed up with a newly minted psychiatrist who was six years older than me.

Coincidentally we saw the same psychiatrist back in New York. He was an analyst and she couldn't believe that somebody as flaky as me was in semi-analysis (could only afford two sessions a week––and he lowered his rate) with this famous analyst. I actually wrote out something that gave him permission to tell her I was a patient.

So incredibly brilliant psychiatrist and flake me were in (the former) Leningrad the last night of the tour. We were staying on the other side of the river. The bridge closed for the night  and there was no other way to get there. (I forget the hour.)

Two gorgeous blonde men tried picking us frizzy haired New York girls up. I noticed the tan lines where the wedding rings should be. Sex with strangers, something I wasn't adverse to, was the last thing on my mind. We had to get on the bridge before it closed so we could be at our hotel in time to leave.

I didn't view this as a "romantic interlude." Hell people were dying from AIDS then. I sure didn't have condoms. I didn't want to go back to an apartment when I didn't know the person, didn't know the area, didn't speak the language. There were so many negatives I couldn't begin to count them all.

I had to explain all this to brilliant frizzy haired psychiatrist. She still didn't get it. On the way to the airport she mentioned what a kill sport I was to people we had become friendly with. She thought they would support her, and say I had stopped a grand adventure. Ha!

I'm far from perfect. I have been in dangerous situations.

While I can read facial expressions and body language I would freeze a lot and lose that ability. Therefore I would think men were interested in me who weren't, and men weren't interested in me when they were. This led to some strange, horrible and great adventures.

 There have been years, decades almost where I have been the person I dreamed abut being.

But now I'm growing older, and have many valid fears.

I'm in the first generation of known—NLD'ers to grow older. I make stupid mistakes. Recently I had to write out a check—something I do enough here to know that I do it "normally." But this check——the numbers and the written numbers didn't match. I had to send in another check. I forgot to sign it. Is that a normal mistake or am I becoming demented?

I won't answer any questions about anti—anxiety meds and I will delete any comment that talks about how horrible Schedule IV meds are. Don't you think I worry about them?

I did well on them. They let me live a rich life. But will they lead to dementia?

Is my older age going to be a time of joy and fun? Or one of horrors?

I want to embrace my life and live it with abandon. I want to travel. Traveling makes me feel alive. I want to see old friends for extended periods of time. And laugh with new friends.

I still freeze at times. But 1,000 times less than when I was younger.

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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