2021: The Year in Review

Each year at the end of the year, I look back at the past year and do a review. Today, I’m doing one for 2021.

At the beginning of the year, we were all cautiously optimistic about the vaccine being the ticket out of the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t. I got my first shot in early February and my second shot a month later. In early December, I had my (first) booster shot. I’m pretty sure more are still to come.

At the end of 2020, I first had my one-on-one support approved. It took some time to figure out how the staff should best fill in the allocated hours. Initially, the manager wanted my husband to be clear on when he was going to have me home with him, so that my one-on-one hours could be canceled then. This wasn’t doable for my husband or me, so finally it was agreed that my hours would be filled in regardless.

For most of 2021, we had day activities at the home due to the pandemic. Thankfully, by September, the day center opened and the clients were mostly back to their pre-pandemic groups. I, however, was not. Thanks to my one-on-one, I was provided day activities in the home and this continues to be the case so far. There has been talk of me starting in a small group, but this isn’t doable for me right now or within the foreseeable future.

For the first half of the year, I struggled a lot with the battle inside my head between wanting to live more independently and wanting even more support. This led to a climax in mid-June, when the manager told me that more support is really not possible. I was in a crisis for about two weeks. Then I started my new medication, topiramate, which calmed some of the inner conflict. It, of course, helped that I was reassured that, regardless of my attempts to push staff away, I was going to keep my allocated one-on-one support hours at least until the end of December. And of course now they have been approved until December 2023.

Over the summer, when my topiramate started to kick in, I was able to be more creative than I’d been in a long while. I started polymer clay once again and have been able to enjoy this hobby ever since. Like I mentioned when I wrote down my hopes for 2021, I didn’t intend on doing it all independently and that’s still not one of my hopes.

Looking back at my hopes, I did pretty well on them for this year. See, I think it helps that I don’t call them resolutions or goals, ha.

Overall, this year was a pretty good one for me personally. Even in terms of COVID, it’s been as good as possible, in that I haven’t contracted the virus and neither has anyone else in my home. One of my staff tested positive recently and originally we were supposed to all get tested today. After conferring with the care agency’s pandemic team, this got canceled though. I may still get a lateral flow test later today just to be sure. Let’s hope I won’t end the year with COVID.

How has your 2021 been?

Artistic As Always #WotW

Hi everyone this Christmas Eve. How are you all doing? I’m doing pretty well. I’m joining Word of the Week again with a phrase (as almost always) and (again as almost always) my phrase of the week is related to my creative endeavors. I’m trying to come up with original phrases to say I’ve been crafting and creating a lot again. Today my phrase of the week is: Artistic As Always.

Truly, I don’t think a single day went by that I didn’t do any creative activity. I mean, I haven’t been blogging as often as I’d like to, but I did a lot of polymer clay work. I created several charms, including a planet, a flower and a rainbow, which is currently in the oven.

I also created my first polymer clay cane. A cane is a log of clay with a design on the inside, which you can then cut into slices to use as beads or to decorate a vase or whatever. I decided to do a flower cane and to make the slices into beads.

I will combine them, some yellow beads I made today that are also in the oven and a flower charm I made last week into a necklace for a woman who lives in the care home downstairs from mine, who is obsessed with necklaces. I still need to create lots of yellow beads, but the woman won’t have her birthday till the end of January.

I also got some crafty supplies in my Christmas hamper from the day center. They are two silicone molds. When I saw them, I did worry they’re a bit too shallow and detailed to use with polymer clay, as they’re officially for chocolate I think. I created a butterfly with one of the molds, which is now in the oven too.

I do worry that the butterfly will be some kind of omen though. You see, a fellow client went into hospital with recurring seizures yesterday and I’m worried sick that he’ll die. Please all pray that he’ll recover.

In addition to creating art itself, I’ve also been busy exploring the artistic community online. I joined several Facebook groups for neurodivergent creators and artists. For those not aware, the term “neurodivergent” refers to people with a neurological or mental health condition, such as autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc. I initially worried the term “artist” or even “creative” was meant to include those creating visual artworks such as paintings or drawings only. Thankfully, I quickly found out the groups I am part of are inclusive of all creative outlets.

Lastly, inspired by a conversation in one of the FB groups, I decided to buy the books The Artist’s Way and The Artist’s Way Workbook. I haven’t yet been able to do anything in them, because I read books on my iPhone and using my Braille display only and, since the latest iOS update, these don’t work well together. That is, several times a day, seemingly at random, my Braille display will get stuck and the only way to get it unstuck is to reboot my iPhone. Not ideal when in the middle of a sentence in a book.

Overall, I’ve been really artistic over the past week. It’s been an intense week on other fronts too, but I may share more about that in a separate post.

Word of the Week linky

My Plans for This Christmas

Hi everyone on this rainy Thursday evening, two days before Christmas. One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to share your plans for this holiday season. For the first time ever, I’m not just dreading the fuss. I mean, last year, I’d just become a Christian and was kind of looking forward to the spiritual aspect of Christmas, but not really either, as I knew I still had a long walk to go in my faith. I’m about the same this year. That being said, with respect to the celebrations with family, I was still dreading those last year. This year, I’m more neutral about them, even slightly positive. Let me share my plans.

Tomorrow, we’re supposed to have day activities like normal. We had our Christmas lunch today and I got half of my Christmas hamper. The other half, my staff will bring tomorrow, as it hadn’t arrived when she left to bring the first half to me yet. The half that arrived today contained mostly treats. The other half, she said, are two silicone molds for my polymer clay. I’m really looking forward to receiving those.

Tomorrow evening, I initially thought we were going to get food delivered. Thankfully, though we entered full lockdown last week, restaurants are open for takeaway or delivery. I was not yet sure which restaurant or snack corner we would be ordering from. Then this evening I found out my staff had planned to prepare a cassrole. Not something I enjoy. I contemplated ordering delivery just for myself. Then after some texting between several staff, it was decided to change the dinner plans for Friday, Saturday and Sunday around and we’re going to have fries and chicken legs.

On Saturday at around 2PM, a ParaTransit taxi is going to arrive to take me to my in-laws. There, I, my husband and my oldest sister-in-law will have dinner. My husband teased me about the food we’d have, because I’m quite a picky eater. Really though, we’re going to have chicken roulade, which I love.

My husband is likely going to read from the Bible at dinnertime. Neither his parents nor his sister are religious, but they tolerate him reading the Bible. I loved him reading Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus’ coming, as well as the Christmas story, last year.

I may stay at my in-laws for a while after dinner and then leave for my and my husband’s house in Lobith, where we will stay for the night.

Sunday morning, which is called Second Christmas here in the Netherlands, we may watch Hour of Power together. Thinking of which, I remember now there’ll be a show on Saturday too, but I don’t know whether it’ll be in the morning or evening.

I will go back to the care facility sometime Sunday afternoon. Sunday evening, we’re going to have Chinese takeaway. This was originally planned for Saturday, but it was my favorite out of the three Christmas meals for the weekend, so I’m so happy the meal plan got shifted.

We’ll likely have more than enough treats to last us through to February, honestly. At least, I got three packages of my favorite Christmas cookies from one of my staff yesterday and another one in my Christmas hamper. That plus chocolate, winegums and Pringles. Yum, but if I’m not careful, I’m going to weigh 200 pounds by the time I’m done with them. Then again, as they say, you don’t become fat between Christmas and New Year’s but between New Year’s and Christmas. In other words, it’s snacking all year round that really leads to lasting weight gain. This being the case, I am happy this holiday season, though it is indeed part about the food, is also about faith and family.

As for my own family, both my sister and her family and my parents sent me a Christmas card. However, I haven’t been at my parents’ house in years and they didn’t invite me. If they do want to see me, I think the spring is a more appropriate time.

What are your plans for the upcoming holidays?

Mama’s Losin’ It

A Good Enough Tuesday

Today is November 2. It’s a Tuesday. A good enough Tuesday, mind you. I didn’t dwell too much on it being the anniversary of my crisis in 2007.

I didn’t really get stressed out about the prime minister delivering another press conference, one in which he’d be announcing new COVID-related restrictions, either. If I’m correct, the press conference is happening right now or has just finished. When I passed by the living room, where the television is, I heard the prime minister say something about “strongly recommending” us to social distance again. Well, whatever. If it’s just a “strong recommendation”, it’s a suggestion, so no-one will do it. Masks are similarly “strongly recommended”.

I didn’t do too much today. Had my blood pressure taken this morning, which was within the normal range (112 over 77) even though I had already been up for a bit. I normally ask that staff check my blood pressure first thing in the morning, because it’s usually up a little when I’ve been active. Not this time though.

I also went to Action, a budget store, to buy some Christmas decorations. I won’t be putting them up till early December, but I wanted to be early buying them to make sure I still had a wide selection to choose from.

I have been wanting to craft too, but that will have to wait till tomorrow. After all, then one of my more creative one-on-one staff will be there for my day activities shift. I will finish the polymer clay owl I’ve been working on.

I did struggle a bit with attachment issues and emotional flashbacks today, but both were manageable. Overall, like I said, it was a good enough day. And that’s totally okay.

Gratitude List (October 16, 2021) #TToT

Hi everyone. It’s becoming old, but I’m still struggling. I just dragged myself out of a crying fit that started over the wrong flavor chips (yes, seriously). Sometimes I’m a toddler like that. Writing that down made me chuckle in a self-mocking kind of way. I’m still sad though, albeit not about the chips. To cheer myself up, I’m writing a gratitude list. As usual, I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. I am grateful for nice weather most of the week. We’ve had some showers, but it’s not like it’s been raining all day.

2. I am grateful for special lunches most days of the week. As regular readers will know, I don’t care for the usual slices of bread that make up a normal lunch here. On Wednesday though, my staff and I decided to make a salad. We still had some left for Thursday. Yesterday, the day activities group I would’ve been part of if I didn’t get my day activities in the home, made hamburgers and I could have some too. Yum!

3. I am grateful for even more essential oil inspiration. Of course, I already mentioned last week that I’d signed up for Lea Jacobson’s VIP club for a month. Like I said yesterday, this week, I decided to grant myself access to the essential oil safety files too. The combination of these resources has truly helped me get inspired in the aromatherapy department.

4. I am grateful I have been able to do some DIY skincare product making again. Like I mentioned yesterday, I made a hand cream. Today, I made a melt and pour soap with the same combination of essential oils.

5. I am grateful my now former behavior specialist was happy with her leave-taking gift. I gave her the butterfly soap I posted last week.

6. I am grateful the behavior specialist gave me a “gift” too. It wasn’t a physical present. Instead, she let me listen to a piece of music she’d played on the pan flute. I am not at all musically talented, so I have no way of knowing whether it was good or anything, but I liked it.

7. I am grateful my Fitbit is charging again. I’d had problems with the charger not making contact before, but on Tuesday, it wouldn’t make contact even after cleaning both the Fitbit and the charger. I got a new charger and thankfully, that solved the problem.

8. I am grateful my topiramate, the medication I take for my PTSD symptoms, got upped. I started my new dose yesterday. It’s not yet working, obviously, but I’m hopeful it will start to work soon.

9. I am grateful for time and energy to read again. I have been escaping into an inspirational memoir this afternoon.

10. I am so grateful my staff haven’t given up on me even though I’m often tempted to give up on myself lately.

What have you been grateful for lately?

What It Was Like Being a Patient on a Psychiatric Ward #31Days2021 #Blogtober21

I’m still not too inspired to write. Today’s optional prompt for #31Days2021 is “patient”. Obviously, most people will write about “patient” as in the adjective derived from patience. I won’t. I want instead to share what it was like being a patient in a psych hospital.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I spent 9 1/2 years in a mental hospital between 2007 and 2017. I spent my first sixteen months on the locked ward. This is pretty much as I imagined it before I entered the psych system myself: floridly psychotic patients screaming and exhibiting other erratic behavior, staff running around trying to control it. Like I said yesterday, I witnessed people being secluded and being forcibly medicated several times. I was an informally admitted patient, so I couldn’t be subjected to any form of restraint. This isn’t to say it didn’t happen, as I said.

The staff/patient ratio at my ward was around 1:5 during the day. This means there’s not much time for staff to keep regular tabs on what patients are up to if they aren’t kicking up a fuss. I, in fact, at one point got told I would be put into time-out if I “needed more care than we can provide”.

After those sixteen months, I transferred to an open resocialization unit and later another open ward. The staff/patient ratio there was around 1:10, sometimes even less. As a result, patients had to help one another out sometimes.

On the locked ward, I had treatment plan reviews once every six weeks. This was because the ward was basically a crisis intervention/stabilization unit, where officially you could stay a maximum of six months. I must say there wasn’t much in the way of therapy. Of course, most patients admitted to this unit, suffered with psychotic disorders, for which the main treatment is medication. For me, it was decided I just had to figure out a place to go after pulling myself out of the worst crisis and, for this reason, I had mostly contact with the social worker.

On the resocialization unit, I did get psychotherapy. This was where I was diagnosed with (complex) PTSD and dissociative identity disorder in addition to autism. Thing is, once I moved to the other ward, these diagnoses were all removed. It was decided I was just care seeking and dependent and needed to be kicked out of the hospital.

We did have day activities most days on each psych unit. However, not all patients were able to participate. I, for one, usually was not.

In summary, my entire psychiatric hospital stay was one lengthy journey of changing diagnoses, social workers who tried to find me a place to live but had a very narrow view of what I needed, limited nursing support and hardly any day activities. I did start two of my three current daily psych meds while in the hospital. However, I must say, looking back, I hardly made any progress during those 9 1/2 years.

Time-Out Rooms, Comfort Rooms, Snoezelen® Rooms: Special Care Rooms in Mental Health and Disability Services #31Days2021 #Blogtober21

Today, I’m not feeling too inspired. The optional word prompt for the 31-day writing challenge is “Comfort”. For some reason, probably the fact that I’ve been experiencing a lot of flashbacks to my time in the mental hospital lately, I was immediately reminded of comfort rooms. Then I thought, maybe I could use this post to raise some awareness of the different kinds of special care rooms used in mental health and disability services.

Back in my early days in the mental hospital in 2007, seclusion or isolation was pretty commonly the only intervention used, maybe in combination with forced medication, on disruptive patients. I was initially admitted to the locked ward only because the open ward had no available beds. During my first night in the hospital, I heard a lot of screaming and was later told that the staff “handled it appropriately”. Another patient told me that the screaming patient pretty much lived in the seclusion room. I was pretty scared out of my mind.

Once moved from my parents’ city hospital to my own city’s locked ward, I again experienced seclusion as a witness repeatedly. The ward I stayed on, was the less restrictive locked ward, so it didn’t have isolation rooms. Rather, ours were called time-out rooms, but that didn’t make them any better to be honest.

I experienced one hour forced time-out once, three months into my mental hospital stay. After that though, it was used as a threat repeatedly. This, for clarity’s sake, is illegal: seclusion can only be used to avert danger, not as punishment.

About three years into my mental hospital stay, some wards, particularly locked wards, started deconstructing their seclusion rooms and repurposing them as “comfort rooms”. A comfort room in theory looked nicer, as it had soft toys in it and maybe some special lighting. However, them being repurposed seclusion rooms did mean they still had the vibe of isolation about them. Indeed, the few times I was sent to the locked ward for a time-out once at the open resocialization ward, I spent my time in the “comfort room”. This did not feel comforting at all.

My last psych ward, which I spent four years on between 2013 and 2017, had both a comfort room and a time-out room. This comfort room was indeed actually comforting. There was an essential oil diffuser, a CD player, comfy couch and a few other things. What made it different though was the fact that you couldn’t be locked up into it. If you were to be locked up, it’d have to be in the time-out room.

At the end of my psych hospital stay, I first learned about snoezelen®. This, like I’ve explained before, is a method of helping people with significant intellectual or developmental disabilities by modulating their entire sensory environment. I wanted to experience what a snoezelen® room would be like. My psych hospital had an intellectual disability unit with a room like this, but my psychologist refused to let me visit it, claiming I’m far too capable for this type of activity. I stood my ground and got a place at my first day center with my current agency, which did have a snoezelen® room.

When I was at my first day center with my current care agency, the snoezelen® room was sometimes used as a time-out room for me, in that I was forced to go in there when I was irritable and not allowed to come out. Though the door couldn’t be locked, it did feel intensely triggering to me. It is one reason I still struggle to be in my current day center’s snoezelen® room if no staff is present.

Of course, I must say here that an old-fashioned time-out room has hardly any furniture: just a bed and a stool, both attached to the floor, as well as a toilet made of metal. The seclusion room the screaming patient from my first night in the hospital was locked into, was likely even worse. Comfort and snoezelen® or other sensory rooms are much better. Still, the idea that someone can be put into solitary confinement against their will, is rather disturbing if you ask me.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (September 11, 2021)

Hi everyone. It’s long past my last coffee break of the day, but I’m still joining #WeekendCoffeeShare. Fancy a soft drink or a glass of water? I’m off to bed after I finish this post, but I think we can still have a catch-up.

If we were having coffee (or water or a soft drink, but you get the idea), I’d share that the weather was good for most of the week. On Wednesday and Thursday, the temperature rose to around 27°C. That’s pretty awesome for September, isn’t it? It was also sunny most of the time. We got some slight thundering Thursday and Friday, but thankfully nothing too bad.

If we were having coffee, I’d proudly announce that, thanks to the good weather and my feet cooperating, I was able to get in a lot of steps over the week. I so far got in nearly 75K steps and that’s not including Sunday yet.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Shoe Guy finally took my orthopedic shoes to his work station with him. He saw pretty quickly that, not only is the combo with the ankle foot orthosis (AFO) giving me problems, but the shoes are also both far too wide. Let’s pray he’s going to get both issues fixed soon and that’s the end of the footwear saga.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the day center reopened on Monday after eighteen months of being more or less closed due to COVID. I, thankfully, get day activities in the home. In fact, during the time of COVID, my one-on-one was combined with another client’s care, but I now have my very own day activities shift from 10:15AM till 3PM. I was kind of scared that this’d mean I had taken a staffer away from my old group, but apparently not.

I am allowed and more or less expected to visit my old group for a little while each morning, thankfully with my one-on-one accompanying me. However, last Thursday, I was busy preparing my niece’s birthday present, so I asked if I could switch my visit to the afternoon. That was totally okay. My fellow clients at the day center do definitely appreciate me visiting. That makes me feel so grateful.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I’ve been busy with my husband’s wedding anniversary present today. That’s the secret project I mentioned yesterday, but I won’t disclose what it is exactly until my husband has received it himself next week. He did jokingly nag me a little, but I won’t spoil it to him either.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would tell you that, no, I haven’t lived under a rock all day, ignoring the fact that it’s the anniversary of 9/11. Okay, I did mention it in my other post today, only to blather on about myself. However, it could be me, but the news seems incredibly quiet about it too here. I don’t watch television or read newspapers, only scrolling through so-called “important” news on my iPhone’s home screen. I’ve seen announcements of the deaths of Peruvian terrorist leader Abimael Guzmán and Dutch former train hijacker Junus Ririmasse. There’s also another protest against Dutch pandemic management measures today. The only news article mentioning 9/11 I’ve seen today, is about some cartoon on politician Sigrid Kaag. I cannot see the actual cartoon, of course.

I do feel a little off having seemed to ignore the world’s major crisis of my teens. Then again, I’d rather live under a rock than get depressed by the world’s events.

How have you been?

Crafting Lately: Polymer Clay and a Bracelet

Hi all! It’s Friday evening and it’s been thundering a bit outside. I’m scared of thunderstorms. Thankfully, they’re not too bad. To get my mind off the weather, I’m sharing some of my recent crafting endeavors with you all.

I bought a whole lot of new polymer clay supplies earlier in the week. Among them are a bead roller, which I have yet to try out, bead piercing pins to put holes in the beads I create with the bead roller, and brooch pins.

I also bought both transparent and gold Fimo Liquid. I haven’t yet decided what to do with the transparent one other than to use it to soften crumbly clay.

The gold-colored kind though, I intend to use to color in my letters that I’ve been stamping into my polymer clay pieces lately. I think I didn’t even share those pieces with you yet. I got the stamping kit a few weeks ago and love it! Below is a not-yet-colored piece.

I tried to color it with the gold Fimo Liquid this evening. First, I was unsuccessful trying it on my own, but when my staff guided my hand, it worked. Here’s the finished piece.

I also got a new pasta machine. Probably needn’t have bought it after all. I mean, I thought the old one was shredding my clay but with these particular clays, the new one was doing the same. However, I’m still grateful I got it.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded a few color recipes from Polymer Clay Loves. I didn’t have any of the four colors of Fimo Soft needed for mixing those colors, but I bought those too. Thing is, I just bought the small, two-ounce packets for three of the four colors and will likely need at least one of those for another project (which is still a secret) due to my other clay being too crumbly. You can totally see I’m still learning, eh? However, I definitely enjoy my craft!

In other crafts, I’ve also been enjoying basic beading again. The day center reopened this week and so I met some people from other homes for the first time in a long while. The staff told me one of them wore a lot of bracelets, so I immediately decided I’d make her a bracelet to add to her collection. Here it is!

As you can see, it is a simple threaded bracelet made with wooden beads on elastic wire. I personally don’t like wooden beads, as they connote child’s play beads to me, but these look pretty grown-up or so I’m told.

Have you been doing any crafting lately?

PoCoLo

#WeekendCoffeeShare (September 4, 2021)

Oh my, it’s September already! I at first was going to type “July” in this post’s title, then thought that it was August, only to realize that month too has passed. The weather is still pretty nice for late summer/early fall: sunny and about 20°C.

Today, I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare. I already had all my coffee for the day, so a soft drink or water will have to do. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week has been a true rollercoaster emotionally. It started with my vision screening by the blindness agency. I really want to share more about my feelings of grief and denial about having lost all my vision. In fact, I still always want to put in a caveat about that tiny bit of light perception I still have left whenever I’m saying I’m now totally blind. But I guess that’s what I am: totally blind.

Then again, I don’t want to wallow in my sadness and would quickly move on to demonstrate VoiceOver Recognition and celebrate the powers of technology.

If we were having coffee, I’d also share that the day center is reopening on Monday after eighteen months of being more or less closed due to COVID. My day activities will largely remain in the home with my own one-on-one staff though.

That being said, I did hyperfocus a lot on the details of my activity program and the times staff aren’t directly available for me. This caused some major distress, but I eventually managed to put things into perspective.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I finally surpassed my Mom with respect to step count in the Fitbit app. For a while, I myself had been last among my Fitbit friends. I however did get in over 10K steps two days this past week. That’s a big win, considering I struggled to even get to 5K most days last week.

If we were having coffee, I would vent my frustration about my pasta machine, which I use for polymer clay, not working correctly. The thing I use to attach it to the table, won’t work. Thankfully though, the staff who gave the machine to me has a son who may be able to fix it.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would tell you that I’ve been doing a lot of inner work lately relating to my life as a dissociative (multiple personality) system. After some conversations with my assigned home staff, I finally decided to do a system mapping again. Like I mentioned on Thursday, I used to have a list of all of us here on the blog, but removed that as it was less relevant. My staff though do find it useful.

I also downloaded an app called Simply Plural, in which systems can keep track of who’s “in front” (the alter you see on the outside) and can do system polls on decisions too. I will probably write the developer about some bugs in its usability with VoiceOver and some suggestions, but so far, it seems quite cool.

I also finally decided to download some more books exploring trauma and stuff from Bookshare. I might explore the subject more, be it in my personal journal or here.

How have you been?