Working On Us Prompt: Family Relationships and Boundaries

This week’s Working On Us prompt is about relationships and boundaries. I am going to focus in my post on my relationship with my family of origin.

As regular readers know, I don’t have the best relationship with my parents. They are very unsupportive of me regarding my mental health and disabilities in general. They, in short, believe that I refuse to accept my blindness and for that reason, choose to make up my other disabilities, including mental illness, to have an excuse to be different. They say I somehow crave attention and therefore want to manipulate everyone into providing me care.

Well, let me be very clear that I do not choose to be mentally ill or autistic. In part, my mental health issues are in fact trauma-based, having been caused by my parents’ mistreatment of me.

For this reason, I’ve had to set some boundaries with my parents. None of these I voiced towards them yet. I, for example, have them, as well as my sister, on restricted access to my Facebook, which means they don’t get to see posts I set to friends only even though we are technically Facebook friends. My sister is generally less eager to voice her opinion, but she for all I know 100% agrees with my parents. My brother-in-law isn’t really any bad, but I have him on restricted access just in case. When I created this blog, I purposefully didn’t link it to my Facebook, so that my parents and sister are less likely to find it.

Another boundary is not having told my parents or sister that I’m going into long-term care. I am going to officially disclose my going into long-term care on the afternoon or evening of the day I move to the care facility. I have already had a dozen scenarios run through my mind of how they will respond. They may already know, of course, and never have told me in order to keep the peace. They probably don’t know though. In that case, they may decide to estrange themselves from me, or they may try to talk me out of being in long-term care. They may, in the best case scenario, say it’s my choice and my life.

As far as respecting my boundaries, I’ve never set truly firm boundaries with my parents. I may have to soon, in case they want to talk me out of being in long-term care. I may even have to go no contact with them myself.

In case you are wondering who supports me, I do have my lovely husband and his parents. My husband of course will be missing me when I go into long-term care, but he 100% supports me nonetheless.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (August 25, 2019)

It’s Sunday, yay. I am once again linking up with #WeekendCoffeeShare. I just had a cup of green tea and a glass of water with my evening meds. Let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I am mostly excited. On Tuesday, I heard through my support coordinator that I’d been accepted into a long-term care facility. It’s the one in Raalte that I’ve shared most about. Raalte is a little over an hour’s drive from my current home and nearly 1 1/2 hours from the house we’re buying, but so far my husband seems okay with it. He asked to see the place, so we were planning on driving there this week-end for a quick look around the grounds. Then the weather got in the way, as it’s too hot to drive for that long.

If we were having coffee, I’d also update you on the house-buying process. The financial aspect is nearly finished, so most likely it’ll indeed all go through.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my parents were in the area today. My father bought some type of outdated physics measuring device from when he was in university or so it seems. We met our parents near the house we’re buying. They seemed content with it.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that we (as in, multiple me) are still feeling a little conflicted about the whole thing. I guess it’s mostly our wish to conform to our parents’ image of us. We could finally show off something about ourself, being homeowners soon, and yet we’re choosing to live in long-term care instead. Of course, I haven’t told my parents yet, but they’ll find out sooner or later anyway.

If we were having coffee, I’d then proceed to talk up some light-hearted stuff. I’d share what I’ve been reading (look for a post on that tomorrow). I’d also share that I’ve been enjoying various blogging prompts over the past few weeks. I love venturing out into new territory with stream-of-consciousness writing and trying my hand at poetry.

How have you been?

It’s My Choice

Yay, I got accepted into a living facility. The one in Raalte that I visited about six weeks ago. I will hopefully move before I’d otherwise move to the house my husband and I are buying in October.

It is mostly very exciting. I love the place and am really glad that the physician, psychologist and the team all agreed that I’d be a good fit for the place.

But… There is of course a but. I haven’t told my parents yet. I told them I got long-term care funding, but told them it makes it possible for my husband and me to live together wherever we want, not being restricted by our local authority. It could do that too, but that’s not the plan. And I didn’t tell them I’m moving into a care facility.

They will hopefully say that it’s my choice. That’s the best response I can get. Not that they support me, but that it’s my choice and I’m an adult so I’m allowed to make that choice. After all, they still feel I don’t need 24-hour care. They still feel that I’m just blind and extremely intlligent and using my IQ to manipulate the world into providing me care.

Well, so what? Of course, I don’t want to be manipulating everyone into providing me care. I don’t want to be a little attention-seeker who thinks the world owes her a living. I wish I could snap out of my need for care and live a successful life by non-disabled standards.

At the same time, maybe if I didn’t care that I’d have to be sedated to the point of sleeping all day, I could do with less care than I’ll be getting in the living facility. As someone once asked, how can you literally need 24-hour care, since you’re (hopefully) sleeping during the night? This person was by no means trying to suggest that sedation could lessen my care needs, for clarity’s sake, but it could. And I’m making a choice not to sleep the day away. If you think that’s me being manipulativve, fine by me. That’s your choice.

I am writing this post for today’s Daily Addictions. The prompt is “Choice”.

Working On Us Prompt: Self-Care and Personal Hygiene

This week’s prompt on Working On Us is about self-care. I initially thought of self-care as those things we do to pamper ourselves, but then when I read the questions, I realized Beckie means basic self-care. You know, personal hygiene, such as showering or brushing your teeth.

I definitely have always had trouble with this. Part of it may be due to my lack of awareness of my appearance, which may be due to both blindness and autism. However, the fact that I don’t always shower or brush my teeth regularly, certainly isn’t.

I have always had trouble with proper personal care. When I was about fourteen, my high school tutor got complaints from my classmates that I smelled a lot of body odor. He told me I really had to develop a personal hygiene routine, but didn’t explain how to go about it. He was my PE teacher and said that he personally showerd twice a day. So I initially thought I had to do that as well, so the next day, I jumped in the bath at 6AM. My parents were not amused. With my parents, I finally agreed on a routine of baths or showers three days a week, on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. That way, if I went to school, it’d never be more than 48 hours since I’d had a shower or bath.

My parents still didn’t explain how to wash myself. Honestly, now that I’m 33, I still get told by my husband at times that I don’t do it properly.

The problem of course wasn’t just that my parents didn’t teach me. After all, presumably my sister knows all about hygiene. It was also that I had an aversion against personal hygiene activities. Here is where my mental health is involved. Like, I have executive functioning issues on the best of days, making a “simple” shower very difficult. When I’m depressed, I cannot cope with the stress of having to shower.

My lack of self-care wasn’t even picked on when I was first assessed by a psychiatrist. Maybe he did notice I smelled, or maybe that particular day my body odor wasn’t too bad or I’d had a shower. If he did notice, he didn’t tell me so or write it in the report. Neither did any of the next so many psychiatrists and psychologists I had. I only found out that my psychologist at the resocialization unit in Nijmegen had noticed because it was written in my long-term care application at the time, that I didn’t get to see until we applied again last year.

As for brushing my teeth, I hated toothpaste. I still do, but at age 18, finally forced myself to use it. I never brushed my teeth properly until I got an electric toothbrush for my birthday this year. Now I’m still not sure I do it right, but I at least brush for the required two minutes. Interestingly, the elctric toothbrush is less horrible sensorially than the handheld one.

I find it interesting that, though lack of personal hygiene is part of an assessment of mental functioning, so few mental health practitioners take the time to discuss it with their patients. Like, when I was in the mental hospital, no-one offered to teach me personal hygiene. Not even when the dentist recommended I get help brushing my teeth. They said it was my responsibility. I really hope that, when I’m in a care facility for people with developmental disabilities, that will change.

I Was Taught to Believe…

That, if I didn’t have my parents’ support, I had no-one’s and I would never get anyone’s support. “You are socially inept,” my mother said, “and you got it from us.”

This exchange happened in late April of 2006, when I had just been kicked out of my parents’ house. Not that I still lived with them, and not that I was ever planning on doing so again, but my parents made it very clear that they would no longer support me. I don’t even mean financially, but practically and emotionally.

What had I done to deserve this? I had told them I was delaying going to university one more year. I wasn’t giving up on it. I was still going to meet their expectations of me that I become a university student, grad student, Ph.D., professor, you name it.

And then I didn’t. In the fall of 2007, while attending the university I had originally been meant to go to in 2006, I gradually fell apart and was ultimately admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Though I was discharged in 2017, I never went back to university.

Though my parents and I are still in limited contact, I know I don’t genuinely have their support. Not emotionally. I mean, I see them twice a year, talk to them on the phone about once a month and get €1000 at the end of the year to spend on new technology mostly. I don’t know whether this will remain the same when I go into long-term care (or when they find out about it). And I’m not sure whether I care. They aren’t the type to stop talking to me at funerals or the like and I don’t really need their money or birthday presents or phone chatter, though they’re nice. I won’t go no contact, but if they decide to abandon me, that’s their choice.

Because, though I was taught that without my parents, I had no-one, this isn’t true. I met my husband in the fall of 2007. You know, the fall that was supposed to be the start of my academic career and ended up being the catalyst to my getting a life of my own. My husband supported me through the psychiatric hospital years. He supports me through the years we live together. I trust that he’ll support me through the coming years when I’m in long-term care. I may be socially inept, but that doesn’t mean no-one will support me. Love me even.

This post was written for V’J.’s Weekly Challenge. V.J. challenges us to think about the untrue things we were led to believe as children or in other dysfunctional relationships.

Working On Us Prompt: Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts

I have lots of things I want to write about, and yet all I do is sit behind my computer and try to figure out which feed reader would be best (or least bad) on my Windows PC. I’ve yet to make a final decision, but I’m frustrated with it for now.

I’m joining in with Beckie’s Working On Us Prompt again. This time, the topic of discussion is suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

As regular readers of my blog know, I do experience suicidal ideation on a regular basis. I have in fact lived with re-occurring suicidal ideation ever since the age of seven or so. My most severe suicidal break however was in 2007, when I was 21. Ironically, my parents thought that, since I had had suicidal thoughts on and off ever since age seven, I must not be serious and it all must just be “for attention”. Well, let me be very clear on this: suicidal thoughts are no fun and, if they ever happen “for attention”, there probably is a very good reason the sufferer is seeking attention.

I had never attempted suicide when I had my break in 2007. This break too involved “just” threats. However, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t genuinely struggling. I genuinely thought death was my only option. Same when, in 2002, I wrote a goodbye letter but had no idea how to go about actually taking the final step. People commonly say that, if you truly want to end it all, you will and, if a suicide attempt fails, it must not have been serious. That’s not necessarily true. People die from impulsive suicide attempts and people who’ve tried to kill themselves many times and are adamant they want to die, may still be alive.

In 2007, I was hospitalized, because my suicidal ideation was so serious that I needed help for it. That is, because I was suicidal due to be overwhelmed living independently and going to university, it helpd already to be taken out of the situation. That doesn’t mean my suicidal thoughts were gone immediately. That took at least three months and they’ve returned frequently since.

I did not actually get much help overcoming my suicidal thoughts. When I was on the locked unit, I had no therapy and no medication other than PRN oxazepam. I started therapy at the resocialization unit, but it was mostly just supportive.
In 2017, after my discharge from the psychiatric hospital, I made two suicide attempts by overdosing on medication. I am hesitant to call them suicide attempts, because both were impulsive and I’m not sure my intent was to die. I was most definitely depressed though. My suicide attempts were “for attention”, yes, but I had a very valid reason to seek attention.

I Got Approved for Long-Term Care!

Last Monday, I was so discouraged that I wrote a letter to myself motivating myself to keep going at least till 2021. I was in the process of applying for long-term care and I wasn’t expecting my funding to be approved until 2021. After all, my original application early this year had been denied. My support coordinator appealed for me, but I wasn’t expecting much out of it. The reason I had my hopes focused on 2021 is that by then, mental illness will no longer be excluded as a ground for long-term care, meaning that those with lifelong mental health conditions preventing them from living independently, will qualify.

Of course, I’m not just mentally ill, even if you see autism as a mental health issue (which it isn’t in my opinion). I am blind and have mild cerebral palsy too. I met some people at the CP conference who qualify for long-term care for just CP, even if it’s as mild as mine is. Then again, the rules have gotten stricter and those who lived in group homes or supported housing prior to 2015, qualify much more easily than those who didn’t, like myself. In this sense, my long psychiatric hospitalization works against me.

Two weeks ago, the lawyer in charge of my appeal with the funding agency (I didn’t have my own lawyer) said I probably didn’t qualify for long-term care. The reasons were complicated. From one person, I heard that the physician in charge of making medical recommendations was willing to recommend long-term care but was restricted by law because of my history of mental illness. From another, I heard that I couldn’t get long-term care because the physician couldn’t decide whether my primary disability is blindness, cerebral palsy or autism, so they decided not to qualify me at all. That’s rather weird, because they almost made it look like I would qualify with my exact limitations if only I didn’t have a psychiatric diagnosis on file.

I don’t know how they eventually managed to do it, but late Tuesday afternoon, the lawyer called my support coordinator to inform her I had been approved after all. I am so happy! I qualify based on blindness as my primary disability.

Now I feel weird. I know I should be happy and I am, but I feel also disconnected from myself. In a way, being approved for long-term care is an ending, in that I’ll (unless the laws change) never have to prove that I need 24-hour care again. On the other hand, it’s a beginning, enabling me to start looking for a group home. Because I qualify based on blindness, we may or may not be able to get me into a group home with my current care agency. After all, they primarily serve those with intellecctual disabilities. I prefer this agency though, so we may be looking into tweaking my care profile. If I can’t live with this agency, we’ll check out the two blindness agencies here in the Netherlands. One has housing about an hour’s drive from my current home, while the other agency’s housing is 90 minutes to two hours away. My husband said though to prioritize suitability of the group home rather than proximity to our current home.

I feel pretty distressed about telling my parents. They will be visiting me for my birthday at the end of the month, but I don’t know how far things will have moved along then. I don’t really know when to tell them. It’s okay though, I tell myself. I don’t need their approval.

Dealing with Some High School Memories

We are struggling quite a bit. We hardly know why, but yesterday, a memory appeared. It’s not like we weren’t aware of this having happened before, so it’s not a repressed memory. However, it still feels as though only certain insiders can “own” the memory, if this makes sense.

This is hard, because we got told last Thursday by our nurse practitioner that it’s good people aren’t validating our experience of dissociation. For example, they’re reminding us that the body is 32 and we’re all Astrid. That may be so, but it’s only getting us to further disconnect from ourselves.

He told us that being a child at heart is not wrong, but claiming to be a child is. Or something like that. He more or less told us to look beyond the emotional parts’ words to what was actually troubling us. For example, Jace saying she has to move out by age eighteen meant we’re afraid we won’t get long-term care funding. Fine by me but I think it’s not that simple. I think this may be an actual memory bothering Jace and it was just triggered by the long-term care stuff.

Anyway, yesterday evening we started experiencing high school memories. Our high school tutor was our safe person at the time. We trusted him more than we did our parents. Our parents weren’t okay with this. When in ninth grade, we had been struggling and our schoolwork was suffering. Our tutor asked us to tell him what was going on. We wrote it down. Then our tutor told our father, who worked at our school. He refused to disclose what we’d written though. I understand this, but it got our parents angry and led to an incident of bad mental abuse.

Anyway, like I said, this tutor was our safe person. He was the first one to know about our being multiple other than a handful of readers of my online diary at the time. He wasn’t impressed by it as much. In fact, he told us we’re just manipulative. This got us to go in denial and not tell anyone else.

It still upsets us that we could’ve had a chance for real help if we hadn’t been in denial at the time. I mean, the tutor told our first psychologist about our experience. This psychologist suspected DID, but we denied everything. It’s understandable, because we were still in somewhat of an unsafe situation at the time.

We trusted our high school tutor, but he betrayed our trust in some rather overt ways. He told our parents that we suspected we were on the autism spectrum. Not that there was no other way for them to find out, as we wrote about it in our public online diary. However, he told them that we’re a hypochondriac for it. In this sense, he was on our parents’ side. And yet, we didn’t see it.

Then again, is it okay for me to think in terms of being on someone’s side or not? I mean, our parents were supportive in some ways. Our mother was at least. Our father was and still is too self-absorbed to actually care about anything other than his intersts and opinions. It’s not black-or-white. People can be good and still do bad things. Or something like it.

Was I Sometimes Raised as a Golden Child?

I have been feeling really off lately. I keep having flashbacks. I also keep having what I’d describe as flashforwards, where I imagine my parents’ reaction to the different possible outcomes of the long-term care situation. These then lead to more flashbacks. One particular flashback I keep having is to a phone conversation I had with my mother when I’d just been admitted to the mental hospital in 2007, or maybe it was shortly before then. She yelled at me “You can’t even wipe your butt without your support worker there”. While this was and still is exaggerated, I do have issues with my personal hygiene, including sometimes with toileting.

I have noticed that there’s a lot of shame attached to my needs. Like, there is this constant nagging voice in my mind saying that I really do manipulate everyone into giving me more care. After all, am I not getting by? This part of me is telling me to erase everyone from my life and just go live on my own, since even if I lived with my husband and no support, there was still my husband to be manipulated.

I was discussing all this with my nurse practitioner last Thursday. He said even if I do manipulate people (and I no doubt do, as does everyone else), these people also let themselves be manipulated. Like, if they have an attitude like they’d rather help me with every little thing than endure my frustration, it’s no wonder I become dependent.

There was this show on Dutch television last Sunday about a second grade class. I didn’t see it, but a term used in it that was repeated often throughout the week, was “curling mother”. I have no idea whether that’s the correct English term, but it refers to a parent who helps their child with everything until they’re eighteen and then magically expects them to have learned independence and leave the nest. My nurse practitioner was reminded of this when I described my parents. It feels odd, because even though yes my parents did help me with every little thing, this expectation that I move out at eighteen was made very explicit from an early age on. It wasn’t like my parents were hoovering over me not realizing that they’d not be there for me forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t wait for me to move out. It just ugh, feels so off. Like I was spoiled somehow because my parents did everything for me.

At this point, I remember a discussion in an inner child healing group in which the original poster commented on some author or speaker saying that the golden child of narcissistic parents suffers a lot. This person was confused, because the golden child is the child favorited by the narcissistic parent, the child who doesn’t get abused (or so it seems). Some people said that the golden child suffers a lot because, well, they are only the narcissist’s favorite as long as they live up to their perfect standards.

I was raised in a household where the golden child/scapegoat roles reversed repeatedly. For those not aware, the scapegoat is the main target of obvious abuse in a narcissistic family. As such, I can relate to a lot of golden child attributes. Like, I was often praised excessively, bragged about and let off the hook. Then again, I was, and this was always very clear, expected to livve up to my parents’ perfect-image plan for me. Once I stopped doing this, I was placed in a clearer scapegoat role.

It still feels off to think of myself as having been spoiled. I know Pete Walker says spoiling is a severe kind of trauma too. However, in society, it is often treated like the spoiled child is to blame for being spoiled. And they definitely aren’t. Only as adults can they choose to undo the effects of this trauma, but they have to admit it first. I have to accept this.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (December 29, 2018)

Oh my, it’s Saturday again! This means it’s been nearly a week since I last wrote a blog post. I really wanted to write more, but I’ve been feeling badly uninspired. Today, a few ideas are floating through my mind, including several blog challenges. However, I’m finding that I struggle to put much effort into a blog post. For this reason, I’m settling on a #WeekendCoffeeShare post.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how your holidays have been. Mine have been good but exhausting. I went to my parents for Christmas Eve and stayed there overnight. It was okay. We managed to avoid discussing my life, which is a good thing, since my parents are very disappointed in how I live my life. Like, my mother can feign a bit of interest in my activities at the day center for severely intellectually disabled people I attend. My father can’t even pretend to be interested. I’m fine with it, sort of. At least by avoiding talking about me, we don’t risk ending up in a fight. It was a much more relaxed visit than the ones at which I’ve tried to talk about my life.

If we were having coffee, I’d share about the gourmet dinner we had on boxing day at my in-laws. It was fun and tasty, but I did end up with a lot of IBS symptoms for a few days following it.

I’d also share about my plans for buying a Macbook. I did share this with my parents and sister on Christmas Eve. I’d not even told my husband before, because Macbooks are rather expensive and I was afraid he wouldn’t approve. Not that he has to. Buying a Macbook would mean I could use its built-in screen reader and no longer depend on JAWS, the main screen reader for Windows, which costs like 1000 euros and hasn’t been improved much sinnce it was first released. In theory, I could get JAWS paid for by health insurance as a needed adaptation, but I’ve been waiting for my insurer’s approval for nearly a year. My husband was in fact pretty supportive. We found an older Macbook Air model for a reasonable price. I can’t wait to go to the store to take a look at it.

I don’t have any plans for the week-end. Besides resting, that is. I’ll probably just chill out with some TV shows or books. My husband’s oldest sister is going to visit us for new year’s eve. That should be fun.