Tag Archives: Autism

Panicked Ramble

Hi, I’m Carol. I struggle a lot with our autism. I’m a little panicky at the moment. First of all, I woke up with terrible pain in my left shoulder. It’s been bothering me alll day. We finally took an ibuprofen when we got home from day activities at 5PM. It’s better now, but still bad.

This morning, I overheard the staff at day activities talking about a possible new client joining our group. I immediately worried that this’d mean I’d be kicked out. Not because they need the place (or maybe because of that too), but maybe if my challenging behavior worsens as a response to the staff being busier. That’s what happened at my previous day activities. Then again, they had three new clients join the group in a matter of weeks.

Moreover, we had a Christmas meal at day activities today. This meant my day was different from the usual Tuesday. One of the staff at my group had to help clean up after the meal, so she was in the kitchen most of the afternoon.

Then the staff started talking about day activities next week. They’re closed on Monday but open on thursday and Friday. Then, only six of us will be at the center, which really isn’t enough to justify staff being there. They said that the center normally closes if fewer than ten clients will be there. We want so badly to attend day activities and I somehow understood they’re considering closing the center next week. The staff reassured me, saying they had to set this rule for next year but for now the center will be open.

Still, when I got home, the whole thing overwhelmed me. I started seeing images in my mind of myself with worsening challenging behavior. I felt unsafe at home alone and rejected too. Like, they kicked us out of the independence training home in 2007 and out of the institution last year because of our behavior. Rather than giving us more care when we needed it, they gave us less. Same with the old day activities place. I really hope we can somehow find us suitable supported housing, but I’m so scared that no place wants me. I finally called the on-call nurse at the psych hospital and had a chat with her. That was good, but I feel guilty about having called, because my team say I really shouldn’t need the prescription phone call anymore.

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.

Dreams I Had for Myself as a Child #Write31Days

Welcome to day 18 in #Write31Days. Today’s post is all about dreams and life visions. Specifically, I am sharing the dreams I had for myself as a child.

The first dream I remember having about what I’d be when I’d grow up, was a writer. I may’ve said as a KIndergartner that I wanted to be a princess or whatever, but as soon as I could write with some confidence, I wanted to make my career out of that. I remember my parents telling me pretty early on that writers usually don’t make a living writing, but I didn’t care.

As I said before, I started out wanting to write fiction. I didn’t keep a journal consistently until I was thirteen and fiction was all that I knew before then. I didn’t get access to the Internet until age fifteen, but by the time I had an Internet connection, I was hooked on non-fiction.

Another dream I had for myself as an older child and teen, was to become a teacher. My ideas varied as to which grade or subject I’d like to teach. I definitely looked up to my teachers, so it’s no surprise I wanted to be one.

When I was around twelve, I started to deveop a dream of becoming a psychologist. I wanted to help children who were likely to fall through the cracks, as I had a feeling I was. I started hoping every episode of my parents’ favorite news program had a feature on kids with psychological problems. Once, there was an episode on about autism and I was hooked. This was nearly ten years before my own autism diagnosis. I had a feeling I was somehow like the boy in the program. Similar with a seventeen-year-old girl who was being restrained in a psychiatric hospital in around 1997. She was too smart for intellectual disability services but didn’t belong in psychiatry either. Something clicked with me, but obviously I couldn’t put my finger to it. I still really can’t.

When I was sixteen, I developed another dream. I wanted to study in the United States once in college. I would be majoring in American studies at university in Nijmegen, which'd offer motivated, talented students the opportunity to study in the U.S. for six months in their third year. I was at the time pretty sure I'd be talented enough. I loved reading up about American cities on City-Data.com.

Looking back, obviously, I didn’t make any of my dreams come true. I write, but not for profit and I don’t intend on it ever at all. I have some education in psychology, but am nowhere near a degree.

At the back of my mind, there always was that seventeen-year-old girl in the isolation room in the psychiatric hospital. I’ve not become her either, but I’ve come close. Then I rose up above my fate and now I’m an advocate. I’m happy as I am now.

Lessons Learned from Regret #Write31Days

Welcome to day three in my #Write31Days challenge on personal growth. Today, I picked a writing prompt from The Self-Exploration Journal, which is a 90-day challenge. The prompt is about something you regret. What did this experience teach you in the end?

I am choosing my decision to move from the city of Nijmegen psychiatric resocialization unit to a long-term care unit in Wolfheze, a town near Arnhem in 2013.

The rationale for this decision was totally understandable. My husband lived in Doorwerth, a town neighboring on Wolfheze. Since we were exploring the possibility of me moving out of the mental institution and in with him, it seemed just about logical that I’d move to Wolfheze.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d encounter less than supportive staff in Wolfheze. When I went for an intake interview, the responsible psychologist wanted to place me in a sociotherapeutic house, whch meant you’d live practically independently with a few other clients but the staff would come to your house at set times. They reasoned this would be the best preparation for independent living. I don’t think they’re wrong about that, but it became more and more apparent that I couldn’t cope with independent living like this.

So I opted to go into the long-term unit with 24-hour care instead. Even this was a huge adjustment, as staff started expecting me to learn practical independence skills that were too overwhelming.

My new psychologist also pretty soon removed my diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder and PTSD, changing it to borderline personality disorder. From there, it went further downhill. My first psychologist was good enough. She eventually did realize that I’d need lots of long-term support even when going into independent living.

In 2014, I got a new psychologist. This wasn’t my decision, but the old one was leaving. This psychologist had the worst impact on me of all mental health professionals I’ve had in those 9 1/2 years in an institution. She decided right from the start that I’m not autistic. She started to tell me I have acquired brain injury and need to go into a training home to learn independence skills for that. Now let me tell you, i already went into a training home that caters to among other people, those who are blind and those with acquired brain injury. I am confident that this training home offered me the best possible independence training. Yet because it failed, I had failed and I had to try all over again. Since I didn’twant that, I was dependent and misusing care and needed to be kicked out of the institution.

I was eventually kicked out of the institution in 2017. I only later learned that it wasn’t about me, but about the huge budgets cuts to mental health. Of course, the Nijmegen institution would have to face budget cuts too, so I might’ve gone the same route had I stayed in Nijmegen. However, then at least I’d have had supportive staff.

What I learned from this whole thing is that supportive people are the most important. You can live in a better home or a better area, but if the people who support you through and through aren’t there, it’s not going to work.

Dear Autism Parents: On Unconditional Acceptance

I just read an essay in What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew and it touches home with me. In it, the author, Haley Moss, mainly describes how she feels parents need to ucnonditionally accept their autistic daughters. She particularly emphhasizes the need to support the girls’ special interests even if they’re not age-appropriate or girly. Boy, do I want to tell my parents this. It’s too late now, as I’m 32 and have half a lifetime of conditional love behind me already.

Moss herself too was encouraged to develop age- and gender-appropriate interests as a child. She recounts a fourth grade memory of being advised to trade her rare cards for Bratz dolls. I have no idea what they are, but I remember in fifth or sixth grade also being encouraged by my mother (in not so subtle ways) to trade my Barbie dolls for pop music CDs. After all, Barbie dolls may be girly but they’re not deemed appropirate for an eleven-year-old.

The negative effects of one such incident, like Moss experienced, can be undone by a greater occurrence of open acceptance of the autistic’s special interests. For example, Moss’ paretns eventually affirmed her interest in video games. In this respect, I felt generally okay about my interests in fifth and sixth grade, because, though my mother did not support my playing with Barbie dolls, my father did support my drawing maps.

As a general rule though, I have commonly felt only conditionally accepted by my parents. This is reflected in constant victim-blaming when I was bullied. They were at least somewhat consistent in that, in that at least my father spoke negatively about the intellectually disabled girl whom I bullied too. Of course, he set an example of ableism by doing this as much as my parents did by victim-blaming me.

When I went into college to major in applied psychology, I still got my parents’ reluctant approval. After all, though my major wasn’t that well-liked by them and my college wasn’t as prestigious as they had wanted for me, it still was college. Since having experienced my breakdown in 2007, it’s pretty clear my parents are not there for me anymore. That’s sad, but it’s true.

The saddest part about What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew is, unfortunately, that those parents who most need to hear the messages in it, will not read it. My parents don’t even think I’m autistic despite my having been officially diagnosed half a dozen times. Other parents may’ve gotten the diagnosis but choose to join the likes of Autism Speaks and shout “You are not like my child!” at every autistic adult trying to educate them about acceptance. That’s so sad. However, if some parents are helped by this blog post or by the book in showing unconditional acceptance to their children, that’s already good.

Tuesday Ramble

I don’t really know what to feel. Today was, well, chaotic. It started out with me getting up at 7:10AM as usual, still tired as usual. My energy level usually rises during the day, but being on high doses of psychotropics still means I’m at least somewhat tired all the time.

At day activities, everyhing went okay. I did some table-based activities and went for a walk with one of the staff trying to learn the route around the building. Meanwhle, a lot was on my mind. Yesterday, the staff had been telling the new intern how one of the clients acquired his cognitive disability. This was such a sad tale. I mean, yes, it may not be ideal to be born with a severe intellectual disability, but at least then you don’t know better. This man, the staff said, probably doesn’t realize much of what his life was like before his brain injury.

Still, it made me sad. I, after all, do know about my life before my extreme autistic burn-out in 2007. I could reason that, since high school was hard for me too, I should be happy I no longer experience that level of pressure. And I am. But that part of me, the would-be-university-professor, is still there.

After lunch, I went home. I wasn’t even home for ten minutes when we had a massive power outage. I didn’t discover it at first, only noticing my Internet connection had gone. Then, I discovered that my computer was running on battery power, so I went to check the rest of the house to see if we still had power anywhere. That’s hard, being blind with light perception, as I’m not sure I trust my vision enough to check the lights but I tried to anyway., I eventually went to check some other electronic devices throughout the house. Then, I called my mother-in-law and texted my husband. My mother-in-law texted back that she couldn’t find any news about a power outage, but my husband called back to let me know the whole village was out of power. Later, we joked that I had somehow caused the power outage.

My mother-in-law came to pick me up, so that while at my in-laws’ home I could at least do something on the computer. Which reminds me of how dependent on electronics I am, especially when alone. Like, I hardly ever touch my phone while at day activities, but at home, practically the only thing I do involves my computer or phone.

In the evening, my father called me by accident. He never calls me and even when my paternal grandma was dying, all I got was a text message from my mother. As such, I immediately panicked, because why in the world would he suddenly want to call me? As it turned out, it was nothing.

Now I’m supposed to feel good, or at least okay, but I don’t. Oh well. No time for processing, as I’m off to bed in about fifteen minutes.

Dropping the Mask: Does It Take a Diagnosis? #TakeTheMaskOff

Today, the theme for #TakeTheMaskOff is diagnosis or self-discovery and its effects on masking. This is applied mostly to the experience of being autistic, but I can relate to it from a trauma survivor perspective too.

I haven’t yet read any of the other contributions for this week, but I assume the idea behind this challenge is that discovering you’re autistic, either through professional diagnosis or not, can help you drop a facade.

This is definitely true for me. When I was first diagnosed with autism in 2007, my staff claimed that I was using it as an excuse, because I reacted more to for example loud noises than I’d done before diagnosis. Similarly, my parents claimed that I was over-protected by the staff who felt I’m autistic and this led to my psychiatric hospitalization in November of that year.

To be honest, yes, I may’ve started to use autism more as an explanation for my behavior once I was diagnosed than I did pre-diagnosis. Note that I say “explanation”, not “excuse”. I don’t feel I need an excuse to act like myself, unless acting like myself were harming other people. Saying that we use autism as an excuse for our behavior is really saying that we should conform to non-autistic standards of behavior at any cost. Autism is an explanation for why I can’t conform to these standards, but even if I could, that doesn’t mean I should.

Then again, once my autism diagnosis was taken away in 2016, I did feel like I needed an excuse. And so did many other people. I was kicked out of autism communities that I’d been a valued part of for years. Suddenly, I’d been faking and manipulating and “acting autistic-like” all those years rather than just having been my autistic self. One Dutch autistic women’s forum’s members and admins were notorious for spinning all kinds of theories on why I’d been pretending to be autistic all those years and had finally been unmasked.

<PAnd at long last, I started to believe these people. I started to believe that self-diagnosis may be valid for other people, but it isn't for me. I started to wonder whether my parents were right after all that I'd been fooling every psychologist and psychiatrist before this one into believing I'm autistic.

This process of self-doubt and shame led to my first real episoede of depression. After all, if I’m not autistic, why did I burn out and land in a mental hospital? I’d been diagnosed with dependent personality disorder by the psychologist who removed my autism diagnosis, so were my parents right after all? I suddenly felt like I needed an excuse to act autistic-like, as if being autistic is indeed less than, not just different from being neurotypical.

I sought an independent second opinion and was rediagnosed with autism in May of 2017. I still am not cured of the idea that it takes a professional diagnosis to “excuse” a person from acting non-autistic. I don’t apply this to other people, but I do still apply it to myself and that’s hard.

I use this blog to counteract this self-stigmatizing attitude. This, after all, also applies to my status as a trauma survivor. I got my autism diagnosis back, but I never got and most likely never will get my trauma-related diagnoses back. I still mask, hiding my trauma-related symptoms when I can. And that’s not usually hepful in the long run.

I Am Autistic #SoCS

I am autistic. Or I have autism, as politiically correct parents of autistic children would say. I prefer “autistic”. After all, autism is an essential part of my identity. It’s not like labels don’t define me and are just there for insurance coding purposes. Yeah, well, diagnoses do not define me. I am, after all, also multiple even though I don’t have a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder anymore. Others do not define me. But my characeristics, including being autistic, do.

Saying “I am autistic” rathr than “I have autism” is preferred by the majority of autistic people. We also refer to ourselves as “autistic people” or even “autistics” rather tha “people with autism”. This is called idetity-first language, whereas “people with autism” is called person-first language and is politically correctly preferred by people wanting to erase the impact of autism.

I know, there are some situations in which a person may prefer person-first language regarding their own disability or identity. I don’t think this is wrong at all. However, people without said disability or belonging to said group should not dictate how we identify.

Identity-first language does not mean we can be called whatever the heck someone wants to call us. For example, a person with an intellectual disability should never be called “retarded”. That’s a slur. Even if said person has reclaimed that word – the R-word has not been reclaimed yet that often, but it might get to this point -, you cannot assume as a non-disabled person that you can just go about calling them the R-word. If in doubt, ask what a person wants to be referred to in regards to their disability or identity.

And of course, I want to be referred to by name most of the time. Unless another part or alter has taken over, but then some of them will be rather in your face about their name.

Don’t assume that political correctness is always preferred, but don’t assume anything really. We are all humans, all different and that’s valid. We should be loved and respected for who we are.

Linking up with Stream of Consciousness Saturday (yeah I’m late). The theme for this week is “-ic” or “-ical”.

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.

My Big Burn-Out #TakeTheMaskOff

Trigger warning: suicide.

I so badly wanted to finish the #TakeTheMaskOff series on my other blog, but each time a topic comes up, I feel like I already covered that there. I probably did, but then again, I do want to share. After AutisticZebra posted the story of her big burn-out, I’m going to do the same. For those who know me in real life or through my other blog, this is probably old news, but well.

The year 2007 was an extremely eventful year. Three days in and I was given an ultimatum at the independence training home for the disabled I lived at at the time: another major meltdown and I’d be kicked out. The staff had already referred me to the local mental health agency for what they thought was autism, but they just wanted confirmation that they were doing the right thing. They had no intention of actually changing their support style, because they were allegedly already supporting me based on the assumption that I’m autistic.

On February 10, I had said major meltdown. I had had a fight with my parents over them participating in my autism diagnosis the night before and had been incredibly irritable all day. My least favoirte support worker was on shift, a pretty uncaring woman who kept dismissing my panicky response. So I had a meltdown. And several days later, after the staff had conferred, got told that I would be kicked out. The date for my eviction was set for June 1, which was fair enough given that they usually need to give two months’ notice.

Several weeks later, I was finally, at the age of 20, diagnosed with autism. I was relieved. I could start counseling with a very supportive community psychiatric nurse, who managed to convince the staff at the training home to give me more time to find new housing.

By July 3, I was given the keys to my new apartment in Nijmegen, the city where I’d start college. I moved out of the independence training home on August 1.

The three months that followed are a blur to me. I had almost daily meltdowns, in which I ran off or injured myself. The police were called repeatedly, but I “wasn’t crazy enough” to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

That is, until one day I was. On Friday, November 2, I had been wandering all day through my parents’ city, where the independence training home was located as well. In the late morning, I had been kicked off the train station for melting down there on my way to the train back to Nijmegen. I couldn’t count on my parents to support me, so desperately, I went to the training home. I wasn’t supported there by the staff either, so wandered through the city for the entirety of the afternoon and part of the evening. A training home former fellow client then offered me to sleep at her apartment for the night, so that we could find a solution in the morning. That wasn’t acceptable to the tstaff, so I was required to leave. I left the training home, took the first bus to the train station and phoned my support worker in Nijmegen to let her know I was going to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. I probably half realized that this was going to be picked up, but still tried to convince the fellow passengers on the bus not to clal the police. I remember a woman sitting next to me trying to comfort me, saying that help was on its way. At the station, I was picked up by the police, who took me to the police station and rang the crisis service in that city. This was when I finally got admitted to a mental hospital.

Looking back, this is a clear example of autistic burn-out. I was reminded of this once again by the Center for Consultation and Expertise consultant who came to visit me this morning. I was also told by that same consultant that my former psychologist’s twisting the truth to find a reason to kick me out of the hospital – by among other things taking away my autism diagnosis -, wasn’t about me. It was more likely about the budget cuts to inpatient mental health treatment.