The Lockdown Tag

I don’t think anyone specifically tagged me for this tag, but I saw it on a number of other blogs. The idea is to answer a number of questions about life in lockdown. We just went into “partial lockdown” again, or really are going tonight, but the prime minister delivered the news yesterday evening. I think it’s about time I write about life in lockdown again.

1. Overall, how are you handling the quarantine?
I’m hanging in there. Now that at least some restrictions have been going on for over half a year, I’m coping less well than at the beginning of the lockdown.

2. Have you violated any of the restrictions? If yes, what rule(s) did you break?
Honestly, yes. When the no-visitors policy in care homes was lifted last May, we were expected to still keep our distance from visitors and avoid physical contact. Well, I did at first try, but I just couldn’t resist hugging my husband.

3. What viral recipes have you tried during the lockdown?
I didn’t even know that this is a thing. I haven’t really tried any new recipes, honestly.

4. What activities have you missed the most during quarantine?
At first, of course, I missed seeing my husband altogether, as it wasn’t allowed at all. Now that we’re allowed visitors again, I miss going places, like restaurants, with my husband. Restaurants are closed again for two weeks at least from tonight on, but even when they were still open, I wouldn’t take the risk.

5. Do you wear a mask when you leave the house?
Uhm, no. I don’t travel by public transportation at all or go to public places much. Until yesterday’s press conference, the government didn’t want to mandate mask-wearing except on public transportation, but only “strongly advised” it in public places like stores. As of tonight, a mask will be required in all public places and also outside of classes in secondary and tertiary education. It’s not required when going for walks outdoors. I do think that, when my mother-in-law visits tomorrow, I’m going to wear a mask to protect her, as she’s generally very careful and I’m not.

6. Are you an essential worker? If yes, what is your job title?
No. I don’t work. Thankfully, my staff are classed as essential workers and we didn’t get holiday or weekend staffing levels so far, which I was worried about at first.

7. How do you exercise during the lockdown?
I go for walks, go on the elliptical, do weight training and yoga. Basically, all my usual exercise activities. I was on the waiting list to go swimming before lockdown and had considerd going to a gym too. Swimming was canceled here at the facility and, though gyms are still open, I don’t want to take the risk.

8. Have you subscribed to any new subscription services since the lockdown started?
No. I did briefly restart my Netflix subscription, but canceled it again after a month. I much prefer reading to watching.

9. What did/does your daily schedule look like before the pandemic started?
I’m assuming the question is meant to ask how our schedules differ now that we’re in lockdown, because of course the pandemic is raging so there’s no present tense “does” before the pandemic. Anyway, before the pandemic I would go to the day center at around 9:30AM and stay there until 4PM. Now that we’re provided day activities in the home, I usually don’t start them until 10AM at least. I also take more breaks than I used to. I much prefer the current arrangement.

10. Do you think that the pandemic is getting better or worse?
Worse. It’s all pretty awful. I really hope they’ll find a vaccine soon.

11. What have you learnt/became grateful for during the lockdown?
I’ve become more appreciative in general. For example, I’m grateful for my health, my ability to still go outside for walks, being able to see my husband… lots of things!

12. How do you think the world should learn from this pandemic so that things are better in the future?
I think in general people have learned to be more health conscious. Other than that, I don’t think the pandemic taught us any big lesson or whatever. Of course, I could get all fluffy about people possibly being kinder and more grateful towards each other and the planet, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I’m not tagging anyone, but if you want to do this tag, feel free to.

My Taste in Music as a Teen #Blogtober20

Today’s prompt for #Blogtober20 is “Fame”. For this reason, I’m going to share some music that was famous or that I liked as a teen. I once heard that people’s lifelong taste in music is shaped between the ages of 14 and 24. I don’t know how true that is, as I’m still developing my taste. Anyway, here goes.

1. The Backstreet Boys. Okay, I didn’t really like those, but I pretended to. When I was about eleven, so still a preteen, my mother encouraged me to develop a taste in music, because that was what my peers were into or so she thought. I have shared before that I hung Backstreet Boys posters on my wall without ever having heard any of their songs.

2. Anouk. She is a Dutch pop singer. I had two of her CDs, although I was never a huge fan.

3. ABBA. Well, the A-Teens, an ABBA remix band. Until I was about 20, I didn’t even know they were an ABBA imitation and spelled the band name “Eighteens”. I thoroughly enjoyed this music though and often danced to it.

4. The Corrs. I got a CD because it was recommended in my high school newspaper. Then I got two more CDs. Unlike Anouk, I truly loved this music.

5. World music. Particularly Latin. I had a lot of CDs with Latino music on them, although that included Spanish pop music like Macarena too. When I first met my now husband, he asked what type of music I was into and I said “world music”. I later played one of my favorite Latin music CDs for him and he was glad he hadn’t known this was what I’d meant by world music.

6. Protest songs, particularly Dutch ones. These were the songs my parents listened to on LP. I had some copied onto cassette tape too, specifically an LP from Robert Long. He was a protest singer in the early 1970s, but converted to Christianity later on and his older songs are hard to come by now.

What was your taste in music like as a teen?

#Blogtober20

My All-Time Favorite Food

I was feeling a little down on Sunday, so I checked out the gratitude section of the book Journaling With Lisa Shea. This is really a collection of ten 32-day guided journals and an introduction to journaling. I bought the entire thing for a deal price on Amazon several years ago.

I already covered some topics from this section before, but one I didn’t write about is my favorite food. The prompt asks me to recall what favorite food makes me brim with joy and sigh with delight. It goes on to ask whether I can remember eating it for the first time.

Well, my all-time favorite food has to be Domino’s pizza! I am not 100% sure whether this was the first time I ever had it, but I think it was. It was sometime in late 2010 or early 2011. My husband, then still my fiancé, lived in student accommodation in Kampen, where he studied theology. His studio was real close to the train station, the river IJssel, and several snack corners and fast food restaurants. Including Domino’s.

I can’t remember which pizza I took that first time. It might’ve been during my six months or so of trying to pass as a vegetarian to my fiancé, who was a vegetarian at the time. I might also have taken one of their chicken pizzas. I think I did that. I probably also chose red peppers as an extra topping, as I was and still am a lover of very spicy food.

Nowadays, I almost always choose a chicken kebab pizza, but I think they didn’t have that one back then. I also always look at the new and noteworthy category, because sometimes they have truly delicious pizzas. I particularly remember one called something like Chicken Zanzibar, which had a piri-piri swirl on it. I topped it off with extra red peppers. Since I took a large pizza and didn’t have the monstrous appetite I’d expected, I left my husband a slice. He pretty soon texted me with a list of swear words about how spicy the pizza had been. Even thinking back to that makes me laugh.

Things I Do Just for Fun #Blogtober20

Yesterday I didn’t write a post for #Blogtober20. Though I wrote a blog post, I didn’t post it to the linky or Facebook group. Today I’m hopping back onto the bandwagon and writing on today’s prompt, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. I’m going to share the things I do just for the fun of them.

1. Read chicklit. I am normally mostly into memoirs or young adult fiction about serious topics. When I just want to have fun, however, I read a romcom or other lighthearted women’s fiction. Most recently, I’ve been reading The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth.

2. Find jokes. I am subscribed to a funny E-mail list where the owner sends out daily jokes and comics. I cannot enjoy the comics, of course, but I love the jokes.

I also love to listen to my husband crack jokes. He and I both are a fan of wordplay.

I also love the kind of lists that describe what it’s like to live in a certain state or city. There at one point was one about Nijmegen, the city I went to university in. I related a lot to the things mentioned.

3. Dance. Well, walk in place to the beat of music. I love some playlists on Spotify of fast-paced dance and pop music. I cannot dance at all, but I love to move my body in the rhythm (or out of the rhythm, for that matter, as my sense of rhythm is poor) of the music.

4. Write and read funny blog posts. I particularly love memes and tags. I still need to participate in a couple of tags that I saw on other blogs and liked.

What do you do just for fun?

#Blogtober20

#WeekendCoffeeShare (October 11, 2020)

It’s Sunday and I’m in definite need of some coffee. For this reason, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. It’s not time for my evening coffee yet, but maybe I can enjoy a virtual cuppa.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the weather is gloomy. It’s been raining almost the entire day and it’s cold enough that I could use my winter coat.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m struggling quite a bit. Yesterday I landed in crisis. I didn’t sleep all night and was still feeling very tense by this morning. A walk didn’t even help, because I felt cold and was very tired and overloaded.

I am also struggling with what to tell my husband. The crisis was quite bad and I really want to be open to my husband. However, I fear he’s going to be angry with me for it, because in other places, this could’ve led to me being kicked out. In fact, I’m still worried that the staff are going to decide to kick me out after all.

It makes me feel sad that I, being of above-average IQ, am expected to make my own decisions regarding this stuff and make sure my family is informed.

I mean, of course it has its pros that I’m intelligent. If I had an intellectual disability, I wouldn’t be able to blog, for instance. I also wouldn’t have my husband. However, this discrepancy between my IQ and my ability to cope emotionally, is weighing me down quite a bit.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, as unlikely as it may seem now, the rest of the week was pretty good. I made some soap and experimented with baking soda modeling clay. I removed some of the figures from their molds today, but I think they hadn’t fully hardened, as they were still pretty brittle.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I’ve been loving browsing Amazon’s Kindle collection for books to get. I don’t want to buy them yet, but I did download a few free books.

I also finally got Listify on Apple Books. This is a book of journaling prompts (yes, again!) but most are list-based.

What have you been up to lately?

In Crisis Yet Again #Blogtober20

Okay, this may not be the most appropriate post for #Blogtober20. After all, the prompt for today is “relax”. It is also World Mental Health Day. Most people would use this to advocate for better mental health services, or to share tips on coping with mental health issues. Tonight, I’m too stressed out to do either. In fact, this is just going to be a raw post on my having been in crisis tonight – and not having fully recovered yet as I write this, in fact.

I was on edge all day. By mid-morning, I started feeling irritable, but it was still manageable. When it was time for lunch, a different staff from the one assigned to my side of the home came to eat with us. We also didn’t get the usual weekend lunch stuff, such as sausages, pancakes or soup. We did get a baguette with cream cheese on it. It was okay. IN fact, I much prefer that to our weekday lunches. I don’t think it’s even the fact that I didn’t get the treat I wanted, that set me off, but the fact that so much was different about the lunch. Thankfully, after being on the verge of a meltdown for a bit, I was able to calm down.

Then in the evening, I spiraled into crisis. I don’t even know why honestly. I was getting very irritable about the staff having the TV on even though the volume was turned to low. Within the next fifteen minutes or so, I landed in a full-blown meltdown that seemed to last forever. I eventually asked the staff to fetch me a PRN lorazepam, but then somehow got it into my mind to climb over the balcony railing. I didn’t, but the mere fact that I was standing on my balcony on bare feet in the rain and disclosed my thoughts, worried the staff.

I was near a staff all the time until I had to go to bed at 10:15PM because the evening staff were leaving. They did remove the knob on my balcony door, so that for now I cannot go on there. I gave them permission for this, for clarity’s sake.

The lorazepam has started to kick in, but I’m still pretty tense. I must say that I am completely in awe of how my staff handle my challenging behavior too. It must be hard having a mentally disturbed person on an intellectual disability unit. In psychiatric care, they’d probably have sent me for a time-out off the ward. After all, psychiatric professionals commonly see me as a borderline case. I’m not sure my current place is the most suitable for me, but the staff definitely are.

#Blogtober20

The Kindness of Strangers

Okay, it’s past 2:30AM and I just said I wasn’t going to blog right now, but CrunchityFrog’s prompt for today (well, yesterday) has me thinking. This is supposed to be a daily prompt thing, so I might join in more often. Anyway, the prompt is to write about the kindness of strangers.

I’ve probably written many times already about overbearing, intrusive strangers. Particularly when I was a teen, I didn’t realize that my autistic behavior (of which I was unaware that it was autistic) combined with my blindness often caused people concern. I am more appreciative of people’s attempts, even awkward ones, to help now. That probably changed on the evening of November 2, 2007.

Okay, I’ve shared the story of my mental crisis probably more often than anyone cares to know. Today I’d like to focus on the kindness of the people who helped me stay alive and safe.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I was in a suicidal crisis that evening. I had left the training home I was a former resident of and had hoped to find safety in, because I was told the staff had no responsibility for me and I was to leave.

I took the bus to the city’s train station, talking into my former care coordinator’s voicemail. I told her I was going to take my life that night. I was completely unaware that people could hear me until a woman across the aisle from me started to talk to me. She told me that the bus driver had heard me, which initially only caused greater panic. She kept saying over and over again that he was getting help for me. (“Help”, of course, came in the form of the police, as is customary here in the Netherlands if someone’s safety is in question.) I was in utter shock, constantly crying and very overwhelmed. I am forever grateful for this woman’s kindness. And of course for the bus driver’s. It most likely, after all, wasn’t within his duty to report his concerns to the police.

Looking back, I realize I rightfully worried random people on the streets many times before and they were kind enough to help. Even if “help” meant to call the police. My parents often felt that people were just stupid, assuming that a blind person shouldn’t be traveling independently. Some were, indeed, but in some cases my parents were stupid, assuming that I was just blind.

Lovin’ Lately (October 9, 2020) #Blogtober20

Okay, I’m once again pretty late writing a post. I’m seriously uninspired today. The #Blogtober20 prompt for today, “Imagine”, didn’t evoke anything in me. Since the prompts are optional, I could of course do a gratitude list or lovin’ lately post. That at first didn’t feel good with the challenge, as I wanted to write originally for the challenge, but so what? Sharing my likes and loves might bring you joy! Today, let me share the things that I’ve loved lately and that bring me joy.

1. The weighted blanket. I already mentioned it a few times this past week but yesterday, it was decided that I can keep it. My care facility is paying for it. I am very happy about this.

2. Yet more essential oils. On Tuesday, some new oils arrived, including cinnamon, clove, lemon and orange. I now have over 20 different oils and can make a lot of lovely blends. Right now, I’m diffusing a Christmassy blend of cinnamon, patchouli, clove, orange and ylang ylang. I am completely in love with the most recent additions to my oil collection!

3. Soap making. I love to make melt and pour soap. On Monday, a staff asked me to make one for a relative of hers. I got down to making it on Tuesday right away. She had requested rose fragrance, so I decided to also try out my red mica colorant. Because you only need a tiny amount of it, I decided to make two soaps: one for the relative and one for the staff herself. The butterfly is for the relative and the square one for the staff. In case it isn’t readable, the square one has “100% hand made” written on it.

4. Free and cheap books. I cannot remember who it was, but a fellow #Blogtober20 participant shared some tips on getting free or cheap books legally a few days ago. One of them was BookBub. It’s a U.S.-based (and maybe UK-based too) site that collects book deals from the main book retailers, such as Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, etc. It sends out a daily E-mail with that day’s deals. Through BookBub, I found quite a few interesting books.

Of course, since I’m in the Netherlands, I got an error once trying to download a free book from Amazon.com. However, I looked it up on Amazon.nl and it was free there too. The first one I got is a cozy mystery called Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs. It’s the first in a series, but if I’m correct, the books can be read as standalones too.

5. Products from The Body Shop. I must say I haven’t bought any yet, but I’ve been oohing and aahing at their advent calendar and their pumpkin vanilla product line too. I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy the pumpkin vanilla hand cream if it isn’t sold out already.

What things brought you joy lately?

#Blogtober20

Millennium: Growing Up Blind in 2000 #Blogtober20

I’m a bit late to publish my #Blogtober20 post today. Well, not as late as yesterday, but then I already had a post up in the afternoon. Today’s prompt is “Millennium”.

Let’s see… we’re now 20 years into the new millennium, which I realize isn’t even the “new” millennium to some adults right now, as they were born in 2000 or later. I always find it surprising that there are people who will be legally old enough to vote in next year’s national election who weren’t even born when politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered on May 6, 2002. Yeah, I’m getting old!

In 2000, I turned fourteen. I was in my first year at a mainstream grammar school. I had already decided I hated it, but my parents and teachers had decided that, if I failed, I’d fail within the first three months and those were up. Woohoo, my mainstream education was a success! Okay, it was, since I did graduate with pretty good grades in 2005, but yeah.

In January of 2000, I suffered a bad case of the flu. I rarely got the flu back then and still get it only once every five years or so, so I remember. In fact, I’m not 100% sure of this but I think it was my only time being off school sick in my entire grammar school career.

In February, my outreach teacher for the visually impaired came to talk to my classmates. They had already decided they didn’t like me one bit. In fact, when the teacher asked casually what having me, a blind student, in their class evoked in them, they didn’t think of a single positive. They started saying that I was being favored by the teachers. They also resented the need to help me get around. This instilled in me the feeling that I had to make up for my blindness in some way by being extra, well, anything.

I had read a book called Het instituut (which translates to The Institution) by blind comedian Vincent Bijlo in 1998. This book is about a boy who goes to a boarding school for the blind and his teachers constantly instill in him the idea that the “sighted school” is really hard and that he’ll need to compensate for his sight loss. For all I knew, my parents and teachers at the grammar school agreed: I was an inherent burden due to my blindness unless I showed my classmates I was more independent, nicer, more hard-working and in any way better than them. Then when I tried to work hard and got good grades, my classmates decided I must be favored by the teachers.

My idea about myself as an inherent burden on the world around me due to my blindness didn’t change till I went to an international computer camp for the blind in 2002 and discovered the English-language Internet in that same summer. It never completely disappeared though.

Later in the year 2000, my classmates started openly bullying me. Again, my parents and teachers blamed me. I was too dependent, too unsociable, too much of a burden in general. I had ruined the only friendship I had developed (which in hindsight was based on pity mostly) by getting my “friends” an only average grade in a music performance in October. Though these girls didn’t actively bully me, they mostly ignored me.

I realize, looking back, that the attitude towards people with disabilities was generally very hostile back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I was growing up. I mean, I bullied a girl with a visual and intellectual impairment on the special needs bus to the school for the blind in the late 1990s. Though my parents disapproved of it, both they and my teachers didn’t do much to stop me. When this girl was dying of a brain tumor, my parents even openly criticized her religious parents’ hope that the girl would miraculously survive.

I can only hope that, with more children with significant disabilities being mainstreamed nowadays, that attitudes have changed.

#Blogtober20

If I Could Turn Back Time… #Blogtober20

Today’s prompt for #Blogtober20 is “If I Could Turn Back Time”. I think we all would do some things in our past differently if we could. I certainly would.

I mean, when I was in the psych hospital from 2007-2017, I regretted almost every step I took or didn’t take. My last psychologist was right in a way that so many places to live had passed that I’d turned down. I had turned down a shelted living place for the mentally ill, a workhome for autistics, a training home for autistics, etc. They were not suitable places for me and I completely understand I decided not to take the step. However, I particularly completely regret the step I did take to move to that last psych ward in 2013. Most of the places I’d turned down, seemed more suitable in hindsight than that last unit.

Still, now that I’m in a suitable place, I can see why the things happened the way they did and I made the choices I made. None of the places offered to me back in those early years in the psych hospital were as suitable as my current care facility is.

For the most part, this boils down to them being psychiatric living and/or treatment facilities rather than those serving people with developmental disability. You see, here in the Netherlands, autism is seen as a psychiatric condition if you have an IQ above 85. And in case it isn’t clear, the care approaches of psychiatry and developmental disability differ significantly. In particular, all psychiatric facilities are aimed at people developing their independence, or as they call it “rehabilitation”. I find this particularly unsuitable an approach to me.

Looking back, I maybe should have accepted the very first placement offered to me: a treatment unit and independence training home for autistics. Maybe the staff would’ve recognized my needs there. Or maybe not. Maybe I should’ve gone to the workhome. At the workhome for autistics, the staff did understand I needed more support than they could offer. They tried to help me and my staff find another place for me but came up with a facility for people with intellectual disability. The staff at the psych unit at the time were very understanding of my needs, but they still felt an intellectual disability place wouldn’t be suitable. You all know that I beg to differ.

To make a long story short, I’ve had quite a few regrets, but in the end, my life is good the way it is now. And that’s what counts!

#Blogtober20