Validating Jane?

On Saturday, it’s the twelfth anniversary of the mental crisis that landed us in a psych hospital. As those who’ve checked my “About” page or those who’ve known me long-term know, this hospital stay took 9 1/2 years. Then we were kicked out for allegedly being too dependent.

We fought a long battle for the right care. In a way, it started that very day, November 2, 2007, or even before. It hopefully ended when we moved into the long-term care facility we now live in on September 23, 2019.

Most of us are relatively happy here. Content, at least. At least one of us though isn’t. Jane is still telling us to get a real life. To give ourselves a good kick in the behind and go to university, find a jjob and above all, live fully independently. She doesn’t even want us living with our husband, as we could be manipulating him into getting us care.

Today, I’ve been thinking. I recently joined a Facebook group for DID that subscribes to the philosophy of managing dissociative symptoms by thinking of each of your system members as their own individual. We need to work for the betterment of the entire system.

In this light, I’ve been thinking of how to validate Jane. She’s been saying “No” to our every attempt at getting care ever since, well, since she emerged in 2001. I wonder whether she’s “just” an introject, as our parents hold similar views to hers, or there’s more to it.

I remember once, when we’d only been diagnosed with DID for a few months or maybe a year, so in 2011 I think, our then therapist saying that Jane represents our healthy side. Another therapist called her a punitive parent. That never sat well with any of us, but neither does seeing her as the healthy adult. After all, why then does she minimize our every struggle? Isn’t vulnerability part of being an adult, too?

I’m wondering whether we’re doing more than just her a disservice by being in the care facility. I don’t mean we need to leave, but I realize most of us, including me, would like a more enriching life. Many of us feel bored at day activities.

Of course, our recent (and not-so-recent) attempts at doing something to enrich our life, have usually failed. I mean, we could be committing to a class at college, but that hasn’t been a success in ten years. I’ve been looking at writing courses, but they are pretty expensive and I don’t know they’ll actually make me a better writer. I want to go to the gym or horseback riding again, but don’t know whether I could commit to that on a weekly basis considering even just the limits of the ParaTransit system here. Ugh, I’m not sure how to get out of the boringness of lying in the sensory room for over an hour each day, walking for maybe half an hour, and sitting on our ass the rest of the time. I don’t know whether that’s an entirely accurate picture of our day, but it feels like it is.

Clarissa

Shark!

Stuffed Shark

So my husband came over today. I had originally planned on visiting him for the week-end, but then I’d have to go home to the care facility by ParaTransit taxi again. You get only 700 km at a reduced rate each year and the one-way drive from my husband to here is 72 km. This means that I can’t go each week for the rest of the year. So my husband proposed to come over for a visit.

We went to IKEA in the nearby city of Zwolle. I was looking for an office chair to use in my corner of our house. The way IKEA is constructed, you need to walk past a lot of other stuff before you can get to the desks and office chairs. This meant we could also check out the lounge chairs. I took my lounge chair (well it was originally my husband’s family’s but I used to sit in it all the time) to the care facility with me and would like a lounge chair at my husband’s house too. We couldn’t buy one right away, but we did see some good, some bad and some really rubbish ones.

At one point, we came across the soft toy aisle. My husband showed me a giant stuffed elephant and then an equally large stuffed shark. The littles were totally in awe! He asked us whether we wanted to buy the shark and we shouted “Yes!”. So we now have a stuffed shark. We took most of our stuffies to the care facility with us, so we’re very happy to have a soft toy at home with our husband too. We joked that of course we have our husband, but well, that’s different.

We also got some nice candy. Some of us were upset because we couldn’t have Swedish meatballs. Not that our husband said so – he didn’t explicitly say they were on offer, but he knew we knew about them -, but we had already had pancakes for lunch and figured it wasn’t healthy to have two meals. Everyone was content again when we got the candy.

We also ate out at a nice Indian restaurant. The food was delicious!

At Every Age

There’s so much I want to write about, but I can’t get myself to sit down and actually write. Well, sitting down is not the problem, as I’m probably still a pretty sedentary person, but actually writing is.

Today, I”m joining in with Finish the Sentence Friday (#FtSF). This week, the prompt is to write about your (or your child’s or whoever’s) favorite age.

I used to think being younger was better. I don’t really know why. Maybe I was conscious at an early age of the fact that life is finite, so growing up meant getting closer to death. I also thought that growing up meant an increase in responsibility, which scared me from an early age on. After all, I knew from as young as age nine on that I was supposed to leave the house and go to university by eighteen. That’s a huge burden of awareness to carry as a child that young.

Now I think being at every age has its beauty. I do worry that I’m declining in health already, and this is where the sitting down comes in. I really need to get more active, because I know that at every age, you can do something to improve your health and wellbeing.

I also think that, at every age, you can retain or regain some level of childlike wonder. We see this in the alters, who each represent a particular stage in development. Some are grown-up for their age, like Jace, the 9-year-old who was told about going to university and leaving the house. Others are more childlike, like Milou, who is 8-years-old and very playful. We also have an adult, Marieke, who, though she’s 32, enjoys sensory learning and play.

In my fellow clients at day activities, I also see the beauty in every age. They are intellectually disabled, most with a so-called “mental age” under six. Now the concept of “mental age” is highly ableist. However, learning about normal child development can teach us some interesting things about myself and others with developmental disabilities anyway. I was intrigued to read about emotional development as it pertains to people with mild intellectual disability and as it pertains to me in some way too. The consultant psychologist assigned to my case in my care-finding process, said I function emotionally at a 16-month-old level. This explains a lot of why I act the way I do. Interestingly though, we don’t have an alter who identifies with this age.

In short, I think every age and stage in development has its beautiful sides and its ugly sides. Childhood means your parents still have a lot of control over you, but it means you have relatively few responsibilities. Adolescence and young adulthood come with increased responsibility and freedom. I don’t know yet what middle age or old age will bring, but I’m confident I’ll find the beauty in it.

Fairy

Fairy. I have always identified with this word. Or elf. Or changeling. The mythology of fairies taking human children and replacing them with one of their own, a changeling, has always spoken to me. It is a common early explanation of autism in the centuries prior to Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. Obviously, I don’t agree with this, but I do understand it.

When Elena, one of my most spiritual alters, first emerged, she didn’t see herself as entirely human. She was the first to claim a fairy, elf or changeling identity. ChangelingGirl is one of my most commonly-used nicknames on bulletin boards.

I still like the idea that I have some spiritual aspect to myself. I don’t fully believe in Indigo children or the like. Besides, the theory of Indigo children is rooted in racism, usually favoring White children over those of color. However, somehow, there is some appeal to it. I do believe everyone has some spiritual aspect to them though.

When the body was a teen and Elena was most prominent, we had these weird superstitious rituals. We would’ve been open to pendulums and the like if we’d known about them at the time. More recently, when we did know about alternative stuff like this, I’ve tried to explore the tarot. I have several tarot apps on my phone. Of course, they’re marketed as for entertainment only. I like to use them to inspire my self-reflection. I don’t care that there’s no scientific proof.

This stream-of-consciousness piece was inspired by today’s word of the day challenge.

2021

I am struggling a lot. On Sunday, I read that long-term care funding will be available to those with a lifelong psychiatic disorder, but it won’t be till 2021. Then, I had myself convinced that I won’t get funding until then. After all, the funding person said the medical advisor may have to talk to my psychiatrist. I’m pretty sure my psychiatrist feels my primary disability is psychiatric in nature, because, well, she’s a psychiatrist. Then I will be denied long-term care funding for now.

Of course, I could be seeing the 2021 thing as a positive, in that even if I don’t qualify for long-term care now, I almost certainly will by then. I cannot see it like that though, because right now I’m virtually drowning.

I struggled a lot at day activities today. I have been struggling for a few weeks, in fact. I couldn’t find the words to express myself at first, only that I’m anxious. Then finally I was able to put some feelings into words. I fear when going into the sensory room on my own that the staff will forget me if I fall asleep. I also feel very easily overloaded by the other clients (and sometimes the staff). I just realize as I write this that staff trying to explain what is happening, sometimes overloads me even more.

I’m also afraid I will be kicked out of this day center if my challenging behavior escalates and that I’ll be left at home alone all day then. I’m not sure whether I believe the staff when they say that I won’t.

I am just so scared. I don’t know whether I can go on like this for two more years. In fact, I’m pretty certain that I can’t.

Carol

Panicked Ramble

Hi, I’m Carol. I struggle a lot with our autism. I’m a little panicky at the moment. First of all, I woke up with terrible pain in my left shoulder. It’s been bothering me alll day. We finally took an ibuprofen when we got home from day activities at 5PM. It’s better now, but still bad.

This morning, I overheard the staff at day activities talking about a possible new client joining our group. I immediately worried that this’d mean I’d be kicked out. Not because they need the place (or maybe because of that too), but maybe if my challenging behavior worsens as a response to the staff being busier. That’s what happened at my previous day activities. Then again, they had three new clients join the group in a matter of weeks.

Moreover, we had a Christmas meal at day activities today. This meant my day was different from the usual Tuesday. One of the staff at my group had to help clean up after the meal, so she was in the kitchen most of the afternoon.

Then the staff started talking about day activities next week. They’re closed on Monday but open on thursday and Friday. Then, only six of us will be at the center, which really isn’t enough to justify staff being there. They said that the center normally closes if fewer than ten clients will be there. We want so badly to attend day activities and I somehow understood they’re considering closing the center next week. The staff reassured me, saying they had to set this rule for next year but for now the center will be open.

Still, when I got home, the whole thing overwhelmed me. I started seeing images in my mind of myself with worsening challenging behavior. I felt unsafe at home alone and rejected too. Like, they kicked us out of the independence training home in 2007 and out of the institution last year because of our behavior. Rather than giving us more care when we needed it, they gave us less. Same with the old day activities place. I really hope we can somehow find us suitable supported housing, but I’m so scared that no place wants me. I finally called the on-call nurse at the psych hospital and had a chat with her. That was good, but I feel guilty about having called, because my team say I really shouldn’t need the prescription phone call anymore.

A Very Validating Experience

As I write this, I deal with a nasty cold that I’ve been feeling come on for a few days but wasn’t willing to accept was coming on. Not that there’s anything I can do about it. Whenever one of us has a cold, my husband always searches the Internet to find out whether they’ve found a cure yet. So far, no luck. I’m not terribly sick as of yet anyway. I think my husband suffers almost more from the weird noises my body makes when I can barely breathe than I do.

A lot has been on my mind lately. I could of course write a gratitude list and devote a sentence or two to each thing. I may do that eventually, but right now, I want to share about a specific experience in more detail.

Last week, we told our staff at day activities about ourselves. We disclosed that we may have dissociative identity disorder (calling it multiple personality) and explained that it’s a trauma-based survival mechanism. The staff member we told was totally fine with it. She actually validated us, saying she’d seen a little come out to her.

Then on Monday this week, we had a flashback while at day activities. A fellow client needs to be given oxygen at times. This reminded one of our littles of the time we needed oxygen as a four-year-old because our trachea had closed up. An adult alter was able to explain this to a staff before the little came out, but then we could no longer keep ourselves from switching and the little popped out.

This little started talking to our staff, the one we’d come out to the week before. She asked to sit on the staff’s lap. We had agreed when we first came out as multiple that this is okay with both the staff and us. It was such a nurturing experience.

Afterwards, an adult did feel the need to check with this staff that it’d been alright with her, but it had been no problem. That’s a good thing about doing day activities at a center for intellectually disabled people. I’m pretty sure that in psychiatric care, we’d not be allowed to express such a “childish” need for affection.

A Letter to the Insiders

I want to write, but I don’t know where this is going. In fact, until I wrote down the title of this blog post just minutes ago, I had no idea I was even going to write a letter to my alters. I was inspired to do it by the recovery-based letters some people write to their mental health conditions.

Another thing that inspired me subconsciously, was a conversation with a dear friend on the need to integrate as part of treatment for dissociative identity disorder. This is often seen as the only possible end goal, and this dear friend was even told so on her first appointment with a therapist. We feel very strongly about this. First of all, integration is the third and last phase of treatment for DID, so it feels very wrong to discuss it at the very start. Second, integration can also mean living a functional life (ie. integration into society). I know many therapists, including I think our psychiatrists, feel a merger of all alters as somehow more healthy than living as a functional multiple. Well, agree to disagree.

The first phase of treatment is stabilization. This includes getting to know your system, learning to deal with feelings, developing inner communication, etc. After this, the second phase is trauma processing. Only once all traumas have been processed can you begin to integrate.

We don’t do DID treatment and aren’t likely to get it ever at all. After all, the diagnosis process scares the crap out of us and we’re unlikely to be believed. As such, it’s all the more important that we validate ourselves.

Dear you,

Welcome. We appreciate you. We are glad that you’re here, for you helped us survive. Without you, we wouldn’t be where we’re now. Thanks for that!

We know you may feel sad, or angry, or confused. that’s all okay. It may not feel okay to you, but that too is okay. Your feelings are valid. They’re there for a reason.

We want you to know there are people out there to support you. Inside, you have an entire system of alters that will help you be the best you you can be. If we work together – and that includes you -, we’ll heal.

Outside of the body, you’ll meet our support staff. Maybe you’ll be able to meet our mental health team too. Most of the people in our current life are supportive. We know this hasn’t always been the case and that’s one reason you’re here. We are here to help you heal from those experiences. You can trust us.

You may not be able to disclose your true identity as an alter to everyone, but there are people in the DID community you can talk to as yourself.

We hope this letter helped you feel a little bit safe. It’s still scary, but things will get better.

Love,

Us

Psychiatrist’s Appointment Next Week

Next week, we’ll meet with our psychiatrist to discuss how to proceed in our mental health care. Whether we want to continue at all, and if so, how. We’re very nervous and still haven’t made a definite decision yet.

Our nurse practitioner is still off sick. Until a few days ago, I thought that we didn’t need any mental health care, so we were more or less okay with him having been off for over a month already. I felt that getting assessed for trauma-related conditions, as our psychiatrist had originally wanted, was just stressing us for no reason. Most likely, we wouldn’t be believed so just end up where we’re now, with a BPD diagnosis and required to do DBT. I guess we’d rather keep the status quo than be told we definitely don’t have trauma-related issues.

Then we thought, so what if we keep on merely surviving like we do now? If we don’t get therapy, will our mental health ever get any better? Besides, our psychiatrist had been talking discharge, even though she called it a break. So what if we end up in crisis?

Some of us were also feeling like our psychiatrist wants to get rid of us. Like we’re a pain in her neck. Lots of pain has been coming up and today, we nearly landed in crisis because of it. We called the mental health team, even though we’ve been feeling like we shouldn’t need them. Our former assigned nurse called us back. Thankfully, we had a good talk with her.

She said that not doing DBT or trauma therapy doesn’t mean we’d be discharged altogether. We could also just have an occasional supportive check-in with a nurse. That’s not what our psychiatrist said, but oh well. It also doesn’t mean we’ll never get therapy again, or something. Maybe we could take a break for half a year and see whether we want the assessment an dpossibly therapy then.

A lot of us are feeling all sorts of things. We feel attachment pain, which scares the crap out of some of us and makes some of us feel shameful. After all, our overreliance on mental health was the exact reason we got kicked out of the mental institution last year.

It doesn’t help that our support coordinator has also been off sick for over a week. I hope it’s just the flu. She’s supposed to go to the appt with us next week, but if she’s still sick, of course she won’t come. We did discuss our concerns with our staff at day activities yesterday and they offered to write our questions down for us.

As a side note, we had a very validating experience at day activities. When discussing our issues with mental health care, we mentioned DID (calling it multiple personality). Our staff said she’d seen us switch to a little girl. Wow. I didn’t know anyone could tell unless we use our own names.

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.