The Puzzle and Its Pieces #SoCS

When I was first diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) in 2010, I was already aware of some of my alters. I at the time explained to my therapist that the body or “Astrid” was the puzzle and the alters were the pieces. In other words, there was no host who “owned” the other alters as such. I felt that we needed to cooperate as one collective, not as one piece.

I was, at the time, unaware of the other significant meaning of the puzzle piece in my mental health experience, that is, its symbolism in autism-related lobbying. I mean, Autism Speaks and other cure-focused organizations employed the puzzle piece as a symbol of something being “broken” or “missing” about us autistics. That’s why autistic activists are so vehemently against it.

I personally till this day don’t mind the puzzle piece as much. I mean, I don’t like it that Autism Speaks uses it, but other than that, I’m not sure what I think of the symbol. I’ve heard the alternative is something like a rainbow-colored infinity symbol or something, which I have absolutely no concept of, never having seen the infinity symbol when I still had enough vision to picture it.

I do think the puzzle is a great symbol for plurality in general and dissociative identity disorder in particular. Another one is the kaleidoscope, but I don’t like that one as it is the name of the Dutch DID charity. That one is very exclusionary and kicked me out on the basis of not having a diagnosis given to me by someone they approved of.

So, the puzzle. The pieces, when cooperating perfectly, make up the proper image of what should be “Astrid”. Then again, that’s an ideal. Hard to achieve. I don’t think we ever will. And that, in my opinion, is okay.

This post was written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS), for which the prompt today is “Puzzle”.

How Far I’ve Come #SoCS

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Today’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “Where”. Linda, the host, is probably referring to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and where we all were at the time when she says that she has a feeling the subject of many posts will be the same. I, though, think I already shared where I was during the 9/11 attacks. I was in my room, writing in my diary about being used for a reality TV show. I mean, in the taxi home from school, I was secretly filmed while talking to the taxi driver and then was asked to consent later to it being shown on TV. I obviously refused. I was only fifteen. My mother said they should’ve picked someone at least five years older than me.

I don’t want to revisit that day though. Instead, I want to reflect on where I came from and how far I’ve come in those twenty years since the attacks.

On 9/11, I was in the ninth grade at grammar school or a classics-oriented high level high school in my city. I was being mainstreamed despite being multiply-disabled, because my parents believed I was just blind and oh so intelligent (which they considered a disability too in some ways, but it really isn’t).

Two months after the attacks, on November 2, 2001, I experienced a major mental crisis, which was of course brushed off by my parents. Six years later exactly, I did land in the hospital when experiencing another crisis.

I spent 9 1/2 years in the psychiatric system, 2 1/2 years living with my husband because the psychologist at my last psych unit felt I was misusing care and should be living independently. Then I went into long-term care. It’ll have been two years on the 23rd.

In a sense, I’ve only deteriorated in those twenty years. On 9/11, I proudly told that taxi driver how I was doing being mainstreamed as a blind person in a high level high school. Twenty years on, I live in a facility with people with severe to profound intellectual disabilities. Even then, I’m the one who needs the most care, getting one-on-one most of the time.

In another sense though, I’ve come a long way. I’ve definitely become more like me, the real me, who doesn’t care what her parents or teachers or support staff for that matter think she’s supposed to be like.

Dissociative Identity

The person in the mirror is not me. The person who carries this body’s name, doesn’t really exist as its own identity. We, as in, me and about 40 other insiders (also known as alters, parts or headmates depending on your perspective), share the body. We each have our own names; none of us claim the body’s given name, even though we’ve never felt comfortable claiming a collective name for ourselves other than Astridetal. We all have our own ages and more or less age-appropriate abilities too.

This evening, I was talking with our assigned staff after another small crisis in which one of the more emotionally immature insiders came forward. I was talking about the fact that we switch between alters more than I’d like to admit on a daily basis. I mean, Annemiek is our crafty insider. When we do polymer clay or jewelry-making, she’s out in the body. She, however, can see in the inner world, even though the body is completely blind. So when she gets frustrated with the intricate aspects of crafting, she shoves someone else forward.

Deborah was out this evening. She is 22-years-old, but very emotionally immature and very mistrusting of others. She is one of the ones claiming to need even more one-on-one support than we already get.

Our staff knows about our existence, but she didn’t know how we juggle the frequent switches on a daily basis. Some of these switches are not as overt as Deborah’s coming forward this evening. For example, when Annemiek is crafting and everything goes to plan, she can be pretty well-collected.

At one point, the staff suggested we create a list of insiders. We used to have one here on the blog, but deleted it as this blog evolved from a mental health blog to a more eclectic blog. Sadly, it turned out I hadn’t saved the file anywhere, but I had created a list some nine years ago for a former therapist. That one was quite eye-opening, as not only have a lot of insiders emerged since then, but some old ones have changed roles. It was very interesting looking at and updating the list.

Sometimes, it hurts that I’ve lived with these strangers for so long. I know for certain that some of us emerged as early as 2001. That’s twenty years ago. Even so, I suspect some of us have been inside this body for far longer, as is commonly the case with people with dissociative identity disorder (a diagnosis we do not currently have, by the way, but used to). I cannot at least remember a time without alters.

This post was written for Reena’s Xploration Challenge #197.

Riding the Train

Back when I still lived on my own in 2007, I would frequently ride the train. Or go to the train station planning to go on a train somewhere but melt down once at the platform. Then, people would often call the police.

I shared my experiences of riding the train, or wanting to do so, as an autistic and blind person on a public transportation users forum in 2008. I shared pretty much every little detail up till my crisis on November 2, which happened at a train station too. The person who had asked me to share, then pointed out that it might be a little TMI, but that’s how I am.


This piece was written for the Six Sentence Story blog hop, for which the prompt this week is “Train”.

Home Is Where…

Some say home is where my bed is. Then again, do they mean the care facility’s bed or my husband’s bed?

Others say home is where my toothbrush is. Then again, I take it with me wherever I go.

Dallas Moore would say home is where the highway is. My husband might’ve agreed when he was still a truck driver. Then again, neither his home in Lobith nor my care facility in Raalte is on a major highway.

I say home is where…
I can feel safe. I can feel comfortable. I can be myself.
That place, I’m not yet sure I’ve found.


This post was written for My Vivid Blog’s writing challenge: “Where”. I am also joining Writers’ Pantry #81. This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt in Day One, my diary app, which asks me to describe my ideal home. It was also inspired by this song.

A Pink, Heart-Shaped Object #SoCS

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A pink, heart-shaped object. That’s what VoiceOver Recognition said about the below picture. It’s my latest polymer clay work in progress. It’s still a work in progress because I intend on sanding it once I get my sanding paper and because I intend on adding an edge of a different color polymer clay, probably purple.

I have been really obsessing over polymer clay lately. I love it. That being said, I keep finding imperfections with my work. This one turned out okay, but the back is a little raw from the parchment paper I used to bake it on. I guess I should’ve used cardstock, but I forgot about that.

Overall, I’m really loving polymer clay though. I think I will develop some level of skill in it one day eventually. This evening, I may try to create a shape without asking for help as much as I did with this one. After all, I don’t need to bake my creations right away and can let them sit there to wait for me to decide whether I want to use them or knead the clay back into a ball.

Back to VoiceOver Recognition. It’s a great feature. However, with my previous creation, it guessed the colors all wrong. You see, the below object is purple and pink and VO said it’s black and red. I think that might’ve been the lighting conditions though. Or something. Not sure.

That polymer clay work, not quite in progress anymore, didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. Of course, I recognized that the snake edge I used around the heart shape is all uneven, but it’s also unevenly attached to the heart. I don’t like it, but I probably could not have reused this clay anymore anyway, since the colors had already attached to one another. That is, I could have mixed the colors and tried to see what color got out of it, but well, maybe it’d turn out all brownish. Oh well, now it’s a crooked heart with an uneven snake around it, but it’s a learning curve, right?

This post was written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS), for which the prompt today is “The last photo you took”.

The Color Of Words #SoCS

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Today’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS) is “color”. I already shared about my perception of color several months ago. Like I shared then, I no longer have the ability to see colors in the physical world due to being totally blind. I used to as a child though and still retain the ability to see colors in my mind’s eye through synesthesia.

I mentioned that color words don’t always correspond to their own color. For example, the word “green” is mostly red. The word “color” itself is mostly yellow. Both o’s are yellow and so is the c. Interestingly, so is the u in the British spelling of the word.

I love some words more depending on their color combinations in their synesthetic presentations in my mind. For example, really I like the British spelling of “colour” more than the American one. The slightly darker shade of yellow for the u adds an interesting shade to the word that makes it somehow more appealing. Same for the word “synaesthesia” in its British spelling. I don’t honestly think there are many words whose American spelling appeals more synesthetically to me than its British spelling. Then again, I am used to mostly using American English on my blog, so that’s what I’ll do.

Early Days Online

Yesterday, Rory asked whether we remember our first times online or with a computer in general. I certainly do. I may have shared some of these memories before, but just in case I haven’t, I’m going to dedicate a post to them.

I got my first computer at the age of eleven in January of 1998. That one didn’t have an Internet connection though. Its operating system, Windows 95 SP2 (which my father explained was like Windows 96), did support Internet Explorer, but my screen reader didn’t. That screen reader, Slimware Windows Bridge, was quite primitive. So was the Braille display, which I remember to be attached to my computer via the printer port. Though it did work with just Braille, without speech, if the speech unit in the Braille display malfunctioned, so did the entire thing.

In 2002, I got my second computer and my first JAWS version. For those who don’t know, JAWS is the most commonly-used screen reader today. This computer had Windows 98 installed on it and it did have Internet access.

My father at first was adamant that I use the Internet as much as I want, even though we had a dial-up connection back then (not the kind where you can’t phone and go online at the same time). He said that, if the bill got too expensive, we’d get broadband. Then when the bill did get to over €300 over the summer, it turned out broadband wasn’t available at our house. After a few months of my parents trying to restrict my Internet access and my trying to evade said restrictions, we eventually got cable.

I got my first online diary that fall of 2002. It was on DiaryLand if I remember correctly, though I often switched between DiaryLand, Diary-X, Teen Open Diary and whatever else was available. The only service I never actively used, was Xanga. I also had a Dutch online diary.

The worst mistake I made, looking back, was not taking care of other people’s privacy. I not only wrote out every argument I’d had with my parents in detail, but also referred to other people, such as my teachers, by their real names. One teacher in particular had a rather unusual last name and at one point was googling her name for genealogy purposes. Not surprisingly, she stumbled upon my Dutch diary. Though I (interestingly) had used a nickname there, she quickly found out it was me. She personally didn’t mind, but did caution me that others might.

What mistakes did you make in your early days online?

Fight for the Light #SoCS

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Sigh
I fight
For the light
That’s out of sight

Those were the words that popped up into my mind when I read this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. I have absolutely no idea why these words popped up. I guess it’s something to do with the lingering effects of my crisis two weeks ago. I’m still kind of depressed.

However, there’s also some hope shining through in my words. Just because the light is out of sight, doesn’t mean I don’t fight to find it. I am blind, so anything is basically out of sight. Well, not literal light, since I have light perception, albeit only a little bit. Anything else, really, is out of sight for me.

I’ve been pondering object permanence recently. This is the ability to know that, if an object (or person) is out of sight, it is still in existence. This ability is usually acquired at around age eighteen months, so my niece should have it. I rationally do too. Emotionally though, not so much. Though I don’t literally feel that a person who has left my proximity, no longer exists, I usually half-joke that they might just as well be on the North Pole. I wonder whether this struggle with some level of object permanence, could be due to my blindness. I guess not though.

A Bottle of Hope

Today, I feel stuck in the twilight zone between good and bad. I’m not feeling as hopeless as I was two weeks ago, but I can’t quite say I’m feeling happy either. I really feel numb. This seems to be the story of my life anyhow. I’ve rarely felt truly happy. Sometimes, I feel dysregulated, desperate, out of control. Some other times, I feel a glimmer of joy. That rarely lasts long. This afternoon, I experienced such a glimmer of joy when making a necklace. Then this evening, I was in a small crisis again.

Still, I have this instinct to survive, to go on. I still keep this bottle of hope that I know at some level will always be available to me. Even at times when I’m most dysregulated, I haven’t intentionally taken steps that would really end my life. I still, deep down, have this will to continue.

Now if only I could put the energy I’m putting into merely keeping hope alive, into actually practising contentment. If only I could pick up that bottle of hope from the shelf, instead of letting it sit there until I (someday, probably never) find the perfect life circumstances. Keeping hope alive is one thing, but living a life of joy and contentment, is quite a bit further up there.

This post was written for Eugi’s Weekly Prompt and Michelle’s July 1 writing prompt