Social situations have always been hard for me. Body language was like an AP foreign language, while still learning spoken words. Sarcasm was taken too literally. Tone and inflection went unnoticed. I didn’t understand the side glances, the laughing, the joking. I didn’t realize that I was the punch line.
All through school, the bullying was relentless. It was brutal. I was the weird kid who was “too loud,” “too nice,” “too… weird.” For a while, I didn’t notice. Because I didn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t realize that when they laughed, they were laughing at me. Not laughing around me. And certainly not laughing with me. But it didn’t take long for them to make it painfully clear.
I try to describe NVLD to people who don’t have it, and they try to sympathize. They try to understand. But I always seem to fail at conveying the pain that comes along with not understanding what it’s like to feel like everyone else is on the same page, in the same world. You’re just an outsider looking in. Wanting to be a part of that world. Wanting to understand what’s going on. But failing each time you get the courage to try.
That’s the other thing. To get better at something, you have to practice. And it seems easy. Especially the practice that helps with the social awkwardness that comes with NVLD. Because all it is, is being in social situations and trying to be mindful of each thing you miss. Each thing you do “wrong”. But here’s why it’s not so easy… it’s terrifying. When you do miss something and realize it either a minute or a day later, it’s embarrassing. There’s a red hot feeling that creeps around your neck making it hard to breathe. When you do something awkward, you just want to retreat into a safe place and not try again. You feel trapped in a never ending cycle of embarrassment and failure.
When people hear “socially awkward” or “social anxiety” they think it’s just something you can “get over” but it’s not like that. Especially not when it’s the kind that comes with NVLD. It’s crippling. It’s painful. When you’re going out with a group of friends, meeting someone new or, God forbid, seeing someone you’re attracted to. You go over every scenario trying to play out what could happen and how you should react. How a normal person would react. And then when things don’t go according to script, it’s like a glitch in your head, wondering what to do. How to act. What to say. And then you realize you’ve been staring at that person for 30 seconds while they’re just wondering what you’re doing.
NVLD is hard. It’s not impossible. But it’s hard. It hurts. It’s lonely. I’m 22 now. I was diagnosed when I was 16. I’ve gotten a lot better with social situations since then. It took a ton of work and effort. But it’s a little easier now. If you know someone who has NVLD, please do research into it. Please put forth the effort to understand where they are coming from. Because they’re putting forth 10x that effort just to interact with people on a daily basis. And maybe reach out to see how they’re doing once in a while. People with NVLD are more likely to develop anxiety and depression.
And to those reading this who have NVLD, you’re not alone.
Hi, I’m Madds. I’m 22, and I have NVLD. I was diagnosed when I was 16. I want to spread awareness.Share your own story