Suicide & NLD

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again the issue of suicide has popped up again on the media radar. Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have managed to bring it to everyone’s plate and now we get to watch as social media spins out its version of “thoughts and prayers” in the form of “reach out.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s good advice. Completely useless to someone who is currently flirting with killing themselves but good advice. What happens, though when you add Nonverbal Learning Disorder to the mix? Are we NLD Superheroes more susceptible to suicide as someone once suggested to me? To be honest, I don’t know. All I can talk about is my own experience with suicide and suicidal ideation.

If I’m going to be completely transparent here, and I must for the sake of this conversation, I have to admit that I’ve attempted suicide. Suicide by fate, I call it. As a teen who survived abuse and found herself unwanted by her family (my sister was my abuser), I felt tired. Tired of fighting to survive. Tired of trying to reach out to my family again and again and being rejected. Tired of trying to figure out how to live in this confusing world. I was tired down to my soul and I just wanted to rest.

I was nothing if not creative so I decided to let fate decide if I should live or die. At this time I was involved in an evangelical Christian group and fate was another word for God. If God wanted me to live, He’d show me. So, I took to jaywalking.

Here’s what would happen. I’d need to get from one side of the road to another. Didn’t matter what road it was, a residential street or busy thoroughfare, I’d jaywalk. However, I never bothered to check for traffic. I don’t know if any gods had their hand in my survival but even though I came close many times, I was never hit by a car.

My life at that time was pure chaos. Evangelicals pretended to care about my soul while  they dictated how I should live while my family showed no interest in where I was or who I was with. At the time my Nonverbal Learning Disorder was undiagnosed and I may have had a celestial being or two looking out for me because I never wound up on the side of a milk carton, either. Despite many opportunities to end up there.

So what does any of this have to do with Nonverbal Learning Disorder?

As I stated earlier, post-celebrity suicide is when everyone on social media advises those with mental illness to “reach out.” If you have NLD, that’s a whole new level of WTF.

Those of us who have to live with NLD are the proverbial odd shaped pegs trying to fit in a square peg world. We pretzel ourselves into being something we’re not just so we can be seen as high functioning. This places an unbelievable amount of pressure on us and only makes the existing anxiety and depression that are NLD’s sidekicks that much harder to control.

Having NLD means functioning in a different vibration from the rest of the world. The resulting clash that comes when our functioning meets the tidal wave of “normal behaviour” ends up in anxiety and depression. Does this automatically put NLD people at risk of suicide? I don’t know. I have no answers.

What I do know is the advice to “just reach out” is useless. As someone with NLD there’s a few questions I have about that. Reach out to who? Tell them what? When do I reach out? Is there a guidebook I can consult? Communication is one of the problems people with NLD have. Are the people we’re reaching out to aware of that? If so, do they know how to understand us?

Suicide is a problem and feeling isolated is a part of it. So instead of saying “reach out,” I’ll give some different advice. Go out and learn what your options are. NLD people are great at gathering information. So go out and use that to your advantage. Learn how to access the medical community. Learn how to build a network of support and coping mechanisms.

I don’t have any answers when it comes to suicide and NLD. All I know is what I’ve experienced. If you’re feeling suicidal, please know you’re not alone.

Robin Williams – Time to Talk

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My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today” – Richard Adams

Yesterday I, like millions of others, shed some tears over the passing of Robin Williams. A thousand thoughts went through my head and I wanted to say so

Robin Williams - You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.

Robin Williams


much. I find it ironic that his laughter saved me from committing suicide. I never got to thank him. So, today, I thought I’d devote this space to talking about a subject that gets so little attention; mental illness. At first I thought of doing something poignant and hard-hitting but then I thought Robin Williams brought laughter to us so why not talk about this subject with laughter.

I don’t want his death to mean nothing. So let’s use this opportunity to talk.

I suffer from anxiety and have for years. So many people who have loved ones suffering from mental illness have really no idea how to help. That’s an awful feeling, being powerless in the face of such blackness. So I thought I’d give some advice from the perspective of someone living down the rabbit hole.

  • Don’t tell us how to handle it. Everyone has great ideas and you’re no exception. However, “get over it” isn’t particularly helpful when you’re gibbering in a corner. “Just ignore it” is great advice if your brain doesn’t feel like it’s trying to claw the inside of your eyelids.
  • Don’t do for us. Sure, it seems easier to just do stuff for us. After all, those of us who ride the crazy train have to dodge the hallucinations as we do the dishes. However, we’ve worked up a rhythm and when you step in to do it for us you knock us off our stride. We’re not helpless. We do stuff. Okay, so maybe I bark when I reach for the apples at the grocery store but just ignore that. Better yet, bark with me.
  • A little laughter goes a long way. Years ago when I thought suicide sounded like a great escape, I went to see the movie, “Good Morning Vietnam”. I laughed so hard that I cried. A thought hit me that if I could still laugh then I could still live. Ever since then when things get bad I reach for Robin Williams. Help us to laugh. Sometimes that’s hard when you’re lost in your own head.
  • Talk. One of the great things about kids is they ask questions. Even the ones they’re not supposed to. Somehow we lose that talent. Don’t talk about the elephant in the room. Mental illness is an elephant in the room wearing bright yellow rubber boots and singing show tunes. Talk about it. Don’t worry about offending us. We want to talk. We want you to understand.
  • Let us have our moments. You may not understand why I need to turn the lights off and on three times but I do. It may not make sense to you that I panic if the pickles are on the top shelf in the refrigerator instead of the middle shelf but it makes sense to me. I have my rituals and touchstones. Please don’t mess with them.
  • Accept us. Crazy don’t mean dumb. If you love us, then love us. That means accepting that we’re going to text 15 times in a day just to make sure you got our last message. But we have good points as well. We make amazing cupcakes and know all the best places to make out. Well, I do, anyways.

Oh, captain my captain

Robin, you’ll be missed. You left us too soon and we had so much more laughs to be had. I understand the war you waged within yourself. A war too many of us fight. Know this; your death need not be in vain. It’s a chance for us to talk about that darkness that so many of us live with. It’s time to speak out.

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