It’s no secret that I have #Lupus and #C-PTSD. I’m fairly vocal about the impact that both of those have on my life. But what I don’t talk about a lot (at least publicly) is that I also have a diagnosed Nonverbal Learning Disability (#NVLD or NLD).
There’s something relatively easy with talking about Lupus and PTSD. Lupus is a physical ailment, and chances are you, or someone you know struggles with it (or something like it). Selena Gomez and a slew of other celebrities have discussed the impact of the disease on their lives, and have, thereby increased its visibility and decreased its stigma.
PTSD is similar — we usually relate it to survivors of war, but recently, our culture has, in a way, embraced that #PTSD extends beyond the battlefield. Whereas I’ve always been candid about my history, the #metoo movement made the roots of my PTSD, and the effect of it on my everyday life, even more “easy” to discuss. Make no mistake, it’s not as though discussing my trauma is as undemanding as discussing my recent obsession with Nerds candies, but it’s become less emotionally cumbersome across time.
NVLD is different — it’s something that I’ve struggled with in a different way. Whereas PTSD and Lupus both “flare,” and can be (largely) managed with the proper environmental or medicinal care, NVLD sort of lurks in the background, affecting my life in a low, constant murmur.
NVLD is primarily a nonverbal processing disorder — great, that’s not particularly useful unless you’re in the psychological or neurological sciences. For me, NVLD means I don’t know my right from my left. I don’t put my shoes on the proper feet. I get confused with directions. I take things literally. I bump into things. I trip. I can’t do arithmetic. I can’t recreate an image from my mind, because when I close my eyes, there are mostly words, not images. I can’t sew, draw a straight line, or catch a ball. Numbers confuse me. Words soothe me. (But at the same time, my reading comprehension is terrible. I’m an incredibly slow reader. And I’m paralyzingly overwhelmed by too many words on a page.)
I have stories, so many stories, about how NVLD has resulted in very public panic attacks (from elementary school through now), or how NLVD has resulted in me overreacting, under-reacting, or otherwise inappropriately reacting to situations. But those are stories for another time.
In addition to all of the outward characteristics that come along with it, NVLD, much more than either Lupus or PTSD, has made me ashamed of myself. NVLD has fed into my imposter syndrome in a way that Lupus or PTSD never could. NVLD has made me feel inferior to my colleagues and friends. NVLD has made me feel unworthy of the education I have. In short, it’s made me feel like a complete fraud and a complete idiot.
Hearing Chris Rock publicly announce his diagnosis has given me the courage to write about my NVLD in a way that I’ve always wanted to, but have always been afraid to. He’s given me the strength to re-open my Medium, which I’d shut down in fear that I’d been, perhaps, too candid with my struggles. He’s given me hope that people will embrace us too, and fight for us too. I want to join that fight, and so here I am.
My name is Ettya. And I have NVLD.