Eight Ways in Which My Reading Life Has Changed Over the Years

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is all about ways you have changed, particularly as a reader, over the years. I am not a book blogger, since posts about books make up not even ten percent of my total posts. I don’t read nearly enough to be a book blogger. This may be one reason I haven’t participated in #TTT for a while. However, I loved this week’s theme. Here are some ways in which my reading life has changed over the years.

1. I read because I want to, not because I have to. As a child and teen, I didn’t like reading much. Especially not the assigned literature we were supposed to read for school. For this reason, in my young adult life, I didn’t read much at all. Over the years though, I discovered a love of reading and now read for pleasure. Sometimes I still feel like I have to finish a book, but then it’s me creating the pressure.

2. I read almost exclusively English-language books. The book famine, ie. the lack of accessible books to people who are blind or otherwise print disabled, is still pretty severe in Dutch-language literature. In English, almost every book I want to read is available in an accessible format nowadays. This is one reason I enjoy reading books in English far more than in Dutch.

Another is the fact that I blog in English and, to be honest, I don’t do much in life (except for peeing and sleeping and eating) without some motivation related to my blog. I love to venture out into the bookish blogosphere at times.

3. The way in which I read, has changed. As a child, I almost exclusively read audiobooks. Oh and the occasional large print book suited for children much younger than me, because with how poor my vision was, ordinary large print was too small for me. I hated reading Braille, so unless I was forced to, I didn’t touch a Braille book.

Now I read almost exclusively by touch. I recently bought a few audiobooks, but to be honest am quite a bit disappointed in the narrators.

4. I discovered eBooks. As a teen, I read books my parents scanned for me. Then I didn’t read much at all as a young adult. In 2013, I found out that Adobe Digital Editions, the main program at the time to read EPUB eBooks, had been made compatible with screen readers. I read EPUB from then on, although I no longer use Adobe Digital Editions. I use the iPhone’s book app instead.

5. I joined Bookshare. Bookshare is the U.S.-based online book service for the print disabled. In 2005 and 2006, when I first started reading English-language books for pleasure, I was a member of the UK’s National Library for the Blind. I for a short while read physical Braille books then. That didn’t work out due to shipping issues. Bookshare, though it existed back then, wasn’t available to international customers at the time. It became available to those outside of the U.S. sometime around 2015. I joined Bookshare in mid-2016.

6. I found out about Kindle. That’s another eBook format that didn’t use to be very accessible. Back in like 2015, there was the accessibility add-on to Kindle software, which would read the content of the book aloud. Like I said, I’m not a fan of audiobooks and I’m certainly not a fan of the robotic-sounding voice of the Kindle accessibility add-on. Sometime in 2018, I found out that the Kindle app for iPhone, and to a lesser degree Kindle for PC, now support screenreaders and most importantly Braille displays. I still don’t buy Kindle books very often, as Bookshare has a wide selection of books too, but I know that if I really want to read a book, I can.

7. A larger percentage of the books I read is fiction. Roughly ten years ago, I only read a bit of teen fiction and mostly read biographies and other nonfiction. Now about half of the books I read and the majority of the books I finish are fiction.

8. I read a wider variety of books. Though most of the fiction I read still belongs in the young adult category, over the past few years I’ve ventured out into other genres as well. I love reading a diverse selection of books now.

How has your reading life changed over the years?

My Medication Musings: Celexa

Like I said last week when participating in Working On Us, I wanted to write a series of posts on the medications I’ve been on. I won’t promise this will be anything like a regular feature. However, today I saw that Medication Monday over at The Dark Tales Project is about a medication I currently take: Celexa. I already wrote several posts on this medication in the past, so may be repeating myself. Let me share though.

I was first prescribed Celexa in September of 2010. At the time, I had just finished a book whose title translates to Prozac Monologues, which was about the positives and mostly negatives of antidepressants. I didn’t really care. One comment I remember, by one of the pro-Prozac people, was that she’d become nicer on antidepressants. That comment was on my mind when my psychiatrist suggested Celexa and boy did I hope it’d do this for me. I was a definite bitch! The saying that depression makes you feel as though you’re not okay and neither is anyone else, definitely related to me.

The thing is though, I wasn’t sure I was depressed. No proper assessment of my mental state preceded my being prescribed Celexa. Yes, I was irritable and no amount of tranquilizers or antipsychotics could help that. But is that depression? Would Celexa help?

As it turned out, it helped a little with that. I felt a little calmer, a little nicer on the medication. I never asked my husband to comment on the level of my irritability and can’t remember for sure whether he ever made any positive comment on it. If at all, that must’ve been in 2018, when my dosage got increased.

I actually wasn’t diagnosed with depression till 2017. At the time, my irritability was one symptom that prompted the psychologist to diagnose me with major depression. I’m pretty sure I have persistent depressive disorder (formerly known as dysthymia) too though, but I don’t think I’m currently even diagnosed with any mood disorder at all.

It took another year before my Celexa dosage finally got increased to first 30mg and then my current dosage of 40mg.

I was very irritable at the time of seeking my psychiatrist’s help with my depression. I was also most definitely depressed, in that I didn’t have much energy or motivation for anything. As is known for Celexa and other SSRIs, the medication caused my energy to go up first before actually helping with my mood. My mood however did eventually lift. I am pretty sure that, had it not been for Celexa, I would’ve sank deep into depression during the long process of applying for long-term care.

But the story isn’t all positive. Aside from the side effects, Celexa (and Abilify) took only the edge off of my irritability. I’m in fact noticing it getting worse again. I’m not exactly sad, but I’m most definitely pretty negativistic lately. I’m not sure why. I mean, maybe it’s something to do with the lack of an over-the-moon sense of relief at going into long-term care. Or maybe it’s the other way around and my negativistic state prevented that. I’m not sure.

Dream #SoCS

I have a lot of vivid dreams. They suck at times. Sometimes they’re good dreams and I”m sad that they’re just dreams, but most times, they’re really distressing dreams. A few weeks ago, I dreamt that my husband was going to divorce me or I was going to divorce him because somehow (I can’t remember the details) my past identifying as a lesbian was getting in the way. Either I decided I was a lesbian after all or my husband got tired of me having identified as one. Or something. That dream had me distressed for days because I thought it somehow meant something. Like I was unconsciously unfaithful to my husband, which I have no intention of ever being.

Other times, I dream that I’m kicked out of or leaving the care facility. This also scares me, because I am to be very honest not 100% sure it was the right choice to go into it. I mean, yes, it’s much better for my self-care, but it does mean my marriage gets strained by my husband and me not being able to see each other as often as we’d like to or as we used to.

Last Thursday, I was in a bit of a crisis. I had been in the snoezelen® room for two hours on Thursday afternoon and as a result, couldn’t sleep. I also worried about my inability to travel to my husband each week by paratransit due to the limits on how much you can use that service. The fact that I had been in the snoezelen® room for so long and this is not the first time and I’m not sure what I can do during the day, made me think back to my old day activities. Then the fact that I cannot travel to my husband by paratransit even coupled with trains each week, made me think of leaving the facility and going back to live with him. I know this would be unwise in the long run, if for no other reason then because my spot at the old day center has been filled up already.

I E-mailed my staff at the old day center. Then I ran off. I made it to the bottom of the stairs, near the fire exit, before I realized I didn’t really want to run off. By then, the sleepover staff had heard me and called the night staff. She comforted me and I was able to go back to sleep. Back to more dreaming.

I am linking up with #SoCS.

Working On Us Prompt: Psychiatric Medication

I’ve been thinking of doing some posts on the medications I’ve been prescribed so far, but didn’t get down to it till now. Today, Beckie’s topic for Working On Us is psychiatric medication. Beckie asks a few interesting questions I didn’t think of.

First, she asks whether, when you were first diagnosed with a mental illness/disorder, it took you a while to get used to the medication prescribed. Well, my first diagnosis from a psychiatrist was autism, for which there are no specific medications. It took four months after that diagnosis before I first got put on a daily psychiatric medication. That was Risperdal (risperidone). I didn’t like it at all, even though it took only a few days to kick in.

I remained on Risperdal for 2 1/2 months, and then took myself off. I felt that the medication was merely used to keep me just contained enough that I didn’t qualify for more care. Well, it is my firm belief that medication is not a substitute for proper care.

Going off Risperdal was a mixed bag. I felt okay the first few weeks, but three weeks after having stopped taking the medication altogether, I spiraled into crisis.

After taking myself off of the Risperdal, I was without daily medication for nearly 2 1/2 years. I was in a psych hospital, so I can tell you right away that the crisis service nurse was wrong to say hospitalization would mean being put straight back on meds. Apparently my psychiatrist agreed medication is no substitute for proper care. That was until, despite mostly adequate care, my irritability got so bad I just needed something. I was put on Abilify (aripiprazole) and remain on that ever since.

Beckie also asks about withdrawal. I have been on the same antipsychotic and antidepressant ever since 2010 and never lowered my dosage yet. However, I did for a while take Ativan (lorazepam) at a relatively high daily dosage. Then when I wanted to quit, my psychiatrist said he’d prescribe it as a PRN med. Well, I didn’t need it for the first few days, so I didn’t take it. That was until I started experiencing tremors a few days into withdrawal. I am lucky I got only those and didn’t get seizures or the like. Thankfully, I got put back on lorazepam and tapered safely.

Beckie’s last question is whether you work closely with your doctor in managing your meds. Well, I just had a meeting with the intellectual disability physician for my facility last Monday. She is making sure I get my medications and will also order yearly bloodwork to check for metabolic issues etc. I haven’t seen a psychiatrist with my new mental health team yet, but will soon enough. I want to eventually try to lower my Abilify dose. The intellectual disability physician advised me to wait at least six months to get used to living here though.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (November 10, 2019)

As with Ten Things of Thankful, I haven’t joined in with #WeekendCoffeeShare in a long while. It’s late Sunday evening here, so my week-end is almost over. Then again, there’s still time to join in, so let me. I just had a drink of Crystal Clear, which is a type of non-carbonated soft drink. I hate carbonated soft drinks except for the very slightly carbonated drink called Dubbelfrisss. I haven’t had coffee since one o’clock in the afternoon, but if those who are in a different timezone (or even those in my timezone, cause who cares?) want a coffee, that’s fine by me.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this past week has been filled with appointments. On Tuesday, I had a review at the care facility and on Thursday, I had the intake interview for mental health.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the review went okay’ish. Honestly, I don’t remember that much about it, as the day activities staff seemed to be rattling off a list of changes they want to implement. That had me go “Whatever” only to melt down later in the afternoon when I saw what these changes were doing.

For one thing, the staff got shuffled around a bit so that my group has less staff available. That was a big change that caused me to go into panic.

Fortunately, the staff called for the behavior specialist to talk to me and they together were able to calm me down a bit. I still feel uncomfortable particularly with this specific staff. She’s leaving next week anyway, so oh well.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my intake interview with the mental health team went pretty well. A staff from my living place went with me. This was comforting. At one point, a little came out, who reached for her hand. This felt good and the staff said that she was totally okay with it.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that tomorrow I have yet another appointment. I will be having an introductory appointment with the intellectual disability physician for my facility. I’m not sure what I expect out of it.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I went home to my husband this week-end again. We had Chinese takeout this evening, which was good. Since my husband moved to Lobith six weeks ago, we haven’t had Chinese takeaway. It was much better, in my opinion, than the Chinese takeaway in Doesburg (near our old village). There, I’d pick it as a choice sometimes over other food vendors because you got loads of food, so it was essentially a huge binge I’d later pay for with bowel cramps.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I had a nice walk with my mother-in-law and her dog Bloke this afternoon. We walked for nearly an hour, which was really good. After all, though I manage 30 minutes of activity most days, I’ve not had long walks in a while.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I’m now enjoying some of the liquorice my husband bought me at my request this afternoon. I’m being careful not to eat it all and trying to be mindful of my wish to actually enjoy the candy rather than stuff it all in at once.

What have you been up to lately?

Gratitude List (November 9, 2019) #TToT

Oh my, it’s been forever since I participated in Ten Things of Thankful. I think I participated once since moving to the care facility. The thing is, I have a ton of ideas for blog posts on my mind but only so much time to complete them. I mean, maybe a gratitude list should be one of the easier ones on my list, but oh well. I don’t know. I don’t want to make up excuses, so here’s my gratitude list.

1. Eating out with my husband and sisters-in-law. The sisters-in-law had offered it to us as a present for us having bought a house. We went to an all-you-can-eat restaurant. My husband thought he wouldn’t particularly like the food, but he did and I loved it. As those who know me well will admit, gluttony is my main deadly sin, LOL.

2. Great reading. I don’t nearly spend as much time reading as I’d like, but I do love the books I’m currently reading.

3. An increase in mental clarity and energy. I’ve been doing better in the brain fog department lately. In fact, I can usually manage to be quite active either physically or mentally most of the time during the day.

4. The sensory room at day activities, including its music player. It is connected to the waterbed, so that the music almost surrounds you when you’re lying on the waterbed.

5. A nice behavior specialist. On Tuesday, I had my review at the care facility. It went okay, but after it, I did experience some trust issues particularly with my day activities staff. She called out for the behavior specialist to talk to me some more and the issue got mostly resolved.

6. Sunshine. Of course, it’s fall here, so we don’t experience the great weather of summer, but we did get some relatively sunny days. It was nice being out in this weather.

7. My former psychiatric nurse practitioner calling me to check in. He also finally sent me the form he’d sent to the assertive community treatment team in my town, since I hadn’t read it yet. It was good to talk to him for a bit.

8. A good intake interview with the nurse practitioner and social worker from the new team. I was able to explain myselves quite well. My current diagnosis apparently is unspecified personality disorder with dissociation along with autism spectrum disorder, but I was able to go into some detail about the extent of the dissociation. It was good also to have a staff from the facility with me. This team is more concerned with one’s individual needs for support than with one’s diagnosis.

9. Walking. When I first came to this facility, I didn’t expect to get out and about much, but I usually do manage at least 30 minutes a day even now that fall has truly set in. I tried to reconnect my Fitbit when I found its charger earlier this week, but the app seems to have locked me out. I don’t really care though.

10. Sleeping with music on. On Thursday, I was so tired from the intake interview at mental health that I slept most of the evening away. I slept with a lovely playlist on Spotify playing on my phone. I am still considering getting myself a music pillow.

11. My husband. He’s so nice! It’s hard not seeing him as much as I used to, but he showers me with love each time we do see each other.

What have you been grateful for?

#IWSG: Poetry on My Mind

It’s time for the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) day. I originally intended on skipping it this month, because the optional question didn’t speak to me. Then I realized anything goes as long as it’s writing-related thoughts. I don’t want to be kicked off the grid either.

This month has been okay in the writing department. I have been jotting down a lot of thoughts. About two weeks ago, I joined a support group for dissociative identity disorder on Facebook and was reminded in its learning units to journal daily. I haven’t actually been doing so exactly and the private WordPress site I intended for it, has been abandoned once again. However, I did start to write more.

As I said in my other post today, poetry has been on my mind lately. I have had haikus and other syllabic poetry floating through my head, particularly at night. I’m by no means good at it, but I like to practise.

And yet I still feel insecure about my writing on this blog. I mean, I want to write poetry, but am I good enough for it? The answer may be “No,” but that doesn’t matter. I’m not submitting to a publisher or even an open competition. I’m just writing for the fun of it!

How has your writing been?

Haiku: Black Widow

The black widow is
A true seductress until
She eats her husband

This haiku has been on my mind for over a week. I found out about Tanka Tuesday already a while back, but never cared to look up its creator. Last week I did, but it was a prompted week and I couldn’t come up with a poem that matched the theme. That is, spiders may be a Halloween theme, but I wasn’t sure of it. This week though, it’s a poets’ choice week, so I’m jumping at the opportunity and sharing the verse that’s been on my mind all week. Last night, I even came up with a Dutch translation, but it’s not very good. Hope you enjoyed this one.

The Wait Is Over…

Today, V.J.’s Weekly Challenge is all about waiting. It’s an interesting topic, considering that, as I said before, it’s been twelve years this week since I embarked on my journey to finding the right care. The wait is over. On June 4, exactly five months ago today, I was granted long-term care funding. I moved into the care facility on September 23.

It was an extremely long wait. Twelve years is roughly fifteen percent of a person’s lifetime, and they covered almost my entire adult life so far. In other words, I spent most of my adult life waiting. And now it’s over.

And yet, I don’t feel the sense of relief I was sort of expecting to feel. I, after all, hadn’t put my life on hold while waiting for this magical moment. I’m glad I didn’t, as that would’ve meant I didn’t have a husband now. You see, originally, when he told me he was in love with me in January of 2008, I planned on waiting to reciprocate his love until I’d moved into supported housing. I’m glad I didn’t wait.

And yet, my life did seem on hold in other areas for all of these years. I was always in a waiting position at least on some deep, emotional level. And now I can stop waiting and start living. I hope.

Then again, can I truly let go of that paralyzing feeling of apprehension that I’ve carried with me all this time? I still feel like I’m in waiting mode. Hibernation. This long-term care placement still feels temporary to me. Then again, well, guess what, life is temporary. I’d rather get a grip on it than spend the next so many years waiting for some magical miracle that won’t ever happen to make me feel all good.

Lately, I’m constantly reminded of a comment one of my fellow patients on the locked psychiatric unit made in those early days of my hospitalization. I can change my environment all I want, but I’m still me and I need to look to change myself instead.

Tomorrow, I’ll have a review with the behavior specialist and my home and day activities staff. I already discussed with my home staff wanting to get more out of my day than I do now. I came up with the idea of taking my Braille display and external keyboard with me to day activities, so that I can do more stuff on my iPhone than simple dice games and texting. I did this today and unfortunately felt immediately overwhelmed when I tried to read a blog post while a fellow client was making noise playing with macaroni. That almost made me give up and retreat into hibernation mode again. I hope I won’t give up though.

Nuts! #SoCS

I first heard about the details of the Care and Force Act in the Netherlands a few days ago through a fellow mental health advocate. I’d heard of the bill being passed before, but never quite understood or cared what it entailed. Now I know, from both her opposing side and thesupporting side, namely my own long-term care organization.

As it turns out, the Care and Force Act impacts everyone who receives mental health or developmental disabilities services, whether voluntarily or not. Before this law, only those committed involuntarily to a psychiatric hospital, psychogeriatric nursing home or intellectual disability facility, could be subjected to involuntary care. Now, basically everyone who receives (or, I assume, is supposed to receive) care for a mental illness or developmental disability, can be subjected to involuntary care. Yes, even if you live at home. Support staff are allowed by this law to enter someone’s home without their permission and hold them down there, force medications on them, install cameras for monitoring the client, etc.

This all sounds pretty nuts to me. Of course, that’s what said mental health advocate said too. My care facility says that forced care is not allowed unless… and then they go on to list the law’s reasons involuntary care is allowed. This is a long list, including obvious reasons such as self-harm or aggression, but also “endangerment of the person’s development”. Well, WTF?

I understand the well-meaning intentions behind the law. For example, a client with Prader-Willi Syndrome, which makes them eat and drink without inhibition, can be prevented from accessing sources of food or drink. The long-term care facility said in this case (in a flyer by my care organization) they’d decided to disable the client’s bathroom tap so that they cannot drink like 5 liters of water at night. However, quite possibly, this could be affecting people like me who suffer with compulsive overeating. I am sensible in that I try to ask for help in preventing binges, but I mean, I’ve heard clients being told not to enter the kitchen because they eat lots of cookies and are prediabetic. Well, this is physical health, which I understand on at least some level. But isn’t this whole bill meant to make us all conform to the non-disabled standards of “normalcy” whether we want to or not?

And besides, there are huge budget cuts to mental health and disability services, so will this bill not just be used to facilitate lower levels of actually helpful care?

For example, I could in a worst-case scenario be confined to my bed at night so that I have fewer reasons to bother the night staff when I go to bed later than most other clients. Or I could be banned from using Facebook or the Internet altogether during certain times of the day for reasons such as my needing to socialize more, study, or whatever. Like I said, danger to one’s development is a grounds for forced care.

In theory, the law doesn’t sound too bad, but I can imagine treatment providers such as the ones in the mental hospital, whom I couldn’t trust, can misuse this law for very harmful purposes. Does this mean anyone deemed nuts or dumb, to use some slurs, is at the mercy of the so-called helping profession? It’s crazy!

This post is written for #SoCS, for which the prompt this week is “Nuts”.