Sometimes I become nonverbal due to emotional or cognitive overwhelm
Sometimes I become nonverbal due to fatigue.
Sometimes anxiety/fear of saying the wrong thing and getting punished is a factor (I suspect this might be related to my father’s incompetence as a parent, his tendency to take my verbal missteps personally and either rage at me or emotionally abandon me for saying the wrong thing).
Sometimes I become nonverbal because I’m dealing with several warring ideas, what amounts to dissociative belief systems: I feel like X is true, but another part of me feels like “Nope… Nope… No way… X is wrong,” and the inner conflict can short-circuit my ability to talk.
Sometimes I become nonverbal because my mind has gone defensively blank due to social phobia, PTSD, and associated triggers (such as crowds, loud noises, specific persons, or the presence of two or more guys… It seems like guys are more prone to being dicks when they’re in pairs, even if they’re basically good people individually).
Sometimes I think with feelings or with intuitions instead of with language. Basically, I have a lot of impressions and thought-like happenings inside of my mind that I’m juggling around fairly loosely. My mind is actively processing stuff, but it’s largely divorced from my semantic system.
Sometimes I’m nonverbal because of no reason that I can immediately understand.
Sometimes, I see so many different sides of a specific issue, that I can’t really articulate it simply, and I don’t have “the spoons” to exhaustively explain my perspective.
Sometimes I’m basically capable of speaking normally, yet I’m strongly disinclined to speak because…
…Speaking seems futile. I know from experience that whatever I say will be abruptly invalidated, ignored, or misinterpreted (interpreted as rude, peculiar, or very different than I intended, sometimes so much so that it’s disorienting).
…I fear that if I try to speak, I might develop “blank mind” mid-sentence or experience socially awkward language processing delays.
…I can sometimes have dysphoria issues about the sound of my voice, thus making me reluctant to talk.
…I can sometimes feel disinclined to speak because I don’t want to say something I’ll regret.
… I can sometimes feel reluctant to talk because I’m distracted by headache pain.
Sometimes I’m “nearly nonverbal” rather than fully or completely nonverbal. And so I can manage stuff like one-word replies and brief responses intermittently, but it’s touch-and-go / unreliable and mentally exhausting.
When I’m nonverbal, it is impossible for me to verbally explain why I’m not speaking. And that is a problem because in the US, not speaking to others is viewed as rude and can make people feel suspicious of what your deal is. And I’ve been left with some social trauma that is related to this problem.
Even if I could hand out a 3x5 card which concisely and beautifully explained that I was frequently nonverbal, and provided some information as to why, it would not relieve me of the stigma.
Or it would be embarrassing.
Or it would amount to over-sharing with a relative stranger.
Or it would derail the conversation.
Of it would add an element of unwelcome seriousness into a light-hearted discussion.
Or it would add an element of unwelcome personal confession into a work environment or a task-focused social interaction of some sort.
And so historically, I’ve tended to lean towards avoidance of socializing by, for example, isolating.
Sometimes I feign distraction. Sometimes I feign aloofness.
I don’t know why I do this. These are not effective long term solutions.
The problem has gotten worse with time. I have to disclose my autism problems or I end up alienating people, or they pick up on my reticence to socialize and interpret it as rudeness or something worse. And I am gradually getting better at meaningful and effective disclosure, but it’s complicated by the fact that…
(a) When I’m nonverbal, I’m incapable of conversing, so at that point it’s intrinsically too late to talk about it,
(b) successfully communicating that I’m nonverbal can trigger people’s stigma against those with mental illness,
(c) people have a hard time dealing with the concept of fluctuating degrees of impairments (the fact that someone could be relatively articulate at 10am and nearly nonverbal at 11am).
(d) people have an empathy gap related to their lack of direct personal experience with autism-level impairments,
(e) people have a cultural bias (especially Americans) against those who are autistic,
(f) people have a cultural bias (especially Americans) against those who introverted and/or uncommunicative,
(g) and people have flawed or bigoted ideas about things like autism, trauma, and mental illness in general. They haven’t been educated about what autism means or what it’s like to have autism-related nonverbal spells and/or trauma-related nonverbal spells. So I can’t just say “I’m sometimes nonverbal” and have it convey much of anything.
I would literally have to give others individualized presentations about autism and trauma which really isn’t socially practical, plus unless they have some tremendous listening skills and empathy skills, I’d begin to disengage and/or drift into a nonverbal state quite fast. And talking about my mental health problems is especially difficult because it can trigger emotional flashbacks which can leave me feeling overwhelmed.
Sometimes disclosure about my autism is a relief; it makes me feel more real and visible, even if people don’t really know what it means. But it’s difficult, and I guess that it just seems like such a ridiculous problem to have. I’m an adult. I should be able to communicate readily and easily with my mouth, but I just can’t (except when I can).
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