I was diagnosed with ADHD at nine years old but I suspected of more disorders as I’ve gotten older. I was eventually diagnosed with several disorders at age seventeen, including nonverbal learning disorder and borderline personality disorder. Before my borderline diagnosis, I’ve already done so much research regarding the disorder so I was already expecting it, but before my nonverbal learning disorder diagnosis, I knew about the disability before but never thought that I would have it. When I finally got a diagnosis, it gave me relief affirming me that I knew now what for sure was different about me.
Some of the struggles I have with being borderline and having nonverbal learning disorder is with texting. Because it’s harder for me in social situations to understand nonverbal communication, I rely on texting more than conversing one-on-one since it’s a more straightforward form of communicating than having to try and understand cues in person. However, one of the disadvantages that come from texting is that texts may not always be immediately returned. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but somebody with borderline may perceive not receiving a text immediately as a form of rejection. I usually get anxious about not receiving texts from my favorite person, the person that matters to the most. And as ridiculous as this sounds, even if I know they’re busy, not receiving a text from them feels like a punishment. The thoughts that plague my mind when I don’t hear from them are extreme.
They hate you. They don’t want anything to do with you. You’re an inconvenience to their time.
I feel so selfish because I know in reality my thoughts aren’t true, but in that one moment, it feels like fact. My hands shake. My heart pounds. I feel trapped inside my own personal bubble of intrusion. The anxiety is aching me and the pain feels like an open nerve. I feel so guilty because I don’t want to ever be an inconvenience to my favorite person, but the thoughts feel so real. And feeling enslaved by my own intrusive thoughts, I eventually give in and ask if they hate me even if I know deep down they don’t. And with top of having nvld, the insecurity is much worse because of your already low self esteem and because you’re more likely to misconstrue the feeling that they hate you.
Another thing I struggle with is with assuming that people are always mad at me or that they hate me. Having borderline makes me very sensitive to social interactions, especially negative ones, and these interactions are more likely to be misinterpreted because of my nvld. For example, somebody could criticize me and this might initiate the extreme thought in my head that they hate me or that they’re attacking me, even if that’s not the case, and depending on who they are, I might either cry or split on them. They then usually assure me that weren’t mad at me or that they weren’t attacking me and this causes me embarrassment. And if they don’t, they get mad or uncomfortable and this causes distance between me and the person.
I also always had difficulties in school settings with my comorbidity. I struggled in my earlier years of school up until I got an adhd diagnosis and an adderall prescription. However, it wasn’t until late middle school that I again began struggling with my academics. Some of the examples of what I had trouble with because of my nvld was that I remember taking Algebra 1 in eighth grade and I started to have a hard time reading graphs beyond middle school level. I also remember being in English 1 and being unable to identify whether or not a word had a negative or positive connotation because of my handicap in understanding emotions and tone in others. And on top of my academic difficulties, I always had trouble fitting in with my peers. I would say this is because of the poor social skills and social anxiety that comes from having both nvld and borderline. I had very little friends in elementary school, was shunned upon by my classmates in middle school, and it wasn’t until high school that I was able to finally make the friends I have today. And with being borderline, I have emotional sensitivity which severely impairs my relationships with peers. Growing up while in school, I always have been synonymous of being a crybaby and this would be because of the emotional sensitivity I have. This would cause my peers to not want to engage with me because they thought I was too emotional to be around.
Having co-occurring conditions of both borderline personality disorder and nonverbal learning disorder jeopardizes me in many parts of my life. However, despite my many setbacks, there are some characteristics I have from these disorders that I’ve come to appreciate.
One of the first characteristics I appreciate about my comorbidity is my resilience. Having to endure many challenges growing up, including losing my parents prematurely and being admitted to psychiatric hospitals, I’ve been able to overcome so much in my life. On top on having to endure all my traumatic experiences, I still to this day undergo the issue I have from my comorbidity including my hindered social skills and mood dysregulation. And in spite of these challenges, I still try and thrive to the best of my ability and I’m proud of myself for it.
Another great thing I’ve come to appreciate about my comorbidity is my creativity. Especially from my deep emotional connections that derive from having my personality disorder, I have a very intense imagination. And also having nvld, I compensate my poor understanding of nonverbal communication with my love of words. Using both my bpd and nvld to my advantage, I can excel with my writing ability.
Despite people with either or both of these disorders having poor academic performance, many people with both disorders are actually intellectually gifted. People with nvld have an IQ split with their verbal IQ scoring disproportionately high and their nonverbal IQ usually scoring low. Just because somebody with nvld doesn’t excel in nonverbal areas, does not mean they’re not intelligent. Many people with nvld are very excellent spellers, are great rote skilled learners, have strong factual recall, and have advanced written or verbal expression. And with people with bpd, it has been estimated that people with bpd are likelier to have above average IQs usually less than 130. That means a person with borderline could have an IQ up to higher than forty-eight percent of the general population.
Lastly, another thing I’ve come to appreciate about my co-occurring disorders is my compassion. People with borderline personality disorder are highly devoted to the people they love. I am a highly emotionally-attuned person and care deeply about the people I love. And even though I have nvld and it impairs me socially, this doesn’t hinder my love or interest in others. I would even say from my limited social skills has actually deepened my already current interpersonal relationships because I can devote more to my loved ones than strangers I’m not familiar with.
There has been little investigation behind nonverbal learning disorder and even more behind it and its comorbidities. It is much more difficult to diagnose a person with a learning disability with a personality disorder due to the possibility of communication issues, decreased self reports, cognitive defects, or overlapping symptoms. This makes the comorbidity of borderline personality disorder and nonverbal learning disorder usually go undetected in diagnosis. There are many difficulties that come from the co-occurrence of borderline personality disorder and nonverbal learning disorder but from the combination of medications, psychotherapy, occupational therapy, and support can make living with them more manageable.
My name is Melina. I am eighteen years old and have been diagnosed with several disorders including nonverbal learning disorder. I have a fascination in psychology and want to study human services to become a clinical social worker.