I’m Nyx. They’ve known I’ve had learning disabilities since I was 4, but I wasn’t diagnosed with NVLD until I was 16. My disparity is 99th percentile on my left, and 18th percentile on my right, which makes my disability presentation both severe and very rare, according to my psychologist, only 0.02% of people on the planet have a brain with that degree of difference. Life is… interesting.
I am now 22. Adulthood while living with NVLD is something that I could never have fully prepared for. Most days, I feel like I live in a world that just wasn’t made for me. Since my right hemisphere is so deficient, social skills are really difficult for me. I often forget to say “thank you” because I don’t realize that most people need a verbal expression of gratitude. If I do ask someone how their day was or a follow up question, it’s because I am consciously remembering that I’m supposed to do that, not because it’s reflexive. I tend to come off as self centered and callous because I don’t have a clue how to soften my punches and tend not to say everything in my head because I assume some things are implied when, to my persistent shock, they are not. This has gotten me into much trouble because even people who know me well take my actions personally, when they were really just a byproduct of my wiring. I hate hurting people. I admit that I’m often jealous of autistic people because at least they can’t comprehend the effects of their actions on others due to their lack of mirror neurons, where I have to live with them. I’ve been frequently told that I’ll run into problems in the workforce or when I have a family of my own, and those are some of my deepest fears.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. That 99th percentile thing means I have a freakish memory for anything spoken aloud. I can recall conversations, word pairs, and statements even years down the line, and tend to freak people out by reminding them of things they’ve said in my presence that they assumed I would have forgotten. I’ve used this little superpower to my advantage academically, teaching myself graduate level skeletal biology by the time I was 16 and writing whole responses with sources to journal articles by the time I was 17, just for fun. My chosen career path is medicine, and my specialization is pathology, where my attention to detail and recall powers serve me well. (Pathology is also filled with people who are some degree of neurodivergent, so I feel right at home) I did have an interruption in my schooling which required me to transfer universities, but I just got accepted to Harvard after a yearlong trial period, during which I made the Dean’s List. Despite my social blind spots, I’ve managed to find love, too. My partner and I just celebrated our third anniversary, and our relationship is super healthy and supportive all around. He’s also on the spectrum somewhere, which definitely helps. I’ve noticed that when it comes to friendships and dating I tend to get along better with those who also have disabilities, because there’s a common understanding in being different. It really does make me wish that more support groups existed for people like me, especially adults, so that we’d all feel less alone. Our society seems to have this harebrained idea that learning disabilities disappear after age 18, and the support and recognition we received as minors tends to evaporate in a lot of ways.
To get to where I am, I have had to work very hard, both in school and in therapy. I credit a lot of my success to a fantastic therapist who is knowledgeable about NVLD and knows exactly how and when to push my buttons to get me to grow. I still have a ways before I get to a place where I’ll feel satisfied, and I know there are things that will always be a challenge, but I’m determined to make the most of my brain in spite of it. Life with NVLD is chiefly about carving a place in a world that wasn’t made for you, and making it work even when you’re told over and over again that people like you just can’t do the things that you want to do. Someday, when I’ve made it, I want to write a book or create something that will serve as a road map to others like me. I want to be the role model I never had. I want to be living proof that people with NVLD can do anything they want to do, can work any job they want to work, can be loving partners and parents and friends, and can be happy and successful in whatever they choose to do. Right now, I feel like I’m going into this blind, but I will not allow those who come after me to feel this way. Not if I can help it.
I’m a premed at Harvard University Extension who is just going into my second year. I have the most amazing partner, a grouchy cat, and a plant collection threatening to overwhelm my apartment. Hobbies include cooking, knitting, and watching Formula 1 racing. In addition to my MD, I’d love to get a master’s in aviation safety someday.