It never made sense to me. Why was I in gifted classes in elementary school then as soon as middle school began, I struggled to maintain a C average? How could my elementary school teachers have been so wrong? At night, as I worked hard to complete my homework, I could not imagine some of my peers working so hard. I was always surprised to see them turning in their homework each day, seemingly unfazed by the amount of effort required. I surmised that I lacked work ethic and I’d better get myself accustomed to working harder. I asked my father who, despite performing terribly in school due to undiagnosed dyslexia, was a wildly successful entrepreneur -why school seemed harder for me than others. Without hesitation he assured me that was because, like him, I was not smart but how smart someone is – is not a measure of how well he/she will do in life. He said it was more important that I worry about being a good person and establishing strong work habits. And how to be resourceful. Like, getting people who were good in subjects to help me. And looking good. People care more about how good you look than whether you understand some random theory taught in school that has no relevance, he told me.
It was no surprise when I absolutely bombed the SATs. I have still only met one person whose overall score was lower than mine. My father was not concerned. He’d make a donation to a school and charm them. He sent them – this was before digital cameras – polaroid photos of him on his knees pleading with a big grin. He sent the admissions directors flowers on their birthdays, care packages when he heard one of them was working with a cold or sore throat. He explained to me that test scores have no merit. Because of his persuasion, I was admitted to a nationally, highly acclaimed school and was terrified I would soon fail out. Quite the opposite was true, however. I excelled. Except in foreign language – I barely survived it and my remedial math class. I was accepted to law school where I was convinced I would thrive due to my strong abilities to write and read.
Suffice to say, law school was one of the hardest experiences of my life. By my last semester, I was placed into an extra writing course by the school. One of the writing assignments was based on a “potential client”, a parent who wanted to know whether his daughter who had an NVLD was entitled to something – I can’t recall what. As I researched the criteria for NVLD and wrote the essay, I was floored. The only thing I did not identify with was the description of writing taking twice as long for the student. I glanced at the clock and realized I had spent twice as long writing the essay than was assigned. Did I always take so long?
I was tested within a week and the examiner, when advising me of the results, said he found it absolutely astonishing I had made it so far in school. He described my IQ scores as an 88 for non-verbal/spacial and 122 for verbal. He said that in his career he had never seen a greater delta.
I didn’t know what to make of it and, candidly, the examiner did not provide much information. The internet nor the resources today were available. I just assumed that overall I was dumb and that I should continue to try to hide my ineptness from employers and others with hard work and a positive attitude.
Not until recently, now that I have children of my own and they have been tested, did I pull out my testing and understand, for the first time, that I was not, in fact stupid. It has been a hard habit to break yet a welcome change to my thoughts throughout the day about myself. It suddenly also made sense why I felt like I was “face blind”. I can talk with someone for an hour, in person, then not recognize that person the very next day. It is a horrible impediment in my life that I am able to hide 90% of the time but I am often anxious that someone will discover that I have no idea who he or she is.
The other aspect of NLVD in my life has been my absolute naiveté. I was the one who, when the boy in college asked me if I wanted to see the glow in the dark stars in his room, enthusiastically agreed – excited to see those stars – not thinking for a moment it was a ploy to get us alone and in his room. I’d always leave wondering why. I felt so awkward and unattractive. I’ve gotten into much trouble over the years with possessive boyfriends asking – how could you have not known? I don’t buy that for a minute! You wanted him. — Wanted him? That was the last thing on my mind.
In my job now (I no longer work as an attorney), I am more successful, especially, financially than I ever thought possible. The traits of perseverance (perseveration), resourcefulness and naiveté — believing in others so fiercely that they begin to believe in themselves, has been vital to my success. I have a profound curiosity about the perspectives of others – coupled with a failure to fully grasp the social pressure that tells others not to ask or say things. Some how, though, people understand that I am genuinely seeking to understand their perspective and, without defense, answer those questions everyone wants to know but could not ask. I find most people want to be known and understood and appreciate my “fearlessness”.
The toughest part about my life with NVLD is experiencing the AGONY of disillusionment. Yet, the best part of life with NVLD is really the flip side of that – a lack of cynicism and naiveté in the form of optimism. If someone makes a mistake or causes me harm and apologizes, I believe him or her and don’t give it a second thought. I choose to see the best in everyone and I am able. It makes working in a tough profession, a joy!
I still learn everything in words and ask lots of questions when watching a movie – but I know now that I am capable and worthy. The “worthy” part took a little longer. With so many mistakes and harsh reactions, it is hard not to struggle at times with shame that is toxic.
When I think back to things I thought and did, I cannot believe how far I have come. If you have a child struggling, have heart. Patiently talking through misunderstandings helps and things can and DO get better.Share your own story