Early November 2020 Health and Wellness Update

Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I had a physical health check-up at the mental health agency. That wasn’t good. That is, my blood pressure was high and so was my weight. Even though the nurse said I might not have gained any weight compared to the last time I stepped onto the scales, as each scale is different, I was pretty alarmed. So was my husband. He asked whether I could be put on a diet. Well, no-one can force me, but I did agree on a food plan with the staff.

Now we’re a little over two weeks on. I didn’t get my blood pressure taken today, as my GP recommended we wait three months and then check it everyday for a week. I did get weighed in though. And guess what? I lost 1kg compared to the last time I stepped onto this scale in early September and 3kg compared to the health check. Only two more kilograms to go and I’m no longer obese.

Overall, I’m doing okay sticking to the food plan. I eat bread rather than crunchy muesli for breakfast, make sure I eat enough veggies and fruit and drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day. That plus coffee, which contrary to common belief does hydrate the body to an extent, and occasionally green tea. I do usually eat a cookie with each coffee break, while my food plan says I can only have a cookie with my evening coffee. However, each day that I skip a cookie, I’m proud of myself for making a healthy food choice. Same each morning with breakfast, which is a real struggle, as I’m not a bread person.

I also make sure I get in enough physical activity. Last week, I felt really lazy, but, according to my Fitbit, still got more than the recommended 150 weekly minutes in active heartrate zones. This week, so far, I got 341. I broke my personal step count record yesterday by getting in over 16K steps. I don’t go on the elliptical as often as I’d like, but that’s because after walking two to three times a day, my legs are often tired.

In other health-related news, I talked to my CPN from mental health about sleep on Tuesday. I usually get enough sleep, but I have very vivid nightmares most nights. They aren’t your standard monster-chasing-me nightmares. In fact, most revolve around my sense of safety here at the care facility. My CPN may talk to my nurse practitioner about it. She said I might benefit from medication to help with this. Thankfully though, having discussed the issue has already calmed things down a bit.

#IWSG: Reasons for Writing

IWSG

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again and this means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to meet. I did pretty well in the writing department over the past month, although not as well as I’d hoped. I mean, I didn’t write a blog post for #Blogtober20, or at all for that matter, everyday. Particularly towards the end of the month, I was less and less motivated to write. Let’s hope for a good writing month for November then.

This month’s optional question is why you write what you write. Albert Camus is quoted as saying that the purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself. Such a fitting quote on the day after the fiasco that is U.S. election day. I don’t usually share my political views on here, but let me be very clear that I don’t support Trump. Now I must say that Biden is pretty far from my ideal president too, but at least he isn’t as much of an idiot as Trump. But I digress.

Flannery O’Conner, an author I’ve never heard of, is quoted as saying: “I write to discover what I know.” This resonates more with me than Camus’s reason. I mean, like I said, I don’t share my political views on here much. In case Camus means that the written word is everlasting, I doubt mine is. Though I’ve been able to conserve most of my writings from the early days of my online journal and before, I’m not sure they’ll last forever or even close to it. The Internet evolves faster than we know, after all. WordPress may not be here for the rest of my life, or even the rest of this decade. With its stupid decision to enforce the block editor, who knows how long it will be able to survive?

I can, in a way, relate to O’Conner’s idea of writing for discovery. Or self-discovery, in my case.

However, I don’t just write for myself. In fact, I cannot keep myself from writing with an audience in mind, even when I write in my own private diary. It’s been this way even years before I knew about the Internet. In a sense, I write to discover what I know, but also to share what I know. Maybe that’s a bit snobbish, but oh well.

Reading Wrap-Up (November 2, 2020) #IMWAYR

Today is a hard day. Rather than bore you with endless details of the reasons though, I thought I’d distract myself by doing a reading wrap-up. It’s been forever since I last did one, because in September I hardly read anything at all and in October, I didn’t feel like writing about it much. Let me share what I’ve been reading lately. As usual, I’m linking up with #IMWAYR.

Life Update

I’m struggling. Today, like I mentioned yesterday, is the anniversary of my suicidal crisis. Of course, it’s been thirteen years already, but I still struggle with it. I’m trying to turn things around and be grateful I’m alive and in a place where I am allowed to feel safe. That’s hard though.

What I’m Currently Reading

Like I’ve said a couple of times over the past few weeks, I signed up to receive eBook deals through Bookbub. The first book I downloaded for free thanks to it is Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs. It’s the first in the Lexy Baker cozy mystery series. So far, I’m loving it! I’ve never read cozy mysteries before, but this one is really good. I can see myself reading more in the series, although they can be read as standalones too.

I also finally picked up My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. Today, for predictable reasons, I’m not interested in this one though.

Lastly, I’m reading a Dutch book called Dagboek van een verloskundige by Marlies Koers. It chronicles the life of an obstetrician.

What I Recently Finished Reading

Nothing in the past week. The last book I finished was Let Me Go by Casey Watson two weeks ago. See my review.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

I seriously have no idea. I haven’t added many books to my shelves or my TBR pile recently. I do have a couple of books I was reading some time ago that I may want to pick up again.

What have you recently read?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (November 1, 2020)

Oh my, it’s November already! Can you believe it? I feel this year is going both really fast and really slow. How about you?

Today, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. I’ve had three cups of coffee already today and it’s not even time for my afternoon coffee yet. Then again, I was up at seven o’clock this morning. I’m thankfully not too tired as of yet. Let’s have coffee and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that the weather is surprisingly nice. We were supposed to get a lot of rain this week, but so far, it’s been raining only some of the time. This means I’ve been able to go out for walks everyday. I didn’t get in my minutes in active heartrate zones, because most of the time apparently I walked too slowly. I also went on the elliptical once.

If we were having coffee, I’d ramble a bit about my idea of restarting the polymer clay hobby. I did this for a bit some years ago, but never got beyond a child’s level with respect to my sculpting abilities. Then again, maybe if the day activities staff help me read tutorials, I’ll be able to progress somewhat further. I’m not yet 100% sure I’ll actually invest in yet another hobby that might turn out to lead to massive failure. Okay, I’m not a failure at soap making, but I’m not a success either.

If we were having coffee, I would moan a bit about my diet. I’m not sticking to it 100% of the time, but maybe I’m doing an okay job of it. I don’t know, since I haven’t been weighed in yet. I, however, try to remind myself that everytime I make a healthy food choice, I’m doing a good job of caring for my body.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my sister, brother-in-law and one-year-old niece were supposed to visit yesterday. However, on Friday, I had a slight cold, which wasn’t fully gone yesterday morning. I also had felt slightly out of breath Friday evening. That’s probably just stress, but I canceled the visit anyway. Today I’m feeling as well as possible. We’ve rescheduled for next week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that tomorrow marks the thirteen-year anniversary of my mental crisis. I still find the month of November hard for this reason.

I also have been struggling with the end of daylight saving time. I’m more tired than usual and find myself going to bed very early and getting up early in the morning too. My Fitbit has noticed, as it said I seem like a morning person. I’m not. That is, right now, I’m mostly hibernating, in that even though I get up early, I sleep a lot during the day. I can’t wait for spring!

What’s up with you lately?

Life Challenges I’ve Overcome

Earlier today, I saw Emilia’s post about challenging life lessons. It was based on a prompt from Listify. I have this book too and thought it’s an interesting prompt indeed. It asks us to list the challenges we’ve overcome in life and explain what life lessons we’ve learned from them. Here goes.

1. I spent the first three months of my life in the hospital. I was born prematurely and had to be in the incubator and on a ventilator for several weeks. Then I spent the remaining time I should’ve been in the womb in hospital. Of course, I can’t remember this at all, but it might’ve caused some early attachment issues.

2. I lost my vision. Okay, I was born legally blind, but still relied on my vision quite a bit until I was around twelve. All official documents say that I lost what little vision I did have at the age of eight, because that was when my parents and doctor decided not to pursue further sight-saving treatment. In truth, though right now I consider myself totally blind, I still have light perception in one eye and had it in both eyes until at least age nineteen. At that interesting age of eight, I still had about 20/1000 vision. Yes, I was considered functionally blind. That’s how sighted people look at it. However, when I attended the rehabilitation center for the blind in 2005, I was told by someone who’d gone from fully sighted to totally blind, that losing the last bit of residual vision was harder than losing most of the sight he’d had before.

3. I endured childhood trauma. I wrote some about this before, but I don’t know whether my family reads this blog, so I won’t go into detail right now. It mostly boils down to my parents not having a clue how to raise a multiply-disabled child and as a result being pretty harsh. None of the trauma I endured was severe, but the long-term nature of it still means I have significant complex PTSD symptoms.

4. I was bullied. At the school for the blind as well as the mainstream school I attended, I was regularly bullied by my peers. It didn’t help that my teachers and parents more or less blamed me for the bullying. I was too nerdy, too socially awkward, too dependent, too much and not enough.

5. I endured some medical trauma. Well, I’m not 100% sure of this being genuinely traumatic, but I certainly endured a lot of hospital stays, surgeries, etc. Most times, the doctors and nurses were really caring. A few times, they were ignorant. For example, when I had my wisdoom teeth extracted in 2010, the medical staff almost didn’t put a sheet over my face because “she’s blind anyway”.

6. I experienced long-term psychiatric hospitalization. I’m realizing more and more how much of an impact this has on me. With my not having felt safe with my parents at least some of my life, and me having been more or less in temporary placements most of my adult life, I’ve never felt that I can be safe anywhere. As a result, I’m constantly challenging my current staff, believing they’ll kick me out of here anyway.

7. I survived two medication overdoses. Both happened in 2017 and I wasn’t really suicidal at the time, but I wasn’t coping either. I never actually realized how things could’ve gone until my mother-in-law told me after my second overdose that the medical staff had asked me whether I wanted to be resuscitated should it come to that. I can’t remember the question or what I said. Both of these made me realize that I needed more help than I was getting at the time. At the time, unfortunately, I had a rather unsupportive psychiatric treatment team, who were very much focused on my independence. As a result, it took me a year from my second overdose to be truly honest that I needed long-term care.

Ten Scary Yet Fascinating Story Elements

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (#TTT) book meme is a Halloween freebie. Here in the Netherlands, Halloween is becoming more popular than it used to be, but it’s still celebrated not nearly as much as in the United States.

I don’t really care for ghost stories or the like. I just can’t be fazed by them. That being said, there are a number of story topics I find scary. Yet most of these I also find fascinating.

1. Murderers. It’s interesting in this respect that I don’t often read thrillers or crime fiction, as I do love crime podcasts. I find it fascinating to understand what makes murderers tick, but I also find it pretty scary.

2. Epidemics. Okay, I haven’t read any book about an epidemic so far, except for an educational historical children’s book about the bubonic plague. That being said, I find it fascinating and scary at the same time when I come across books with this topic. I recently heard about a book by Dutch thriller author Tomas Ross about a fictional pandemic. The book was originally published in 1987 and was set in 1996. The book was recently republished because Ross’s pandemic bore interesting similarities to COVID-19.

3. Strange neurological diseases. I used to be fascinated by Oliver Sacks’s books, but still found them a little scary. The same goes for Lisa Genova’s Inside the O’Briens (see my review). That one really got me worried even though I have no reason to think I might develop Huntington’s Disease. Also, I remember once watching a documentary on a disease called fatal familial insomnia. It’d almost be funny to say I had trouble sleeping afterwards.

4. Medical stuff that doesn’t go well. I am fascinated by intriguing medical stories, but they also scare me, particularly when something goes wrong.

5. Poison. I find it generally fascinating to learn about how poisons work, but still I find it incredibly scary when someone in a story is poisoned even when they survive.

6. Dictatorships. This is one reason I have a love-hate relationship with dystopian novels. I loved Brave New World but still haven’t gotten down to reading 1984 and don’t think I ever will.

7. Insects. And snakes. And other dangerous animals. When I had a Netflix subscription, I loved watching 72 Dangerous Animals and the like. I am also still looking forward to reading Hatch, the sequel to Kenneth Oppel’s Bloom. Still, the topic does scare me.

8. Locked institutions such as prisons, insane asylums, etc. Particularly if strange/creepy things happen there. Like, I still want to read The Institute by Stephen King, but I’m not sure it might be too scary.

9. Cults. These are really scary and yet fascinating in a similar way that dictatorships are.

10. Nuclear weapons. Okay, I haven’t read any books on this topic, but I find the topic very frightening (of course) but also fascinating. I remember listening to Dutch historian Maarten van Rossem’s audio lecture on the atomic bomb some years ago and finding it so intriguing to know exactly what time the bomb exploded over Hiroshima.

What “scary” topics do you find fascinating in books or other media?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (October 25, 2020)

It’s already late Sunday evening. I was up real early today, but still didn’t get to blog so far. Today, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. We may still have some coffee, although our official evening coffee break has passed. Otherwise, I can offer you green tea or water. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would share that last week, I bought a new Fitbit Inspire 2. It’s pretty cool to be able to track not just my steps and distance walked, but also my minutes in active heart rate zones. I got more than twice the required number of minutes this week.

That being said, I’m already looking at someday buying myself an Apple Watch. I discovered just a few days after I’d purchased the Fitbit, that there’s a new Apple Watch SE that’s significantly cheaper (or should I say less expensive?) than the regular one. I’m really hoping I’ll be able to buy that one someday.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I had a health check on Tuesday. Like I said, it showed that my blood pressure was somewhat high and of course I’m significantly overweight.

I did find out on Friday that my blood pressure is actually pretty normal when resting, ie. just after waking up. It was 115 over 75 then, but rose to 129 over 91 after I had showered and gotten dressed. I have no clue of the significance of this, but my staff E-mailed my GP about it, as the nurse from the health check-up had recommended.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how frustrated I was when discussing my health check with my husband. He wanted me to go on a diet. I want that too, but it’s hard for me to follow through especially long-term and the staff refuse to enforce a healthy lifestyle.

After a sleepless night and some frustrated discussions with my staff, they talked to the behavior specialist. She recommended we make a food plan together, my staff and me. Then all of us know what I’m supposed to eat and not eat and the staff can redirect me when I want to overeat. So far, it’s going okay’ish. That is, the staff have still occasionally offered me food I’m not supposed to eat at that moment and then I struggled to refuse it. I did eventually talk to the staff about it and try to make up for my bad choices later on. I’ve not yet had a moment when I requested food I wasn’t supposed to eat, which according to my food plan would require the staff to tell me it’s not wise and to offer an alternative.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my husband came by for a quick visit today to take me on a walk. That was fun.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I finally updated my iPhone to iOS 14. I hadn’t expected iOS 14.1, which came out a few days ago, to solve any of the many accessibility bugs the original iOS 14 had come with. After all, the release notes didn’t mention VoiceOver at all. To be sure, I asked on a Dutch VoiceOver users group about it and got a reply from the most critical iPhone user on the list saying that the update had fixed most of the bugs. Practically all other list members had already updated, claiming that most bugs can be circumvened. I didn’t want to take the risk, but I do believe this particular member. So far, it’s all pretty good. I am having a play around with VoiceOver recognition, which describes images. It’s pretty cool so far.

What have you been up to?

Book Review: Let Me Go by Casey Watson

Last week, I found out Amazon.nl now accepts iDEAL, the Dutch payment method via your bank account. Unfortunately, as of yet, it doesn’t accept this method for digital purchases such as Kindle books. I didn’t realize this until I had already bought a book with my husband’s credit card. Honestly, I think it’s stupid that they won’t accept iDEAL for digital purchases, but oh well. Anyway, looking back maybe I should’ve purchased a book that isn’t on Apple Books, but I ended up purchasing Let Me Go, Casey Watson’s latest foster care memoir. This book came out last August, but I wasn’t really interested in reading it up till now. Read on to see what I thought.

Summary

Let Me Go is the powerful new memoir from foster carer and Sunday Times bestselling author Casey Watson.

Harley, 13, has been sectioned under the mental health act after attempting suicide. She was spotted climbing the railings on a footbridge that crossed a busy motorway and pulled to safety by a member of the public. After six weeks in hospital, social services are looking for a short-term placement so she can be kept safe while family therapy takes place. Harley has a family – a widowed mother and an older sister, Milly, who left home with her long-term boyfriend just over a year ago. There is no prospect of Harley going home just yet though, as her mum, who has learning difficulties and addictions issues, feels she cannot cope. So she arrives with Casey and Mike under a twenty-eight day care order.

As Harley tries to hurl herself out of the moving car on the way home, it quickly becomes clear she is in urgent need of help. Three weeks into the placement, after Harley has made various attempts to abscond, it seems like zero progress is being made. Then all of sudden there is an unexpected breakthrough, and light at the end of a long dark tunnel, but only once Harley is finally able to share the truth about the abuse she suffered at the hands of a very dangerous man.

My Review

This book is a sad look into the errors of the care system. Harley is deemed “care-seeking” (the politically correct term for attention-seeking) by the mental health professionals and is, for this reason, refused mental health care even though she’s clearly at risk. I mean, I honestly don’t feel that anyone in their right mind would make multiple even half-hearted attempts at suicide. In fact, I’m so happy the mental health system here in the Netherlands at least allowed care based on “adjustment disorder” (serious distress due to environmental circumstances) back in my day. It doesn’t anymore, unfortunately.

I was, at first, convinced Harley was at least at risk of developing emotionally unstable (borderline) personality disorder. This can’t be diagnosed in children her age, but it sure seemed she would meet the criteria at some point. BPD is, though, usually a trauma-based condition. So is Harley’s condition, as it turns out.

I had lots of sympathy for Harley, even as Casey and Mike almost lost it with her. This is in part due to the similarities between her experience and mine, but also due to Casey’s caring writing style.

Still, the book dragged a little at first. That’s probably to illustrate how little progress was made at first. Once Harley’s real situation is clear, things after all move more quickly.

At the end, Casey explains some of the issues with the 28-day care order. This was really interesting to read.

Overall, I really loved this book. I should’ve read it as soon as it came out.

Book Details

Title: Let Me Go: Abused and Afraid, She Has Nothing to Live for
Author: Casey Watson
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: August 6, 2020

Read With Me

Health Check

Yesterday, I had a physical health check-up at the mental health agency. Because of the risks psychiatric medications cause for your health, they are required to do this every year. Oh well, the nurse told me not to expect another check-up until sometime in 2022.

I had to have bloodwork done to check for vitamin levels, cholesterol, glucose, etc. Everything was within the normal range except for my white blood cell count, which was slightly elevated. That’s probably because I had a cold about four weeks ago. At first, I was tempted to say “No” when the nurse asked whether I’d had a cold because of the coronavirus scare that’d cause. It turned out it explained my high white blood cell count though.

There were also two things that were low, which might indicate anemia. My hemoglobin though was normal and I’m not very tired lately. This is probably nothing to worry about.

Thankfully, my cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. were all normal. I know I run a risk of developing type 2 diabetes because of my weight. The nurse didn’t make a big point about my being obese though. She did chehck my blood pressure. My diastolic blood pressure was 93, which is considered hypertensive. My systolic blood pressure was also a bit high, namely 132, but that wasn’t too worrisome.

The nurse recommended we measure my blood pressure a couple of times over the next few days. It was 126 over 99 this morning. The latter number really worried me.

Right now, I feel pretty awful. My husband is also worried. He asked me to really “lose weight and relax”. I told him that both is not likely possible, but I’d try to at least lose weight. He asked me what options the care facility has to force me to go on a diet. Not many, I think. In fact, the staff are less worried than I am. I am likely mostly myself responsible for restricting my diet.

After I explained my and my husband’s concerns to my assigned staff, she did agree to E-mail the dietitian and behavior specialist to see if I can be put on a diet. Then again, if I nag for food, they say they’re more or less required to give in as I’m a voluntary admission. I don’t think that’s entirely true especially with the new Care and Force Act, but I think the staff feel less able to resist someone verbally pestering them for food versus someone who screams for it without actually asking, as they are non-verbal. After all, at least one of my fellow clients is on a diet and the staff flat out refuse to give her food she isn’t supposed to eat.

I feel really torn. On the one hand, I want to believe the nurse from the health check that losing weight shouldn’t be an absolute top priority, because, well, I don’t want to give up chips and sausages on week-ends. On the other hand, I absolutely don’t want to have to add yet another medication to my regimen. I originally said I wanted to avoid blood thinners at all cost. Then I found out blood thinners aren’t the same as blood pressure medication. Still, I want to avoid needing to add a blood pressure medication too, especially since, once on any medication, it’s hard to get off.

Of course, I want to avoid getting a heart attack or other cardiovascular disease for as long as possible. This means I really need to go on a diet. I’ll start with eating bread instead of cereal for breakfast. It’s hard, but I’m going to do it.

What Recovery Means to Me

Yesterday, one of the daily word prompts here on WP was Recovery. I didn’t see it till it was already time for me to go to bed, so I’m writing about this word today. Today, I am sharing with you what recovery from my mental health conditions means to me.

First, there are a few things recovery doesn’t mean to me. Recovery isn’t the same as being happy all the time – that’d be an unrealistic goal. It also isn’t the same as independence. I don’t intend on ever living independently again and there are few things with respect to life skills I’d really still want to learn.

Recovery does mean no longer being scared when I’m able to do something independently. Currently, I constantly expect people to overestimate my abilities, so when I can do something independently, I think people will expect me to do it all the time.

Similarly, recovery means no longer being afraid of my feelings, both good and bad. Affect phobia is a thing, you know? I currently tend to dissociate from my feelings a lot. I also often counter joy or sadness with anger, because that’s the easiest emotion for me to express.

Recovery means having a relatively stable sense of self. I don’t necessarily want to integrate all alternate parts of my personality, although it’s okay if it happens spontaneously. We do want to achieve cooperation among ourselves. This also means being able to accept the seemingly opposite sides of me.

Recovery means, as a result of the above, no longer needing to rely on negative coping strategies such as self-harm, rage or impulsive behavior. I will no doubt still have times when I indulge into an unhealthy habit such as overeating or buying stuff I don’t need. That’s okay, since I don’t think total self-control is a realistic goal. I just don’t want to use these as coping skills when feeling overwhelmed, and I no longer want to engage in self-harm at all.

Lastly, recovery means no longer expecting people to abandon me if they know the real me. Currently, I have such a negative self-image that I believe any positive aspects of me are a façade and at the core I’m so wicked no-one should want to be associated with me. Overcoming this is probably the hardest thing to achieve, as expectation of abandonment is such an ingrained thought pattern. I really hope to someday stop seeing myself as one giant manipulator though.

In addition to the word prompt, I am linking up with #LifeThisWeek and #SeniSal.