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.

Progress in Finding Long-Term Care

It’s been exactly six weeks since I got approved for long-term care, so that we could finally start finding me a supported housing facility. Things are moving slowly but steadily. Today, let me share how we’re doing.

Immediately after we heard I was approved for long-term care funding, my support coordinator contacted the care consultant for my current care agency. She made sure to get the paperwork in order so that, while we’re waiting for supported housing, I can retain my current support. After all, community support through the local authority was immediately stopped. My support coordinator also contacted the care consultant for the living facility in Raalte, which is with my current care agency too.

When it turned out the process with that living facility would be slow-moving, I proposed to contact the two blindness agencies to explore the possibility of my living there. One of them responded immediately with an appointment for an intake interview. This is, unfortunately, the one with the facilities in the far north and south and west of the country. Of course, we are talking the Netherlands, not America. However, my husband isn’t happy to travel up to two hours each week to visit me. We agreed on a maximum distance of one hour. This agency has nothing within an hour’s driving distance. We did however request that they help us by recommending accommodations a future living facility could make for my blindness. They will come by to observe me at day activities next week.

The other blindness agency has my file, but they haven’t yet scheduled an appoitnment to meet me.

I went to have a look at the facility in Raalte last week. It was great. The staff/client ratio is 1:6 to even at times 1:4 during the day and there is an awake night staff. They also have tons of sensory supplies, including a sensory room, rocking lounger and a bathroom with a tub. I will hear more about whether the psychologist and physician for this facility find me a good fit soon.

Then today I heard about another facility. It is with a countrywide Christian care agency. It is in the city of Ede, which is about a 45-minute drive from my current home. The facility primarily serves elderly people with intellectual disabilities. I don’t know whether that would be a problem. It might be, as the other clients are probably a lot less mobile than I am. Clients only have a bedroom to themselves, but I don’t mind. The care consultant would send my file to the psychologist for this facility too and then I may come for a tour.

It all makes me feel a bit confused but overall excited too. I mean, I still feel off applying to live in intensive support living facilities, being that I now live semi-independently. Of course, my husband does all of the housework, but still. It’s hard to believe that people suddenly aren’t rejecting me, saying I misuse care and leaving me to my own resources.

The Summer After High School

It is still incredibly hot here. That is, it should be a lot cooler than it was yesterday. I’m not feeling it though. Probably my room, which is at the front of the house, keeps the heat.

I want to write, but I don’t know what about. For this reason, I looked up writing prompts for the month of June on Google. A prompt I liked is to share about the summer after you graduated high school.

This was in 2005. Man, can you believe it’s already been fourteen years? I remember finding these odd lists of things that mean you live in 2005, such as “You have lost touch with old friends simply because they don’t have an E-mail address”. E-mail is way outdated now. However, I think WordPress already existed, though I didn’t have an account. But I digress.

I graduated from high school on June 24, 2005. Two weeks prior, I had finished the assessment week at the country’s residential rehabilitation center for the blind and had been advised to attend their basic training program. It was expected that I couldn’t start until October.

However, in early August, I received a phone call telling me I could start on August 22. So that’s where I spent the last few weeks of the summer holiday and the rest of the year.

The summer of 2005 was also the summer I had a ton of health worries. Most of them were just health anxiety, but one of these scares did get me sent to a neurologist for suspected shunt malfunction. That was when I first learned about the possible impact of my hydrocephalus on my life. I never had a shunt malfunction *knock on wood*.

The summer of 2005, essentially, was the time I left my parental home and entered the care system. Even though I was supposed to get independence training, my father predicted I would never leave the care system. He was right, but so what?

Today, I had a meeting with the blindness agency which the rehabilitation center is part of to see if I can live with them. I won’t, because their living facilities are all over an hour’s drive from my husband. This meeting did remind me of how I entered the care system fourteen years ago with the aim of doing training for a year (at the center and an independence training home) and then leaving for Nijmegen to live completely independently. It didn’t work out. The disparity between this overly-normal, independent self, the one who is married now and doesn’t need help, and the multiply-disabled self, is still hard to deal with.

Determined

I want to write so bad, but my shoulder is still hurting. Not as badly as it was, but there’s some kind of bulge on it that keeps acting up whenever I lift my arm up even slightly, as I do for typing. I am determined to beat this stupid thing though.

Determined. That’s Fandango’s word for FOWC today. I rarely participate in these one-word challenges, although I’m subscribed to most blogs that offer them, including Fandango’s. However, today’s word struck a chord.

I told my named support worker at day activities about my crisis of 2007. I realize I’ve never shared my life story on here yet, so some readers will not know what I’m talking about. Let me explain. In 2007, I was living independently and going to university. I had been forced to go that route after essentially being kicked out of an independence training home that I had attended because I’m blind. I had been diagnosed with autism just a few months prior. Neither autism nor blindness alone should keep someone from living independently and going to university, but the combination did cause me a lot of trouble. Within three months, I was in a suicidal crisis. I had to be admitted to the psych ward. Not because I wanted to per se, but because that was what I needed at that point.

Fast forward 9 1/2 years and I was kicked out of the psych unit again. Yes, I stayed in a psychiatric hospital for 9 1/2 years. Not because I wanted to, but because no other place wanted me. Those for people with just autism, couldn’t deal with my blindness and vice versa. There are places for people who are blind with multiple disabilities, but most of the clients going there have some type of intellectual disability. That was obviously not where I belong. Or was it?

I’ve now been living independently with my husband since May of 2017. Despite lots of support, it’s a struggle. I am surviving, but I’m barely living.

So I decided to apply for long-term care. Which had originally been determined to be best for me by the psychiatrist who admitted me to hospital in 2007. I am determineed that, if we stop looking at just my labels and start looking at me, we’ll find someplace for me.

Then again, is this determination? Am I not essentially underachieving if I admit I need 24-hour care? Or am I actually determined to follow my own path to happiness and the best possible quality of life?

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.

Where Do I Belong? #Write31Days

One of the questions in The Self-Exploration Journal is simple, yet not so simple to answer. It is: “Where do you belong?” For today’s #Write31Days post, I am going to attemtp to answer this question.

I am a restless person. Even though I crave stability, I keep fleeing from wherever I am. I can never seem to find a place where I feel I belong.

I must say though, it probably has to do with control. I have a pretty horribly external locus of control. This means that I have a feeling that others or circumstances control my life, rather than life being a bunch of choices I make. This isn’t necessarily healthy, but in y case, it is somewhat realistic.

I grew up with parents who had my life planned out for me. I knew by the time I was nine that I’d leave the house at eighteen to go to university. It scared the crap out of me. Lately, I’ve been feeling an insider who holds these memories.

I left the house at nineteen to go into independence traing. That wasn’t what my parents wanted, but I for the first time in my life showed some major rebellion. Even then, I needed my parents’ albeit reluctant approval to actually take the step.

I continued to consistently seek approval from others for my major decisions. This may’ve been a major reason I got moved into independent living after the training home despite the fact that the staff and I agreed this wasn’t the best possible placement for me. The staff after all, had promised my parents they’d prepare me for independence.

I landed in a mental hospital three months into independent living. By this time, I’d lost every bit of self-determination I had. I didn’t know what I wanted and just let the psychiatrist admit me to the hospital.

I regained a small amount of self-determination over the years of my hospital stay, only to have it all destroyed by my last psychologist. She said I was being dependent, not for letting others make choices for me or for needing their approval, but for demanding care she felt I didn’t need.

Now I’m living with my husband. I don’t feel safe here. Not relationally – my husband is lovely. I mean that I lack the support I feel I need.

So I often flee this place too. I don’t feel like I belong. But will this ever change? Will I ever find the peace of mind to live a stable life without needing to constantly be on the run?

Maybe if I get into long-term care, I will. After all, then I’ll hopefully finally feel safe without the pressure of needing to be re-assessed for care at least every year. Then I can have goals that I can take years to maybe meet or maybe not. Maybe then I will find a place where I belong.

My Successes in Life #Write31Days

Welcome to day four in #Write31Days. I use this challenge to write on personal growth. I’m struggling a lot, so as to get myself to think more positively, I decided to take the day one prompt from Lisa Shea’s journaling prompts on positive thinking. It asks us to list our successes in life. This is rather difficult, as my successes are often used against me. For example, the fact that I completed a high level high school, is used as “proof” that I don’t need lots of care. I am just going to write anyway and see where this takes me.

1. I completed a mainstream, high level high school. This doesn’t just show my academic ability, but my persistence too. I hated it with a vengeance from the moment I started it, but finished it anyway.

2. I completed my first year of college. Same shit really. I liked my major though.

3. I tried to live independently. I failed, but I still consider it a success because I tried the best I could. Again, this shows my persistence.

4. I have been a pretty consistent blogger for over fifteen years.

5. I got a piece published in an anthology. In 2015, my piece was published n a book on typed communication by autistic people.

6. I learned to use an iPhone. I thought last year that I may not be able to learn to operate new-to-me technology anymore, but I was.

7. I prepared my own breakfast today and didn’t spill it everywhere.

8. I am surviving. Having been suicidal on too many occasions to count and having run into a little too many other dangerous situations, I’m proud to be alive. Not happy, but proud.

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.

Struggle #WotW

I want to write so bad, but I’m struggling. Struggling to get myself motivated for writing. Or for anything. Struggling to write coherent sentences. Struggling with my thoughts floating through my mind. Struggling with pretty major depression. I’ve been in survival mode just a bit too long. Now I’m ready to crash.

I am participating in Word of the Week (or #WotW) for the first time on this blog. My word for this week isn’t a shiny, happy one. It’s “struggle”.

This week was an eventful one, yet nothing really did happen. If that sounds like a contradiction, it’s because it is.

Early in the week, it became obvious to me that my depression wasn’t lifting like I’d hoped it would. I mean, I’d hoped that, once my support coordinator was back from vacation and I’d have home support three times a week again, I would feel better. I didn’t. I felt worse.

Thankfully, my support coordinator offered to come by on Tuesday for an extra hour of home support. I am so happy she did, for I didn’t know how else to make it through the day.

On Wednesday, my support worker came by in the afternoon. We ran some errands and I thought I’d do better that day. Not so. In the evenng, when it became apparent my husband wouldn’t be home till past 7PM, I had a meltdown.

On Thursday, I slept in till past noon and again lay in bed for a bit at 2PM. I could’ve been in bed all day, but my support coordinator would be here by 3PM. Thankfully, she was able to motivate me to go for a walk. That was when I decided to start the process of hopefully getting into supported housing. I don’t have my hopes up, of course.

I know that if the powers that be see this post and conclude from here that I’m just struggling with depression, they’ll not provide funding. After all, treatment precludes support. Besides, mental illness only qualifies you for temporary support. So I’m hoping the powers that be will see my needs beyond depression. I’m also blind and have a brain injury and autism, after all.

Interestingly, I had no problem convincing my psychiatric nurse practitioner that I do need 24-hour support. He was one of the first to ditch the dependent personality disorder label I’d been given by my last institution psychologist. As he said when I called him on Friday, I may be a little dependent, but that’s normal because, duh, I’m blind. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, in that to my knowledge most people who are “just blind” don’t need as much support as I do. However, I’m not “just blind”.

The Reading Residence

Leaving the Path Paved for Me

Today’s Finish the Sentence Friday is a stream-of-conscious writing exercise on the prompt of “leave”. I have not been inspired to write much lately, not even snippets that aren’t “blog-worthy” but that I could’ve published here anyway. Yet this prompt immediately turned on a lightbulb in my head.

Yesterday, I made the decision to schedule an appointment with the care consultant for the agency I receive home support and day activities from. We’re going to discuss my options regarding going into supported housing. There I said it and now I’m hoping my parents never read this blog.

Nothing has been decided yet, except for the appointment with the care consultant having been set for October 4. It isn’t certain that I can get funding for supported housing. I’m not getting my hopes up too high, as there are huge budget cuts to long-term care for people with lifelong disabilities, which is the path I want to go. I could also go the community support route, where I could go into supported housing for the mentally ill temporarily. That most likely wouldn’t be of much benefit, as it’s heavily focused on “rehabilitation”.

However, assuming I can get into supported housing one way or the other, this will mean I’m leaving my husband. Not as in divorce, as living together is not required to be married here in the Netherlands and my husband has said he doesn’t want to leave me. In fact, he supports me every step of the way.

It also, however, means leaving my passing-for-non-disabled self behind. It means leaving the path paved for me by my parents (and my last institution psychologist). I’ll be a huge disappointment to them. I have been thinking of how to break the news to my parents. Thankfully, I can wait with that until the point, should it come, where I’m actually moving.

Since I scheduled the appointment yesterday, I’ve been flooded with memories. I told my support staff at day activities and that got me talking about the time I lived independently in 2007. At the time, I considered getting into supported housing too, but my support coordinator said I couldn’t be in their supported housing with my challenging behavior. This may be the case with my current agency’s supported housing too. That’s one advantage of independent living. After all, no matter how much I struggle in independent living, my husband won’t kick me out for needing too much care.