Losing Myself and Finding Myself (Reena’s Exploration Challenge #96)

I remember when and where I lost myself. My old self, that is. It was November 2, 2007 at 8:01PM when I stepped onto the bus at Balustrade bus stop in Apeldoorn. I had decided this was it.

I phoned my old support coordinator at the training home. I’d just been told to leave the home’s premises, because according to the on duty staff, I was making them take unwarranted responsibility for me. I had come there in distress and a housemate had offered for me to spend the night with her, so that we had time to find me a new place to stay in the morning.

I wasn’t homeless. That is, I had a roof over my head. In the Netherlands, the word that translates to “homeless” also refers to people who are wasting away in their residence. And I was.

At 8:01PM November 2, I phoned my old support coordinator to tell her I was going to kill myself. I was on the bus and the bus driver and fellow passengers heard me. They called the police and, after a long wait at the police station, I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital in the middle of the night.

At that point, my old self went away. I lost the self that went to college, had plans for working and lived independently.

I’m still not 100% sure who will replace her. When and where I’ll find myself. My new self, that is. I know my old self is gone. Even though I live semi-independently now, I do not have anything close to a “normal” life, whatever that may be. But that’s okay. I know I will ultimately find a new eqwuilibrium, when I’m in a living facility that suits me.

In September of 2006, I wrote a post in my online diary about the two different images I had of myself. One was “white”. This image represented a “normal” life. Living independently, going to university, finding a job, marrying, getting children and whatnot. The other image, the “black” one, represented my need for support. It wasn’t that I needed 24-hour care, but that I needed more than just the once-a-week visit from a support worker to read me my mail that’s normal for people who are just blind.

By April of 2007, I knew the “black” image was coming true, but I was seeing the colors in it. I eventually did live independently and go to college, but I would get sixteen hours of home support a week.

And then that image too died, on November 2. It was hard. I grieved. But I didn’t give up. Gradually, I started to see how colorful a life I can have if I accept care.

The care facilities I’m looking at moving into, couldn’t be closer to the “black” image of myself. They are 24-hour intensive support facilities. Yet I don’t see that life as bad. I see it was exactly as colorful and rich as, or even more so than the “normal” life I envisioned for myself.

I am joining in with Reena’s Exploration Challenge #96.

Working On Us Prompt: If Disordered Eating Isn’t About Food or Weight

Today, I am once again joining in with the Working On Us Prompt. I hope the link works, as it once again gave me an error 404 when I tried to visit it. There are really two question prompts for this week’s Working On Us. I may post a separate post about the second question. The first asks what if eating disorders aren’t about food or weight? What are they about?

As a person with disordered eating tendencies, I can totally empathize with this question. I mean, yes, I am obese, but that in itself doesn’t qualify you for help with disordered eating other than a monthly kick in the ass from a dietitian. Well, that just isn’t enough for me.

Then again, I was told by my psychiatrist that I do not have an eating disorder, because the amount of food I eat during a “binge” isn’t big enough. Well, I understand. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with my relationship with food or weight.

Because that is really what disordered eating is all about: the relationship we have to food and our bodies. It isn’t about how much you eat, how much you weigh, or how often you exercise. It’s about the thoughts that go on in your mind.

For clarity’s sake: at the time that I was told I do not have an eating disorder, I was in the early stages of recovery from purging, which in itself does warrant an eating disorder not otherwise specified diagnosis. I was never fully bulimic, but I was coming close. That’s not my point though.

I struggle a lot with disordered thoughts about food and my weight. In fact, I think about food the majority of the time and those thoughts are not usually healthy.

Once, when I read a book about someone with an eating disorder, her psychiatrist suspected she was an alcoholic too. She administered a simple screening tool, which asked whether the girl had tried to cut back on alcohol, was getting annoyed or angry when people commented on her drinking, ever had alcohol first thing in the morning, and then there was another question. She answered “Yes” to three out of four questions. Well, I can answer yes to the three I remembered here when substituting alcohol with food. I occasionally overeat first thing in the morning, have very regularly and unsuccessfully tried to control my food intake, and I do get angry like all the freakin’ time when someone makes a comment about my food-related habits.

Yes, I knnow that to the outside observer, I appear like just an unmotivated, overindulgent fatass. What they don’t see are the inner battles I fight each and every day to deal with my disordered eating tendencies.

#IWSG: Writing About Myself

Yay, it’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to come together and share our writing journey. This past month has been better than the month of May. I wrote twice as many blog posts and have generally been feeling more motivated to write.

I still want to be more courageous and creative with my writing. I have been able to venture somewhat out of my comfort zone with a few stream of consciousness writings. I would still love to try my hand at poetry and flash fiction again, but am too insecure right now.

The optional question for this month’s #IWSG day is about incorporating aspects of yourself into your characters. Since I no longer write fiction and almost all my writings are about myself, this question may seem off.

However, when I still wrote fiction regularly, this question was very applicable. Not only did I incorporate a lot of aspects of myself into my characters, but the other way around too. Let me explain.

As regular readers of my blog might know, I have (currently undiagnosed) dissociative identity disorder (DID). This used to be known as multiple personality disorder. People with DID have at least two separate identities or personality states, each with their own unique way of perceiving and relating to the world.

DID usually first develops in early childhood as a result of prolonged trauma, but people who dissociated early on, often continue to do so during times of stress into adolescence and adulthood. For me, the time of my most serious dissociation was adolescence. This was also the time I wrote fiction the most. I incorporated a lot of aspects of myself into my characters. Often, my characters were blind or, if they weren’t, they faced some other challenge that set them apart. Most characters had difficulty making friends like myself. The main character in the story I got the farthest with, didn’t have a disability, but her mother had multiple sclerosis.

I often used writing as an escape from reality. As such, with my dissociative tendencies, some of my characters developed into alters. These are called fictives. One of them is now one of the main fronters (personalities presenting themselves to the outside world). She was in a way deliberately created. At least, the character was. I had difficulty explaining myself and my struggles to my parents and teachers, so my high school tutor allowed me to express myself through fiction. That’s how Kirsten came about. Kirsten is blind and has many of the struggles I do. Currently, we present as her when we can’t show the world that we have DID but we’re feeling very much split anyway.

Working On Us Prompt: Stigma

For the fourth time, Rebecca of Beckie’s Mental Mess hosted the Working On Us prompt last Wednesday. I didn’t get to participate before and I really wasn’t sure I could make it this week. After all, I couldn’t load the post at first and then it was my birthday yesterday, so I was occupied all day.

The topic of this week’s prompt is stigma. I forgot the exact wording of the questions, but I’m just going to use the opportunity to ramble.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This is, as many sufferers will know, a highly stigmatized diagnosis. Borderlines are thought of as manipulative, unfaithful, volatile, generally awful.

It wasn’t like I wanted this diagnosis. I didn’t feel I fit the criteria. I mean, I had at the time been in a relationship for over five years and it wouldn’t cross my mind to cheat. I wasn’t particularly attention-seeking either. I didn’t go around manipulating my therapist into offering me more and more support and threatening to kill myself if she didn’t.

Yet these are stereotypes. I do have a really unstable sense of self. I do have a lot of rapidly shifting emotions. I do fear abandonment. I do self-harm. I do dissociate and suffer with stress-related paranoia.

I must add here that my diagnosis of BPD replaced DID and PTSD, which generally get a lot more sympathy. The reason my diagnosis got changed, is that my therapist went along with a DID peer support group leader’s opinion that I had imagined my dissociative symptoms.

Years later, my BPD diagnosis got downgraded to BPD traits, but I got an additional diagnosis of dependent personality disorder. DPD is characterized by an inability to stick up for oneself, passiveness and clinginess. I don’t think I meet the criteria at all. The reason I got labeled with DPD is because I thought I neeeded long-term supported housing and my psychologist thought I didn’t. She told my mother-in-law upon my discharge from the mental hospital that I can stick up for myself really well. She said that the DSM diagnosis that comes closest when a patient suffers institutionalization, is DPD. Well, there is a difference between a dependent dynamic and a dependent person.

The same goes for all personality disorders: they describe patients, not dynamics. A person with a personality disorder may be more likely to engage in a certain dynamic, but the disorder isn’t the same as that dynamic. This is the reason narcissistic abuse really isn’t a thing. Yes, people with NPD are more likely to be abusers than those without NPD, but abuse is a dynamic, whereas NPD is something affecting the patient. Let me tell you here that I’m in Facebook groups for narcissistic abuse survivors, but only because they’re the only groups that acknowledge the specific psychological damage dysfunctional families can cause.

I fought the BPD and DPD diagnoses, because I didn’t feel I met the criteria. However, this does allow the stigma to continue. Of course, I do have BPD traits. That doesn’t make me a monster. And of course I was a pain in the ass of my last psychologist. That doesn’t mean I have DPD.

#IWSG: What I Love to Read and Write

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) post. I forgot about it altogether until I saw another blogger post their #IWSG post.

This past month, I’ve not been writing much. I published only nine blog posts here and overall haven’t been very active in writing on the Internet at all. I did try out several new writing apps, but none suited me. Maybe that’s because I’d still have to actually have something to write on.

This month’s optional question for the #IWSG post is about your favorite genre to read and write. The question is probably mostly geard towards fiction writers, but I don’t care. I’m going to answer it anyway.

With regards to reading, the genre I read most often is memoir. However, the genre I enjoy most reading is young adult, specifically novels about social issues. I rarely read fiction geared towards older adults, though I’ve come to read it some more recently. In general, the topics I most like to read about are legal and medical issues.

With respect to writing, well, I hardly write fiction anymore, if at all. I would love to try my hand at poetry again soon, but am finding it hard to know where to start. I mean, poetry when I was a teen used to be just a story with random line breaks inserted, but that’s not what it is.

My favorite genre to write in, hence, is memoir. On this blog, I most enjoy writing the personal reflections. Particularly though, the letters I’ve written to myself have been the most interesting to write. It’s sad that my personal reflections are not among the most popular posts on my blog.

#IWSG: Post-A2Z Ramblings

And yay, it’s May! It’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) day again. As you may have noticed, I didn’t write for the past few days. As such, I didn’t finish the A to Z Challenge. I am still thinking of doing at least the letter Z post, for which I have a cool theme.

The reason I didn’t finish A to Z is that, on Saturday, when I was supposed to do the letter X post, I was off to my parents’ all day. I didn’t get home till past 11PM and, though I had my phone with me, I didn’t really have time to write at my parents’. That’s a good thing in a way, in that I didn’t feel the need to retreat. Usually I do feel that need, as I find conversing in general and with my parents in particular challenging. Now, not so.

I had a good visit with my parents. No hard questions. We did discuss my life a bit, but mostly it was about my premature birth and what has become of my treating neonatologist. I think I mentioned in my letter Q post that I wasn’t even sure he’s still alive. Well, he is, as he’s still a member of the Dutch Pediatric Society. I assume he no longer practises as a doctor though.

Then on Sunday, I felt just too tired to write. If it had been an easier letter I’d have to write on, I might’ve found the motivation to catch up that day, still giving me two days to complete my letter Y and Z posts. Well, it didn’t happen. Then on Monday, I spent the day at day activities and then was off to my in-laws. Yesterday, I started to write a different post, but got frustrated with my Mac and iPhone again, so I didn’t write then either.

My husband encourages me to finish the challenge late, so that at least I have some sense of succeeding rather than feel I failed the challenge yet again. I understand his point of view, but I have several other posts I want to write. So, we’ll see.

Who Am I Right Now?: Exploring My Identities #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 23 in the #AtoZChallenge. I had a topic for my W post in mind for a few weeks, but then wasn’t sure whether to pick that one. I am doing so anyway. Today, I am exploring the things that make me me. My “identities” can, of course, refer to my alters too, but I covered that topic in my letter M post already. Today, I am exploring my different roles.

I am a daughter. My parents are still both alive. I was a granddaughter (and some would say I still am), though my last living grandparent died in 2018. I am a sister and an aunt-to-be, since my sister is 20 weeks pregnant.

I am a wife. I have been together with my husband nearly 11 years and married over seven. My husband is by far the most important person in my life. Through him, I am also a daughter-in-law and sister-in-law. My mother-in-law is the second most important person currently involved in my life.

I am a blogger. I’ve had one blog or another ever since 2007 and really have been an online writer since 2002. I am also an author, though I’ve had only one small piece published in an anthology. It makes me proud nonetheless.

I am an advocate. Though I don’t engage in as much activism as I used to about ten years ago, I still consider myself a disability, mental health and autistic rights advocate.

I am a believer. Though I subscribe to “something-ism”, it does help me to feel connected to a higher power.

I am mentally ill. I am autistic. I am blind. I am multiply-disabled. I am a benefits claimant. I am a service user at a day center for people with intellectual disabilities.

These last few identities may be the most defining of me when I tend to introduce myself. That’s why I listed them last here. I need to learn to focus on the others.

Voice: Expressing Myself Through This Blog #AtoZChallenge

Welcoem to the letter V post in the #AtoZChallenge. This letter was very hard. No topic came to mind spontaneously, except for “vision loss”, which I already covered in my letter B post. So I looked at a book of journaling prompts which has, among other things, a prompt for each letter of the alphabet. The prompt for V was “Voice”. The attached question was to write about something you’ve always wanted to tell someone. I am instead going to write about the way I use this blog to express myself.

When I started this blog, I intended for it to be as free and open as a public place on the Internet could be. I didn’t want to feel limited by beliefs about what should be blog-worthy. In a way, I wanted this blog to be as authentic as my first online diary was, before I knew the impact of sharing stuff online. I would, of course, take care to avoid using people’s real names – something I didn’t do back then -, but I would not keep much hidden to prevent getting criticism.

Now, nine months on, I must say I reached this goal most of the time. Of course, there are still things I don’t share on here, but those are things that shouldn’t go on the Internet at all mostly. Like, I don’t go about describing an argument I had with my husband. In this sense, it is good that my blog isn’t like my first online diary, in which I did describe every argument with my parents.

I still do care a little about the quality of my posts, but that’s not bad. I mean, maybe I wish I were as open as some of my online friends are on their blogs, sharing stuff I share in small E-mail groups on here. That probably won’t happen. My inner critic is too harsh for that, and I don’t even know whether that’s a bad thing.

Unusual Interests: Calendar Calculation and More #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 21 in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I will be writing about my unusual interests. You see, like many autistic people, I tend to have interests that are intense and unusual in focus.

As a child, I was advanced for my age in math. When I was around six, my father taught me to do square and squareroot calculations. He used a set of squares (which were really computer chips) to teach me, laying three in one row and then squaring it to nine. I loved this.

When I was eight and the kids in my class were doing multiplication tables, this would be boring to me, as I had all tables from one to twelve memorized already. To make the activity useful for me anyway, I chose to start with the table of nineteen. Don’t ask me why I skipped thirteen to eighteen, but I did.

When I was a bit older still, I taught myself to do calendar calculation. Most people not familiar with autism I encounter have never even heard of that skill, which is a common savant skill in autistics. It involves calculating on what day a certain date falls. Usually, this skill is presumed to be memory-based, but I actually knew the rules for doing it. I also learned about the change from Julian to Gregorian calendar in 1582 and took those ten days that were skipped into account when working with dates before then. I have a newspaper article from late 1999, which I still treasure, titled something like “the fight about time” in Dutch. It explained why the year 4000, unlike other centennial years divisible by 400, shouldn’t be a leap year. How fascinating!

Later, I developed other “unusual” special interests. For example, I used to draw maps when I was around ten or eleven. I always drew Italy, though I knew a lot about topography in general.

When I was in the psychiatric hospital and touring potential supported housing places, I had no idea about their location, except which trains and buses to use to get there. I wasn’t as good with topography anymore. I at one point had most bus routes in my province memorized from Wikipedia.

Travel: My Most Enjoyable Vacation #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 20 in the #AtoZChallenge. I am feeling a bit frustrated with myself at the moment and as a result not as inspired to write. I hope this mood will lift while I’m in the process of writing this post. Today’s topic is travel. I was inspired to write about this by a nightmare I had last night, which was about a summer camp I attended in Russia in 2000. I don’t want to revisit that right now, so will instead be writing about my most enjoyable vacation.

This was, incidentally, also a summer camp. I attended the International Computer Camp for blind and visually impaired students in England in 2002. Because of my negative experiences with the summer camp in Russia, I had my reservations about going to this camp. Of course, this time I wouldn’t be the only blind person, but I still worried that I wouldn’t fit in.

The computer camp was held at a college for the blind in Loughborough, a town in the East Midlands. For this reason, we also took a trip to the West Midlands to see the Black Country museum or that’s what I remember it being called. This was something about the industrialization of England, but I wasn’t able to follow it much.

For most days, we had two workshops we could attend on computers and technology. I at the time had just discovered the Internet and was excited to learn what cool tech there was out there. I attended some workshops on word processing, but also on music and audio. I was also lucky enough to be on the editorial staff for the camp newspaper. I loved this and this was probably one reason I later began an online diary.

The staff worked at various disability agencies in their respective countries. One person I remember well worked at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany. He helped visually impaired students find their way through college. He taught a workshop on studying abroad, though it was more of a general survival skills for blind students workshop. This was perhaps the best experience I had there. It helped me realize that I wasn’t the only blind person out there trying to follow her dreams.

This was also the general message I took home from the camp: I am not alone. I met lots of blind and visually impaired young people from across Europe who were facing the same issues I was.

I returned to the international computer camp in 2003, this time in Switzerland. I liked that a little less, possibly because the Dutch staff who attended this time were a bit more pushy about my independence. I still enjoyed it though.