Early Experiences With Medical and Dental Care

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is doctors’ or dental visits. I have many early memories of medical care, probably because I, being multiply-disabled, often had to visit the doctor. Until I was about nine, that is, when my parents, my sister and I moved across the country and my parents stopped taking me to doctors altogether except when I had everyday ailments.

An interesting question Lauren asks in her original post, is whether your parents were scared of doctors or dentists. Well, truthfully, yes, mine are. My mother had her own fair share of traumatic experiences involving doctors, among which a situation that would’ve been considered medical malpractice had it been in the U.S. surrounding my premature birth. My father, I don’t know. He probably feels he’s smarter than most doctors and hence considers spending time with them a waste of his own time.

All that being said, up till the age of about nine, I was taken for medical care when I needed it. I don’t think I was really taken for health checks except those part of preemie follow-up. I don’t remember most of these visits, except the ones to the eye doctor. My eye doctor was always, and I mean literally always running at least two hours behind schedule. Waiting in the waiting room for her was the worst. Well, no, the second worst: the absolute worst was waiting for her to come back after she’d put dilation drops into my eyes.

I don’t think I was very afraid of needles as a child. In fact, when I needed to be put under general anesthesia for my various surgeries, as soon as my parents allowed me to make the decision myself between the anesthetic mask and the injection, I always chose the injection. I remember being horribly afraid that I would get the mask when I had to have cataract surgery in 2013, even though I’m not even sure they do this on adults.

One thing I did always remember was that the hospital staff would stick me in my toes rather than my fingers for finger pricks, because the nerves in my fingers should not be damaged because of the fact that I read Braille. I had to have a finger prick last year and told the medical assistant that she was supposed to stick the needle in my toe. She explained that she couldn’t, so I reluctantly agreed to have her stick the needle into the side of a finger I hardly use for reading.

As for dental care, I think I did have proper dental check-ups when I was young. I didn’t have problems with my teeth until I was about eleven and fell and a bit of one of my front teeth broke off. That was the first time I started worrying about my teeth. I did need braces, which was quite an ordeal as the orthodontist never explained properly what I could and couldn’t eat, so there were always parts of my braces getting loose.

I am not very scared of doctors. Dentists though, well, it’s complicated. I am scared of dentists, but also scared of losing my teeth. This has led to some rather odd situations in which I sought out dental care that I might not have needed and didn’t seek out dental care that I did need. Thankfully, now that I live in long-term care, I do get regular dental check-ups and the staff and dentist do try their best to make me feel as comfortable as possible.

Being God’s Beloved Child As an Enneagram Type Four

Today, I read some about the Enneagram again. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a type Four. Type Fours’ core motivation is to be fully understood as their unique and authentic selves. As such, Fours often focus on their being different from other people in some fundamental way. I am no different (pun intended) in this respect.

When I was in the early days of my psych hospital stay, my parents came to talk to the psychiatrist. They told him that, ever since I’d realized I am different because of my blindness at roughly age seven, I had tried to make it look like I was different in a ton of other ways. For instance, I identified as autistic (with which I was eventually diagnosed), thought as a teen that I was a lesbian (I am not), etc. Indeed, identity confusion was quite a common experience for me. According to my parents, this was all because I refused to accept the fact that I am blind, rather than because, well, I felt different in some rather interesting, somewhat impalpable ways.

Today, as I read the Day 1 section of The Enneagram Type 4 by Beth McCord, I realized I’ve always focused my attention on how I am not just essentially different from everyone else, but in some fundamental way more defective than everyone else. In reality, this is not true.

I am reminded in this respect of a sermon or something I once heard about a king having two daughters who both got lost in a shipwreck and stranded with farmers or something. Years later, the king found out that his daughters were still alive and he sent out some men to track them down. One daughter believed she was the king’s daughter, while the other didn’t. To whom does it matter? Of course, to the one who believes. This is probably what it is like to be a child of God: we are all children of God, but only those who believe it will delight in His kingdom. I find this comforting to my non-believer friends, realizing that God does not somehow condemn those people or something. Of course, there is the difference that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, so He could’ve made everyone believe.

However, my point is that there is nothing that makes me less of a child of God because of who I am or what I do. I am also not more defective than anyone else based on any of my differences, be it my autism or my blindness or whatever. Neurodiversity and disability rights are clear on that. No matter how fundamentally different I feel as an enneagram type Four, or as an autistic, multiply-disabled trauma survivor, or as just plain ol’ me, I am still God’s beloved child and I do not need to – cannot even – attempt to earn that status any more. After all, Jesus Christ purchased that status for me on the cross.

I am linking this post up with Inspire Me Monday.

Negative Feedback: How I Cope As a Creative #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter N post in the #AtoZChallenge. I am feeling very uninspired today and almost gave up on writing this post, as my headphones decided to no longer work. Yes, those headphones I got for €239 a few weeks ago. The cable connection to my computer still works though, so I really have no excuse.

Today, I initially wanted to share some resources for newbie crafters, but that’d get rather boring. Instead, I’m going to share how I deal with negative feedback as a creative. This may get rather, well, negative, but oh well.

After all, I’m not thick-skinned at all. Like I said when writing about my creative frustrations and in other posts too, I get easily discouraged. As a result, my way of coping with negative feedback is usually to give up a craft entirely.

I didn’t do this when starting out with polymer clay. I mean, I did get some rather blunt comments early on, but I could see they weren’t meant to degrade my efforts or my ability to ever learn at all. It may’ve been because I had used polymer clay for a short time years before and, as a result, knew that it isn’t an inaccessible craft for a blind person.

It was different with card making. With that, I got hurt very easily when getting kicked out of groups for flaking out of my obligations for swaps etc. Still, it wasn’t until someone flat out told me that my work didn’t meet her expectations even though she knew that I was blind, that I decided to give up. Card making is not altogether inaccessible for blind people, but it can be very hard when you want to follow the traditional “rules”.

Then, with macrame, people doubted my ability to be able to learn the craft as soon as they found out I’m blind (and have mild cerebral palsy). With that, I decided, probably sensibly so, not to invest in a lot of supplies before I’d really decided whether I could master the craft. I so far only have one color of cheap macrame cord and a few supplies. I am so happy about this, since, with card making, I may’ve spent as much as €1000 without ever being remotely proficient at the craft.

Now that I’m okay as a beginner polymer clay artist, I still do get negative feedback at times. I can handle it when my staff point it out when I do something that I need to retry it as it’s not looking good. I also don’t mind people reacting badly to my finished projects. I remember once, when I’d published a polymer clay shell with a bit of a fleshy color to my Facebook wall, someone saying they were freaking out thinking it was a body part. That made me feel off for a bit, but I was quickly reassured by my staff as well as my other Facebook followers that it looked like a shell and I definitely hadn’t posted NSFW content or something.

On my blog, I get the occasional negative comment. Usually, it’s based on a misunderstanding and we’re easily able to resolve the issue. I deal with clear trolls with a direct hit to the spam folder. Then again, these are very rare.

Learning to Swim

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is “learning to swim”. There are no specific questions, but we are allowed to interpret the topic as we see fit. Here goes.

I got my first swimming lessons at the special school for the visually impaired I attended from first up to third grade. I, however, was very scared of the water and particularly of the deeper end. I vividly remember my teacher taking me to the deep end and my anxiously asking her if she could stand there. She was quite tall, but even so, she couldn’t. That scared me intensely.

According to my parents, my teachers were just overprotective, so my parents put me in swimming lessons at the pool close by their home. I didn’t need to start at the really shallow end, as I had had some swimming experience already, but could start at the 90cm deep second pool. Within a week, I was moved to the 110cm deep third pool, even though I think I protested.

It took me several more years before I earned my first swimming diploma. This first diploma at the time required students to be able to do breaststroke and backstroke, to swim one pool length with loose-fitting clothing, to tread water, etc., but it did not require students to swim underwater.

By the time I got my diploma, I had transferred to another school for the blind, where I had once again been put into the relatively shallow pool. I proudly showed my teachers my swimming diploma that I’d earned at home and was reluctantly transferred to the deep end.

From earning my first swimming diploma to my second, it took me only about eight months. The second diploma required students to swim 7m underwater. There was no way I could see whether I’d passed the 7m mark, so I had to guess. According to my parents, I swam about 11m.

After that, I had swimming lessons for the next three years that I was at various schools for the blind, but I never earned any more diplomas or certificates. The reason was, once again, the fact that my fear started to act up. After all, I wouldn’t swim under a mat. My parents, however, were okay with it this time. After all, my sister never moved beyond her second swimming diploma either.

I now can swim in a pool or lake. When my parents took me and my sister on vacation to Vlieland, I would also sometimes swim in the North Sea. I doubt I’d be able to save myself should I get underwater unintendedly though.

Color Mixing Recipes!

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts this week asks us to write about something we collect or used to collect. Another asks us to write about something we’ve been working on this week. Yet another asks us to make one superficial wish. I am going to combine all of these and talk about color mixing recipes for polymer clay.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am totally blind, but I did have a bit of useable vision growing up. As a result, I do still have a concept of color due to my memory of sight and also due to my synesthesia (in my case, ability to see Braille letters in color when I touch them).

As regular readers also know, my main creative hobby recently, besides blogging, is polymer clay. I love the fact that polymer clay comes in so many varieties of colors and that you can also color it with alcohol inks (which I’ve never used so far), soft pastels, acrylic paint, etc.

However, a few months ago, I discovered color mixing recipes. The vendor I impulsively bought a small collection of five recipes from, builds its recipes on four basic colors of Fimo soft: white, sunflower yellow, Indian red and brilliant blue. I immediately bought all four colors, but didn’t yet have a precision kitchen scale to be able to weigh out 0.25g, for example.

This past Sunday, I bought such a scale and also bought another collection, this time of 60 color recipes. Even though I can’t yet say I actually collect polymer clay color recipes, I would really like to.

That brings me to my superficial wish: an endless supply of free Fimo color recipes. There is an app that provides color recipes based on the colors in photos, but it’s available only on Android. Besides, one of my staff tried it yesterday and it constantly crashed. It also uses Fimo professional. Now I don’t mind that, since the advantage of Fimo professional is it actually comes in the true primary colors, such as true yellow, true magenta, etc. I would really love to be able to try to mix those colors too, as I’ve heard mixing actual true primaries creates more vivid colors than mixing fake primaries such as sunflower yellow and Indian red.

By the way, here is a blob of polymer clay in the first color I created using my new collection of color mixing recipes and my precision scale: moss green.

Of coursse, since I didn’t create anything with this color yet, it looks a bit weird, but I’ll be using it in a fall-inspired craft project I have in mind.

Since then, I’ve created two more colors, both for the fall-inspired project too: camel and burnt sienna. I have also been oohing and aahing at a ton of color recipes I would like to buy someday still. But they’re better if they don’t cost me money. So, if Mama Kat’s friendly genie would please pop by me and grant me that endless supply of free Fimo color mixing recipes, I could create all the colors I want.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Goals I Have in the Area of My Creativity #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone! Welcome to my letter G post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to talk about goals I have related to my creative process. Here goes.

First, I obviously want to improve my skill and learn new techniques. With respect to polymer clay, I would really like to learn to make jewelry, such as earrings or beaded projects. I would also love to improve my color mixing skills.

I also may want to learn macrame, although I’m not 100% sure about that yet, as there’s still so much I can learn with respect to polymer clay and I’ve discovered I may not have reached my full potential after all.

With respect to my writing, I want to learn to write poetry that doesn’t look like a teen on drugs wrote it. I would also like to learn more about fiction writing. Of course, practice makes perfect, so I’ll really need to write more.

Secondly, my goal is to share my projects, when appropriate, more than I do now. I may really want to work on creating an Instagram profile. Either that, or I should share my projects on this blog or my personal Facebook profile more often.

I would also someday like to exchange my knowledge and skills with other crafters or writers. Of course, I do so online already, in Facebook groups, but I’d love to join a writing or crafting club or something. I’m not sure I’ll ever fit in with the polymer clay guild, as I need too much support with my craft. However, maybe I’ll someday be able to join in with some crafting workshops either online or in real life. I heard the American Council of the Blind organizes them online. Not for polymer clay specifically, but for crafting in general.

Lastly, I hope to continue enjoying the polymer clay art. This may seem obvious, but it can be quite the challenge, because due to my combination of perfectionism and impatience, I often give up when I don’t move forward in a craft quickly enough for my liking. I also dabble in quite many hobbies at once. Now, I really need to stick to just a few.

Childhood Creative Endeavors #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter C post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I initially wanted to write about cardmaking, but I don’t feel like that now. Instead, I’m going to talk about my creative endeavors as a child.

As a young child, I had a bit of useable vision that allowed me to use colors sort of appropriately (that is, as appropriately as a sighted child my age could). I loved learning about the names of unusual colors. I remember, in particular, learning that the sixth color of the rainbow is indigo, which I was fascinated by.

I could do some basic drawing too. In Kindergarten, I went to mainstream school with hardly any accommodations. I remember having to color inside the lines of a piece of paper, giving each little shape within the drawing a different color and not leaving any white. When, several years later, I looked at it, I saw considerable white. I have no idea how I compared to the other kids though.

By the age of eight, I’d lost the ability to tell most shades of green and blue apart, but I continued to love drawing until I was about age twelve. Then, I realized I’d lost so much vision that it’d make no sense. Even so, before then, my drawings up till that age remained comparable to a Kindergartner’s in quality.

When I went to special education, I was taught other creative activities. I remember making at least a dozen origami frogs in second grade. However, my teacher did at one point write on my report card that she wished she were two teachers so that she could teach together. In other words, I required so much attention that she’d really need to split herself in half to be able to teach the class too.

My parents bought a pottery kiln when I was about eleven, so I also tried my hand at ceramics. I wasn’t too good at it, leaving fingerprints on my work all the time, but at least I enjoyed the process.

Writing also was a lifelong passion of mine. I can’t, in fact, remember a time when I didn’t enjoy writing. At first, I’d make up stories to go along with my drawings. As a tween and teen, I wrote stories that were somewhat or very much related to my real life. My greatest achievement is a work in progress, a young adult novel by the working title of “The Black Queen” about a teen whose mother has multiple sclerosis. This story, though it had autobiographical elements, was inspired by a conversation I overheard about a classmate.

Did you love creative activities as a child?

Report Cards and Progress Reports

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is report cards and progress reports. I am going to write mostly about traditional report cards in school, not the many psychological reports I had written about me during my childhood and adolescence.

Looking back, I was a good student academically, but it didn’t show on my report cards during elementary school. I attended special education and my teachers didn’t really believe I was more than just average intellectually. In fact, when I had a nationally standardized test in the sixth grade, the school’s principal called my parents in utter disbelief to tell them I had gotten a very high score. My father was like, duh, I told you so.

My behavior did get reported on. Though I had severe social and emotional challenges, I always got average ratings on those things that mattered to the teachers. I remember one day feeling disappointed when my rating on “correct behavior” had been lowered from the previous report card even though as far as I knew I hadn’t made mistakes about addressing the teachers formally.

In high school, I did get actual grades. Not letters here in the Netherlands, but numbers between one (worst) and ten (perfect). In my first year at grammar school, I got a lot of tens. These did get my classmates envious, so sometimes I’d argue for a lower grade. For instance, I had a ten on a drawing theory test and I hadn’t done any of the other drawing assignments because, well, I’m blind. Initially, I got a ten on my report card because that was the only grade I had. My classmates protested and my father and I agreed. Then the grade got lowered to an eight, reflecting the fact that I’d gotten a ten on that test and a six (barely passing) on drawing in general just for participating in the class.

Once in my third year, I was rebelling and hardly studying at all, so I did earn a few ones. One time, in my fifth year in high school (eleventh grade), I got a one in French for not doing an assignment because I’d had to do it with a partner and I hadn’t been able to find a partner, because I’d felt too anxious to ask anyone.

I wasn’t really punished harshly for failing grades or rewarded for good grades, but I did know I was expected to excel. Often, my parents made me do extra work, particularly before I was mainstreamed at grammar school.

My best subjects in elementary school were math and geography. In high school, those changed to languages, because high school math requires much more non-verbal intelligence and insight, something I don’t have. My best grade on my final high school exam was in English.

Now, as an adult, I do have an English-language blog, but I don’t think I learned to blog in high school. After all, despite the fact that grammar school is the highest level high school, I really wasn’t all that good at English after graduation. Other than English, I don’t use anything I learned in school really. I mean, during my year in special ed secondary school, textile arts was my worst subject and now I like to do macrame. Go figure.

Unconsciously Incompetent #SoCS

When I was in college studying applied psychology (it was really an orientation year to Bachelor’s of social work or related fields), my tutor had an interesting theory about how we learn by first being unconsciously incompetent. Then we move on to being consciously incompetent, by which she meant we are aware of our lack of knowledge and skill. Then, after years of college, we move on to being consciously competent. Once being experienced in the workforce, we then become unconsciously competent, which means we no longer need to be aware of our competence, since it’s become muscle memory.

I reached the stage of conscious incompetence when my tutor told me flat out that she was passing me for communication skills only if I promised never to enter the field of social work, psychology or any related field of study or work again. Thankfully, I was aware that my communication skills exam had really gone badly just before she told me, so I didn’t just need to be dragged into conscious incompetence.

I think I might need a similar experience with macrame. I started practising on Thursday and, though I managed the square knot, spiral knot and lark’s head knot quite easily eventually, I am pretty sure I’m still unconsciously incompetent. In other words, my work is horribly ugly but I think it will do.

The only thing is, because I sort of know I might never reach the stage of even conscious competence, I am too scared to show my work online for judgment. After all, as much as I am self-conscious about it, I also would really like this to work out!

Similarly, though I knew before that horribly messed-up communication skills exam at least on some subconscious level that I’m not suited to become a social worker or psychologist, I wanted to be one. That’s probably why I went into linguistics, which, though it isn’t necessarily within the helping profession, is still a communicative field of study. I only went into it to have a student psychologist tell a newspaper that “a blind autistic who wants to study something communicative” is going to have a pretty hard time of it, when they were promoting their autism buddy program. That pretty much sent me into conscious incompetence as soon as I read it, which thankfully was six weeks into the academic year. I guess that’s what happened the time the first person to comment on my question about macrame told me it would be really hard too. Only that’s before I’d started. I’m not sure that’s conscious incompetence though. It looks rather like low self-esteem.

This post was written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, with the prompt of a word containing “Comp”.

Things That Made Me Smile (March 14, 2022) #WeeklySmile

Hi all. I’m joining the Weekly Smile today. I don’t promise this will be a weekly feature, of course, but the hashtag is #WeeklySmile. I could really use a bit of cheer today, so I’m going to share some little things that gave me joy lately. Hopefully writing about them will make me smile now too.

First up are flowers once again. Last Thursday as well as yesterday, I went for a walk and took some pictures of flowers I came across on my way. The below picture is of an anemone we came across yesterday. We initially called it a giant crocus, but I found out it’s an anemone by running the picture through some plant identification apps.

That’s my second little joy: I just love learning about all sorts of different plants and running my pictures through identification apps. I haven’t yet found the perfect plant identification app after having tried out several, but that’s okay.

Finally, a thing that’s been making me smile for days: discovering an app that will allow me (with some help) to make collages and mosaics with my photos. The app is called PhotoGrid and, though some parts of the app are free, I decided to try out the premium membership right away and didn’t cancel when my trial period (which admittedly is only three days) was over. The below collage, my staff and I made with most of the photos we’d taken while going for a walk on Thursday. I’m linking this post to Mosaic Monday. Hope I did it right.

One of my staff later suggested I use this collage as my cover photo on Facebook, so I did. I had never had a cover photo before.

It may seem weird that I, being blind, like photography. However, with the image description tools, including now the plant identification apps, on my phone, I think it’s a great way of getting acquainted with my surroundings.