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.

It Was the Summer of 2007

Today, for the first time in a long while, I’m linking up with Finish the Sentence Friday (yes, on a Sunday, but I wasn’t inspired on Friday). The prompt this week is “It was the summer of…”.

Last Wednesday marks eleven years since I started living independently in the city of Nijmegen, where I’d go to university. It was a Wednesday back then too. It was the summer of 2007. We’d had a heatwave in July, but as far as I remember, the weather wasn’t good in August.

On August 1, 2007, my parents drove the 40’ish miles from the independence training home in the city of Apeldoorn to Nijmegen with me. The car was packed full of my belongings. While the training home apartments were furnished, I still had some ofmy own furniture. Besides, my new apartment was only partly furnished.

I didn’t feel much on my way to Nijmegen. I was drugged up with the antipsychotic a psychiatrist had prescribed just a week before. I still find it rather weird that I’d started a new medication just a week before a majr transition, because how would we know whether it was working then?

When my parents had put together my new furniture, we went to the nearby Chinese takeaway. I had learned to cook in the independence training home, but I don’t think my parents trusted me enough to do it for them.

After finishing our food and putting the leftovers in the fridge for the next day, I crashed. I cried. I still find it painful to remember, as I was always taught not to cry. My mother saw me cry, whcih was terribly embarrassing. She didn’t comfort me. I was 21-years-old, after all, and no longer my parents’ responsibility.

Consultation Meeting Today

This is Clarissa, but a lot of us are near. I just had the meeting with the Center for Consultation and Expertise (CCE) consultant this afternoon. The CCE is an organization that helps in complex care cases where a client with a disability or illness gets stuck due to “severe problem behavior” and their quality of life is at risk. We originally started this consultation last May because we had to leave our current day activities due to our challenging behavior and were stuck in the process of finding a new place.

Now that we’ll start on our new place next week, we decided to go ahead with the consultation anyway because we still lack perspective in many respects. For one thing, we’re struggling to live independently with our husband. For another, we’re unsure as to whether the treatment we receive from the mental heath team is really the best for us. We do dialectical behavior therapy because it was recommended to us, but we really struggle to apply its skills in daily life.

One thing in this respect which the consultant said, was that maybe all this treatment isn’t working because we talk too much and do too little. Or something like that. She didn’t mean that we don’t move our arse. What she said was, our treatment is based on a borderline personality disorder diagnosis while in reality our autism, which can’t be treated, is more relevant. As such, we might do better living our life with enough support rather than constantly needing treatment.

Wow. This had us thinking. Could we really live our life without a psychiatrist and other mental health professionals on board? Sounds really dependent as I write it now, as if we depend on our mental health team, whom we mostly see every other week, to keep us functioning. But the truth is, do we really need them?

Most of us are so excited at the prospect of just being allowed to be ourselves. As it is now, we need some mental health staff for support when we need to talk and our support worker isn’t around. However, it doesn’t really take a mental health degree to help us in most of these cases. Other than that, we go to the obligatory DBT sessions with our nurse practitioner and to movement therapy, neither of which we feel is terribly effective and both of which are temporary.

I will have to give it some thought. We really most likely need support for the rest of our life, and that’s okay. Our need for an on-call support worker (now that’s a psychiatric hospital nurse) will most likely not vanish if we finish DBT. And yet our “prescription phone call” service has to be renewed every six months. If my husband and I move closer to a supported housing facility, and/or we get access to a non-psychiatric support phone line, wouldn’t that be far better? I’ll really have to discuss this with the consultant when she visits our home on August 14.