A Beautiful Memory: Clowns

It looks like, even though I’m still depressed, I’m getting a little bit of my writing mojo back. I have at least been commenting more on other people’s posts and feel like I want to write again. I was inspired to write this post by a question over at Pointless Overthinking. The question was about your most beautiful memory from last year. In 2018, my most beautiful memory was of saying goodbye at my old day activities. I already posted about that when it actually happened though. For this reason, I’m choosing another memory to share.

On November 23, 2017, my old day activities organized a “day out” for all clients. The reason it was called that was because they get money to take each client on an outing each year. This hadn’t happened in years though and, with many clients being profoundly and multiply disabled, it would’ve been hard. Instead of going out with those who could do this, the staff chose to have a “day in”. They organized for two clowns to visit the center.

I attended the group for profoundly and multiply disabled people at the time. I am not profoundly disabled, but I most enjoyed the sensory activities at that group. The clowns visited us and started interacting with the clients. None of the other clients can talk, but they thoroughly enjoyed it. So did I.

In addition to the clowns visiting, the staff had organized for a snack and fries delivery truck to come by. The clients at my group couldn’t make it clear what they wanted from the truck, so at first I too was just given a particular snack. When I discovered you were actually allowed to order your own snacks and fries, and as much as you wanted, I joined the people at the more able industrial group to fetch myself snacks. It was a ton of fun.

I was reminded of this day a few weeks ago, when a staff’s ddaughter visited us practising as a clown. She was in the process of auditioning to become a hospital clown and wanted some practice. She was really good. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass the auditions though.

Love: How I Met My Husband #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the #AtoZChallenge day 12. Today I am going to share a positive story, because I am going to write about love. I have known my husband, Jeroen, for 11 1/2 years and love him to pieces. I want to share how we met in today’s post.

In September of 2007, I was living on my own in Nijmegen. I struggled a lot and felt extremely lonely. I at the time frequented a message board, where I posted that I felt alone. Jeroen was on this forum too. He had been wanting to expand his social circle, so he had decided to get to know some fellow forum members better. He read my blog, which I’d kept on WordPress since early 2007. From that, he decided he wanted to meet me. He sent me a PM asking to have a coffee or tea somewhere in Nijmegen. I accepted.

At first, I was unsure whether I’d be safe. What if Jeroen wasn’t the 18-year-old guy he claimed to be? To be honest, I didn’t know much about him from the forum even though he was an active member. He offered to meet me at the forum meetup in Utrecht, but I didn’t have the spoons to travel there, so I agreed to see him at the bus stop closest to university that the bus I knew drove by.

On our first “date”, we were both stressed. I fell off a step and dropped my coffee. When we sat down on a bench, he asked what type of music I liked. I answered “world music”, as I mostly listened to Latin American music.

After our first time meeting, he PM’ d me to tell me he had mixed feelings about it. So did I. But a few weeks later, he again PM’d me to ask whether we could meet again and I invited him to my apartment. That was probably a bit weird, but I knew no other place in Nijmegen.

When we had just planned our fourth “date”, I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. I didn’t have his phone number, nor did I have Internet access. I gave my support worker my login details for the message board and asked her to contact Jeroen.

A few weeks later, my father called asking whether he could give Jeroen my phone number. I agreed. Jeroen had found my father’s E-mail address through the whois of his website (that he doesn’t do a thing with). I”m so glad he was (and still is) such a tech savvy person and didn’t give up.

It took us six more months from that point on to agree that we would be calling our involvement a romantic relationship. I am so glad I eventually agreed to love him back, as he’d been the first to say he was in love with me. We will be celebrating our 11-year anniversary of being a couple next month. We got married on the day we knew each other exactly four years on September 19, 2011.

Dealing with Some High School Memories

We are struggling quite a bit. We hardly know why, but yesterday, a memory appeared. It’s not like we weren’t aware of this having happened before, so it’s not a repressed memory. However, it still feels as though only certain insiders can “own” the memory, if this makes sense.

This is hard, because we got told last Thursday by our nurse practitioner that it’s good people aren’t validating our experience of dissociation. For example, they’re reminding us that the body is 32 and we’re all Astrid. That may be so, but it’s only getting us to further disconnect from ourselves.

He told us that being a child at heart is not wrong, but claiming to be a child is. Or something like that. He more or less told us to look beyond the emotional parts’ words to what was actually troubling us. For example, Jace saying she has to move out by age eighteen meant we’re afraid we won’t get long-term care funding. Fine by me but I think it’s not that simple. I think this may be an actual memory bothering Jace and it was just triggered by the long-term care stuff.

Anyway, yesterday evening we started experiencing high school memories. Our high school tutor was our safe person at the time. We trusted him more than we did our parents. Our parents weren’t okay with this. When in ninth grade, we had been struggling and our schoolwork was suffering. Our tutor asked us to tell him what was going on. We wrote it down. Then our tutor told our father, who worked at our school. He refused to disclose what we’d written though. I understand this, but it got our parents angry and led to an incident of bad mental abuse.

Anyway, like I said, this tutor was our safe person. He was the first one to know about our being multiple other than a handful of readers of my online diary at the time. He wasn’t impressed by it as much. In fact, he told us we’re just manipulative. This got us to go in denial and not tell anyone else.

It still upsets us that we could’ve had a chance for real help if we hadn’t been in denial at the time. I mean, the tutor told our first psychologist about our experience. This psychologist suspected DID, but we denied everything. It’s understandable, because we were still in somewhat of an unsafe situation at the time.

We trusted our high school tutor, but he betrayed our trust in some rather overt ways. He told our parents that we suspected we were on the autism spectrum. Not that there was no other way for them to find out, as we wrote about it in our public online diary. However, he told them that we’re a hypochondriac for it. In this sense, he was on our parents’ side. And yet, we didn’t see it.

Then again, is it okay for me to think in terms of being on someone’s side or not? I mean, our parents were supportive in some ways. Our mother was at least. Our father was and still is too self-absorbed to actually care about anything other than his intersts and opinions. It’s not black-or-white. People can be good and still do bad things. Or something like it.

Five of the Most Significant Events in My Life

And once again, I didn’t post for nearly a week. I am beginning to feel pessimistic that I’ll complete the A to Z Challenge in April. However, I still would very much love to make it happen. I am pretty uninspired though.

To get back into the writing habit, I am choosing to write about a topic I’ve already posted about on my old blogs a couple of times. It is good though for my new readers of this blog to get to know me. I am going to share a list of important events in my life. Because I need to explain a little about each, this post may become a bit long.

1. The day I left the hospital at three months of age. I was born over three months premature and had to spend the first 94 days of my life in hospital. The unit I was on is commonly referred to as neonatal intensivecare unit or NICU for short, though I wasn’t in actual intensive care the whole time. I was on a ventilator for the first six weeks and, after I learned to breathe on my own, was moved to medium care, the general ward and eventually home. In the NICU, I sustained a brain bleed and developed an eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity. These two conditions are the main cause of my disabilities. I was finally discharged from the hospital on September 29, 1986.

2. The day I started special education. I started school, as most children here in the Netherlands did at the time, on my fourth birthday (June 27, 1990). I started in the first year of Kindergarten, which takes two years here. Just before the end of my second year in Kindergarten though, on May 11, 1992, I was moved into special education for the visually impaired.

The reason why I had to transfer remains a mystery. My parents say it was because I had to learn Braille, but I didn’t get to learn that till over a year later and only because a totally blind boy joined my class. The school was generally only equipped to educate those with low vision. Besides, the first special school my parents chose for me, was for those with mobility impairments. I was turned down because cerebral palsy isn’t my primary disability.

My inner five-year-old holds some memories of this situation. In our memory, I was ill with what could’ve been a partly psychosomatic illness just before moving to special ed. I cannot prove this though.

3. The day I started mainstream secondary school. My parents fought for years to get me out of special ed again. If I have to believe them, they fought from the moment I started in special ed to get me out again. They were convinced I’m far too intelligent for special ed, despite the fact that most schools for the blind offer a normal elenentary school curriculum. Anyway, they finally succeeded after taking me to the third ed psych in eighteen months, a psychologist who’d never even seen a blind person in his practice. This was also when I got labeled as gifted with a verbal IQ of 154. These three digits haunt me till this day.

I started mainstream secondary school on August 25, 1999 at my city’s grammar school. Those six years were awful. I scored above-average academically, but struggled socially and emotionally. I dissociated through most of my time there and hardly have any real memory of it.

4. The day I suffered my psychiatric crisis. After graduating high school in 2005, I’d taken two gap years to work on independence. While in my second gap year, I was diagnosed as autistic. Leading up to this was my increasingly falling apart at the independence training home. I got sent out to Nijmegen to live on my own on August 1, 2007 though. I fell apart within three months. By late October, I was wandering everyday, had multiple meltdowns a day and ended up suicidal. I was eventually hospitalized on November 3.

5. The day I got kicked out of the hospital again. I remained in a psychiatric hospital for 9 1/2 years, but eventually got kicked out on May 8, 2017. I believe the real reason is the government budget cuts to mental health, but my treatment team at the time blamed me. I have been living semi-independently ever since. As regular readers know though, I’m in the process of hopefully getting into long-term care again.

PoCoLo

Developing My Fighting Spirit

Over at Pointless Overthinking, DM asked what circumstance got you to learn something surprising about yourself. I already responded there. I explained briefly about the time my psychologist removed my autism diagnosis and diagnosed me with dependent personality disorder instead. In this post, I’m going to expand on my answer.

In August of 2016, it had come to my attention that my psychologist had changed my diagnosis. I was at the time hospitalized long-term and had had an autism diagnosis ever since 2007. For a reason I still only partly understand, she had decided to remove it. I’m pretty sure she didn’t fully understand her own reasoning either, as she kept coming up with different excuses. When I involved the patient liaison person and requested an independent second opinion, she even started to negotiate diagnoses.

Being a little too trusting of people’s good intentions, I at first went along with her proposal of a new diagnosis. I wouldn’t get my autism diagnosis back, but I would get diagnosed with brain injury-related emotional issues, which still gave me a reason to believe my impairments weren’t imaginary. It made some sense, in that my psychologst said the brain bleed I had sustained as a baby, was her reason for removing my autism diagnosis.

By November though, my psychologist came up to me to say that she’d rediagnosed me yet again. This was it and there was no further room for negotiations. My diagnosis was changed to dependent personality disorder, borderline personality disorder traits and “developmental disorder” not otherwise specified. I didn’t know what that last one was, but I accepted it anyway.

A week after that, I found out that the “developmental disorder” had not been put into my records at all, but instead depressive disorder NOS had been written into my chart. In Dutch even more than in English, these words are so differently spelled that it couldn’t have been a typeo. My psychologist finally admitted that she’d not diagnosed me with any type of neurological or neurodevelopmental disorder and wasn’t intending to either. She said she’d written depressive disorder NOS into my file because a diagnosis on axis I of DSM-IV is required for someone to stay in the mental hospital. She was vague as to whether she believed I was depressed, being convinced that I was still mostly just dependent. A nurse added insult to injury by saying the psychologist did me a favor by giving me an axis I diagnosis.

When I was first told I’d been diagnosed with dependent personality disorder, I assumed that the psychologist would probably remove it if I fought it hard enough. After all, DPD is characterized by passivness, compliance and an inability to voice disagreements with others for fear of losing care or approval. She said she wouldn’t. Besides, suggestible as I am, I quite easily tacked off the five out of eight required criteria.

At first, I was just angry and defeated. Pretty soon though, my fighter insider, Leonie, emerged. I requested an independent second opinion and this time I left no room for negotiation. I got re-assessed for autism in early 2017 and got rediagnosed on May 1.

Readers who don’t know me, might be wondering why I care. Well, the reason I care about my diagnosis is that I experience significant limitations that can’t be explained by just blindness. I do try my best and this to me signals that something else is going on. My psychologist felt I was making up my impairments. She didn’t say so, but she did say I couldn’t be diagnosed with autism because of my brain injury, yet I couldn’t be diagnosed with that either. She felt that the fact that occupational therapy was mostly ineffective, proved that I had no self-confidence. Her way of helping me develop self-confidence was to kick me out of the hospital almost with no after care. It was effective, in that it did allow the figher insider to fully develop.

Only later did I find out that, even though she rationalizes her decision to this day, it probably wasn’t about me. There are significant budget cuts to mental hospitals, so my psychologist was under pressure to kick some people out. She picked me, probably because of my relatively young age and the fact that I wasn’t psychotic. She claims that dependent personality disorder was the most appropriate DSM-IV code for someone with bad institutionalization syndrome. That completely overlooks the fact that I’d not been admitted to hospital for no reason 9 1/2 years prior, of course.

The Greatest Moment of My Life

Today’s Question of the Day on Pointless overthinking is about the greatest moment of our life so far. I already briefly shared it in the comments, but I want to expand on my answer.

The greatest moment of my life so far is the moment my now husband proposed to me. This was June 4, 2010. I was 23-years-old and struggling with the aftermath of a traumatic childhood unfolding itself to me. My dissociative symptoms had becoem too unbearable to hide and I was slowly beginning to trust my staff at the psychiatric hospital resocialization unit with my feelings. That day, my named nurse invited my then still boyfriend into a room with me and her to explain some of my symptoms.

After that, my boyfriend took me to the place we had first met each other on September 19, 2007. It was a bus stop near the university’s dentistry department that I’d gotten off the bus from my home that day in 2007. Now, they were working on the road there, so we couldn’t sit at the bus stop. Instead, we sat down in the grass and my boyfriend proposed to me. I at first thought he was joking so I replied: “So you think that’s cool then?” He said yes and went on to propose we get married on September 19, 2011. “Mind getting married on a Monday?”

We chose our wedding date based on the fact that it was exactly four years since we first met. Four, for us, is a code word for kissing, because of a kind of wordplay in Dutch.

A week later, my boyfriend asked whether I’d informed my parents yet that we were getting married. I hadn’t, still thinking he had been joking. As such, I never said an official “Yes” to his proposal. That must’ve felt terribly hurtful to him. I told my parents, sister and grandma that evening.

My family’s responses were not overly supportive. My sister said we were a bit young (I would be 25 and my husband 22). My parents said we should go live together first. This is not a requirement for married couples anymore here in the Netherlands. We wanted to marry each other for no toehr reason than to prove our love. My parents felt, as did some of my professionals, including the psychologist who kicked me out of the hospital to live with my husband, that love didn’t mean much if you don’t live together as a couple. Fine by me, you’re entitled to your opinion, but we’re entitled to ours.

PoCoLo

9/11

Today is Tuesday, September 11. It’s seventeen years ago, also on a Tuesday, that the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. I, like most people, know exactly where I was when I heard the news.

The terrorist attacks happened at around 9AM New York time. This corresponds to 3PM my time. I was in my room at my parents’ house processing the events of the day. Earlier that afternoon, I had been filmed with a hidden camera while riding in a taxi home from school. There at the time was this reality show in which a taxi driver talked to random but thought-to-be-interesting passengers. I, being blind and attending regular school, was definitely thought of as interesting. I didn’t think so, or at least, I wasn’t as eager to show off myself as I am now, so I didn’t consent to the recording being shown on television. I till this day, as open as i may be on my blogs, never consider putting up a video recording of myself.

I had just finished writing my diary entry for the day when on the radio I heard the breaking news of an airplane having crashed into one of the Twin Towers. Then at around 3:30PM, my father called me and my sister downstairs: “New York burning!” It didn’t fully register with me, though I did devote a full diary entry to it in the evening. I was at the time more fascinated than horrified. In fact, if I remember correctly, I was mostly excited about the downward spiral of the exchange index the following Monday. Yeah, I never quite got economics.

I never fully understood at the time how 9/11 would change the world. In fact, in early 2002, I drafted a story, set in 2016, about an Afghan and an American girl, both born shortly after 9/11, becoming penpals. I imagined that the “second generatin”, as I called them, would only still suffer generational trauma. Now I am not at all politically informed, but it doesn’t surprise me at all if the current terrorist groups in Syria are a direct result of the Bush administration overreacting to 9/11. And remember, Afghanistan will most likely not be the free nation I dreamed of in my story draft anytime soon.

Five Years

Today marks five years since our DID diagnosis got removed and changed to BPD. I’m not sure how to feel about it. I mean, that diagnosis was most likely incorrect but so is the BPD (which later got downgraded to BPD traits, which I do think we have but then again who doesn’t?). I mean, we rarely if ever experience amnesia and don’t go around disclosing ourselves when it’s not safe, but we do clearly exist as multiple identities.

Besides, the therapist who diagnosed us with DID at least took us more seriously than any before or after her (except for maybe our current psychiatrist, whom we just came out to three weeks ago). She didn’t allow us to be out with the nursing staff, which was okay’ish with us, but she did allow all of us to talk to her and didn’t try to fit us in a therapeutic box. The therapist who changed our diagnosis to BPD did, mislabeling Jane as a “punitive parent” and telling her to go away.

We at one point insisted on getting formal testing for DID. The therapist administered the SCID-D (a structured interview for diagnosing dissociation) to us but never finished the report. I wish she had even if it showed we’re fake. I mean, we have a right to information, don’t we? She also never responded to our E-mail, once our diagnosis was changed, asking her whether she’d ever suspected BPD in us.

I feel really odd now. I don’t know where we’re headed with regards to our mental health treatment. It’s all so scary. What if we’re really all imaginary? Since it’s unlikely we’ll ever be diagnosed with a dissociative disorder or get related trauma treatment again, will we ever learn to not exist?

A while back, someone asked in an FB group what happens to those misdiagnosed with DID after they get de-diagnosed. Whether their parts vanish. I don’t know really what I hope happens to us. I mean, we’ve tried to hide for a long time after our diagnosis got changed, but it was unsuccessful. We’ve tried to identify with the natural/endogenic multiple community before, since we felt not having a diagnosis meant we shouldn’t intrude upon the DID community. That was unsuccessful too. Does the fact that we can’t hide successfully for a long time mean we’re real after all, or does it mean I’m just terribly stubborn? I initially wrote “we” instead of “I”, but of course if we’re fake, we are not we anymore and never have been.

An Eighth Grade Memory

I’ve been meaning to write a lot, but I can’t. I am having a lot of memories. That’s what they’re supposed to be. I already survived and am now safe and an adult, age 32, living with my husband. I don’t care, this pretty freakin’ hurts. One of my inner teens, Karin, hurts the most.

On November 17, 2000, I hid under a coat rack during recess. I don’t even know why. I mean, yes, I was feeling miserable and lonely. Kids in my class were bullying me and I had no friends. I was mainstreamed at the time, being the only blind student in my school.

My French teacher found me and called for the coordinator. My tutor had just gone on sick leave the day before and never returned to our school. The coordinator would act as my tutor from that point on. He sat across from me in the room where I’d been hiding under the coat rack. He held my hands and said: “Is something wrong?” I couldn’t communiicate. Not speak, not move, nothing. I was completely frozen.

Several months later, by the time my now tutor had become aware that I was feeling left out and lonely and being bullied by my classmates, he organized a class conference. Without me there. My classmates were allowed to say what they didn’t like about me. Then I was supposed to change those things. I was supposed to take better care of my personal hygiene and develop better social skills, so that I’d be less curt.

My tutor died in 2016. He cannot read this now, but my old tutor, the one who went on sick leave just before the coat rack thing, can. She found my Dutch website last year. Granted, it has my real name in the URL and this one doesn’t, but still. Maybe I shouldn’t write this, or publish this. But I want to. I want to get this off my chest.

I want to show that it’s not okay to blame a bullying victim for being bullied, even if the victim “elicits” it by acting weird. It’s good to teach a child about social skills and personal hygiene. I won’t deny that. It’s quite another thing to link that to bullying and say “You bring it onto yourself”. That’s what many people around me did say. That’s victim-blaming and it’s not okay.

Another thing I want to say is, if you wouldn’t subject a non-disabled student to something, chances are you shouldn’t subject your disabled students to it. Another boy in my class was being bullied too. My classmates asked for a class conference similar to the one held about me. The boy didn’t want it and this was respected. I was never even asked whether I wanted a class conference, because apparently, being blind, I was so special that I shouldn’t have a say. For clarity’s sake: I think class conferences like thsi one are an example of victim-blaming whether the bullied student agrees to them or not.

Remembering the Onset of My Temper Outbursts

I have been a member of groups on the topic of disruptive mood dysregulaiton disorder (DMDD) for the past year or so. DMDD was introduced to the psychiatrist’s manual with DSM-5 in 2013. It is a condition in which a child or teen is irritable or angry most of the time and has severe temper outbursts on average at least three times a week for a period of at least twelve months. The diagnosis cannot be made in a child under six or a person over eighteen. This being the case, I’m not in these groups because I currently think I may have DMDD, but because I think I may’ve had it as a child.

According to my parents, I was just a little immature emotionally until the age of around seven. I switched schools, transferring from mainstream Kindergarten to a school for the visually impared, when I was nearly six in 1992. In 1993, I started to learn Braille. This is around the time my temper outbursts started. According to my parents, I wasn’t even regularly irritable up to that point. They describe me as a relaxed, cheerful child.

My own memories are hazy. Of course, I remember temper tantrums from before age seven, but what child doesn’t have those at times? Between the ages of seven and nine, my mood got worse and worse. I remember being suicidal at arund the age of eight.

So was this DMDD? We will never know, as the diagnosis didn’t exist back in 1993. Was it, like my parents believe, a way of expressng my frustration with the fact that I was going blind? Was I being manipulative, also like my parents think? Trying to elicit care from my parents and professionals by acting out? Or was it a form of autistic burn-out? Had neurotypical developmental expectations overwhelmed my autistic brain?

Like I may’ve said, my parents don’t believe I’m autistic. They believe I have some traits, but not enough to impair my functioning or warrant a diagnosis. They say I’m just blind and of genius intelligence. And oh, the rest is just me trying to manipulate people for attention. They don’t seem to realize, then, that I, too, suffered from my irritability and anger outbursts.