#IWSG: Writing Without Reading?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) day. This months’ optional question is about your thoughts re whether reading is required for writing.

In August, I did a good amount of both reading and writing. In September, my reading went almost entirely out the window and I also wrote far less than I intended. However, I still managed to write at least one blog post each week.

To answer the question, for fiction writing, I think reading is essential. Of course, this means your writing is a mixture of your own ideas and someone else’s, but a good fiction writer (which I’m not) can write imaginatively enough to appeal to readers looking for an original viewpoint. My own fiction writing has always bordered on plagiarism, if it wasn’t actually plagiarism.

For non-fiction, I tend to think that original viewpoints are good, but they require some level of familiarity. I have read blogs where the author’s words were so jumbled that I couldn’t make sense of them. I also happen to love personal essays or blog posts I can relate to.

I for one love both reading and writing prompted pieces. I like to read about other people’s original perspecctives on a common theme. For this, reading is essential for writing. Even so, I don’t tend to read others’ responses to prompts I participate in before posting my own. So well, there are two sides to this story and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

31 Days of Prompted Ponderings Landing Page

Okay, so I’ve not written nearly as much over the past few weeks as I’d wanted to. For this reason, I’m not sure whether the challenge I’m embarking on will be a success. Last year, I joined #Write31Days but didn’t finish. The challenge was discontinued this year, but Kate Motaung has done achallenge-within-the-challenge for years of doing 31 days od five-minute freewrites. I won’t do those, as sticking to five minutes once I’ve started writing is too hard. However, I will use the daily prompt words to hopefully inspire me to write everyday in October.

This is the landing page or table of contents for the challenge. In previous years, keeping my landing page updated was as much of a challenge as writing everyday, so we’ll see how this goes.

Anyway, I won’t have a theme for my challenge. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to use the prompts as main focus of my posts, but we’ll see. Enjoy!

Tanka: Identity

Identity is
Knowing who you are and where
You’re going in life
What direction you’re headed
Without much doubting yourself

This is my first attempt at poetry in a long while. It’s supposed to be a tanka. A tanka is a form of Japanese poetry related to haiku. It consists of five non-rhyming lines of five, seven, five, seven and seven syllables. I am pretty sure there are other rules, but this is the simple definition. I wrote it for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Saturday Mix. I was inspired to choose the topic by today’s Daily Addictions word prompt, which is “Identity”.

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: If Disordered Eating Isn’t About Food or Weight

Today, I am once again joining in with the Working On Us Prompt. I hope the link works, as it once again gave me an error 404 when I tried to visit it. There are really two question prompts for this week’s Working On Us. I may post a separate post about the second question. The first asks what if eating disorders aren’t about food or weight? What are they about?

As a person with disordered eating tendencies, I can totally empathize with this question. I mean, yes, I am obese, but that in itself doesn’t qualify you for help with disordered eating other than a monthly kick in the ass from a dietitian. Well, that just isn’t enough for me.

Then again, I was told by my psychiatrist that I do not have an eating disorder, because the amount of food I eat during a “binge” isn’t big enough. Well, I understand. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with my relationship with food or weight.

Because that is really what disordered eating is all about: the relationship we have to food and our bodies. It isn’t about how much you eat, how much you weigh, or how often you exercise. It’s about the thoughts that go on in your mind.

For clarity’s sake: at the time that I was told I do not have an eating disorder, I was in the early stages of recovery from purging, which in itself does warrant an eating disorder not otherwise specified diagnosis. I was never fully bulimic, but I was coming close. That’s not my point though.

I struggle a lot with disordered thoughts about food and my weight. In fact, I think about food the majority of the time and those thoughts are not usually healthy.

Once, when I read a book about someone with an eating disorder, her psychiatrist suspected she was an alcoholic too. She administered a simple screening tool, which asked whether the girl had tried to cut back on alcohol, was getting annoyed or angry when people commented on her drinking, ever had alcohol first thing in the morning, and then there was another question. She answered “Yes” to three out of four questions. Well, I can answer yes to the three I remembered here when substituting alcohol with food. I occasionally overeat first thing in the morning, have very regularly and unsuccessfully tried to control my food intake, and I do get angry like all the freakin’ time when someone makes a comment about my food-related habits.

Yes, I knnow that to the outside observer, I appear like just an unmotivated, overindulgent fatass. What they don’t see are the inner battles I fight each and every day to deal with my disordered eating tendencies.

Working On Us Prompt: Stigma

For the fourth time, Rebecca of Beckie’s Mental Mess hosted the Working On Us prompt last Wednesday. I didn’t get to participate before and I really wasn’t sure I could make it this week. After all, I couldn’t load the post at first and then it was my birthday yesterday, so I was occupied all day.

The topic of this week’s prompt is stigma. I forgot the exact wording of the questions, but I’m just going to use the opportunity to ramble.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This is, as many sufferers will know, a highly stigmatized diagnosis. Borderlines are thought of as manipulative, unfaithful, volatile, generally awful.

It wasn’t like I wanted this diagnosis. I didn’t feel I fit the criteria. I mean, I had at the time been in a relationship for over five years and it wouldn’t cross my mind to cheat. I wasn’t particularly attention-seeking either. I didn’t go around manipulating my therapist into offering me more and more support and threatening to kill myself if she didn’t.

Yet these are stereotypes. I do have a really unstable sense of self. I do have a lot of rapidly shifting emotions. I do fear abandonment. I do self-harm. I do dissociate and suffer with stress-related paranoia.

I must add here that my diagnosis of BPD replaced DID and PTSD, which generally get a lot more sympathy. The reason my diagnosis got changed, is that my therapist went along with a DID peer support group leader’s opinion that I had imagined my dissociative symptoms.

Years later, my BPD diagnosis got downgraded to BPD traits, but I got an additional diagnosis of dependent personality disorder. DPD is characterized by an inability to stick up for oneself, passiveness and clinginess. I don’t think I meet the criteria at all. The reason I got labeled with DPD is because I thought I neeeded long-term supported housing and my psychologist thought I didn’t. She told my mother-in-law upon my discharge from the mental hospital that I can stick up for myself really well. She said that the DSM diagnosis that comes closest when a patient suffers institutionalization, is DPD. Well, there is a difference between a dependent dynamic and a dependent person.

The same goes for all personality disorders: they describe patients, not dynamics. A person with a personality disorder may be more likely to engage in a certain dynamic, but the disorder isn’t the same as that dynamic. This is the reason narcissistic abuse really isn’t a thing. Yes, people with NPD are more likely to be abusers than those without NPD, but abuse is a dynamic, whereas NPD is something affecting the patient. Let me tell you here that I’m in Facebook groups for narcissistic abuse survivors, but only because they’re the only groups that acknowledge the specific psychological damage dysfunctional families can cause.

I fought the BPD and DPD diagnoses, because I didn’t feel I met the criteria. However, this does allow the stigma to continue. Of course, I do have BPD traits. That doesn’t make me a monster. And of course I was a pain in the ass of my last psychologist. That doesn’t mean I have DPD.

Fairy

Fairy. I have always identified with this word. Or elf. Or changeling. The mythology of fairies taking human children and replacing them with one of their own, a changeling, has always spoken to me. It is a common early explanation of autism in the centuries prior to Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. Obviously, I don’t agree with this, but I do understand it.

When Elena, one of my most spiritual alters, first emerged, she didn’t see herself as entirely human. She was the first to claim a fairy, elf or changeling identity. ChangelingGirl is one of my most commonly-used nicknames on bulletin boards.

I still like the idea that I have some spiritual aspect to myself. I don’t fully believe in Indigo children or the like. Besides, the theory of Indigo children is rooted in racism, usually favoring White children over those of color. However, somehow, there is some appeal to it. I do believe everyone has some spiritual aspect to them though.

When the body was a teen and Elena was most prominent, we had these weird superstitious rituals. We would’ve been open to pendulums and the like if we’d known about them at the time. More recently, when we did know about alternative stuff like this, I’ve tried to explore the tarot. I have several tarot apps on my phone. Of course, they’re marketed as for entertainment only. I like to use them to inspire my self-reflection. I don’t care that there’s no scientific proof.

This stream-of-consciousness piece was inspired by today’s word of the day challenge.

A Time I Ignored My Intuition: Moving Institutions

I haven’t written at all this past week. It was an eventful week, but I feel reluctant to disclose details. I have also been feeling uninspired to write about anything that isn’t just a diary-style entry starting with the phrase “Today I did…”. Well, that’s not what feels right to me.

I was talking to my assigned day activities staff this afternoon. We were casually discussing places I’d lived in before and I mentioned having moved from one institution to another to be closer to my husband in 2013. That was a big mistake.

The memory came back again when I read a journaling prompt in one of my many collections of prompts. It asked me to reflect on a time I had ignored my gut feeling or intuition. This was a time I did. Let me share.

In late 2012, my husband and I had accepted a rental home in a town near Arnhem, Netherlands. I was at the time living in an institution in Nijmegen, about 30km away. There was a lot of turmoil going on about the unit I resided on. For example, there was talk of us moving to another building. We’d just moved from an old building to a newly-built one in September of 2012 and I didn’t like yet another move. Unless it was closer to my husband. So even when the plan for yet another move was canceled sometime in April or May of 2013, I still said I wanted to move to the other institution, which was in the town next to the town in which we’d rented our home.

I had an intake interview in June of 2013. The psychologist was quite mental if you ask me. I’d come from a unit with 24-hour care and he was expecting me to move into a house with a few other patients and staff dropping in once or twice a day. Well, no way! He said that’d be better preparation for my moving in with my husband than going to another unit with 24-hour care and the in-between unit was full. He gave me the choice though, but I had to be quick. It was Thursday and I was expected to move before the week-end, because if I waited till Monday, the bed on the 24-hour care unit may have been filled already.

I felt rather off, but I reasoned my feelings away. I wanted to be closer to my husband, after all, and I wanted to ultimately live with him. Or so I thought. So I moved the next day.

Let me explain that my staff at the ward in Nijmegen had been as supportive as psychiatric care staff can be. I mean, they were sure I needed a lot of support at least. They had denied me the opportunity to go into a housing unit for people with visual and intellectual impairments in 2011, but it takes a lot for a psychiatric professional to go beyond their expertise and see that a person might be best served in developmental disability services even if they have a high IQ.

The staff in the new institution were not so supportive. Even though they allowed me to stay there for nearly four years eventually, they were adamant that I go live with my husband and eventually kicked me out with almost no after care, reasoning that I had refused to go into any home with more care they’d offered. Which, frankly, was none.

Now, nearly two years into living with my husband, I”m facing the pain. I’m still feeling angry towards the staff at the last institution and regret that I decided to move. From now on, I’ll twust my gut feeling when something doesn’t sit right with me.

My New Mac: First Impressions

One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s prompts for this week is to write about your most recent purchase. I don’t know what counts as a purchase, but I really want to write about my Mac, which I bought two weeks ago.

I started writing this post on my new Mac. It’s new to me, but it’s the MacBook Air 2017, so I didn’t expect it to be all that advanced. I also didn’t expect to use it much for the first while. I mean, even after fully installing my current Windows PC in July of 2014, it took me two weeks before I started using it and only because I had spilled tea over my old one. Each new version of Windows required me a lot of learning, so I expected that even more with my Mac.

My husband installed it last Saturday evening. I started exploring it and, within an hour, my husband asked whether I could browse the Internet yet. Safari is one of the clunkier apps on the Mac, so I wasn’t expecting it to work. That evening though, I was reading blogs and commenting using my WordPress account. Apparently, I had figured out some basic web browsing on Safari.

The next day, I explored the Mac further and was blissfully unaware of my incompetence with it. That awareness came Monday, when I couldn’t figure out Facebook or WordPress.com. In the evening, my husband tried to make the mail app work with my self-hosted E-mail account (is that what it’s called?). IMAP wouldn’t work, which caused me to melt down. I said I was going to buy a Windows PC the next day and go back to that. Thankfully, my husband talked me out of making any impulsive decisions.

The last few days have been better. I can more or less work any website that isn’t too chaotic, including Facebook. I finally figured out WordPress yesterday too, although I still prefer to type my blog posts on the iPhone.

Today, I spent my time on the Mac figuring out Apple Music. I have a Spotify premium subscription, but for some reason (them being competitors, I guess), Spotify isn’t available in the app store, or at least I couldn’t find it. I didn’t use to like iTunes on the PC, but so far, Apple Music is good on both iPhone and Mac.

I also decided to put my documents on my Mac. I rarely use offline documents nowadays, but I don’t want to lose them either. I have diaries dating back to like 1999 in my documents. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Dropbox in the app store either, so I had to retrieve my docs from my external hard drive. That’s a lot easier anyway.

I haven’t installed many apps yet. The only apps I installed so far, that aren’t recommended by Apple, are Kindle and ReadKit. I am not using either yet, because Kindle has a visual-only CAPTCHA to register and I would like to sync ReadKit with a feed reader that also syncs to the app I use on my phone. The most sensible choice for that is Feedly, but I have over 100 feeds I’m subscribed to and then a subscription costs like $65 a year. Maybe I could try Feedly with just a few feeds though to see if it works well with ReadKit and if I can use ReadKit like I want to.

As regular readers know, I am blind and so I use a screen reader. One of the main reasons I chose a Mac over another PC, is that the Mac has a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver. I had read up a lot about accessibility before buying the Mac, but there wasn’t much out there about Braille displays, which I use most of the time. Thankfully though, except for the login screen, everything works fine with my Focus Braille display.

There are also a ton of keyboard shortcuts, both general and VoiceOver-based. I love that, but it is a learning curve. For example, when copying my files from my external hard drive to my Mac, I kept trying to press Enter to open the folders and then realized I had to press Command+O. I also keep trying to press Shift+F10 to open a context menu. I don’t know whether there isn’t such a thing or I haven’t figured it out yet.

This review may seem a bit negative, but it isn’t intended as such. Overall, my Mac is definitely useful. I’m pretty sure I’ll get used to it eventually.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Determined

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

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

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

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

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

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

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