This was truly a mixed week. I wanted to write a gratitude list for it, and maybe I will do so tonight, but right now I don’t feel like it.
On Monday, I attended day activities as usual. A fellow client, an older man, attended too as usual, but he was very unwell. He had been ill for a long time and the staff had feared for his life on a few prior occasions. I attended day activities during the morning only and I worried in the afternoon that he’d die soon.
On Tuesday, the man wasn’t at day activities. I heard the staff talk about his group home staff having had a scare in the morning, but he was still alive. In the afternoon, I heard them talking about palliative care. By late afternoon, when us clients werre ready to leave, I heard that he’d passed. For those who don’t know, my day activities group is for people with severe intellectual disabilities, so i’m the only one who understands the conversations staff have among themselves basically.
On Wednesday, the other clients were told that this man had died. Most still don’t fully understand, but some have made beautiful drawings in his memory that will be given to his family on Monday. Near the center’s front door is a table with (electric) candles, a picture of the man and all the drawings. I decided to make a butterfly soap for it. I made it on Wednesday afternoon with my support coordinator. It turned out great, a beautiful lavender blue with lavender fragrance oil.
On Thursday, I was off from day activities and I spent the morning in bed. It didn’t really feel good, but I had nothing planned for the day except for horseback riding at 4:30PM. That was a great experience. I rode Aagje, a fjord horse with long hair (which is unusual for this breed).
Today, I showed my day activities staff the butterfly soap I’d made and placed it on the client’s remembrance table. We tried to do day activities as usual as much as possible. We walked to the marketplace in the morning. In the afternoon, when I went for a short walk with the day activities coordinator, I told her I wanted to ask a rude question. I wanted to ask whether, now that this other client had died, I could take his place at day activities on Thursdays. I still feel pretty awkward having asked this, but she understood that, if I waited a while, they might’ve gotten a new application. I E-mailed my support coordinator on this issue too.
Early this week, I got an E-mail from my support coordinator forwarding the termination letter from the Center for Consultation and Expertise. I didn’t understand this, as the consultant had offered to be my contact for the long-term care funding agency. Apparently, she still is somehow. I really hope I hear from that agency soon. My support coordinator did E-mail the local authority’s social consultant, who is in charge of my community care funding, to extend my funding for two months as we wait for long-term care to kick in.
Right now I feel… numb? I was a bit dissociated this afternoon, as my day activities staff were discusing clients’ severe challenging behaviors (not current fellow clients of mine). I remembered my time on the locked psychiatric unit, where I was often threatened with seclusion for problem behaviors and was in fact secluded or restrained a few times. It felt good disclosing this to my staff, but I did feel a bit awkward.
Now I’m waiting for my husband to get home from work. He’s going to bring French fries and snacks. I look forward to that.
I am linking up with Word of the Week. I choose “loss” as my word of the week in my fellow client’s memory.
Originally, I wanted to post about the lovely box filled with snacks and gifts I received for Christmas at day activities earlier this week. It’s a tradition here that employers give their employees such a box for Christmas. Of course, day activities isn’t a real job, but we get a Christmas box anyway. Ours was even more special, since it had been partly personalized for each of us by our staff. Maybe I could devote a post to this box, but then I remembered that Finish the Sentence Friday is about gifts too. I am twisting the prompt a little and not just writing about the gifts I received as a child or for Christmas specifically. After all, like I may’ve said before, Christmas isn’t as important a gift-giving celebration as St. Nicholas on December 5. Besides, I don’t always remember which gifts I got for St. Nick and which for my birthday. For this reason, I’m creating a list of the most memorable gifts I received throughout my life.
1. Wally, the stuffed whale. I got her when I came home from the NICU at three months of age. I slept with her till I was nineteen. Yes, I slept with stuffed animals that long! In fact, I still do. Now I don’t sleep with Wally anymore, but I still own her.
2. Roza, my favorite doll. No, Rosa isn’t spelled with a z in Dutch, but I had no idea. I got her from my paternal grandma for my third birthday. She had bought her in Berlin and we joked about the German word for “doll”, which is similar to the Dutch word for “poop”. Roza remained my favorite doll throughout childhood. When I was seven, I was interviewed for a Dutch magazine for blind children and said that my memory from three years back was tha tit was the year after getting my favorite doll.
3. A Barbie doll I got for my eleventh birthday. The reason this one is so memorable is the fact that my mother regretted giving it to me. She felt it wasn’t “age-appropriate” and I might need to go residential at the school for the blind if I didn’t catch up with my age peers socially and emotionally. I need a separate post to explain the (lack of) logic behind this reasoning.
4. Deodorant. I got this for my fourteenth birthday from my sister. No, not in a package that had other toiletries in it. Just a deodorant stick. She clearly wanted to send me a message. I didn’t get it.
5. A coffee maker. I got it for St. Nicholas when I was 20. I was going to live independently the next year and needed a coffee maker then. My husband is happy he didn’t drink coffee when I still had the apartment I used that coffee maker in, as it quickly got very moldy and dirty from lack of cleaning, as did the rest of the apartment.
6. A Planxty CD. This was the gift my husband gave me for the first birthday after we’d started dating in 2008. I only played it when my husband was there, as I really didn’t like it. Then again, he didn’t like my first gift for him, which was a book of previously unpublished philosophical works.
7. A liquorice “cake”. My husband and I got it for our wedding from my staff at the psychiatric resocialization ward in 2011.
8. The sensory cat soft toy I got for my birthday last year. It can be put in the microwave and then gives off heat and a lovely lavender scent.
9. Rainbow/Sofie, the stuffed unicorn I got from my previous day activities when I left there. She’s truly so cool! She has two names, because two readers of my blog each came up with an equally good one.
10. A weighted unicorn soft toy. Finally, I have to include something from this year’s Christmas box. It is, interestingly, another stuffed unicorn. This one is weighted as to provide sensory benefits. I’m having another contest to name her, like I did with Rainbow/Sofie.
What gifts will you always remember having received?
As I write this, I deal with a nasty cold that I’ve been feeling come on for a few days but wasn’t willing to accept was coming on. Not that there’s anything I can do about it. Whenever one of us has a cold, my husband always searches the Internet to find out whether they’ve found a cure yet. So far, no luck. I’m not terribly sick as of yet anyway. I think my husband suffers almost more from the weird noises my body makes when I can barely breathe than I do.
A lot has been on my mind lately. I could of course write a gratitude list and devote a sentence or two to each thing. I may do that eventually, but right now, I want to share about a specific experience in more detail.
Last week, we told our staff at day activities about ourselves. We disclosed that we may have dissociative identity disorder (calling it multiple personality) and explained that it’s a trauma-based survival mechanism. The staff member we told was totally fine with it. She actually validated us, saying she’d seen a little come out to her.
Then on Monday this week, we had a flashback while at day activities. A fellow client needs to be given oxygen at times. This reminded one of our littles of the time we needed oxygen as a four-year-old because our trachea had closed up. An adult alter was able to explain this to a staff before the little came out, but then we could no longer keep ourselves from switching and the little popped out.
This little started talking to our staff, the one we’d come out to the week before. She asked to sit on the staff’s lap. We had agreed when we first came out as multiple that this is okay with both the staff and us. It was such a nurturing experience.
Afterwards, an adult did feel the need to check with this staff that it’d been alright with her, but it had been no problem. That’s a good thing about doing day activities at a center for intellectually disabled people. I’m pretty sure that in psychiatric care, we’d not be allowed to express such a “childish” need for affection.
Carol anne’s most recent question of the day is about holidays. She asks us what our favorite holiday tradition is. She herself loves Christmas for its presents. My favorite holiday is also in December and we also celebrate it with presents. Today, I am going to share about that.
First of all, we’re not one for holidays. We don’t like the adjustment and lack of structure. However, we love getting presents. As such, our favorite holiday is Santa Clause. It’s celebrated here in the Netherlands on December 5.
Santa Clause is in many ways similar to Christmas in the United States. It is celebrated on December 5 in honor of St. Nicholas’ birthday. In reality, St. Nicholas, who isn’t a real saint in the Catholic church anymore, died on December 6.
Santa Clause is celebrated with lots of presents, which the Santa is said to deliver through the chimney. they are usually packaged in a surprising kind of way and it’s a tradition that Santa Clause leaves a poem for the children. These poems are intended to be a bit moralistic, telling the child what they need to learn next year to be a better child.
There is also a lot of candy that’s specific to St. Nicholas. I love most of these candies!
As young children, we of course believe that Santa Clause is real. I was about eight when I learned that he isn’t. One of my fondest childhood memories is of my father playing Santa Clause’s helper Black Peter being stuck in the chimney.
I obviously no longer believe in Santa Clause, though I’m not sure what the littles will think if I say this. As an older child, after I’d stopped believing, I found it very hard to play along with the game. Now though, I’m enjoying it. Most of my fellow clients at day activities believe in Santa Clause, which makes the holiday extra magical for me too.
I was finally able to read The Emotionally Absent Mother again, since transferring it from my computer to my iPhone. Until I did this, I was unable to read any of my EPUB eBooks, because the program I used for it was no longer supported by my screen reader. I missed reading this book in particular, since it had a lot of eye-opening questions in it. I last wrote about it last August, when I shared about good enough mother messages. Now, I am moving on in the book and starting with the roles good enough mothers have. The first one is mother as source.
This section starts with the assertion that mother is what we’re made of. It goes on to assert that, both literally and on a more spiritual level, we come from mother. Literally, we come out of her womb. Spiritually, nature is often seen as coming from the ocean, which is in mythology seen as a mother goddess.
This whole assertion seems a bit off to me. Like I said in my post last August, I was raised primarily by my father as a child. Obviously, I came from my mother’s womb, but this is hard to imagine.
One of the thought-provoking questions in this section is to imagine yourself in your mother’s womb. If you can’t imagine this, you are encouraged to imagine being engulfed by her energy. This gave me uneasy feelings. I have never felt able to see that I come from my mother. In fact, my parents used to joke that the neonatologist brought me into the world, not my mother.
Good enough mother-sources are able to create a positive and welcoming environment for their children with their presence. They make the child feel proud to be of her. As such, the next question in the book is whether you wanted to be similar to your mother or as different as possible (or anything in between). If someone were to say you’re so like your mother, would you be proud?
I have to clarify here that my mother herself didn’t and still doesn’t have the healthiest self-esteem. She used to say, and it came across only half jokingly, that I inherited all my bad characteristics from her and all the good ones from my father. As untrue as this is, I didn’t grow up feeling proud to be like my mother, because she didn’t convey that she had any characteristics to be proud of.
With respect to my father, who primarily raised me, I wanted to be like him as much as possible. Until I was an adolescent, I saw my father as the ultimate embodiment of success and every other positive quality. Then I started realizing that he too has his flaws. I now feel more closely related to my mother than to him.
The next question is whether you can imagine being proud to be of your mother. Do you identify yourself in relation to her? My short answer to this is “No”. I identify myself more in relation to my mother-in-law than my own mother.
In short, I do not feel my mother was able to be a good enough source. Of course, physically she wasn’t, by no fault of her own. By this I mean that all her pregnancies were complicated and the one with me ended in my premature birth. I don’t want to say that somehow she rejected me, because I know she didn’t. Once I was born, in fact, I was more unconditionally – or should I say less conditionally? – welcomed by her than by my father.
Of course, the stress of having had four pregnancy losses prior to being pregnant with me, could’ve caused her body to be less welcoming to a fetus. That, however, and I want to be very clear about this, isn’t her fault, or anyone’s fault. There is nothing my mother did to cause my premature birth!
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.
Welcome to day five in #Write31Days. So far this month, I’ve used a bunch of prompts from various sources already, each with a different perspective on personal growth. Today, I picked a prompt from one of my older collections of journaling prompts, a book of 100 self-help journal prompts by Francie Brunswick that I have in my Adobe Digital Editions. Adobe Digital Editions is no longer accessible with my outdated version of the JAWS screen reader, but I managed to get it working a little with NVDA, an open-source screen reader.
The prompt is to journal about your greatest dream or the ultimate goal you have in life right now. I do have goals, but if I have to be really honest, my biggest dream is to feel mentally stable and safe.
I have suffered with depression on more than off ever since middle childhood. My parents tell me that, before then, I was a cheerful, laid-back child. I still had social and emotional deficits, but they were manageable. According to my parents, my psychiatric struggles didn’t start until I was around seven. They blame it on my becoming aware of my blindness.
I am in contact with an autism-specialized consultant for getting me proper care. She says that many children with normal or above-average IQ and autism get stuck in school at some point. Usually the first point of actual breakdown is the beginning of secondary school. I remember this point really well. One day, in my first year of secondary school, only one month in, I wrote in my journal that I’d rather earn a high level high school diploma in six years than have to settle for a lower level with more special education support. In the years that followed, I kept hearing this inner voice: “YOu don’t want to go back to special ed, do you?”
The next point of breakdown usually happens in college. I finished one year of college only with a lot of support. Then I broke down at university. I never fully recovered.
Over the next eleven years, I resided in general mental health facilities until being kicked out for allegedly being dependent. People had control over my life all this while and I never felt safe. Now I’m away from the controlling professionals and my parents, living with my husband, but I still feel extremely unsafe.
I was originally going to write down my goal more specifically. I was going to write that my biggest dream right now is to get into long-term care. That sounds extremely off though. I’m still not free from the interalized stigma surrounding long-term care. Still, I think I should be too “high-functioning” for it. I’m scared that, if we apply for long-term care funding, the decision-maker will read this blog and say that someone who can write a blog, should not need 24-hour care. That’s a terrible misconception that could cost people their lives. And yes, that includes me.
I just read BPD Bella’s post about ten things she wishes non-borderlines knew about her. I have only some BPD traits and couldn’t relate to everything she describes. However, this post inspired me to do my own list. I’m dedicating this list to my parents by sharing some things I wish they understood about me. For those who don’t know, my parents are particularly unsupportive of my disability experience.
1. I am not “just blind”. I know that many blind people like to minimize the impact of their disability, to prove that they’re competent adults, blindness and all. My mother at one point told me about one of my sister’s college friends, who is blind. She then remarked she wished every blind person had the same abilities. That’s not how it works. But guess what? Sighted people vary in their abilities and difficulties too.
2. My needs are valid. I wasn’t being “manipulative” when I threatened suicide in 2007 while living on my own. I was desperate. If I had really been able to cope, I would have. Similarly, I’m not being “manipulative” by trying to get into supported housing now. No, I’m not in a suicidal crisis on a daily basis anymore, like I was in 2007. However, I want to prevent it from getting that far.
3. If you want me to have a skill, teach me. This is too late, since my parents should’ve gotten this message when I was young. They expected me to be able to live fully independently right out of high school in 2005, though I didn’t have most daily living skills. I appreciate how hard it was for them to teach me growing up, but that’s no excuse to drop the ball.
4. A family is not a business. One of the reasons my parents didn’t teach me independence, was that it got in the way of them running their family efficiently. That’s not an excuse.
5. Not everything is my IQ. My parents are convinced that I am such a genius intellectually that I should be able to use it to overome all of my difficulties (except maybe my social ineptness). Also, this genius IQ enables me to manipulate the world into believing what I want them to believe, which is apparently that I’m weak and dependent and need lots of care. (I am not trying to say needing lots of care makes a person weak and dependent.) No. I would’ve graduated university and gotten a job if I could.
6. Depression is real. Some professionals believe that my childhood irritability stems from depression. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but it’s possible. I definitely suffer from depression on and off in adulthood. My parents instead say it’s an attemtp on my part to make other people feel miserable, presumably because I refuse to accept the fact that I’m blind. Well, going blind can be traumatic and is not something you “just need to accept”.
Besides, depression is an illness, not a weakness or choice. When depressed, I do make other people feel miserable, but it’s not because I want to.
7. I am an adult, I make my own life choices. In 2006, my parents threatened to abandon me over my wanting to delay university one year. In 2008, they showed up at my hospital ward to take me home with them, because they didn’t agree with the social worker’s plan for my follow-up care. I’m pretty sure that, if I go into supported housing, they’ll try to guilt trip me into not doing it. I couldn’t handle that in 2006. I could in 2008. I am pretty sure that, should they decide to abandon me for good this time, I’ll be able to handle it.
I see this list sounds rather accusatory towards my parents. It is. I don’t even intend for my parents to read it. I know that I’m past setting things straight with them. They won’t change. Besides, my childhood and early adulthood won’t change. I can change to an extent, but I doubt this will lead me closer to my parents. I don’t care.
Today, I wrote in a Facebook group about preverbal trauma. I know for a fact that I endured a lot that could have caused PTSD from birth on. I was born prematurely, spent the first three months of my life in hospital and was hospitalized several more times before the age of five.
About seven or eight years ago, I started experiencing body memories that I immediately associated with a medical emergency that I endured at age four. At the time, my trachea closed up and I as a result had difficulty breathing. I never completely repressed that memory, always knew that it’s something that actually did happen.
So I wonder if I made said association because it makes more sense than connecting the body memory to preverbal trauma. I mean, preverbal trauma is very controversial, because people do not form that clear memories until the age of three. That doesn’t mean people cannot be affected by preverbal trauma. It just means the memory is hard to recover.
I have alters. About six years ago, an alter emerged that is constantly curled up in a fetal position. We don’t know more about her. A seven-year-old alter who also emerged around that same time talks about that alter as a baby in the incubator. Now of course babies in incubators are not in the fetal position, so yeah.
Still, it all makes me wonder whether I’m making all this trauma stuff up. I mean, yes, I was born prematurely. Yes, I spent three months in hospital and had repeated re-admissions before the age of five. But my parents say that until age seven, I was completely fine and carefree. I mean, it’s not like everyone who endured trauma develops PTSD. So could it be I’m just making this whole preverbal trauma thing up?
In a preemie parent support group, I asked whether anyone has experience with their child getting EMDR for medical trauma. I have always wondered whether EMDR could help me. It was recommended when I had just been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder in 2010. Then I heard it’s not recommended unless you’re very stable otherwise. Well, the consultant I talked with on Monday said that’s no longer the case. So maybe I could benefit from it. Several parents responded about reading their child a “life story” about their birth and hospital stay while the psychologist did the EMDR. Since my parents aren’t very supportive, I cannot ask them to help me with this, but I could create my own life story based on what my alers tell me.
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.