Looking Forward To…

Today’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “forward”. Let me share what I look forward to.

I look forward to seeing my husband tomorrow. The visiting rules for nursing homes were relaxed in prime minister Rutte’s latest speech on Tuesday. The new regulations wouldn’t take effect till next Monday, but my care facility decided to allow visitors from this Thursday, the day of Christ’s ascension and hence a bank holiday, on.

There are still strict guidelines. Visitors cannot touch clients or even be within five feet distance. We’re not allowed to travel in the car with our visitors or go to public places such as shops or snack vendors.

My husband was a little disappointed at the strict guidelines, and I wholeheartedly agree. Of course, I want to hug him too. After all, we haven’t seen each other in real life in over two months. Too bad we can’t at this point. However, it’s better than nothing.

I look forward to hopefully spending some good time with him. Hopefully, of course, the rules will be relaxed even more soon. That’s still unknown though. As far as I know, our care facility is already less strict than what Rutte said, as he said only one person per client can visit. Our facility allows two at a time. Not that I need that, as my parents or in-laws are a long way from visiting me, but oh well.

Wow, I actually finished writing this in five minutes flat. Thanks so much for reading.

Coffee and Tea: My Favorite Hot Beverages

I’ve had a post by this title in my Drafts folder for over a month. I originally started to write it for my letter C post in the #AtoZChallenge, because I didn’t feel like writing a self-care themed post. I ultimately did anyway and this post sat in Drafts forever. I didn’t actually end up writing about coffee or tea in the draft. The post was, or so I believe, inspired by a fellow blogger’s question of the day or something. Anyway, today let’s discuss hot beverages.

I should really ask my parents whether they still have this photograph of me drinking one of my first cups of coffee and, if so, whether they can digitally send it to me. You see, I was about six when I first started drinking coffee and I hated the taste. I truly had a disgusted look on my face!

I at the time drank coffee with lots of milk and sugar in it. The milk was supposedly to lessen the impact of caffeine. I always left the sugar sitting at the bottom of the mug and spooned it up after finishing my coffee. I hardly ever drank tea as a child. When I drank it, I had milk and sugar in it as well.

When I was around fourteen, I had a weird nightmare about someone having switched the sugar with some type of poison. After that, I acutely decided to leave the sugar out of my coffee. Then some years later I left out the milk. Now I drink the pure stuff, but I still get the same disgusted look on my face that I got as a six-year-old. Guess I’m addicted.

With respect to tea, it took me a long time to figure out what I liked. When I was around nineteen, I somehow convinced myself that I liked strong, black tea. Well, I don’t. Then followed rooibos, which my fellow patients and I at the psych hospital referred to as stress tea for its supposed calming effect. I went through a phase of particularly liking rooibos with strawberry-whipped cream flavor.

Then followed Earl Grey tea, because my now husband was into it. I tried a lot of different tea flavors with him when he visited me at the psych hospital.

I don’t even remember when or how I got into the green tea phase. In any case, I now drink pure green tea only. Some years ago, I tried green tea with pink pepper and pineapple flavor because my mother-in-law had bought a package, but I really didn’t like it. I, by the way, drink my tea without sugar too.

Are you a coffee or a tea person? How do you like your coffee or tea?

Normal

This past Friday, the prompt for Five Minute Friday was “normal”. I didn’t have anything to write on the topic then, but I do now. Here goes.

Today I listened to a meditation on Insight Timer. The teacher said your observing self is like the sky (or heavens), while your thoughts, feelings etc. are like the weather. No matter how bad the weather gets, the sky remains the same. It can withstand even the darkest thunderclouds.

This is maybe how we need to look at ourselves in this time of COVID-19. We are told to adjust to the “new normal”. Even though our “intelligent” lockdown or stay at home order ended last week, I still cannot have visitors at the care facility and just found out the day center won’t reopen till October. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Well, about the day center. I know how I feel about the no-visitors policy, but that one might change this week.

Like Kate, the FMF hostess, I somehow settled in. I actually love being at the home for day activities and don’t mind not seeing people from other homes that much. I miss my husband, but I’m adjusting to that too.

This is where the meditation comes in again. I mean, no matter how hard life gets, I’ll manage. My thoughts may be dark, my feelings bleak, but I will ultimately be able to keep going.

#AtoZChallenge 2020 Reflections

Oh boy, it’s already May 10. Can you believe May is already one-third over? I think time flies. Today, I am rather late joining in with the #AtoZChallenge reflections. April seems so far behind me, but it’s good to look back on the challenge.

The good part is I actually completed the challenge this year. As you may know, I signed up each year since 2015, first on my old blog and last year here. In 2015 and 2016, I completed the challenge. I had the topic of autism awareness/acceptance as my theme for 2015 and the alphabet of mental health in 2016. In 2017, I made it myself rather hard by picking autism again even though I was in the midst of being re-assessed for it. I only published one post. I can’t remember how I did in 2018, but last year, I was fooled by the letter X. I had had a word in mind that I thought meant something different than it turned out to mean (xenial) and couldn’t think of any other word once I found out I couldn’t use that word.

Then this year, I had the letter X already figured out before I even wrote a post. I know, I cheated a little, but well. I ended up unconsciously choosing the theme of self-care. I actually stuck to this theme rather well to be honest. I know I also cheated by using The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care for inspiration. However, I mostly wrote down my own thoughts and gave credit to Anna Borges, the author, where needed.

The more challenging part was reading an dcommenting on other bloggers’ posts. I still must say I find the Google spreadsheet a harder to use format than the linky the challenge used until 2017. However, I was able to work it somehow. Then, still, it took quite a bit of time to visit a satisfactory (to me) number of other bloggers. I had only a few bloggers I followed in my feed reader, so most I visited only occasionally. I liked the new connections though.

The absolute best part of the challenge though was that it kept me motivated to write. Or maybe my motivation to write helped me complete the challenge. I’m not sure. In any case, I loved being active on my blog and look forward to staying in this zone for a long time to come.

#IWSG: Keep on Writing!

IWSG

Today is the first Wednesday of May and this means it’s another Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) day. I didn’t really understand the optional question for this month, but I have enough to share without answering it.

You see, I finally did pretty well in the writing department! Firstly, I finally completed the #AtoZChallenge for the first time in four years. I loved it actually. Of course, occasionally it got a little boring and difficult at the same time, but overall it was quite a cool experience. I got to know a few bloggers I hadn’t known before or only four or five years ago when I did the #AtoZChallenge on my old blog. It’s so cool to see bloggers actually keep blogging year after year.

Secondly, I wrote a few poems. I actually had some more in my head that I haven’t written down yet and I may’ve forgotten. I find it pretty easy to come up with particularly syllabic poetry. Not wanting to brag, of course, since I honestly don’t want to claim my poems are any good. However, the words flow quite naturally.

Next time it’s open at dVerse, I might try my hand at a quadrille. I had no idea what one was and thought it had a lot of rules. Apparently not.

I also wrote my very first piece of flash fiction. Looking back, I should have explained a little more, as my piece left a lot to be filled in by the reader. That was on purpose, but it did make it a little weird maybe.

I look forward to keeping up the writing mojo in May. Of course, I know I’ll face writer’s block, lack of motivation or both someday, but I hope I’ll continue to be inspired and motivated for a long time to come.

How COVID-19 Changed My Outlook on 2020

Yes, I’ve said it before, but can you believe it’s May already? Four months have passed since the beginning of 2020. Time flies when you’re having fun, they say. Well, time also flies (and drags at the same time) when in a pandemic. Today I’m joining in with Finish the Sentence Friday (which is open all week), for which the question this week is how the pandemic changed your word of the year.

In January, I chose the word Wellbeing as my word of the year for 2020. I was at the time already a bit angsty about it, as I was in a bit of a hypochondriac phase and thought that if I chose this word, I’d die this year or something. Some kind of reverse law of attraction.

Still, so far, my word is still pretty true. I am taking preventative measures to hopefully keep the coronavirus out of my body. Just yesterday, my staff started taking everyone’s temp twice daily with a no-contact thermometer. Since the virus hit the home below mine, I have been a little more scared. At the same time, I still often avoid thinking about the pandemic too much. Actually, I realize that, as the month of April continued, I included fewer and fewer references to the pandemic in my posts.

I had a few hopes for 2020 too. The first one was to keep my marriage strong. I felt I needed to learn to travel to my husband for this, as I thought ultimately living apart wouldn’t be very good for our marriage otherwise. While I still feel I need to learn to travel to him independently once the crisis is over, I have learned that our marriage can survive a time of not seeing each other. It’s hard, but it’s doable.

Honestly, I must say the pandemic has given me a clearer focus on what matters most. I try to appreciate my husband more. After all, he isn’t a given. One day one of us might catch the virus. Besides, we can’t see each other now and it isn’t altogether logical that a marriage survives this.

On my other goals, I did pretty well so far. I’m actually loving it. I don’t know whether the crisis is the reason I’m doing so well, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of the factors.

#IWSG: Writing in Times of Corona

Today is April 1 and aside from the start of the #AtoZChallenge, it’s also the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) day. I skipped it last month, but today I want to join back in.

I did a lot of writing in the past month. What else is there to do? I mean, I could have spent my month reading, but I still usually read partly for the purpose of blogging about it. So I spent my month writing.

The world pretty much turned upside down in the month of March. Early on, I didn’t see a month full of writing on the horizon at all. Neither did I see COVID-19 coming. In the first week of March, the press at least here was still not taking COVID-19 too seriously. The first cases in the Netherlands were confirmed, but for the most part I still thought this was a far-off thing. A satirical site had a test online about when YOU would contract coronavirus. I had presumably contracted it two days before while trying to stockpile the last packages of fresh meat. I joked about it when having a meeting with my community psychiatric nurse and the facility’s behavior specialist on March 6. We even still shook hands then.

On March 16, schools and restaurants closed for three weeks. A week later, we went on “intelligent” lockdown. This means we are encouraged to stay home and gatherings are prohibited, but going outside isn’t strictly forbidden. My facility implemented a no-visitors policy on March 25.

Just yesterday, we were told that schools will remain closed until at least April 28. Restaurants are closed till June 1 I think.

So, while I’m in self-isolation, I do still try to occupy myself. It’s good that I like writing, huh? For the month of April, I have lots of things I want to write about. I’m participating in A to Z, of course, but I’ve already seen some other prompts that inspire me.

How are things in your part of the world?

Writer’s Workshop: If I Could Change One Thing About Myself

Mama Kat in one of her prompts for this week asks us what one thing we would change about ourselves if we could. She also asks us to think on why it can’t be changed.

This is pretty much a no-brainer to me. If there’s one thing I could pick to change about myself, it would be to widen my window of tolerance. The window of tolerance is the window at which point someone is stimulated enough that they aren’t bored too much, but not so much that they are overloaded. Each individual’s window of tolerance is different. Some people thrive on challenging activities and exciting stimuli. Others can barely handle any sensory or cognitive demands. I belong to the latter category.

If I’m correct, the window of tolerance also refers to the ability to tolerate distress or frustration. My distress tolerance is and has always been extremely poor.

So why can’t it be changed? Well, I tried. Ever since I was a little child, psychologists have recommended I work on distress tolerance. Now I must say I really wasn’t aware of the problem at all until I was about eleven, but even when I was, I had no idea how to heighten my distress tolerance.

My tolerance for sensory and cognitive demands was manageable up until I suffered autistic burnout at age 21. I mean, I was in classrooms with 30+ students in them, doing my schoolwork at a high level high school. Ever since my burnout though, I’ve hardly been able to function in group settings without getting overloaded. I also can’t seem to handle any sort of pressure.

In 2017, when I was being kicked out of the psychiatric hospital, it was recommended that I do dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). One of the modules of DBT is distress tolerance. The community psychiatric nurse (CPN) who started DBT with me, even wrote increasing my frustration tolerance as a treatment goal without my having asked her to. I didn’t see how I could work on this. After all, seeing this goal written on my treatment plan already created such immense pressure that I felt overloaded without even trying to work on the goal.

I know I have a bit of an external locus of control. This seems to be tied in with poor distress tolerance. I mean, it isn’t that I genuinely think the world owes me a sensory-friendly, low-demand environment. However, I can’t see how I can work on changing my ability to handle sensory stimuli, demands and distress.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Feelings After Watching a Documentary on the Blindness Rehabilitation Center

Today, I got a subscription to see past episodes of Dutch television programs mostly so that I could see a documentary series called Five Days Inside. It’s where three presenters rotate to visit mostly health care settings or other institutions that are not commonly shown to the general public. The episode of four weeks ago was about the blindness rehabilitation center I attended in 2005. I actually still recognized some of the staff talking to the presenter from when I went there.

Watching it had me very emotional. I don’t know why. I guess because most of the clients who were featured, some roughly my age when I attended the program, are so optimistic about their future despite sometimes having recently lost their vision. When I attended the program, I often felt way ahead of these people and way behind of them at the same time. After all, I had pretty good Braille reading skills. My reading speed at the start was more than twice that which is the ultimate goal of the rehabilitation program for adults. As I learned today while watching the episode, some people don’t even have the tactile ability to ever learn Braille. Most will only be able to use Braille for simple labeling, not for reading books, like I do.

On the other hand, I never learnd to cook. Not in those four months in the center or the eighteen months in an independence training home that followed. It wasn’t for lack of teaching, but I couldn’t manage these tasks. Or even simpler tasks such as putting peanut butter on bread.

Today, I talked to my CPN from the mental health agency. We were talking about my skills or lack thereof. She seems to blame my parents for not having taught me properly. I understand. Then again, with my having had a meltdown each time my parents tried to make me learn new practical skills, it’s only understandable that they gave up. My CPN acknowledged this is a common autistic trait. My parents would say I’m not autistic, just stubborn. Apparently I decided from as early as age seven on that I would never learn practical skills because I couldn’t do them visually. Or maybe because I thought I was too smart for them. I don’t know what my father’s theory boiled down to exactly.

And now I see these blind or partially sighted people who are planning on working or going to college. I don’t know how I feel towards them. On the one hand, I feel envy. I wish I could cook tuna macaroni or zucchini soup. I wish I could ride the bus on my own, then go into town to buy raisin rolls. I wish six months of training could teach me the skills to live independently and go to college or work.

Then on the other hand, I feel an enormous sense of relief. I feel relieved that somehow my support coordinator was able to convince a long-term care funding lawyer that it’s at least partly due to blindness that I can’t.

PoCoLo

Taking a Risk

Today I’m joining in with Five Minute Friday (FMF). The prompt this week is “Risk”.

Last month, like I shared in passing on this blog, I finally opened up to a behavior specialist at my care facility about my struggles. I was really putting myself out there. In my mind, I took a huge risk, because I felt that if I was open about what I really needed, I’d be kicked out of the care facility. I wasn’t.

Then two weeks ago, as I discussed my issues with my community psychiatric nurse (CPN), she started to suggest I live in an apartment building for autistic people. That didn’t sit well with me. I mean, I don’t care who my fellow clients are as long as I get the support I need and I won’t get that in an apartment building. I mean, of course I do somewhat care about my fellow clients, but not in the sense that I need to be able to get along well with them. They aren’t my friends, after all.

I still feel I’m taking an immense risk by opening up about my feelings. I did so again last week, when I asked the staff at my facility to ask the physician for a script for some tranquilizer. The reason is that I’m due to have an old filling repaired at the dentist’s next week. The area surrounding the tooth is already inflamed and I experience considerable pain from it, so I know it’s going to be hard going in and having it fixed, despite the option of getting a topical anesthetic.

So I put myself out there again and asked for something to calm my nerves. Initially, the doctor told me to take 0.5mg lorazepam. Well, that’s not going to work. So I felt off again, like I was being a drug seeker and a burden. I’m used to being seen as a burden, after all.

Being genuinely open about my feelings, my needs and even my wishes is a huge accomplishment for me. I’m totally used to being judged. After all, if people really see me, aren’t they going to discover how wicked I really am? Apparently not.