The Wednesday HodgePodge (September 7, 2022)

Hi everyone. It’s Wednesday again, so it’s time for the Wednesday HodgePodge. Here are Joyce’s questions and my answers.

1. Tell us a little bit about the best birthday you’ve ever had.
I honestly can’t decide on any specific one. Birthdays were always stressful when I was a child, but they’ve gotten easier as I got older. Now that I think of it, I’m going to pick last year’s, my 35th, because it wasn’t as loaded as the ones before and I got some of the loveliest presents.

2. In what way(s) have you changed in the last five years?
Five years ago, I was struggling greatly living with my husband. I had already had my first major mental crisis, but not my second or third and I was still trying to uphold the image of myself as the successful psych survivor. As such, the most important way in which I’ve changed over the past five years, is having learned to embrace myself with all my limitations, rather than wanting to prove my capabilities to the world. It’s a delicate balancing act and sometimes I wonder if I’ve swung too far to the dependent side of things. I’m trying to reclaim some of my fierce self-reliance indeed, without losing the self-determination I didn’t have five years ago. For those who don’t know, living with my husband rather than in a care facility wasn’t my choice; instead, I had been kicked out of a psych hospital in May of 2017 for allegedly misusing care. I am so glad my community support team and I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to be in long-term care after all. Now I need to find the balance between passive dependency and stubborn self-reliance.

3. What’s your favorite thing about the street on which you live?
The fact that the care facility is right at the end of the street, overseeing the meadow, so it’s relatively quiet.

4. The Hodgepodge lands on National Beer Day…are you a beer drinker? What’s a recipe you make that lists beer as one of the ingredients? If not beer, how about yeast?
I can’t stand beer, doesn’t matter whether it’s alcohol in it. I honestly don’t know any recipe with beer or yeast in it. That being said, my father used to make bread from scratch, including “waking” the yeast for the dough. That expression always made me laugh.

5. As I grow older I would like to be a woman (or man, if there are any men in the HP today) who…
Practises expressing gratitude everyday.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
Speaking of my answer to #2, I had an interesting conversation with the student staff today. I have as soon as I came here expressed that I’d prefer not to be helped with my personal care by male staff. When discussing this with this student staff a few days ago, I said that I could try to do my personal care myself if there’s no female staff available. This staff either understood this to mean that, if he works on my side of the home, I’ll do my personal care by myself, or I thought he understood it this way. Rather, I had meant it if no female staff are available at all.

It may seem weird that, if I can do my personal care by myself if absolutely necessary, I may want help with it sometimes or most times. The reason has to do with the fact that doing my personal care costs me a lot of energy without giving me much satisfaction at all. I don’t personally feel that self-reliance is an end goal in itself, so I get help with my personal care. Thankfully, my staff agree. Then again, I can’t expect there to always be a female staff in the home, so when there isn’t, I make the choice to invest the extra energy into my personal care in order to preserve my dignity as a married woman.

A Letter to Myself Five Years Ago

Today, I stumbled upon a journaling prompt that asked me to write a letter to myself five years ago. I’m pretty sure I’ve done something similar to this at least a couple of times before. In fact, when I searched this blog for letters, I saw that I’d written A letter explaining my life at the time in early 2020, a letter to my younger self in general in October of 2018 and even a letter from my (then) future self in 2019.

Those who know the timeline of my life, of course, will not be surprised that I am going to pick this prompt anyway, as the “five years ago” part of the prompt is particularly significant. After all, it was weeks before I’d be kicked out of the mental hospital. I am not going to bore you with a timeline of the past five years in this letter. Instead, I’m trying to provide some new insights.

Raalte, March 27, 2022

Dear Astrid,

It is tempting to start this letter with a cliché, such as, “How are you?” However, I know how you are. You are struggling greatly with self-doubt and uncertainty. Fear of abandonment and attachment loss. You’d rather avoid taking the next step in your life, leaving the familiar behind to step into unfamiliar territory. Even though you’d rather not admit it, your psychologist is right that you’re scared of needing to become independent.

I want to let you know I understand. Independence is scary. The unfamiliar, leaving the psychiatric institution to go live with your husband, is even scarier. I understand you’d rather stay with unsupportive people you know, ie. in the psych hospital, than live with a supportive person, ie. your husband, under circumstances you don’t know.

And, to be honest, if I had a choice back when I was you, I’d not have chosen to live with my husband. The thing is, you don’t have a choice. Not yet. But you will, at some point.

Please, for my sake, hold on for a bit. Do what your psychologist tells you, but also stand up for your right to proper day activities and community support. It will be hard, living in the community with your husband. But things will get easier.

I am writing from a care facility. In 2019, I was approved for long-term care based on blindness. I also have extra one-on-one support. Please don’t tell your psychologist all of this, as she’s going to time travel right ahead to me and make sure my funding gets taken away. This is just between you and me, so that you know things will improve. I know they will get worse first, but please do hold on.

Looking to you, I do see that you struggle to let go of the familiar, even when it isn’t good for you. I sometimes think I face the opposite issue, chasing perfection rather than being content with what I have now. It’s a true balancing act.

I also want to let you know that, as much as you’d like to make your own choices, being allowed to make those choices also can be a burden. The fact that, now, I am free to stay in the care facility for as long as I want or leave when I want, is quite scary, I must admit. In that sense, your psychologist was probably right about my dependent personality disorder features.

I wish I could tell you that your attachment issues would be over by now. They aren’t. I’m still struggling with them, worse even than I was when I was you. However, I do have a supportive mental health treatment team now,for which I’m forever grateful.

In summary, please do believe in yourself. You have every right to feel that you need more support than your psychologist says you need. You just won’t get it yet. Eventually though, you will.

With love,

Your future self

A Time I Decided to Speak Up for Myself

The weather has cooled off some, but I’m still somehow lacking motivation to do much. For this reason, I scrolled aimlessly through some journaling prompt books I have in my Kindle app. In one of them, one of the prompts that caught my eye was to recall a time when you spoke up for yourself.

I am usually not one to speak up for myself easily. Especially not when the person I’m needing to advocate to is an authority figure. The memory I’m going to describe involves my last psychologist at the psychiatric hospital.

She was somehow convinced that I have dependent personality disorder. There are good reasons to think so, but her reasons were not among those. To put it bluntly, she thought I misused care.

More importantly than her diagnosis of DPD though was her removing my autism diagnosis that I’d had for nine years. She believed that I could not possibly be autistic because I had a brain bleed as an infant and that instead my diagnosis should be some form of brain injury. She ended up putting hydrocephalus (which I’d developed as a result of the brain bleed) on axis III of the DSM-IV classification and that apparently should suffice in explaining my difficulties. That plus, of course, DPD. Well, it didn’t.

Like I said, I have trouble sticking up for myself. This is indeed a DPD criterion. Honestly I don’t even care whether I might have DPD actually. I can see how I have some traits. But DPD is different from care misuse. And that’s what my psychologist was accusing me of.

So I finally decided to stand up for my rights and demand an independent second opinion. This was extremely hard and my psychologist had been successfully trying to talk me out of it before. Not this time though. In February of 2017, I had an appointment with a clinical neuropsychologist at Radboud university medical center in Nijmegen. Three months later, on my would-be discharge date from the mental hospital, I got my autism diagnosis back.

Autism, of course, doesn’t explain everything I experience. I might have DPD too. And God knows what else. But I don’t misuse care.

My psychologist, interestingly, claimed that I spoke up for myself really well. That’s a rather contradictory statement to the DPD diagnosis. After all, dependents are often seen as passive. I still wonder why she didn’t have the balls to “diagnose” me as a malingerer.

Developing My Fighting Spirit

Over at Pointless Overthinking, DM asked what circumstance got you to learn something surprising about yourself. I already responded there. I explained briefly about the time my psychologist removed my autism diagnosis and diagnosed me with dependent personality disorder instead. In this post, I’m going to expand on my answer.

In August of 2016, it had come to my attention that my psychologist had changed my diagnosis. I was at the time hospitalized long-term and had had an autism diagnosis ever since 2007. For a reason I still only partly understand, she had decided to remove it. I’m pretty sure she didn’t fully understand her own reasoning either, as she kept coming up with different excuses. When I involved the patient liaison person and requested an independent second opinion, she even started to negotiate diagnoses.

Being a little too trusting of people’s good intentions, I at first went along with her proposal of a new diagnosis. I wouldn’t get my autism diagnosis back, but I would get diagnosed with brain injury-related emotional issues, which still gave me a reason to believe my impairments weren’t imaginary. It made some sense, in that my psychologst said the brain bleed I had sustained as a baby, was her reason for removing my autism diagnosis.

By November though, my psychologist came up to me to say that she’d rediagnosed me yet again. This was it and there was no further room for negotiations. My diagnosis was changed to dependent personality disorder, borderline personality disorder traits and “developmental disorder” not otherwise specified. I didn’t know what that last one was, but I accepted it anyway.

A week after that, I found out that the “developmental disorder” had not been put into my records at all, but instead depressive disorder NOS had been written into my chart. In Dutch even more than in English, these words are so differently spelled that it couldn’t have been a typeo. My psychologist finally admitted that she’d not diagnosed me with any type of neurological or neurodevelopmental disorder and wasn’t intending to either. She said she’d written depressive disorder NOS into my file because a diagnosis on axis I of DSM-IV is required for someone to stay in the mental hospital. She was vague as to whether she believed I was depressed, being convinced that I was still mostly just dependent. A nurse added insult to injury by saying the psychologist did me a favor by giving me an axis I diagnosis.

When I was first told I’d been diagnosed with dependent personality disorder, I assumed that the psychologist would probably remove it if I fought it hard enough. After all, DPD is characterized by passivness, compliance and an inability to voice disagreements with others for fear of losing care or approval. She said she wouldn’t. Besides, suggestible as I am, I quite easily tacked off the five out of eight required criteria.

At first, I was just angry and defeated. Pretty soon though, my fighter insider, Leonie, emerged. I requested an independent second opinion and this time I left no room for negotiation. I got re-assessed for autism in early 2017 and got rediagnosed on May 1.

Readers who don’t know me, might be wondering why I care. Well, the reason I care about my diagnosis is that I experience significant limitations that can’t be explained by just blindness. I do try my best and this to me signals that something else is going on. My psychologist felt I was making up my impairments. She didn’t say so, but she did say I couldn’t be diagnosed with autism because of my brain injury, yet I couldn’t be diagnosed with that either. She felt that the fact that occupational therapy was mostly ineffective, proved that I had no self-confidence. Her way of helping me develop self-confidence was to kick me out of the hospital almost with no after care. It was effective, in that it did allow the figher insider to fully develop.

Only later did I find out that, even though she rationalizes her decision to this day, it probably wasn’t about me. There are significant budget cuts to mental hospitals, so my psychologist was under pressure to kick some people out. She picked me, probably because of my relatively young age and the fact that I wasn’t psychotic. She claims that dependent personality disorder was the most appropriate DSM-IV code for someone with bad institutionalization syndrome. That completely overlooks the fact that I’d not been admitted to hospital for no reason 9 1/2 years prior, of course.