When I Was Twenty

When I was twenty, I lived at the independence training home for disabled young adults in my parents’ city. I had had one particular assigned staff member for the first year that I lived there, but due to my challenging behavior, she refused to be my assigned staff any longer. I was fine with this, because I couldn’t get along with her anyway. Instead, the team coordinator became my assigned staff.

Over the next six months, we developed quite a strong bond. I started to feel like I could be myself with her. That was rather unusual, as I’d never felt like I could be myself with any outside person at all. I started to show her bits of my inner world, started to be vulnerable with her.

Then she went on vacation. When she came back, she informed me she could no longer be my assigned staff. I don’t remember her reasoning, but it was related to both her workload and our relationship.

I think back often to this staff now that my assigned staff at the care facility is leaving. It feels as though she’s rejecting me, just like the other one rejected me. After all, shortly after that staff could no longer be my assigned staff, I had to leave the training home.

I have been flooded with memories from when I was twenty again. I try to remember I’m 36 now, but attachment loss is still as difficult as it ever was.

In truth, I should have learned my lesson back then when I was still young: care staff are not there to stay. Don’t be vulnerable with them.

This post was written for Five Minute Friday, for which the prompt this week is “twenty”.

The Shifting Image of My Care

In September of 2006, when I was still blogging on DiaryLand, I wrote an entry about seeing my life in black and white. I meant not just my life in general, but my care needs in particular. I wrote said post in response to a meeting I’d had with a psychologist several weeks earlier because my behavior at the training home I lived in at the time was spiraling out of control. The psychologist asked me where I saw myself in three years’ time, referring to care needs.

In my response on my blog, I said that I constantly had two images in my mind about what my life would be like, one positive and one negative. These were represented by the two most important alter personalities I had at the time, Carol and Jane.

Jane was fiercely independent. She wanted to live completely on her own without any support, except for maybe a weekly visit from a person to read her mail and the occasional help with deep cleaning.

Carol, on the other hand, saw herself as needing more support. I, at the time, made a point of clarifying that my “negative” image didn’t mean I needed 24-hour care, but that I needed significant help beyond that considered “normal” for someone who’s just blind.

Six months later, I had already discovered that the positive image wasn’t going to come true, yet I shifted my two images. I started to believe that the “good” outcome would be the situation I would live in at my student apartment, which included sixteen hours of support a week. The “bad” image, then, became needing 24-hour care.

You all probably know that the “bad” image eventually came to be true. When I wrote about the 2006 post on my original WordPress blog in 2009, I said that the situation couldn’t get much worse than it had been already at the locked unit. If another three years later, it was worse, I reckoned that’d mean I was in prison or a homeless shelter and hence wouldn’t have access to the Internet.

It didn’t get worse, of course, right? Or did it? I mean, I lived with my husband for some years, but eventually got admitted into long-term care. I now have one-on-one support most of the day. And yet the images are still there.

Jane is still saying I should live independently. Not with my husband, mind you, but fully on my own. Then at least I can’t manipulate people into giving me more and more care and, by extension, cannot drive people away.

There’s another image haunting me. This image wasn’t in my mind back in 2006, or at least I wasn’t aware of it. It is the image of a girl, aged around sixteen, who was a patient in a psychiatric hospital in the late 1990s, where she had been restrained for weeks on end until her parents sought media attention. This is the true worst-case scenario I see in my mind now. But the worst part isn’t the restraints: it’s the fact that the girl was often left completely alone.

I had a few incidents of physical aggression towards staff recently. The staff keep reminding me that they realize that I don’t mean to be aggressive and that they won’t leave me if I am. I hope the worst-image alter, whom I call Rachelle, won’t prove them wrong.