All posts by Astrid

About Astrid

I am a woman in my thirties. I was born prematurely. Because of this, I live with various disabilities, including blindness and autism. I live with my husband in a small village in the Netherlands. I blog about mental health, autism, disability in general, faith and life in general.

Gratitude List (March 23, 2019) #TToT

This week was better than last week. Still, when I filled out a check-in questionnaire on an app called Pacifica, it said I scored as severely depressed. Well, apparently that’s my normal state.

Today, I am feeling pretty good. I want to share the things I’m grateful for, so I’m once again joining in with #TToT.

1. A full Monday at day activities. Like I mentioned last week, from this week on, I’ll be going to day activities three full days (Monday, Tuesday and Friday) plus Wednesday morning. I liked it on Monday afternoon.

2. Lorazepam. On Tuesday, I was pretty unquiet all day. Thankfully, I’d taken my PRN tranquilizer with me to day activities. I took it in the afternoon. At first, it just made me feel drowsy, but I eventually calmed down too.

3. Stuffed animals. I spent some time Tuesday afternoon at another group at day activities, where I tried to relax in a recliner. They have a large stuffed dog, which I was allowed to hold.

Also, last Thursday before leaving for work at 5AM, my husband covered me in stuffed animals as I went back to sleep. That’s so awesome!

4. Two long walks with my support coordinator. On both Wednesday and Thursday, we took an hour-long walk.

5. Yoga. On Thursday, I tried to do some yoga on my bed, because I couldn’t find my yoga mat. Turned out it had disintegrated and my husband had thrown it out. I ordered a new yoga mat on Thursday, which arrived at my in-laws on Friday. I picked it up today and it is great. It is not as thick as the one I used to have, but thick enough at 1.5cm. I tried some yoga again today.

6. Mindfulness apps. I tried meditating regularly using Insight Timer this week. It was good. I also, like I said, got an app called Pacifica, which helps me track my mood and health habits. I like it.

7. Beautiful weather yesterday. The temperature reached 19 degrees Celsius, which meant we could have coffee outside in the afternoon at day activities. The staff also put up the cocoon swing, which I always love.

8. Sleep. Yesterday, I was feeling exhausted and had a headache. My husband noticed an dtold me to go to bed. I slept for over twelve hours last night. Though my quality of sleep could be better, since I snore awfully, I feel okay now energy-wise.

What are you grateful for?

My Favorite Ways of Staying Active

Today, I am joining in with the RagTag Daily Prompt for Thursday. It is “Exercise“. I am a pretty sedentary person, but nonetheless, I love getting moving every once in a while. Here are my favorite ways of staying active both physically and mentally.

1. Walking. My absolute favorite way of physical exercise has to be walking. Due to my disabilities, I am not safe leaving the house on my own for a walk, but I do enjoy walks with my support staff or other people. As regular readers of this blog know, I go for a long walk each Monday at day activities. This week, unfortunately, it started to pour when we’d just been out of the door for five minutes, so we had to return. Both today and yesterday though, I went for an hour-long walk with my support coordinator.

2. Swimming. My second most favorite way of exercising physically has to be swimming. We do it at day activities every other Tuesday. My Fitbit activity tracker is water-proof, so it tracks my swimming activity too.

3. Going on gym equipment. I have an elliptical at home, which I really need to use more often. I manage twice a week on average, but sometimes I don’t go for over a week.

I also discussed with my support worker getting myself a gym membership. There’s a gym in the nearby city that has services for people who suffered brain injury. I’d love to go there.

4. Yoga. I used to take yoga lessons at the institution in Nijmegen many years ago, but I quit eventually. Then I tried to practise on my own. My husband eventually borrowed my yoga mat for his own exercise, then threw it out because it’d disintegrated. I just ordered myself anew one, which should arrive tomorrow. I tried to do yoga on my bed today, but that wasn’t really ideal.

5. Horseback riding. This isn’t particularly exercise-y if you ask me, since we just step around. However, it is an activity that I commit to once a week and that keeps me healthy – or so I’d like to think.

What are your favorite ways of staying healthy?

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Theme Reveal

Yay, it’s that time of year again! Ever since 2010, bloggers have gathered every April to share posts each day of the week except Sundays and with the blog post titles reflecting the letters of the alphabet.

I discovered the #AtoZChallenge in 2015 and participated in it that year and in 2016 with the themes of autism and mental health respectively. In both 2017 and 2018, I started on the challenge with the aim of finishing it, but I didn’t. In 2017, the reason was the theme I’d chosen – autism again, while I was undergoing re-assessment for it and not sure I’d be diagnosed again. In 2018, I stopped posting as I reached the letter Q post, because the topic I’d chosen for it suddenly felt unsafe.

In 2018, I chose “random reflections” as my theme. I am going to choose that theme again this year, but call it differently. In keeping with my blog title, my theme for 2019 will be: A to Z of Miscellaneous Musings.

I hope to share a glimpse into my life and mind with these musings. I hope I won’t be held back by my own inner critic again this time.

As a side note, I apologize if I wasn’t supposed to select 2015 as my first year of having participated in the challenge, since that wasn’t on this blog.

I hope to see a ton of old and new blogging friends participating in the challenge this year. Enjoy!

Gratitude List (March 16, 2019) #TToT

I have been feeling a little off lately. This morning (or early afternoon to be exact), I awoke and immediately felt grumpy. I had a hard time snapping out of the moodiness. Then I read in a Dutch Facebook group about listing the positives of a day. I haven’t participated in #TToT for a while, so it’s about time.

1. Pizza on Sunday. We’d planned on having fries and snacks on Friday, but then my husband had to work late, so I ate at my in-laws. I don’t know whether the pizza night on Sunday was to make up for that, but I loved it.

2. More day activities! From next week on, I’ll be going to day activities a full day rather than just the morning on Monday. On Tuesday adn Friday, I already go full days and I’ll try Wednesday someday. Thursday will remain my day off.

3. Swimming on Tuesday. I was able to go in the deep pool again and swam almost the entire half hour.

4. Eating potato and carrot mash at my in-laws. There’s a word for this in Dutch, but I’m too lazy to look up whether there’s one in English too. My mother-in-law gave me the choice between that and sauerkraut. I didn’t expect to like the mash either, but I definitely hate sauerkraut. Surprisingly, I liked the food. Not enough to ask for second helpings, but enough to eat my first serving.

5. Phone check-ins with my support coordinator. As of last week, she’s been checking in with me at the end of nearly each day she works. I love it.

6. Being able to go for a short walk with my support coordinator on Wednesday. It rained almost the entire day, but when we went for a walk, it didn’t.

7. A rainbow. When walking with my support coordinator, she spotted it and took a photograph. She says this is our lucky rainbow.

Rainbow

8. Blueberries, bananas and honey liquorice. I went to the supermarket with my support worker on Thursday and got myself these. I particularly loved eating the blueberries in my yoghurt on Friday.

9. Outdoors horseback riding. Again, the weather treated us well on Friday afternoon. It rained the whole day, but when it was time for us to go horseback riding, it didn’t. I don’t like indoors horseback riding nearly as much as I do going outdoors, so this was wonderful.

10. Meditating. I’ve been doing a bit of it again this past week. It’s still hard to find the time and focus for it, but I love it. I finally figured out a way to play the learning to meditate course on Insight Timer. For whatever reason, VoiceOver renders the button to play it non-clickable, but somehow I got it playing. Now I may get Insight Timer premium once my disability payment is in.

What have you been grateful for lately?

A Time I Ignored My Intuition: Moving Institutions

I haven’t written at all this past week. It was an eventful week, but I feel reluctant to disclose details. I have also been feeling uninspired to write about anything that isn’t just a diary-style entry starting with the phrase “Today I did…”. Well, that’s not what feels right to me.

I was talking to my assigned day activities staff this afternoon. We were casually discussing places I’d lived in before and I mentioned having moved from one institution to another to be closer to my husband in 2013. That was a big mistake.

The memory came back again when I read a journaling prompt in one of my many collections of prompts. It asked me to reflect on a time I had ignored my gut feeling or intuition. This was a time I did. Let me share.

In late 2012, my husband and I had accepted a rental home in a town near Arnhem, Netherlands. I was at the time living in an institution in Nijmegen, about 30km away. There was a lot of turmoil going on about the unit I resided on. For example, there was talk of us moving to another building. We’d just moved from an old building to a newly-built one in September of 2012 and I didn’t like yet another move. Unless it was closer to my husband. So even when the plan for yet another move was canceled sometime in April or May of 2013, I still said I wanted to move to the other institution, which was in the town next to the town in which we’d rented our home.

I had an intake interview in June of 2013. The psychologist was quite mental if you ask me. I’d come from a unit with 24-hour care and he was expecting me to move into a house with a few other patients and staff dropping in once or twice a day. Well, no way! He said that’d be better preparation for my moving in with my husband than going to another unit with 24-hour care and the in-between unit was full. He gave me the choice though, but I had to be quick. It was Thursday and I was expected to move before the week-end, because if I waited till Monday, the bed on the 24-hour care unit may have been filled already.

I felt rather off, but I reasoned my feelings away. I wanted to be closer to my husband, after all, and I wanted to ultimately live with him. Or so I thought. So I moved the next day.

Let me explain that my staff at the ward in Nijmegen had been as supportive as psychiatric care staff can be. I mean, they were sure I needed a lot of support at least. They had denied me the opportunity to go into a housing unit for people with visual and intellectual impairments in 2011, but it takes a lot for a psychiatric professional to go beyond their expertise and see that a person might be best served in developmental disability services even if they have a high IQ.

The staff in the new institution were not so supportive. Even though they allowed me to stay there for nearly four years eventually, they were adamant that I go live with my husband and eventually kicked me out with almost no after care, reasoning that I had refused to go into any home with more care they’d offered. Which, frankly, was none.

Now, nearly two years into living with my husband, I”m facing the pain. I’m still feeling angry towards the staff at the last institution and regret that I decided to move. From now on, I’ll twust my gut feeling when something doesn’t sit right with me.

Things I Do at Day Activities

This is my third attempt at writing a blog post for today. I started writing a random ramble, then started sharing ways to relax. While writing about that, I noticed I was explaining all about the snoezelen® room at day activities. I then wanted to write more about things I do at day activities. So here goes.

Usually, I start the day with a cup of coffee. The staff drink coffee in the central area of the day center before the clients arrive, and since I usually arrive early, they offer me a cup too.

Then, when I go to my group’s room, the other clients arrive and the staff help them unzip their coats. They also read the other clients’ diary, in which their home staff write about them.

I usually do a table-based activity first. This involves sorting tasks, construction play, etc. I particularly enjoy shape-sorting activities.

At 9:30, the second staff for the day comes and we drink coffee. Then, we each go to the bathroom. After that, there are set activities for most mornings. On Monday, I go for a long walk with another group. At my group, the other clients play some games and do other table-based activities. They go for a short walk when the other group returns.

On Tuesday, I go swimming every other week. The day center’s people have the pool to themselves then and most clients have an assigned volunteer or staff to help them. The other week, a volunteer comes to our group and we run some errands.

On Wednesday, we have a cooking activity. For this, another volunteer comes. We generally do some really simple cooking. Since it’s a busy day, the staff really do most of the work. I feel sad that they don’t really involve us much. Of course, watching is cool too.

On Friday, we go to the marketplace. Each of us brings some money and we buy something that everyone likes. Sometimes, it’s fish, while other times it’s a bread roll, fruit or salad.

On each of these activities, the staff can’t take all of us. As such, we take turns going with one staff to do the activity, while the rest do table-based activities with the other staff.

Some people also love the snoezelen® or sensory room. I for one do. The sensory room has a water bed, but also a bubble unit, which is a water-filled unit which makes bubbly noises and has floaty objects in it that you can look at. There are also several tactile boards with all kinds of textures on it that you can explore.

Most people also love listening to music. On Wednesday afternoon, a music therapist comes to our group. I only attended this once, as I normally have the afternoon off on Wednesday, but I love it. The group also owns several tablets, a CD player and a TV to listen to music on or watch videos on.

I currently go to day activities two afternoons: Tuesday and Friday. On Tuesday, we have no set activity for the afternoon. This can get a bit boring, as staff usually spent most of the time writing in people’s diaries and doing administrative tasks. On Friday, I and two other clients go horseback riding with one staff.

At 2:30PM, we have a cup of coffee again, After that, most people hang out some and are getting ready for the bus home, even though we won’t be picked up till four o’clock. On Friday though, we have a dance at another group which everyone from the entire center is invited to.

There are four groups at the day center. My group is for the most severely intellectually disabled people. Another is for the elderly. Then there’s one for people with autism and others who need a lot of structure. This is the group who go for the long walk on Monday. The last group is for relatively capable people. They do kitchen-based tasks like loading the dishwasher. They also do creative activities.

Like I said, I’m in the group for severely intellectually disabled people, even though I’m not intellectually disabled. The reason is I need a lot of support and no pressure to achieve. I can visit other groups if I want to though.

More of Jesus

Today, I am joining in with Five Minute Friday (FMF), for which the word today is “More”. I regularly read the posts from other bloggers there, but rarely join in, as I”m not a practising Christian. I do believe in God, but am generally a lot more progressive than most Christians and do not like the practical requirements and political implications of organized religion. This feels odd to me sometimes. I crave spiritual guidance.

I found out through Five Minute Friday today about Betsy Cruz’s Book More of God and the title struck a chord.

I want more of God. I want more of a spiritual life. I feel I should be engaging in meditation and prayer more, but I don’t.

I also feel I want to connect to other believers more, but feel generally left out because I’m too progressive. I was kicked out of an apparently conservative Christian blogging community when I mentioned (without condoning it) the possibility of connecting to a higher power other than God in a post on my old blog. I felt sad about that, so I got angry with the Christian blogosphere and by extension with christianity as a whole. I wanted no more Jesus. But yet I do.

Jesus didn’t kick me out of that community. He loves me (and I’m sorry if this gets me kicked out of FMF too) even if I don’t follow the rules of conservative Christianity. He can and does help me find inspiration in life. I want more of Him.

#IWSG: Finding My Voice

Today, it is once again time to share our thoughts with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG). The optional question assigned for this month is to write about from whose perspective you like to write best. Since I rarely write fiction nowadays, my answer is simple: my own.

I didn’t do much blogging in the past month. Part of the reason is the need to remain silent about some recent occurrences in my life. This means some diary-style writing is out of the question right now. Unless, that is, I do it offline.

Which brings me to the fact that I rediscovered Dyrii, an app on my iPhone and now on my Mac too, which you can use for keeping a journal. It still needs a little getting used to on my part, but overall, I like it. It helps me find my voice again, even if it isn’t in public.

I seem to have been able to write some more again in the past week. It feels good. I always feel good when I write.

I am also seriously thinking of starting up my fiction writing again, even though I am told that it generally lacks imaginativeness. I will see if tomorrow, which is my day off from day activities, I can write some fictional piece again.

In other news, I got myself the Dictionary.com app on my iPhone. I am loving looking up new words and idioms. As you might know, English is my second language and half the words that I come across in word-of-the-day challenges, I do not know the meaning of. I’m told this isn’t so unusual and that I’d benefit more from learning idioms rather than vocabulary. I don’t care. It’s cool to learn either way.

DID Awareness Day and Plural Pride Day 2019

Today is DID Awareness Day and Plural Pride Day. I really want to share something for it, but I struggle with knowing what to share. I haven’t written about our experience of being plural in a long while, so maybe today I should jump at the opportunity. For today’s post, I am just going to introduce the subject of DID and our system to people who may not be aware.

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a trauma-based mental health condition in which the sufferer experiences two or more distinct identities or personality states, each with their own unique way of perceiving and relating to the world. People with DID also have amnesia for important information either in the present or past that is too extensive to be due to ordinary forgetfulness. People who do not have this type of amnesia, or whose identities are not fully formed, may be diagnosed with other specified dissociative disorder (OSDD) type 1A or 1B.

We were diagnosed with DID in 2010. At the time, we could be pretty in your face about ourselves, because we were in an environment where we felt relatively safe to be ourselves. This, however, also opened us up to suggestion, as our therapist concluded pretty early in the process that we have DID. Normally, a diagnosis of full-fledged DID is not made after initial assessment, but requires at least six months of therapy with a DID therapist.

Anyway, we probably do experience some level of amnesia, but didn’t know how to explain it to our therapist. For this reason, we would report we didn’t remember something, even though we showed in our actions that we did. This got people to assume we were faking our amnesia and by extension the whole dissociative experience.

When we moved from one psychiatric institution into another in 2013, we no longer felt safe. We actively denied the alters and started to explain ourselves away as bad moods. That’s probably one reason our diagnosis was changed from DID to borderline personality disorder (BPD). My next psychologist, some years later still, went so far as to say we invented our DID because we felt it’d be an interesting diagnosis. Well, no.

We first became aware of ourselves in the summer of 2001, when the body was fifteen. At the time, the host didn’t see the alters as part of herself. In fact, if I reread my diary from back then, it felt as though I was bordering on psychosis. I wasn’t though.

In early 2004, the alters started to appear more and claim their own names. We denied having “multiple personalities”, but only on the grounds that we didn’t lose time. Like I said above, while this could rule out full-fledged DID, it doesn’t necessarily do so (identity amnesia and amnesia for past events also counts), and it still means we’re multiple, ie. diagnosable with OSDD.

Currently, we don’t have a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder. We’re not ready to undergo the assessment process for it, as psychological assessments are a huge trigger for us. However, here we are, all 26 or so of us.

Song Lyric Sunday: Occupation

I haven’t participated in Song Lyric Sunday in months and for a while, I couldn’t find it. Turns out Helen, the founder of the challenge, is struggling with her health. Jim over at A Unique Title for Me is temporarily hosting the challenge now. This week’s theme is Occupation.

The first song that came to mind is a song I used to listen to a lot in the early 2000s, and some later too when I didn’t have an active Internet connection. I had a Jim Croce CD that I’d borrowed from my parents and never given back. Here is the song I’m referring to. For those not aware, I had no idea what this song was about when I listened to it a lot, since I grew up in an era past operators. For those who didn’t grow up with landlines at all, can you imagine this?

Title: Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)

Singer/Songwriter: Jim Croce

Release Date: 1972

Operator, well could you help me place this call
See, the number on the match book is old and faded
She’s living in L.A.
With my best old ex-friend Ray
A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated

[Chorus]
But isn’t that the way they say it goes
Well let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine, and to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words
Could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels

[Verse 2]
Operator, well could you help me place this call
Cause I can’t read the number that you just gave me
There’s something in my eyes
You know it happens every time
I think about the love that I thought would save me

[Chorus]
But isn’t that the way they say it goes
Well let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine, and to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words
Could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels

No, no, no, no
That’s not the way it feels

[Verse 3]
Operator, well let’s forget about this call
There’s no one there I really wanted to talk to
Thank you for your time
Ah, you’ve been so much more than kind
You can keep the dime

[Chorus]
But isn’t that the way they say it goes
Well let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine, and to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words
Could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels