Not Quite a (Traumagenic) System?

I feel so awful right now. The visit from my parents went so well and this is actually confusing me. I mean, I consider some of my childhood experiences traumatic. Quite a few, in fact. How can this be the case if I have such loving parents? I mean, yes, they’re still a bit odd. My father just talked about the birds and butterflies and flowers we encountered. He didn’t ask me any questions or share anything about himself. That doesn’t make him a CPTSD-engendering parent though.

I had a dream yesterday about me needing to take the SCID-D assessment for dissociative disorders and it came back showing that I don’t have a dissociative disorder. It was probably triggered by my having read a message in a DID support group about how plurality is now something anyone can claim because of endogenic (born multiple) systems etc. We’re not an endogenic system, but can we claim to be traumagenic? Can we even claim to be a system at all?

I mean, other than online and to a few specific people who know us closely, we don’t share our names. It could just be that I gave names to different emotions or aspects of myself that I find hard to understand. This is what my community psychiatric nurse said on our last appointment. She said the consultant recommending EMDR for my traumatic experiences hadn’t recommended any type of “deep-digging” therapy. Not that I want that, but on some deep level (no pun intended), her claim that my parts are feelings, made me feel invalidated.

I told my CPN that, whichever treatment approach I try, my parts always show up and disrupt the process. She countered that we hadn’t tried EMDR yet. I know, but this approach is known to cause worsening of dissociation in those with dissociative disorders. Can it get me to “split” even more, even if I’m not a genuine multiple in the first place?

When I shared my doubts/denial on an E-mail list for DID, someone replied that I sign my E-mails with lots of different names. Well, that’s as easy as typing on a keyboard. No-one needs to have any special characteristics to be able to do this. It doesn’t prove my multiplicity. Besides, I know there are parts and they have names, but are these parts truly differentiated enough?

In a sense, it doesn’t matter. I’m not planning on seeking a DID/OSDD diagnosis anytime soon and by the time I might have overcome my fear of psychological evaluations, I guess DID has been removed from the DSM. Either that or Onno van der Hart and other scandalous therapists have given it such a bad name that no-one in the whole country will support me. And that’s even assuming that said assessment would show some type of dissociative disorder. Then again, if I’m claiming plurality for the sake of it, am I not contributing to the stigma surrounding DID myself?

In addition to the dream I had yesterday, I have recurring dreams about my parents finding out I’m in childhood trauma survivor support groups. They always confront me and my husband always sides with them. I guess I should leave those groups in case it really happens. I mean, I’m not an adult child of normal parents, maybe, but then again who is?

A Book I Remember From My Childhood

Yesterday’s prompt in Sandman’s 30-day book challenge is a book you remember from your childhood. I didn’t really like reading as a child, but I liked listening to audiobooks. Most came from the library for the bblind, but a few didn’t.

Particularly, I remember my grandpa had read one of my father’s cousins a book on cassette tape sometime when my father was still young in the 1950s or 1960s. My grandfather passed it on to me as a child. It was called De kinderkaravaan and was written by An Rutgers Van der Loeff, published in 1949.

This book describes the journey of the Sager children on the Oregon trail in 1844. In the story, the oldest boy, John Sager, leads his younger siblings from fort Hall to the Marcus Whitman family in Oregon after the rest of his trail decide to go to California. The story begins at Fort Laramie in present-day Wyoming, with the trail still intact and the Sager parents still alive. The Sager mother is pregnant with her seventh child at the time, who is born on the trail. By the time the trail reaches Fort Hall though, both parents have died and the children are supposedly getting to live with different families on the trail. John convinces the other men to let the children stay together except for the baby. He gets the baby from her caregiver when the trail is about to go to California, because he feels his parents would’ve wished them to travel to Oregon. As such, John and his younger brother Francis lead the children on a walking trail to Oregon.

Supposedly, the story is based on real events. Rutgers Van der Loeff claimed to have gotten a newspaper article from an acquaintance alerting her to the family’s adventure. Indeed, the Sager family did exist and John and his siblings did lose their parents. I only found out about a year ago that Rutgers Van der Loeff had many names and ages of the Sager children wrong. The Sager children also never traveled alone and the newspaper article claiming they did, was fabricated. The mix-up of the names and ages more annoyed me than the fact that the children’s adventure wasn’t as heroic as the author makes it look.

Maybe a year after my grandfather gifted me the cassette tapes with this book on them, my mother recorded another book by the same author for me. It is called Het licht in je ogen (which translates to The Light in Your Eyes) and is about a boy going blind from cornea damage. I loved that book too.

What book do you remember from your childhood?

Coffee and Tea: My Favorite Hot Beverages

I’ve had a post by this title in my Drafts folder for over a month. I originally started to write it for my letter C post in the #AtoZChallenge, because I didn’t feel like writing a self-care themed post. I ultimately did anyway and this post sat in Drafts forever. I didn’t actually end up writing about coffee or tea in the draft. The post was, or so I believe, inspired by a fellow blogger’s question of the day or something. Anyway, today let’s discuss hot beverages.

I should really ask my parents whether they still have this photograph of me drinking one of my first cups of coffee and, if so, whether they can digitally send it to me. You see, I was about six when I first started drinking coffee and I hated the taste. I truly had a disgusted look on my face!

I at the time drank coffee with lots of milk and sugar in it. The milk was supposedly to lessen the impact of caffeine. I always left the sugar sitting at the bottom of the mug and spooned it up after finishing my coffee. I hardly ever drank tea as a child. When I drank it, I had milk and sugar in it as well.

When I was around fourteen, I had a weird nightmare about someone having switched the sugar with some type of poison. After that, I acutely decided to leave the sugar out of my coffee. Then some years later I left out the milk. Now I drink the pure stuff, but I still get the same disgusted look on my face that I got as a six-year-old. Guess I’m addicted.

With respect to tea, it took me a long time to figure out what I liked. When I was around nineteen, I somehow convinced myself that I liked strong, black tea. Well, I don’t. Then followed rooibos, which my fellow patients and I at the psych hospital referred to as stress tea for its supposed calming effect. I went through a phase of particularly liking rooibos with strawberry-whipped cream flavor.

Then followed Earl Grey tea, because my now husband was into it. I tried a lot of different tea flavors with him when he visited me at the psych hospital.

I don’t even remember when or how I got into the green tea phase. In any case, I now drink pure green tea only. Some years ago, I tried green tea with pink pepper and pineapple flavor because my mother-in-law had bought a package, but I really didn’t like it. I, by the way, drink my tea without sugar too.

Are you a coffee or a tea person? How do you like your coffee or tea?

When I Was Five

This week it’s 29 years ago that I spent a week in the children’s hospital with a collapsed trachea. It closed up on the night of April 28, 1991, the night after we’d celebrated my mother’s birthday, two months before my own fifth birthday. I was unquiet all night or so I’m told, getting up to go to the bathroom a dozen times. Eventually, my parents discovered what was going on and I was rushed to the hospital.

Thankfully, my trachea opened again within a day or two. I don’t know whether I had to be on a ventilator. In fact, I remember very little of these first few days. Then, on May 3, I had surgery to take out my tonsils and adenoids. That surgery had been scheduled for May 21 at another hospital anyway, but the children’s hospital could fit me in earlier now that I was there anyway.

After surgery, I had to stay in the hospital for another few days because I had a breathing tube inserted. That is, I’m not 100% sure the breathing tube was before or after surgery. I remember trying to talk through my tube, which was pretty much impossible.

This was probably also the time in hospital that my parents brought me their supermarket’s brand of peanut butter to eat, as I wouldn’t eat the premium brand the hospital had. Can you tell I was spoiled or autistic or both?

Finally, I got home on May 7. I was already a calendar freak, so I actually remember this without having been told.

As I write this, my inner five-year-old is trying to speak up, but she can’t. I don’t know whether this hospital stay was particularly traumatic for me, even though the going to the bathroom compulsively became a habit of mine in my teens. I may have made Lisel (that’s my inner five-year-old) up, because after all I remember this particular hospital stay so well.

I do think falling ill in early 1992, was more of an adverse childhood experience for Lisel (or me, if you think Lisel is made up). I remember I had some form of the flu, but in my own memory, it wasn’t entirely medically explained. My parents will probably say I’m trying to find clues that aren’t there so am making them up. I mean, they never talked about this experience when, in my teens, I was trying to remember when my negative mood started. They claim, as did I at the time, that it started when I was seven and having to learn Braille. In other words, I was going blind and I knew it but refused to accept it, so was becoming defiant to show a middle finger to the world. It’s easy to say it doesn’t matter. In a way, it doesn’t, but too often, I feel my parents are hiding the truth from me as a way of denying that I had significant mental health issues before the all-important age of seven. I mean, if my problems started at seven, I cannot possibly be autistic or have a dissociative disorder or anything originating in early childhood, right? Besides, I could have been old enough to be manipulative.

Am I being manipulative indeed? Or am I an early childhood trauma survivor? I don’t know and I’m not sure Lisel knows the answer.

Joining in with V.J.’s Weekly Challenge.

Mother As Place of Attachment

It’s already been eighteen months since I last wrote about what I read in The Emotionally Absent Mother. Still, the book hasn’t just sat there. I struggled to move on from Mother As Source. The next section is titled Mother As Place of Attachment. Somehow, this is a really hard section. I don’t really know why. I mean, yes, part of the reason I struggle to move on in writing about this book, is that I do it publicly and what if my parents read this? Then again, I don’t really care. I’m in groups on Facebook for childhood emotional neglect and emotional abuse survivors too. Though the member list of private groups isn’t available to non-members, I’m pretty sure they know somehow. Honestly, regarding this, I care more about my husband’s opinion than my parents’.

But there’s something specifically about this section that is hard. I’m not even sure what. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have a lot of early memories of my mother. I attribute this to my father being the homemaker and primary caretaker in our household. But fathers can “mother” too.

The first question asked in the section on your mother as place of attachment, is to rate your sense of connectedness to your mother on a scale of 1 to 10. The next question is how your sense of connectedness evolved over the years.

Well, with my mother, I am generally at a 5. I don’t feel she “gets” me, but we do get along okay. Like I said when discussing mother as source, I don’t feel that I’m made of her, but she isn’t from another planet either. Or maybe she’s from Venus. I mean, we’re not constantly disconnected.

Over the years, my sense of connectedness to my mother has stayed the same. I never quite felt like we had a strong bond, but I didn’t feel totally alienated either.

My father is a different story. We had a strong connection, maybe around 8, when I was a child. Now we’re at a 3 at best. Like I said in my mother as source post, as a child, I saw my father as the embodiment of intelligence, success and well what other positive characteristics are there really? When I got to question his having sole ownership of the truth at around age 15, things started to change. Or did things change earlier on? I’m not sure.

Another question is about bodily contact. This is where I get to question whether the schism occurred earlier than age 15. When I was a young child, my father definitely did give both my sister and me lots of opportunities for bodily contact. I remember when my sister and I were little, my father would wrap us in a towel and drag us to our bedroom. He called this “swordfish” and my sister always asked for “sordsish”.

My mother says that, around age 7 or 8, I stopped wanting to sit in my parents’ lap. From then on, bodily contact like hugging or good-night kisses was very ritualistic. I remember around age 11, being forced to read a certain number of pages in Braille if I wanted a good-night kiss. This at the time felt very distressing. I haven’t studied emotional development except in the context of intellectual disability, so I have really no idea whether it’s normal to still want good-night kisses at that age. I guess not.

As a side note, I did initiate physical contact such as hand-holding with practically every adult until I was at least 12. In my psych eval report from age 11, the ed psych notes that I claim not to need a cane but grab her hand immediately anyway. That first bit was no doubt related to my difficult accepting my blindness, but I don’t think the second bit is fully. Even as an adult, I truly crave physical contact and am a bit indiscriminate in who can give it to me. I mean, I am pretty clear that no male staff can provide me with physical comfort (or help me with personal care). With regards to female staff though (and the entire current staff of my home is female), I do accept physical comfort. I honestly don’t know how my husband feels about this.

PoCoLo
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

The Daily Four (September 9, 2019)

I am once again joining in with The Daily Four. I am a day late with this one, as I didn’t discover it till nearly 9PM yesterday, which is my usual bedtime. Here are the questions.

What truly motivates you to write?
My readers, I guess. Before I became a blogger, I had an online diary and even when I still kept my diary on my private computer, I always envisioned someone reading it. I rarely write without an audience in mind. It doesn’t mean I get depressed if my posts don’t get (m)any comments, but I delight in finding that people read my work.

Other than that, I’m motivated by an intrinsic will to write. Even in the times of my personal computer diary, I would be proud if I wrote an entry everyday for a certain amount of time. The longest I’ve gone without skipping a day, is probably like three months.

What’s cluttering up your life today and what are you doing about it?
I don’t really know. I’m not one to be bothered by physical clutter easily, probably because I don’t see it and as such, it doesn’t distract me. However, there may also be this thing like mental clutter, where thoughts clutter up your life. That definitely happens to me and I’m not sure it’s a thing, but I’m making it into one. Worries tend to clutter up my life in this way. So does thinking about what I should be doing instead of doing it.

Did you enjoy a creative childhood?
Yes. I was a writer from an early age on. I also enjoyed drawing when I still had enough sight to do it. My mother was the most encouraging of my artistic creativity, but my father encouraged me to think creatively.

Have you ever wanted to write a book or if you have written a book do you feel accomplished for doing so?

Yes! I wanted to be a children’s book author when I grew up and have quite a few unfinished manuscripts. One of them was pretty far along. It was called The Black Queen and was about a teen girl whose mother had multiple sclerosis. I must admit, my stories were full of plagiarism though and not very imaginative.

I still intend on someday writing my autobiography. However, I’m not sure whether I’ll do it, as it requires quite a huge attention span to sit and write a book.

The Daily Four (August 26, 2019)

Over at A Guy Called Bloke, there’s a new meme called The Daily Four. I found the questions very inspiring, so I’m participating today.

What was the worst thing you did as a child?
I wasn’t a very naughty child, but my parents claim I terrorized the family. Being autistic, I’ve done a lot of destructive things during meltdowns. I ran away quite often and, according to my mother, was physically aggressive towards her as a teen. One day in particular, I remember ruining my sister’s birthday party (I think it was her 10th birthday) with my meltdown.

Growing up, what was your ideal dream job and did you bring that to a reality at all?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Though I only had one piece published in an anthology, I am pretty sure that blogging is a dream come true. I always thought that, like Anne Frank, I’d have my diary published someday. I guess I didn’t realize how unimportant my life is compared to hers.

What were the things you both liked and hated about your schooling?
I was often bored at school during my years in special education, but I liked it there nonetheless. At least I had friends, something I cannot say of my time at grammar school. What I most hated though, was the loyalty conflict I had, because my parents were in constant fights with my school over my needs.

Where there is a will, there is a way! Do you agree?
Yes, usually. Some dreams are unrealistic, but there’s always a way to come close. For example, of course, I will never be a plane pilot, being blind, but if I wanted to, I could arrange to see the inside of an airplane. In fact, I did at age twelve.

Mother As Source

I was finally able to read The Emotionally Absent Mother again, since transferring it from my computer to my iPhone. Until I did this, I was unable to read any of my EPUB eBooks, because the program I used for it was no longer supported by my screen reader. I missed reading this book in particular, since it had a lot of eye-opening questions in it. I last wrote about it last August, when I shared about good enough mother messages. Now, I am moving on in the book and starting with the roles good enough mothers have. The first one is mother as source.

This section starts with the assertion that mother is what we’re made of. It goes on to assert that, both literally and on a more spiritual level, we come from mother. Literally, we come out of her womb. Spiritually, nature is often seen as coming from the ocean, which is in mythology seen as a mother goddess.

This whole assertion seems a bit off to me. Like I said in my post last August, I was raised primarily by my father as a child. Obviously, I came from my mother’s womb, but this is hard to imagine.

One of the thought-provoking questions in this section is to imagine yourself in your mother’s womb. If you can’t imagine this, you are encouraged to imagine being engulfed by her energy. This gave me uneasy feelings. I have never felt able to see that I come from my mother. In fact, my parents used to joke that the neonatologist brought me into the world, not my mother.

Good enough mother-sources are able to create a positive and welcoming environment for their children with their presence. They make the child feel proud to be of her. As such, the next question in the book is whether you wanted to be similar to your mother or as different as possible (or anything in between). If someone were to say you’re so like your mother, would you be proud?

I have to clarify here that my mother herself didn’t and still doesn’t have the healthiest self-esteem. She used to say, and it came across only half jokingly, that I inherited all my bad characteristics from her and all the good ones from my father. As untrue as this is, I didn’t grow up feeling proud to be like my mother, because she didn’t convey that she had any characteristics to be proud of.

With respect to my father, who primarily raised me, I wanted to be like him as much as possible. Until I was an adolescent, I saw my father as the ultimate embodiment of success and every other positive quality. Then I started realizing that he too has his flaws. I now feel more closely related to my mother than to him.

The next question is whether you can imagine being proud to be of your mother. Do you identify yourself in relation to her? My short answer to this is “No”. I identify myself more in relation to my mother-in-law than my own mother.

In short, I do not feel my mother was able to be a good enough source. Of course, physically she wasn’t, by no fault of her own. By this I mean that all her pregnancies were complicated and the one with me ended in my premature birth. I don’t want to say that somehow she rejected me, because I know she didn’t. Once I was born, in fact, I was more unconditionally – or should I say less conditionally? – welcomed by her than by my father.

Of course, the stress of having had four pregnancy losses prior to being pregnant with me, could’ve caused her body to be less welcoming to a fetus. That, however, and I want to be very clear about this, isn’t her fault, or anyone’s fault. There is nothing my mother did to cause my premature birth!

Seven Things I Wish My Unsupportive Parents Understood About Me

I just read BPD Bella’s post about ten things she wishes non-borderlines knew about her. I have only some BPD traits and couldn’t relate to everything she describes. However, this post inspired me to do my own list. I’m dedicating this list to my parents by sharing some things I wish they understood about me. For those who don’t know, my parents are particularly unsupportive of my disability experience.

1. I am not “just blind”. I know that many blind people like to minimize the impact of their disability, to prove that they’re competent adults, blindness and all. My mother at one point told me about one of my sister’s college friends, who is blind. She then remarked she wished every blind person had the same abilities. That’s not how it works. But guess what? Sighted people vary in their abilities and difficulties too.

2. My needs are valid. I wasn’t being “manipulative” when I threatened suicide in 2007 while living on my own. I was desperate. If I had really been able to cope, I would have. Similarly, I’m not being “manipulative” by trying to get into supported housing now. No, I’m not in a suicidal crisis on a daily basis anymore, like I was in 2007. However, I want to prevent it from getting that far.

3. If you want me to have a skill, teach me. This is too late, since my parents should’ve gotten this message when I was young. They expected me to be able to live fully independently right out of high school in 2005, though I didn’t have most daily living skills. I appreciate how hard it was for them to teach me growing up, but that’s no excuse to drop the ball.

4. A family is not a business. One of the reasons my parents didn’t teach me independence, was that it got in the way of them running their family efficiently. That’s not an excuse.

5. Not everything is my IQ. My parents are convinced that I am such a genius intellectually that I should be able to use it to overcome all of my difficulties (except maybe my social ineptness). Also, this genius IQ enables me to manipulate the world into believing what I want them to believe, which is apparently that I’m weak and dependent and need lots of care. (I am not trying to say needing lots of care makes a person weak and dependent.) No. I would’ve graduated university and gotten a job if I could.

6. Depression is real. Some professionals believe that my childhood irritability stems from depression. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but it’s possible. I definitely suffer from depression on and off in adulthood. My parents instead say it’s an attemtp on my part to make other people feel miserable, presumably because I refuse to accept the fact that I’m blind. Well, going blind can be traumatic and is not something you “just need to accept”.
Besides, depression is an illness, not a weakness or choice. When depressed, I do make other people feel miserable, but it’s not because I want to.

7. I am an adult, I make my own life choices. In 2006, my parents threatened to abandon me over my wanting to delay university one year. In 2008, they showed up at my hospital ward to take me home with them, because they didn’t agree with the social worker’s plan for my follow-up care. I’m pretty sure that, if I go into supported housing, they’ll try to guilt trip me into not doing it. I couldn’t handle that in 2006. I could in 2008. I am pretty sure that, should they decide to abandon me for good this time, I’ll be able to handle it.

I see this list sounds rather accusatory towards my parents. It is. I don’t even intend for my parents to read it. I know that I’m past setting things straight with them. They won’t change. Besides, my childhood and early adulthood won’t change. I can change to an extent, but I doubt this will lead me closer to my parents. I don’t care.

Dear Autism Parents: On Unconditional Acceptance

I just read an essay in What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew and it touches home with me. In it, the author, Haley Moss, mainly describes how she feels parents need to ucnonditionally accept their autistic daughters. She particularly emphhasizes the need to support the girls’ special interests even if they’re not age-appropriate or girly. Boy, do I want to tell my parents this. It’s too late now, as I’m 32 and have half a lifetime of conditional love behind me already.

Moss herself too was encouraged to develop age- and gender-appropriate interests as a child. She recounts a fourth grade memory of being advised to trade her rare cards for Bratz dolls. I have no idea what they are, but I remember in fifth or sixth grade also being encouraged by my mother (in not so subtle ways) to trade my Barbie dolls for pop music CDs. After all, Barbie dolls may be girly but they’re not deemed appropirate for an eleven-year-old.

The negative effects of one such incident, like Moss experienced, can be undone by a greater occurrence of open acceptance of the autistic’s special interests. For example, Moss’ paretns eventually affirmed her interest in video games. In this respect, I felt generally okay about my interests in fifth and sixth grade, because, though my mother did not support my playing with Barbie dolls, my father did support my drawing maps.

As a general rule though, I have commonly felt only conditionally accepted by my parents. This is reflected in constant victim-blaming when I was bullied. They were at least somewhat consistent in that, in that at least my father spoke negatively about the intellectually disabled girl whom I bullied too. Of course, he set an example of ableism by doing this as much as my parents did by victim-blaming me.

When I went into college to major in applied psychology, I still got my parents’ reluctant approval. After all, though my major wasn’t that well-liked by them and my college wasn’t as prestigious as they had wanted for me, it still was college. Since having experienced my breakdown in 2007, it’s pretty clear my parents are not there for me anymore. That’s sad, but it’s true.

The saddest part about What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew is, unfortunately, that those parents who most need to hear the messages in it, will not read it. My parents don’t even think I’m autistic despite my having been officially diagnosed half a dozen times. Other parents may’ve gotten the diagnosis but choose to join the likes of Autism Speaks and shout “You are not like my child!” at every autistic adult trying to educate them about acceptance. That’s so sad. However, if some parents are helped by this blog post or by the book in showing unconditional acceptance to their children, that’s already good.