Mother As Source

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!

Mental Health Ramble

I want to write, but I’m feeling stuck. A thousand thoughts are going through my mind. I’m not even sure that I’m being myself as I write this. Who am I, anyway? I don’t know. I can pinpoint it fairly clearly when I’m in one of my ego states. When I’m not, I doubt everything.

I would’ve had DBT yesterday, but my nurse practitioner was off sick. The psychiatrist would be calling me, but when she did, I pushed the wrong button. She left a message saying she wanted to call me because my nurse practitioner is off sick, but also to discuss “how things are progressing”. I’m guessing she’ll tell me off for wanting to go into supported housing, for feeling happy in developmental disabilities services and for not being sure I feel mental health treatment is benefiting me.

Right now, I’m not sure I care. I’m not sure whether I want to go the route my psychiatrist is wanting me to go, which is do DBT for now and be put on the list for trauma diagnosis. I don’t even know for sure whether my trauma symptoms are severe enough to warrant treatment, or whether I want them to be. Usually whenever I doubt this, it’s a sign that some memory or new aspect of myself is surfacing. I have no idea this time.

I feel, above all, that what I need is safety. This means being assured that I get the support I need. I’m mot sure my psychiatrist is of that opinion too. She told me at our last meeting in early October, that she felt day activities were underserving me, not challenging me enough. I panicked, called my support coordinator, who called the consultant psychologist involved in my case. She then E-mailed my psychiatrist. Maybe the way I did it, it feels as though I’m trying to use the cosultant to tell my psychiatrist off. That wasn’t my intention.

That being said, I do feel much more comfotable with my support team from the intellectual disability agency than with my treatment team from mental health. I don’t know whether that means I’m too comfortable being taken care of. I don’t know whether I care.

Anyway, my psychiatrist will be calling me again on Tuesday. Then I’ll be at day activities, so if I feel distressed by something she says, I can go to one of the staff.

Seven Things I Wish My Unsupportive Parents Understood About 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.

Preverbal Trauma

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.

Consultation Meeting at Day Activities

So I had a meeting with the Center for Consultation and Expertise consultant at day activities this morning. First, I talked some with her alone. We discussed my care needs in some more depth than we’d done when she’d visited me and my husband at our home. I still feel the ideal situation is that my husband and I could still live togehter but close by a care facility. I also mentioned that, though my husband supports me wherever I go, he has some reservations about us living in a lean-on apartment together. A lean-on apartment is where you still live independently, but close by a care facility. Since my husband and I together make too much money for renting a home too, and we don’t have a huge financial reserve, choices are limited. This means most likely I’ll either have to manage with the same amount of care I get now, but we could move to a larger town, or I’ll need to go the long-term care route and essentially live away from my husband during the week. I can manage okay’ish now and I don’t want to risk my marriage for better care, so I’ve already reluctantly set my mind on the former.

We also discussed my needs for mental health treatment. We discussed the insiders and I named a few. The consultant, herself an educational psychologist, took my experience surprisingly seriously. I had expected she wouldn’t, given how she seemed to respond when my husband said he’s married to Astrid, “pieces” or not. I mentioned having come out to my psychiatrist. I’ll have a meeting with her and my nurse practitioner on October 2. I mentioned the psychiatrist having said that my treatment may take another five years. Again surprisingly, the consultant didn’t react negatively to that, saying instead that if I felt it’d be beneficial in the end, I should go for it. We also went into childhood trauma a bit, which is the reason the insiders are here. The consultant recommended I discuss getting EMDR with my psychiatrist and nurse practitioner. I said this had been recommended by the psychologist who rediagnosed me with autism in 2017 and on whose report my treatment plan is based. However, that psychologist recommended I do dialectical behavior therapy first. The consultant disagreed, saying that nowadays, people who aren’t very stable or even people with intellectual disabilities can benefit from modified EMDR. She mentioned a therapist’s name that I couldn’t fully understand and a quick Google search came up with nothing.

Then, we drank coffee and after that, the consultant talked with my day activities staff. She asked what activities I do during the day. She also recommended my staff respond proactively to my becoming overloaded. I’m not so sure I like that, but I think it’s for my own good anyway. I mean, we again went on a long walk this morning and I couldn’t fully keep up. As a result, at the end the staff decided not to take me on the full, hour-long walk again for now. I so badly want to meet my goal of 10,000 steps a day, so I feel pretty awful having to cut back.

On October 4, the consultant will make her recommendations at a meeting with my home support coordinator, assigned day activities staff and me. I’m hoping for the best.

Do I Have to Be Loyal to My Parents?

Last week, I had a meeting with my nurse practitioner. We discussed my experience of being multiple, of having roughly 25 different selves. We also went into part of the reason I’m like this: childhood trauma.

There are selves who are pretty loyal to my parents. They keep wanting to call them, visit them. They keep worrying about what happens to them shoudl they fall ill. My parents are in their sixties, so it is pretty well possible that their health will fail anytime within the foreseeable future. Of course, I don’t hope so and they’re still pretty active, but well, religion aside, no-one has eternal life.

Then there are parts who have stopped caring about loyalty and who are focusing on me. One of these selves emerged shortly after my grandma’s death last May. This event seemed to be cathartic, having caused me, or at least that part of me, to let go of the idea that my parents will ever be what I wish them to be. Just like I won’t be what my parents wished me to be, they won’t be what I wished them to be.

This split between wanting to be loyal to my parents and wanting to move on with life and my own process, also comes to light on this blog. I usually write pretty openly about my experiences, but each time I keep wondering what my parents will think if they ever read this. Part of me doesn’t care, as I’m not lying about my experiences or feelings. Part of me feels I’ve been scapegoated enough that I have a right to tell the truth even if it hurts. Yet part of me still feels I have to be loyal, show respect, honor the people who brought me into this world.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday. The word for this week is “loyal”.

Emotional Flashbacks: I Tend to Fight

I just read up on trauma-related symptoms and was flooded with emotional flashbacks. An emotional flashback is where you are reminded of a past traumatic event but don’t remember it in visual detail. Rather, you feel the emotions associated with the event. You then respond in a usually maladaptive way that is associated with your trauma.

According to Pete Walker, there are four types of trauma responses related to emotional flashbacks: fight, flight, freeze and fawn. I have yet to read up on them all in Walker’s book Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, but I think I most relate to fight, followed by freeze and fawn. Interestingly, in this book, Walker also discusses specific combinations of responses, such as the fight-fawn hybrid (I think that would be me).

I feel sad, because Walker calls the fight response, which is my most common first reaction, “narcissistic” and on his website relates it to being spoiled. I have yet to read up in his book on whether this is the only trauma that can elicit a fight response, as I was not usually spoiled. Or was I?

When discussing my upbringing with the psychologist who gave me my autism diagnosis back in 2017, after another psychologist had taken it away, I mentioned my parents not letting me develop my independence skills. That is, when I tried to develop independence skills, I was often left to my own resources and not consciously taught. Then as soon as I got frustrated (which I reckon is a natural response), my parents gave up and would do stuff for me. The psychologist called this simultaneous over- and underestimation.

I was rather frustrated with the fact that I was seen as having been underestimated, as this didn’t resonate with my feeling of chornic overwhelm. Also, it somehow feels like it’s a character flaw on my part that I got let off the hook, whereas I consider other forms of bad parenting that I endured to be my parents’ responsibility. Really though, ultimately, it’s my responsibility to heal.

Linking up with RDP #83: Remember.

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.

How to Proceed in Our Mental Health Treatment

So we met with our nurse practitioner for dialectical behavior therapy again. This was our first session since I started considering dropping out. I am still unsure as to what I want, but I’m pretty sure that just working the manual in a very structured way isn’t working for me. I also wondered out loud how long this treatment is going to take and whether I think it’s worth it. With regards to this, my nurse practitioner explained that behavor change takes a long time because we learned our patterns from babyhood on.

We started discussing the “pieces”, as we call the alters when talking with our treatment team. My nurse practitioner said he wants to discuss this with the psychiatrist. I doubt much will come out of that, as the psychiatrist keeps the status quo as to whether we’re dissociative or not. She most likely believes we’re not, but wants to bring it diplomatically.

We went some into our original trauma, which involves my parents not having been given a choice as to whether I should be actively treated after my premature birth. They weren’t sure themselves and were told the doctors were keeping me alive and not to interfere or they’d lose parental rights.

My nurse practitioner also mentioned a book and movie about a person with multiple personalities (possibly Sybil). I am pretty sure my psychiatrist is going to stomp that association right out of him, as like I said, she probably doesn’t believe I’m dissociative.

After leaving the session, we were pretty unquiet. Katinka tried taking over from Clarissa, who usually does DBT, to get back into daily functioning mode. That was only partly successful. Our support coordinator arrived ten minutes after we got home and we were still pretty unquiet. We were able to calm down eventually and enjoy a walk.

In the evening, when our husband got home, we discussed the session with him and asked him to come to our next psychiatrist’s appointment on Tuesday. The original reason the psychiatrist had asked him to come is that she’d gotten the impression that we have relationship struggles. That upset my husband, of course. I finally managed to say that I want to discuss where to go from here regarding treatment.

There are several options. I could proceed as I have until now, which seems like the least productive option. I could stop going to therapy altogether or just stay with the team for med management and the ability to call someone when not feeling well. Or I could do more supportive therapy focusing on my emotional pain. This then could again be focused on several aspects of my life and it could or could not involve the “pieces”. I think that last option sounds best to me, but since it wouldn’t likely be based on a protocol such as DBT, I don’t think my psychiatrist would accept this. A fourth option, which I just realized when talking to someone on Facebook, is staying with my current team for med management and crisis support and going to another therapist for formal psychotherapy. I don’t think that’s a realistic otpion though.

She Walked Through Fire

She walked through fire but was not burned by it. Her body did not show a sign of the path she’d been traveling through the burning forest or her life. She did not feel pain. She had all feeling neatly folded away in the dirty laundry drawer in her mind. Over the years, walking through a little too many fires, she’d grown accustomed to not showing their effects. She was not burned – at least, not visibly so.

A few months ago, I read up on somatoform dissociation. It is where there’s a disconnect between your body and your mind and it shows itself physically, as opposed to psychologically. Psychological dissociation is a distortion in memory, sense of self or identity. Somatoform dissociation manifests itself in distortions to your physical experience. For example, you may not feel sensation in a particular body part for a while (not explained by the body part just having “fallen asleep”). Or you may have a strong aversion to a food or smell you normally like. You may even react differently to medications depending on your state of mind.

While it is unlikely that someone would not have physical burns from walking through an actual fire, the psychological equivalent describes perfectly what it is like to dissociate. In dissociation, you lock away the feelings or memories associated with a trauma into the unconscious. You walk through a psychological fire (experience a trauma) but don’t get burned – at least, not visibly so.

I once read in a women’s magazine about a person with dissociative identity disorder (DID). This woman’s doctor explained that everyone has a breaking point in life and this may be why people with DID may be able to hold it together for years after their early childhood trauma, but fall apart eventually. In other words, they lock away the pain and burns from walking through fire until a minor injury – hurting their index finger – tears open the horrible burn wounds. In my own case, I was fifteen when I first realized I dissociate, but 23 when I experienced this breaking point. I think the breaking point happened after I was attacked by a fellow patient on the resocialization unit of the psychiatric hospital. I wasn’t diagnosed with DID till more than a year later and that diagnosis has since been taken away, but the psychological burn wounds never disappeared.

This post is part of Reena’s Exploration Challenge #48.