A personal brush with being nonverbal

It’s Monday morning, the beginning of the first full work week in November.  I had the weekend off, so that’s why there was no post on Saturday.  I wish I could say that I had an enjoyable, restful weekend—I did at least rest some, though I don’t feel rested—but I didn’t do anything of value to me or to anyone else this weekend, except perhaps for my minimal contribution to the economy that entailed buying things to eat and some cleaning supplies.  I certainly did not socialize in any way.

I did not edit that recording of mine on the nature of time, so my apologies to anyone who was looking forward to it*.  I did do another very brief recording to myself last night, but this was mainly a reminder to me to try to write or think about something, and since it did work to remind me, I’ll mention what it was about here, now.

I was watching a video by a young woman who was diagnosed with ASD in adulthood speaking and thinking about “selective mutism”.  The kind she was discussing was that where someone apparently loses the power of speech only in specific circumstances, and for her it seemed related to social anxiety.  There are, however, instances of prolonged apparent mutism, or nonverbal state, among people with autism spectrum disorder.  Thinking about that from time to time had made me recall a rather disturbing event from my own childhood, one that I don’t think anyone else has ever known about.

I was very young when this happened.  Possibly it was shortly before I started kindergarten, but more likely it was in the first year or two of elementary school, but I remember one day I was frustrated about something I had tried to say.  Perhaps someone had laughed about my inability to get something out, perhaps someone had told me to be quiet; I don’t recall what or who the specific trigger was.  In any case, I recall deciding to myself, in an almost spiteful way, that I would just not talk anymore.  So, I made myself be silent, and for the next few hours, I did indeed remain silent, not speaking.

Then, a little later, something rather frightening happened:  I decided that I wanted to say something**, and realized that I could not speak.  There was nothing wrong with my mouth or my vocal cords or my lungs.  I simply felt that the part of my mind that produced the spoken word had been flipped into the “off” position; Broca’s area had been taken offline.  It was a bit like having taken in a post-hypnotic suggestion that one would be unable to speak; I learned years later that I was a pretty good hypnotic subject, and I did daily self-hypnosis for years starting in junior high or so***.

But that was years later.  At this age, all I knew was that, having decided earlier in anger that I was not going to speak anymore, I found that, indeed, I could not seem to speak.  I remember—I think—being in the dining room near the back of the house, where the deck door would eventually be put in, though I’m not sure if it was there yet.  I felt very frightened that I would never be able to speak again.

It occurred to me, or it felt to me—if I remember correctly—that if I let this go on, it would only be harder to break over time, and it might become permanent****.  I don’t recall exactly what I finally was able to force myself to say, after several moments or minutes of trying; I think it was something like “Hello”, or some rhyme or something along those lines, something very easy to remember and automatic.  But it was difficult.  I really had to force myself, as hard as I had told myself not to talk anymore, to do it.  I was finally able to do so.

It’s a very strange event, but I’ve never really forgotten it, thought the details are plainly fuzzy.  But I wonder if the fact that I was so close to being able to shut my speech down is related to my (apparent) ASD—according to the many tests and explorations that I’ve done—or if it’s simply that I am, as I noted, a good hypnotic subject and was able inadvertently to hypnotize myself in a moment of frustration and anger.

Perhaps “hypnotizability” is related to some aspects of autism spectrum disorders, such as the tendency to become obsessed with certain subjects or interests, to “zone out” when focused on things, ignoring the world around, and even to do various fidgety stims (I’ve always tended to fiddle with things in my hands in one way or another, from dice, to coins, to pens or pencils, to my fingers themselves, and so on).

I don’t know, and I don’t know that anyone has done much research on such things.  There seems to be a relative paucity of functional and structural neuroscience research on autism spectrum disorders, at least based on my own searches—though perhaps I’m just not deep enough in it to know where to look.  But it is interesting and somewhat disconcerting.  Still, maybe my flirtation with being nonverbal, albeit only for a few hours, is related to the phenomenon overall.

More likely, it’s just me being exceptionally weird, as usual.  I don’t know that I’ll ever find out.  In any case, no matter what, I’ve always been decent at writing, and me being nonverbal would not have spared any of you the existence of this blog.

*As if there were any such person.

**Again, I cannot recall at all what I wanted to say or why.

***I got a book about it from my father, because I had a second-hand book from the same author as his book.  My father is probably the person I’ve known whose mind was most similar to mine in many ways, so I guess it made sense that he and I had books from the same author about influencing one’s own mind.

****I’m sure there are people out there who wish it could have been so.

One thought on “A personal brush with being nonverbal

  1. Pingback: Never seem to find the time… – Robert Elessar

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