Gratitude List (February 23, 2019) #TToT

This week was a truly mixed bag. I am tempted to focus on the negative. I mean, even my Thankful Thursday post sounded more negative than grateful. For this reason, I’m going to write a gratitude list for this week. As always, I am linking up with #TToT

1. Nearly 14,000 steps on Monday! I had over 120 active minutes thanks to a long walk in the morning, another long walk in the afternoon and going on the elliptical.

2. No more need for painkillers. It’s been five weeks since my collarbone fracture and I am now almost pain-free without medication.

3. Lovely weather. It’s been a lot warmer than is normal for February this past week and it’s supposed to get even warmer next week. I know this could be bad in terms of climate change, but I’m so grateful.

4. No weight gain. I had my annual physical check-up at the mental health agency last week and weighed the same as in late December. Since I’ve not been minding my diet at all, this is good news. My blood pressure was also pretty good.

5. PRN tranquilizers. I haven’t needed them anymore after Wednesday, but I’m still glad I have them.

6. My cynical sense of humor. By 2021, everything will be okay. I know really I can’t wait that long, but everytime I say these words, they still bring a grin to my face.

7. Horseback riding with my day activities group. Because two clients from my group are currently not capable of horseback riding, the staff asked me whether I want to ride in their place. I loved it.

8. My mother texting me. She rarely calls or texts me and I’d let it go and not contacted her after our visit last December. She asked how I’m doing. Of course, I still had to avoid the elephant in the room that is my going into long-term care, but oh well.

9. Getting more used to my Mac. Yesterday, I even started writing a blog post on it using an external blogging app (because WordPress is hard to use). I haven’t figured everything out, but I’m sure that I will.

10. My mood being slightly better thes elast few days. I am not nearly as anxious as I was early in the week.

What have you been grateful for lately?

Thankful Thursday (February 21, 2019): Meltdowns

Today is Thursday and I’m participating in the Thankful Thursday blog hop. I am thankful for all the wonderful people in my life, who stick by me even when I’m struggling.

We have been struggling a lot lately. On Tuesday, we were in an almost-constant state of panic. Our staff tried to comfort us, but it was hard. They were nice though and even though we were very distressed, they didn’t get reactive.

Then Wednesday didn’t start good either. We had to have a blood draw and the laboratory person was supposed to come to our home. She hadn’t told us at what time she’d come though, so I waited for an hour, not having eaten as instructed, and then left. I was in a meltdown already.

Later that morning, once at day activities, I was on the rocking lounger in the yard. The staff had said she’d come get me back indoors “in a while”. Well she looked through the window and saw me rocking nicely, but then when I wanted to get off, no-one saw or heard me. That’s when I melted down again.

And then, in the afternoon, my husband informed me that he wouldn’t be home from work till 8PM. My in-laws couldn’t have me eat at theirs either, so I would have to be alone at home till 8PM. I was in a huge meltdown again and ran out of the house.

Thankfully, a woman who lives further down the street came to me and calmed me and helped me find the way to my home.

In addition to being grateful for all the nice people in my life, I”m thankful for PRN tranquilizers. My husband has them in a locker, because I’ve taken two overdoses on them in the past. I hardly ever use them, so when I had used my last pill, I’d forgotten to ask my husband for a refill. Fortunately, he did yesterday. He reminds me that even though I hardly use them, I don’t have them prescribed for no reason at all.

2021

I am struggling a lot. On Sunday, I read that long-term care funding will be available to those with a lifelong psychiatic disorder, but it won’t be till 2021. Then, I had myself convinced that I won’t get funding until then. After all, the funding person said the medical advisor may have to talk to my psychiatrist. I’m pretty sure my psychiatrist feels my primary disability is psychiatric in nature, because, well, she’s a psychiatrist. Then I will be denied long-term care funding for now.

Of course, I could be seeing the 2021 thing as a positive, in that even if I don’t qualify for long-term care now, I almost certainly will by then. I cannot see it like that though, because right now I’m virtually drowning.

I struggled a lot at day activities today. I have been struggling for a few weeks, in fact. I couldn’t find the words to express myself at first, only that I’m anxious. Then finally I was able to put some feelings into words. I fear when going into the sensory room on my own that the staff will forget me if I fall asleep. I also feel very easily overloaded by the other clients (and sometimes the staff). I just realize as I write this that staff trying to explain what is happening, sometimes overloads me even more.

I’m also afraid I will be kicked out of this day center if my challenging behavior escalates and that I’ll be left at home alone all day then. I’m not sure whether I believe the staff when they say that I won’t.

I am just so scared. I don’t know whether I can go on like this for two more years. In fact, I’m pretty certain that I can’t.

Carol

Was I Sometimes Raised as a Golden Child?

I have been feeling really off lately. I keep having flashbacks. I also keep having what I’d describe as flashforwards, where I imagine my parents’ reaction to the different possible outcomes of the long-term care situation. These then lead to more flashbacks. One particular flashback I keep having is to a phone conversation I had with my mother when I’d just been admitted to the mental hospital in 2007, or maybe it was shortly before then. She yelled at me “You can’t even wipe your butt without your support worker there”. While this was and still is exaggerated, I do have issues with my personal hygiene, including sometimes with toileting.

I have noticed that there’s a lot of shame attached to my needs. Like, there is this constant nagging voice in my mind saying that I really do manipulate everyone into giving me more care. After all, am I not getting by? This part of me is telling me to erase everyone from my life and just go live on my own, since even if I lived with my husband and no support, there was still my husband to be manipulated.

I was discussing all this with my nurse practitioner last Thursday. He said even if I do manipulate people (and I no doubt do, as does everyone else), these people also let themselves be manipulated. Like, if they have an attitude like they’d rather help me with every little thing than endure my frustration, it’s no wonder I become dependent.

There was this show on Dutch television last Sunday about a second grade class. I didn’t see it, but a term used in it that was repeated often throughout the week, was “curling mother”. I have no idea whether that’s the correct English term, but it refers to a parent who helps their child with everything until they’re eighteen and then magically expects them to have learned independence and leave the nest. My nurse practitioner was reminded of this when I described my parents. It feels odd, because even though yes my parents did help me with every little thing, this expectation that I move out at eighteen was made very explicit from an early age on. It wasn’t like my parents were hoovering over me not realizing that they’d not be there for me forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t wait for me to move out. It just ugh, feels so off. Like I was spoiled somehow because my parents did everything for me.

At this point, I remember a discussion in an inner child healing group in which the original poster commented on some author or speaker saying that the golden child of narcissistic parents suffers a lot. This person was confused, because the golden child is the child favorited by the narcissistic parent, the child who doesn’t get abused (or so it seems). Some people said that the golden child suffers a lot because, well, they are only the narcissist’s favorite as long as they live up to their perfect standards.

I was raised in a household where the golden child/scapegoat roles reversed repeatedly. For those not aware, the scapegoat is the main target of obvious abuse in a narcissistic family. As such, I can relate to a lot of golden child attributes. Like, I was often praised excessively, bragged about and let off the hook. Then again, I was, and this was always very clear, expected to livve up to my parents’ perfect-image plan for me. Once I stopped doing this, I was placed in a clearer scapegoat role.

It still feels off to think of myself as having been spoiled. I know Pete Walker says spoiling is a severe kind of trauma too. However, in society, it is often treated like the spoiled child is to blame for being spoiled. And they definitely aren’t. Only as adults can they choose to undo the effects of this trauma, but they have to admit it first. I have to accept this.

Book Review: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

I first heard of Lisa Genova in 2015, when Still Alice was made into a movie. I never saw the movie, but got the book as soon as I could. It sounded intriguing. However, I started the book but never got far into it. I got Left Neglected sometime in 2017, but never finished that either. I still intend to finish both. Then late last year, I heard of Every Note Played. I never even got that book, but it got me interested in checking out Lisa Genova again. This is how I found Inside the O’Briens. I was impressed. I had read a young adult novel called Rules for 50/50 Chances, about a girl whose mother has Huntington’s Disease, a few years back. That book had been grippling and hard to put down. I don’t know what it is about Huntington’s over Alzheimer’s or ALS that drew me to this book. I read this book and this time, I actually finished it. Here are my thoughts.

Synopsis

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

My Review

The book starts off with a rather grippling scene in which then 36-year-old Joe recognizes his mother in himself. Then, the book quickly skips over the next seven years and details Joe’s work as a police officer. As a reader, I got clues that something was amiss from the beginning and kept wondering when Joe would finally see it himself. Of course, I knew the reason from the book synopsis and Joe had probably never heard of Huntington’s. When Joe finally causes a riot control drill to be prolonged due to his inability to stay in line, his friend and coworker gets his wife involved. This is when they finally go to the doctor.

Once Joe finds out he has Huntington’s Disease, his four children face the question of whether to get tested for the gene themselves. They each have a 50/50 chance of having the gene too, in which case they’ll get the disease. I knew as much from Rules for 50/50 Chances, which centered on this chance. It was very intriguing to follow each child’s steps towards accepting their father’s fate and making a choice about knowing or not knowing their own.

Genova chooses to focus her attention on Katie, Joe’s youngest daughter. She is only 21 and as such, not much older than the main character in Rules for 50/50 Chances. However, Inside the O’Briens is clearly a novel intended for adults and not young people. This is clear when reading from Katie’s perspective too. I must say here that I generally prefer young adult to mature fiction, but this was truly a great read. It’s also not really fair to compare this book to a young adult book by a different author when their only similarity is Huntington’s.

I loved the detail with which Genova describes the scenes and her characters. Each character is truly well-rounded in a way I don’t see often. This book is about so much more than Huntington’s. It’s also about police work, because Joe is a police officer. That may’ve been another thing drawing me into this book rather than Genova’s other books: I just so love learning about cops’ lives.

Book Details

Title: Inside the O’Briens
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: April 7, 2015

Read With Me

Long-Term Care Assessment

I’ve been wanting to write much more lately, but somehow, I can’t get myself to actually sit down and write. I remember originally posting twice a day almost everyday when I started this blog, and now I’m barely writing twice a week.

I still need to update you all on the meeting with the long-term care funding person. She wasn’t the physician but the one actually making the decision on funding. The physician may still need to contact my psychiatrist in order to advise this person on funding.

She asked a lot about my level of independence in various situations. Like, she asked whether I can cook or clean the house. I was expecting her to ask about much more basic self-care skills like showering. She did ask about those too. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or bad that she didn’t go into that much detail about my basic self-care. I mean, those are things I at least try to do myself, even though I fail miserably at them. I thought it should be obvious that I can’t cook or clean the house.

The funding person asked multiple times whether I’d had independence training. I couldn’t go into too much detail about that, but I did make it clear that I got tons of it. I also think I explained that the skills didn’t generalize to a new situation, such as living independently.

The funding person said she may want me to get some type of test for emotional development. There is a questionnaire called SEO-R that I think support staff or others involved with the client fill out to determine at what level a client is emotionally. I googled the descriptions of the different developmental stages. In some respects, I would really be like a 6-month-old, while in others, I’m closer to 7 years. I didn’t recognize myself in the most advanced stage, which corresponds to children age 7 to 12. There is probably a stage for adolescents too, but this scale was originally intended for people with mild intellectual disability, who by definition don’t reach this stage. I know the whole concept of mental or emotional age is ableist, but as long as it’s not used to actually infantilize clients, I think there is some use to it.

The intent of this scale being administered in my case is to maybe qualify me for an intellectual disability care profile. The funding person wasn’t impressed with my IQ anyway. I mean, it was measured as being 154 some twenty years ago, but was measured as at least 35 points lower in 2017 and with a ton of discrepancies. Like, I scored high on calculus, but slightly below average on comprehension. Besides, I didn’t say this, but only the verbal part of the IQ test could be administered because of my blindness. I liked it that this person didn’t see me as some sort of genius.

At the end, my support coordinator tried to explain what we’re going to do with the funding if we get it. She explained about the living facility we visited last week. I got a little unquiet at this point, so the funding person offered to talk to my support coordinator on the phone later. She never did. I don’t know whether that’s a bad thing or not.

I’ve been really stressed out these past few days. I dream almost every night about possible outcomes of this assessment. Like, will I get funding based on blindness or intellectual disability? Or will the funding people decide mental illness is my primary disability and deny me funding because I need treatment for that first? And if I get funding, will I get into the place I visited last week? I hope I will, but I’m not getting my hopes up too high yet.

Now my support coordinator is on vacation and won’t be back till the 27th. I think the funding decision has to be made by then. My support coordinator asked me to text her when I heard about the decision, so that she can bring cake if I get approved. Again, not getting my hopes up.

My New Mac: First Impressions

One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s prompts for this week is to write about your most recent purchase. I don’t know what counts as a purchase, but I really want to write about my Mac, which I bought two weeks ago.

I started writing this post on my new Mac. It’s new to me, but it’s the MacBook Air 2017, so I didn’t expect it to be all that advanced. I also didn’t expect to use it much for the first while. I mean, even after fully installing my current Windows PC in July of 2014, it took me two weeks before I started using it and only because I had spilled tea over my old one. Each new version of Windows required me a lot of learning, so I expected that even more with my Mac.

My husband installed it last Saturday evening. I started exploring it and, within an hour, my husband asked whether I could browse the Internet yet. Safari is one of the clunkier apps on the Mac, so I wasn’t expecting it to work. That evening though, I was reading blogs and commenting using my WordPress account. Apparently, I had figured out some basic web browsing on Safari.

The next day, I explored the Mac further and was blissfully unaware of my incompetence with it. That awareness came Monday, when I couldn’t figure out Facebook or WordPress.com. In the evening, my husband tried to make the mail app work with my self-hosted E-mail account (is that what it’s called?). IMAP wouldn’t work, which caused me to melt down. I said I was going to buy a Windows PC the next day and go back to that. Thankfully, my husband talked me out of making any impulsive decisions.

The last few days have been better. I can more or less work any website that isn’t too chaotic, including Facebook. I finally figured out WordPress yesterday too, although I still prefer to type my blog posts on the iPhone.

Today, I spent my time on the Mac figuring out Apple Music. I have a Spotify premium subscription, but for some reason (them being competitors, I guess), Spotify isn’t available in the app store, or at least I couldn’t find it. I didn’t use to like iTunes on the PC, but so far, Apple Music is good on both iPhone and Mac.

I also decided to put my documents on my Mac. I rarely use offline documents nowadays, but I don’t want to lose them either. I have diaries dating back to like 1999 in my documents. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Dropbox in the app store either, so I had to retrieve my docs from my external hard drive. That’s a lot easier anyway.

I haven’t installed many apps yet. The only apps I installed so far, that aren’t recommended by Apple, are Kindle and ReadKit. I am not using either yet, because Kindle has a visual-only CAPTCHA to register and I would like to sync ReadKit with a feed reader that also syncs to the app I use on my phone. The most sensible choice for that is Feedly, but I have over 100 feeds I’m subscribed to and then a subscription costs like $65 a year. Maybe I could try Feedly with just a few feeds though to see if it works well with ReadKit and if I can use ReadKit like I want to.

As regular readers know, I am blind and so I use a screen reader. One of the main reasons I chose a Mac over another PC, is that the Mac has a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver. I had read up a lot about accessibility before buying the Mac, but there wasn’t much out there about Braille displays, which I use most of the time. Thankfully though, except for the login screen, everything works fine with my Focus Braille display.

There are also a ton of keyboard shortcuts, both general and VoiceOver-based. I love that, but it is a learning curve. For example, when copying my files from my external hard drive to my Mac, I kept trying to press Enter to open the folders and then realized I had to press Command+O. I also keep trying to press Shift+F10 to open a context menu. I don’t know whether there isn’t such a thing or I haven’t figured it out yet.

This review may seem a bit negative, but it isn’t intended as such. Overall, my Mac is definitely useful. I’m pretty sure I’ll get used to it eventually.

Mama’s Losin’ It

#IWSG: Creative Outlets Besides Writing

I have a ton of things I want to write about, but somehow I can’t get myself to actually write. I started trying to use my new Mac Saturday evening. So far, it works but is still a bit hard to use. The WordPress app for Mac isn’t available in the app store, so it is a pain to install. I’m just using my phone now rather than WordPress.com in Safari, because at least I know how to work this.

It’s time again for our Insecure Writer’s Support Group or #IWSG check-in. This month’s question is about creative outlets other than writing.

I must say I”m not terribly creative. I don’t do any artsy things and am no good at music either. No, not all blind people are musically talented! I tried my hand at learning to play the keyboards and guitar for a bit, but didn’t like either. Granted, my guitar lessons were while I was at summer camp in Russia and the instructor spoke Russian and English only. This was before I knew English, so it took me half an hour to figure out what he meant by the “strings”.

If we expand creativity a bit to include crafts, I have tried a ton of them. I started out trying to make cards in 2012, not realizing how inaccessible this craft is to blind people. I should’ve known, since the blindness agency used to offer card making courses but specifically to the partially sighted only.

Then I tried mixed media, which was similarly inaccessible. Then came polymer clay, which should be doable but not by me. I tried to learn to crochet and loom knit too.

Lastly, I tried soap and bath and body product making. I still love that craft and would someday like to pick it up again, but I can’t do it independently. This is when I realized that the problem may not be exclusively with my blindness, but my cerebral palsy affecting my fine motor skills too.

So in short, no, I don’t do any creative things other than write. But I’d love to learn.

Gratitude List (February 2, 2019) #TToT

I didn’t write much this past week. Not because I didn’t have anything to share, but because somehow the words wouldn’t make it onto the page. I had an extremely eventful week, which I will share more about later and which I already shared a bit about last Wednesday. Today, I’m going to write a gratitude list for the past week. As always, I’m linking up with #TToT.

1. My shoulder pain being almost over. Like I said two weeks ago, I suffered a small collarbone fracture. Yesterday was the last day of my strong painkillers. I had wanted to quit them earlier, but my husband said not to be too hard on myself. Today though, I only took two paracetamol and am more or less fine. Granted, I didn’t do a lot of repetitive work, so after I’ve finished this post, it’ll probably hurt more.

2. Being able to exercise again. I went on the elliptical for a total of 35 minutes yesterday. I did take breaks, but I felt my legs more than the injured arm.

3. Sensory activities. I already shared last Wednesday about the living facility I might go into that has lots of sensory supplies. Seeing this inspired me to explore the sensory equipment at day activities more. I found a large cylinder which you can roll on. I also spent time in the small (almost too small for my overweight body, but not yet) indoors cocoon swing.

4. Buying my Macbook. I haven’t unboxed it yet, but I’m glad I finally put one foot in front of the other and bought it.

5. Stuffed animals. Today, I experienced severe overload and had a meltdown while at my in-laws. My mother-in-law brought me a huge collection of Disney soft toys and other stuffed animals. I loved them.

6. Sleep. I didn’t sleep well early in the week. Thankfully, towards the end of the week, I slept better.

7. Getting some delicious treats for myself on Thursday. Some were healthy too, like blueberries. Some were not (liquorice!) but I loved them nonetheless.

8. The day activities staff treating us to some special food on Friday. She decided to spoil us, so for lunch on Friday, we had croissants and some salty crackers with cream cheese and olives. I went to the marketplace to buy them with this staff.

9. My husband. I need to be extra grateful for him because this past week has been stressful.

10. My support coordinator, whom I saw four times this week.

What have you been grateful for this past week?