Childhood Ambitions

Last week’s topic for Truthful Tuesday was what we as children wanted to become when we’d grow up. I already discussed this at length last year, so really didn’t feel like boring my readers with the same old stuff again. I mean, I didn’t end up becoming a professor, a psychologist or a published author, or for that matter any of the other things I wanted to be when I’d grow up. Then I saw the topic is being continued this week. That got me thinking. Maybe, if I look at it differently, I did fulfill some of those childhood ambitions.

For example, I may not be a published author yet. Well, I am, if you count that one short piece of writing published in an anthology back in 2015. But I hardly count that. What I do count, is my blog. Back in my childhood years, the Internet hardly existed, so if I wanted my diary published, like Anne Frank, I’d have to have it traditionally published. Well, thank goodness I don’t strive for that at all now. If I’m ever going to get anything published in print in the future, it will be something much better than those crazy diary entries. But I digress.

Another ambition I reached, is inspiring others, including professionals. As a young teen, I wanted to become a psychologist so that I could help improve care for children or people in general with complex care needs. Though I’m not even a peer support worker by qualification, I have given informal lectures to medical students and other professionals.

Thirdly, I have vastly expanded my knowledge of psychology, education and related topics. I may not actually be of value to anyone with this knowledge except in the ways I mentioned above. However, if you asked my parents what my ultimate passion was as a child, they’d invariably say “collecting knowledge”. I may not have graduated college or even come close. I may live in a long-term care facility for people with intellectual disability. I may not be as much of a nerd as I was when I was younger. However, I still definitely use my brains.

Other ways in which I contribute to the world that I couldn’t even imagine as a child, include my creative endeavors. I bring a smile to my fellow clients’ faces when I bring them handmade gifts. I also am much more empathetic and sensitive than I could’ve imagined I would be. That makes me much prouder than having achieved my high level high school graduation.

What childhood ambitions did you manage to fulfill?

Angry and Dissatisfied

Today, I feel flooded with emotional flashbacks that I’m not 100% sure about what triggered them or even what they are about. To give myself some insight, I picked up the book Journal Writing Prompts for Child Abuse Survivors again. Somehow, the prompts about anger appealed to me.

Growing up, I was always described as “too quick to anger”. There is some truth to this, in that I have and always had an extremely low level of distress tolerance.

My parents would react to this with resentment, but they’d generally solve my problems anyway. This at one point was described as having low expectations of me. When the psychologist who did my latest autism assessment, said that, I was triggered. After all, if my parents had expected me to be able to work stuff out myself, would that have been any better? I understand all about letting babies “cry it out” and I’m not a fan of it. I don’t have a clue whether I was left to “cry it out” a lot. I think so, as I was in the hospital for the first three months of my life and I don’t expect the nurses to have attended to each baby’s every cry. As such, even if my parents did attend to my every cry for attention, I must’ve been allowed to learn some self-regulation through “crying it out”.

My parents weren’t the most patient people in the world. At one point, my father explained to me that a family is like a business, in that it has to be run efficiently. As such, I can understand why my parents rarely let me work stuff out on my own. I also understand why they resented helping me.

Growing up though, my poor distress tolerance skills were seen as mere anger and oppositionality. I’m not sure why people perceived me as always angry. They weren’t just my parents, after all. Maybe I am quick to anger. I don’t know, but to be honest I think distress is different from anger.

When I became an adult and was admitted to the psych hospital, my nursing diagnosis at least off the record was “angry and dissatisfied”. Again, I’m pretty sure the staff confused distress with dissatisfaction. Distress is an inability to cope. Dissatisfaction is an unwillingness to accept the situation. I was perfectly willing to be discharged back into independent living if that was what was deemed necessary, but I didn’t promise I’d cope. This was considered blackmail.

Now that I’m in long-term care, my staff no longer see me as angry or dissatisfied a lot. Even so, I haven’t changed much. I still swear and scream when my computer or iPhone won’t cooperate. Staff do help me now, but they don’t resent it anymore. This has also allowed me to practise asking for help in more productive, proactive ways, which, in turn, helps me become frustrated less easily. I like it that way.

Places I and My Family Have Lived

Today, I once again looked to a book of journaling prompts for inspiration for a blog post. One of the prompts in the first chapter of Journal Writing Prompts for Child Abuse Survivors is to list all the places you’ve lived. There may not be any need to elaborate on them, but I am going to share my thoughts and feelings that come up. For this post, I’m just going to talk about the houses I lived in with my parents. Otherwise, this post is going to be way too long.

First up is my parental house in Rotterdam. My parents bought the house a year before I was born. To be quite honest, I have very few memories of this house, even though I lived there until I was nine. I do remember my and my sister’s bedroom, which had a bunk bed in it. My sister slept at the top and I slept at the bottom.

I don’t remember most other rooms in the house. I know my parents must have had a bedroom, but I can’t remember its location relative to the kids’ bedroom.

I do remember the garden. It was small, but still big enough to play in. It had swings and a sandpit. I loved to play here with my childhood friend Kim.

I also remember the neighborhood. I played in the “thick street”, a square bit of pavement between two blocks of houses. I also often went to the playground across the road from there. When I had lost some of my vision at around age eight, I felt too scared to cross the road.

Like I said, I lived here until I was nine. Then, my family and I moved to Apeldoorn. We moved to a quiet neighborhood. The house we moved into, had a large kitchen-diner and a living room downstairs. We called the living room the “library” because it housed my mother’s huge book collection. Upstairs where three bedrooms, two large and one very small. One was my parents’ bedroom. The small room was my mother’s office, while the other large bedroom was my father’s.

My sister and I each had a bedroom in the attic. I remember not wanting to have my own bedroom at first, probably because I was used to my sister’s company when going to sleep. I eventually grew to like it though. I had the same bed for all of the years I lived here, one of the original bunk beds. My sister claims I got hers and she got mine after the move.

The other two smaller rooms in the attic were a laundry room and a guest bedroom.

We had a large garden. The first summer we lived here, my paternal grandma gifted us a wooden play set that had swings and climbing equipment. I could be found on the swings many hours each dry day until I was at least fourteen.

During the first few years that I lived in this house, I loved exploring the neighborhood. It had at least four playgrounds within a five-minute walking distance from my home. I would often roam about trying to find new playgrounds farther and farther off. When I lost more of my vision at around age twelve, that mostly stopped. Besides, of course I was too old for playgrounds then. I still went to the nearby shopping center regularly, often getting lost on my way.

I generally really liked the house in Apeldoorn. When my parents were trying to sell it and my husband and I were looking for a home, my parents initially offered it for rent to us. We however had the provision that it’d go off the market for a while. Of course, this wasn’t really reasonable. My parents sold the house in December of 2013. I am glad in a way now that they did, as now I have no need to be reminded of the house and my childhood when I don’t want to be.

My Twelve-Year-Old Self Would Be Surprised

Today, Emilia of My Inner MishMash had a very interesting question of the day. She asks what twelve-year-old you would never believe about your current self. This is the perfect question to get me reflecting on how I saw my life at age twelve.

Honestly, there is nothing about my current life that would be so far off that my twelve-year-old self wouldn’t believe it. I mean, I alternated between seeing my adult self as a professor and seeing her as a care facility resident. That first image, I saw as the “good” one. I would be a linguistics or mathematics professor. Never mind that, at least here in the Netherlands, mathematics isn’t a suitable university major for a blind person.

That second image, I saw as the “bad” one. I have probably written before about the sixteen-year-old girl in the media in around 1997 or 1998, when I was eleven or twelve. She had a low IQ, but not so low that she’d fit in with intellectual disability services. She also had severe challenging behavior. The reason she was portrayed in the media, was the fact that she was being restrained and held in solitary confinement in an adolescent psychiatric hospital. I totally identified with this girl.

Of course, currently, I’m not being restrained or secluded. I have some experience of manual restraint and seclusion, but not to the extent this girl did.

This gets me to the part that would probably surprise my twelve-year-old self most about my life right now: that I am relatively happy. For what it’s worth, I totally thought that, if I had to be in long-term care as an adult, I would be utterly desperate.

Another thing that would’ve totally surprised twelve-year-old me, is that I’m married. In truth, it still surprises me at times that my husband is willing to share his life with me. Though as a teen, I imagined becoming a mother later, I never quite considered a partner in my life. Besides, being married doesn’t at all fit in with the “bad” image of myself as a care facility resident.

Lastly, like I commented on Emilia’s post, the one thing that my twelve-year-old self wouldn’t believe about me, is that I found my faith in God. After all, I was raised atheist and was at age twelve clueless about faith. My teachers at the Christian school for the blind made me participate in prayer, something I had a huge aversion to. Honestly, till this day I struggle to pray at set times of the day because it feels more like a ritual than an investment in my relationship with God.

What would surprise twelve-year-old you most about your life right now?

A Favorite Childhood Gift

One of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompts is to share about a favorite Christmas gift you received as a child. Here in the Netherlands though, Christmas isn’t that popular for gift-giving. Instead, we celebrate St. Nicholas on December 5. I can’t remember that many gifts I received for St. Nicholas and the entire celebration was one big stressor once I no longer believed in St. Nick. We celebrated it until I was 20 in 2006. Then in 2007 I was in the psych hospital and my parents didn’t want to risk inviting me. That’s how the tradition ended.

The other major gift-receiving opportunity was and still is, of course, my birthday. It is on June 27, so pretty much as far from Christmas as you get it. Still, I’m going to share about a favorite gift I received for my birthday as a child. Mama Kat twisted the prompt too by listing several things, so oh well.

I can’t remember whether I had invited anyone to a birthday party when I turned eleven. After all, I was pretty much friendless at the time. However, I did celebrate it with my family. The main gift I remember getting was a Barbie doll with aerobic attire. I named her Teresa. I loved the doll, even though I knew already that eleven was a little old to play with it.

Later that summer, my mother took me on a “mother-daughter walk”, which was mainly an opportunity for her to tell me the school had recommended I go residential there. She claimed the reason was that I had behavior problems, which she attributed to my having too many toys. I can’t follow that train of thought other than through some idea that I was so spoiled I somehow felt entitled to have tantrums. That wasn’t true, for clarity’s sake. In any case, my mother regretted having given me the Barbie doll.

I cherished Teresa even more from that moment on. When, during the following school year, I’d have a meltdown, my mother would often pack a random number of toys and claim to throw them out. (In reality, she hid them in her room downstairs.)

The followign year, when I turned twelve, I felt so ashamed for still playing with Barbie dolls that I claimed they’d aged with me, so it was okay. Most of the dolls are still with my parents, I think. I think at one point I broke Teresa’s leg though and had to actually throw her out.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Life Challenges I’ve Overcome

Earlier today, I saw Emilia’s post about challenging life lessons. It was based on a prompt from Listify. I have this book too and thought it’s an interesting prompt indeed. It asks us to list the challenges we’ve overcome in life and explain what life lessons we’ve learned from them. Here goes.

1. I spent the first three months of my life in the hospital. I was born prematurely and had to be in the incubator and on a ventilator for several weeks. Then I spent the remaining time I should’ve been in the womb in hospital. Of course, I can’t remember this at all, but it might’ve caused some early attachment issues.

2. I lost my vision. Okay, I was born legally blind, but still relied on my vision quite a bit until I was around twelve. All official documents say that I lost what little vision I did have at the age of eight, because that was when my parents and doctor decided not to pursue further sight-saving treatment. In truth, though right now I consider myself totally blind, I still have light perception in one eye and had it in both eyes until at least age nineteen. At that interesting age of eight, I still had about 20/1000 vision. Yes, I was considered functionally blind. That’s how sighted people look at it. However, when I attended the rehabilitation center for the blind in 2005, I was told by someone who’d gone from fully sighted to totally blind, that losing the last bit of residual vision was harder than losing most of the sight he’d had before.

3. I endured childhood trauma. I wrote some about this before, but I don’t know whether my family reads this blog, so I won’t go into detail right now. It mostly boils down to my parents not having a clue how to raise a multiply-disabled child and as a result being pretty harsh. None of the trauma I endured was severe, but the long-term nature of it still means I have significant complex PTSD symptoms.

4. I was bullied. At the school for the blind as well as the mainstream school I attended, I was regularly bullied by my peers. It didn’t help that my teachers and parents more or less blamed me for the bullying. I was too nerdy, too socially awkward, too dependent, too much and not enough.

5. I endured some medical trauma. Well, I’m not 100% sure of this being genuinely traumatic, but I certainly endured a lot of hospital stays, surgeries, etc. Most times, the doctors and nurses were really caring. A few times, they were ignorant. For example, when I had my wisdoom teeth extracted in 2010, the medical staff almost didn’t put a sheet over my face because “she’s blind anyway”.

6. I experienced long-term psychiatric hospitalization. I’m realizing more and more how much of an impact this has on me. With my not having felt safe with my parents at least some of my life, and me having been more or less in temporary placements most of my adult life, I’ve never felt that I can be safe anywhere. As a result, I’m constantly challenging my current staff, believing they’ll kick me out of here anyway.

7. I survived two medication overdoses. Both happened in 2017 and I wasn’t really suicidal at the time, but I wasn’t coping either. I never actually realized how things could’ve gone until my mother-in-law told me after my second overdose that the medical staff had asked me whether I wanted to be resuscitated should it come to that. I can’t remember the question or what I said. Both of these made me realize that I needed more help than I was getting at the time. At the time, unfortunately, I had a rather unsupportive psychiatric treatment team, who were very much focused on my independence. As a result, it took me a year from my second overdose to be truly honest that I needed long-term care.

Activities I Enjoyed As a Child

Hi everyone! How are you doing? For today, I have a rather joyful post. I’m going to share stuff I enjoyed doing as a child. I mean, I didn’t have the best of childhoods, but there were definitely things I enjoyed. Here is a list of activities I liked as a child, and some I still do.

1. Listening to cassette tapes. At around age five, my parents got me a subscription to the Dutch audio magazine for blind children. It was on cassette tape at the time. It lasted only an hour and was sent out every three weeks, but I still loved listening to it. I also loved listening to old editions. Back then, you had to return the cassette tapes after listening, but you could also send a guilder with the empty case and a note saying you kept the magazine. I did this almost with every edition and listened to a lot of them repeatedly.

My parents got me a subscription for the magazine for blind preteens for my tenth birthday and I started subscribing to the one for teens at age twelve. I had that one for about ten years I believe.

I also loved listening to audiobooks. I hated reading Braille books, but really loved the cassette taped books.

2. Playing with dolls. I had a favorite doll, Roza (it was really spelled with a Z). I got her for my third birthday from my grandma, who had bought it on a trip to Berlin. Roza had blond hair and light skin color. My sister’s favorite doll was called Marijke and she was dark-skinned with black hair. We often played that the dolls came from Suriname and went back there on vacation.

3. PlayMobil®. I started playing with PlayMobil® at around age three. Back then, I had three favorite figures, whom I called Pekel, Laren and Foet, none of which are actual Dutch names. These figures did normal everyday stuff like eating, going to the toilet, etc.

When I got older, I played more complicated games. At one point, when I was around eleven, I had two Native American figures whom I called Ingassa and Maranna. My sister played with these figures, while I played with a red-haired figure called Pippi. We said that Ingassa and Maranna were originally from Costa Rica and we again played that we were going back there. Okay, I sound real racist right now with all my stereotyped games.

4. Playing outside. When I still lived in Rotterdam, we had a sandpit that my father had built. It was made of wood which hadn’t been varnished I think, as it was often moldy. I loved playing in it.

We also had a set of swings. I loved those! In Apeldoorn, we got a large set of playing equipment from our grandma. It included a rope, a horizontal bar to bend over and also swings. Until I was at least thirteen, I spent a lot of time on the swings. At the day center, we have a set of indoor swings and I love them, even though I get dizzy quickly going on them.

What activities did you enjoy as a child?

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?