Some Might Say: Judgments About Me #Blogtober20

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to take part in the #Blogtober20 prompts anymore, but this one did speak to me. Today’s prompt is “Some Might Say”. People can be incredibly judgmental. Today, I will write about some things people have said about me that indicate they are clueless or insensitive or both.

The first things people notice about me, are my blindness and the fact that I’m relatively well-spoken. This often leads people to assume that I either should be able to be independent or that I am obviously not because I’m blind.

My parents and other people who are relatively educated about blindness, often assume that I should be able to live independently and be employed. Even if they are fine with my “choice” of not pursuing a career, their idea of me is to live independently. Some people who don’t know me that well, ask whether my husband and I have or want kids. To me, it’s obvious that we don’t, but then again that may be internalized ableism. After all, I for one am not able to take care of kids, and besides I value my freedom. Others with my disabilities may definitely be able and willing to parent.

Another judgment I often get is that my marriage isn’t strong because we don’t live together. My last psychologist at the mental hospital even dared to say my marriage isn’t worth anything if I don’t intend on living with my husband. Well, when we got married in 2011, we had zero intention of living together. I was on the waiting list for a permanent workhome for autistic people. It is only because that didn’t work out, that my husband asked me whether I wanted to live with him. And just so you know, our reason for getting married is that we love each other and want to show each other that this is for life. And in my opinion, that’s the essence of marriage. Okay, I know that at least a third of marriages end in divorce, but I hope that if couples get married, they at least hope this is going to be for life.

Like I said, some people, particularly strangers who are clueless about disabilities, think that it’s perfectly understandable that as a blind person I live in a care facility. This misconception often feels as uncomfortable to me as the idea that I am or should be independent. I used to want to educate people that most people who are just blind, can live independently. I no longer do this though. Not only is it none of random strangers’ business that I’m not just blind, and isn’t it my obligation to educate, but I might also be adding to the stigma I fought so hard against as a teen.

By this I mean the National Federation of the Blind’s philosophy that blindness shouldn’t hold you back. It in fact used to say that the average blind person is just as capable as the average sighted person. That led to the idea that, unless you had severe or multiple other disabilities, you were to be pushed to achieve whether you could or wanted to or not. That just doesn’t work for me and it doesn’t work for many blind people.

#Blogtober20

Millennium: Growing Up Blind in 2000 #Blogtober20

I’m a bit late to publish my #Blogtober20 post today. Well, not as late as yesterday, but then I already had a post up in the afternoon. Today’s prompt is “Millennium”.

Let’s see… we’re now 20 years into the new millennium, which I realize isn’t even the “new” millennium to some adults right now, as they were born in 2000 or later. I always find it surprising that there are people who will be legally old enough to vote in next year’s national election who weren’t even born when politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered on May 6, 2002. Yeah, I’m getting old!

In 2000, I turned fourteen. I was in my first year at a mainstream grammar school. I had already decided I hated it, but my parents and teachers had decided that, if I failed, I’d fail within the first three months and those were up. Woohoo, my mainstream education was a success! Okay, it was, since I did graduate with pretty good grades in 2005, but yeah.

In January of 2000, I suffered a bad case of the flu. I rarely got the flu back then and still get it only once every five years or so, so I remember. In fact, I’m not 100% sure of this but I think it was my only time being off school sick in my entire grammar school career.

In February, my outreach teacher for the visually impaired came to talk to my classmates. They had already decided they didn’t like me one bit. In fact, when the teacher asked casually what having me, a blind student, in their class evoked in them, they didn’t think of a single positive. They started saying that I was being favored by the teachers. They also resented the need to help me get around. This instilled in me the feeling that I had to make up for my blindness in some way by being extra, well, anything.

I had read a book called Het instituut (which translates to The Institution) by blind comedian Vincent Bijlo in 1998. This book is about a boy who goes to a boarding school for the blind and his teachers constantly instill in him the idea that the “sighted school” is really hard and that he’ll need to compensate for his sight loss. For all I knew, my parents and teachers at the grammar school agreed: I was an inherent burden due to my blindness unless I showed my classmates I was more independent, nicer, more hard-working and in any way better than them. Then when I tried to work hard and got good grades, my classmates decided I must be favored by the teachers.

My idea about myself as an inherent burden on the world around me due to my blindness didn’t change till I went to an international computer camp for the blind in 2002 and discovered the English-language Internet in that same summer. It never completely disappeared though.

Later in the year 2000, my classmates started openly bullying me. Again, my parents and teachers blamed me. I was too dependent, too unsociable, too much of a burden in general. I had ruined the only friendship I had developed (which in hindsight was based on pity mostly) by getting my “friends” an only average grade in a music performance in October. Though these girls didn’t actively bully me, they mostly ignored me.

I realize, looking back, that the attitude towards people with disabilities was generally very hostile back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I was growing up. I mean, I bullied a girl with a visual and intellectual impairment on the special needs bus to the school for the blind in the late 1990s. Though my parents disapproved of it, both they and my teachers didn’t do much to stop me. When this girl was dying of a brain tumor, my parents even openly criticized her religious parents’ hope that the girl would miraculously survive.

I can only hope that, with more children with significant disabilities being mainstreamed nowadays, that attitudes have changed.

#Blogtober20

This Is Me: Beyond the Labels #Blogtober20

A few days ago, I discovered Blogtober, a month-long event aimed at bloggers writing a post everyday during the month. There are prompts for each day of the month. They’re based on song titles, but you can do whatever you want. You don’t even have to follow the prompts! The first prompt is “This Is Me”.

So, who am I? When introducing myself, I tend to focus heavily on my labels. I tend to say that I’m blind and autistic and that I have mild cerebral palsy. I tend to say that I live in a care facility. I tend to say that I don’t work, but do day activities at my facility. Then again, are these the things that define me?

I could also be focusing on my passions. I am a blogger. I love to read memoirs and young adult fiction. I love to make soap and other bath and body care products. I am interested in aromatherapy. I am passionate about mental health and disability rights.

These are more “me” than my disabilities, but they’re still labels. Who I am at the core is not a blind or autistic person, or a blogger even.

Still, it is hard to define myself beyond the labels. Here are, however, a few things I think make me me.


  • I am open to new experiences. For example, I love to discover new hobbies. I am also open-minded to differences in people’s identity.

  • I am passionate. When I have an idea in mind, I can truly focus on it for a while. This means I can really be enthusiastic, but it also means I tend to perseverate.

  • I am sensitive, both to emotions and to physical stimuli. This may or may not be a positive characteristic, depending on how much I can handle on a given day.

  • I am intelligent. This is often the first positive quality people mention about me and I tend to hate that. After all, my IQ was often used to show that I should be able to solve my problems in other areas. Now that I am in an environment that doesn’t judge people by their IQ – I live with people with severe to profound intellectual disability -, I tend to appreciate my intelligence somewhat more.

  • I am a go-getter. Some people would disagree, because I have very poor distress tolerance and because I haven’t achieved their goals for me. They see the fact that I’m in a care facility and not working as a sign that I’ve given up. I haven’t. I have just focused on my own true needs and desires.

What are some things that make you uniquely you?

#Blogtober20

I Am Overwhelmed

Yesterday I sat in front of my computer for an hour or more typing up a blog post, only to erase it again because I couldn’t find the proper words to finish it. Today I’m trying again.

I am horribly overloaded. To be honest, even the mere thought of having to write a blog post, adds to that. So why do I do it? I guess this post won’t get many views or much engagement at all, so why bother? Then again, I may be able to get my rollercoaster of emotions to slow down a bit if I write stuff down.

Last Saturday, I attended an online meeting of CP Netherlands, the national charity for people with cerebral palsy and their parents. I wasn’t sure whether to attend, as I’m not 100% sure my mobility impairment is severe enough to count as CP. Of course, the other attendees advised me to get a referral to a rehabilitation physician to find out.

Of course, just self-understanding isn’t a reason to get assessed for CP as an adult. However, I’m noticing that my mobility gets somewhat worse and I experience more pain. This could be my being overweight, of course. I will also get orthoses soon to help with the position of my feet. This might help.

In the meeting and later in the CP Facebook group, I shared how all my past professionals said my issues weren’t due to the disability they were assessing for. For example, the occupational therapist from the blindness agency said that my difficulties weren’t due to blindness. The OT for the psych hospital said my motor ability was more or less fine. At least, I didn’t have significantly less strength in my left hand than my right. The neurologist consulted when I earlier complained of worsening mobility, said it wasn’t my hydrocephalus either or if it was, my issues were not severe enough to warrant risky surgery. I agree. However, ultimately, my psychologist concluded everything was fine and I was just being dependent.

I asked my staff to talk to the physician for my facility and maybe the physical therapist about my mobility impairment. I after all do experience worsening pain and what may be spasticity. I’ll hopefully hear back soon.

Then today I experienced terrible sadness. I was overwhelmed by some sounds other clients made in the living room, but felt bad going to my room. My assigned staff said maybe I expect too much of myself. I mean, I’m half convinced that I’m deteriorating, which my staff doesn’t see. Maybe I indeed need to take a break. Lower the bar on my step goal now that my broken Fitbit won’t notice anyway. Stop wanting to write a blog post everyday, or really more than one. Be content with just two or three 20-minute walks a day and relaxing the rest of the day. I’m not sure. This feels so much like giving up.

Emotional Development

Last Tuesday, I discussed my care plan with my support coordinator. She needed to update it because the facility is going to apply for a higher care profile for me. Besides, it needed to be made current for my living in the facility rather than at home anyway.

My care plan is divided into several sections, including general health, diagnoses, intellectual, emotional and social functioning. The part about my intellectual functioning unfortunately still lists my IQ as measured 20 years ago. Since it according to the test dropped some 35 points between 1999 and 2017, I’ve wondered whether this is merely due to Flynn effect or something or I’m actually experiencing cognitive decline. Still, my IQ as measured in 2017 was above-average, so it doesn’t really matter for long-term care funding anyway.

In the part about my emotional functioning, I saw for the first time the results of the emotional development impression the consultant from the Center for Consultation and Expertise had written in 2018. This was a bit shocking to be honest. I knew I’m thought of as functioning at an emotional level equivalent of a toddler. It was difficult though reading that in several areas, i’m supposed to function at a level of less than 6 months. This wasn’t surprising though.

For instance, one area in which I function at a level of 0-6 months, is body awareness. The reason the consultant listed was my inability to make contact when overwhelmed. I would add to that my inability to distinguish different bodily sensations, such as hunger and pain. I tend to react to everything that’s physically overwhelming by acting in a self-stimulatory way. The consultant also listed my craving physical stimulation such as rocking as a reason for this.

I also apparently function at 0-6 months with respect to differentiation of emotions. In other words, I don’t do that. The consultant explained that I have a lot of distress and am hardly ever relaxed. While this is true, I’d like to add that I don’t generally distinguish between different strong emotions. Like, at all. Each strong emotion feels equally overwhelming to me, even strong “positive” emotions.

With respect to verbal communication, my level is 3-7 years. Because this scale was developed for people with intellectual disability, the highest level is 7-12 years and I in some ways expected to be qualified as functioning at that level. I do with respect to handling familiar tools, such as my computer. However, the consultant apparently recognized my less-than-great (understatement!) language comprehension.

It was rather interesting to read this assessment, even though of course the concept of mental age used here is a bit off to say the least.

Not Their Baby Anymore

Tomorrow is my 34th birthday. My parents came for a visit today. My mother, for the first time in so many years, didn’t openly reminisce about the time I was a baby. In fact, she seemed rather relaxed.

I was born three months prematurely. My due date would’ve been September 29, 1986 instead of June 27. Most if not all of my multiple disabilities are the direct result of my premature birth. I mean, it’s controversial to say this about autism, as most people in the autistic community claim it’s purely genetic. I have some genetic risk factors too, in that both my father and paternal grandfather are/were of the broader autistic phenotype. We can never be sure though how much my genetics contributed and how much the brain bleed and subsequent hydrocephalus I suffered did. In any case, my blindness and mild cerebral palsy are both due to my premature birth. My blindness is caused by an eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity and my CP is due to the aforementioned brain bleed.

As much as I sometimes seek to discuss my early childhood with my parents, I’m happy neither brought up the topic this year. They were in some rather brutal ways confronted with my current life. After all, due to the COVID-19 measures, I couldn’t be at my husband’s home when they visited. This was one of the first times my parents actually visited me in a care facility. When I was in the psychiatric hospital, either they’d visit me at my student apartment or later at my and my husband’s home. I think there were a few years, probably 2010 and 2011, when I had neither, but they always managed to take me out to some restaurant or something then. They were probably confronted with care facilities a few more times, but not in the past eight or so years.

A fellow resident tried to hug my mother when she came in. She didn’t comment. She did ask at some point whether my fellow clients can talk and I honestly replied that most can’t. When I told her there are clients in other homes I can talk to, she did ask why I didn’t live there then. I just said I didn’t have the right care profile for those homes or there was no available room.

Honestly, I’m totally relieved that my parents didnt’criticize me. I know they don’t agree with my being in a care facility. Still, they probably realized I’m not their little baby anymore.

Written for Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (#FOWC): baby.

I Saw…: Coping with Vision Loss in the Age of Social Media

Today’s optional prompt at Life This Week is I Saw…. We are supposed to share photos of what we saw lately. This got me thinking. I saw… nothing really, as I am blind.

I have been totally blind with some light perception since the age of eighteen or so. At age eight, my parents decided to give up on my eyesight, so all reports say I went blind at that age. I didn’t. Legally, yes, but I’ve always been legally blind. Functionally, maybe. I started learning to read Braille at the age of seven. Then again, as a person who lost his vision gradually later in life told me, going from 20/1000 vision to none is worse in some ways than going from 20/40 to 20/1000.

I have more or less accepted my blindness now. Even so, with just a tiny bit of light perception left, I still use it. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do.

One of the most annoying aspects of blindness for me, as a blogger, is being unable to take pictures. I know some blind people have learned to take pictures, but my parents always instilled in me that photos are for the sighted and I shouldn’t want to pursue a visual activity like this. For this reason, I don’t feel comfortable trying to learn to take pictures. I mean, I feel pretty arrogant for believing I could even ever learn to take pictures.

I did mention to my staff that I may want a tripod or selfie stick or whatever for my birthday. Then again, I fear I’ll knock it over and ruin my phone if I’m not careful.

Maybe I need to ask other totally blind people how they take pictures and how they make sure they are blog-worthy or whether they don’t care.

I remember one day, when I was at the blindness rehabilitation center, the staff asked each of the clients in my group what would be the most important thing we’d do if we regained our sight. Many said they’d be able to travel more independently. I said I’d go into nature and enjoy the sights. Right now, I’d say I’d take lots of photos for my blog.

Reflecting on My Life: 2003

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was looking for some link-up parties to join in and came across the Life This Week linky. In this week’s edition, host Denyse shares her memories of the year 2003. As this is my first time participating in the linky, I should really start my story from the beginning on, but for some reason, I can’t.

I may have shared this before, but in secondary school, I always had this superstition that life ran in circles. There’d be a year of struggle and crisis, a year of renewed hope and finally a year of disillusionment, after which I’d spiral back to struggle and crisis. The year 2003 was a year of disillusionment.

In 2003, I was sixteen. I turned seventeen at the end of June. I was in the tenth grade for the first half of the year and in the eleventh for the last half.

In the summer of 2002, I had barely moved up a year. My grades weren’t that good and I only moved up because I worked very hard the last few weeks of the year. I had been struggling with feeling like an outcast due to my blindness the entire 2001/2002 school year. That was to change by late 2002, or so I believed. My high school tutor promised me he’d help me feel better.

What he did was come up with a social skills assessment for blind students and have the teachers fill it out. That was no good for my self-esteem, as I showed considerable weaknesses. No-one knew at the time that I was also autistic, even though I suspected it.

The year 2003 was the year I started to learn about myself from a possibly autistic point of view. Even though I had started suspecting I was on the spectrum in mid-2002, I didn’t feel comfortable joining online support groups for it till 2003.

This was also the year I expanded my horizons where it came to using the Internet in general. I had gotten an Internet connection in May of 2002. By April of 2003, I started keeping an online diary on DiaryLand, which several years later morphed into my first WordPress blog.

In the summer of 2003, I attended the International Computer Camp for blind students in Switzerland. I had attended it the year before, when it was held in England, too. This year, I felt a bit disappointed in the end, because it didn’t provide me with the cathartic experience I’d felt the year before.

In 2003, I also explored fictional storytelling as a way of expressing myself. I was experiencing some significant selective mutism at the time, which I could circumvent by pretending I wasn’t talking about myself. This is how my “mirror image”, Kirsten, came to be. She is one of my main alters to this day.

Finally, this was the year I was first starting to explore future planning. Here in the Netherlands, students with disabilities attending mainstream education didn’t get any type of special transition planning at the time. I was expected to just get by and go to university straight out of high school in 2005. In 2003, I started to doubt this would be a success, but I didn’t voice my doubts yet. As it is, I didn’t actually make it clear that I wasn’t going to university right out of high school until April of 2005.

Where were you on the path of life in 2003?

Top Ten Books Younger Me Would Have Loved

I’m a day late joining in with Top Ten Tuesday (#TTT), for which the theme this week is books your younger self would have loved. I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. I loved being read to, but hated reading myself, especially in Braille. I was fourteen when I first discovered reading for pleasure through Caja Cazemier’s books.

I didn’t know enough English to read any of these books at the appropriate age. Actually, I didn’t know enough English to actually understand most books much until I was at least fifteen. Even then, only classics were available in accessible formats here in the Netherlands. For this list, I’m pretending that either younger me knew enough English or the books were available in Dutch. Most of these books weren’t published when I was young anyway.

1. Peter’s Asparagus by Angela Nicole Krause. This is a chapter book about a young boy with Asperger’s (autism). I read it in early 2014 and loved it. Of course, younger me didn’t know I am autistic and Asperger’s wasn’t even added to the DSM as a diagnosis till 1994, when I was eight. Still, well, my inner children find it incredibly validating.

2. A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold. This is a book for slightly older children on the same topic. I read it in like 2018 and really feel it would’ve been a delightful read for younger me, even though it isn’t as relatable as the above one.

3. Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin. I didn’t finish this one, but I think my younger self would have loved to read it.

4. Lila and Hadley by Kody Keplinger. Okay, I see a theme emerge here. This one wasn’t published till a few weeks back and I haven’t read it. I want to, but it’s nowhere to be found in Dutch eBook stores. This one would definitely have encouraged younger me.

5. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan. As a child and tween, I loved learning about different cultures. There was a whole series of children’s books about different countries and cultures out there back then, but as far as I know, the authors weren’t from those cultures. Khan is Pakistani-American and I loved her book. See my review.

6. Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes. I read this one over New Year’s and loved it. It’d for sure be a comforting read to fifth-grader me.

7. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I am 75% done with this one and think it’d for sure have given younger me some perspective.

8. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. Okay, I’m branching out into young adult books now. I really loved this one when I read it some five years ago and teen me would have loved it too.

9. Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart. This would definitely have comforted teen me that she’s not alone in having problems. See my review.

10. Diagnosis Asparagus by Catherine O’Halloran. Okay, there are no doubt a ton of other books in the fiction category that younger me would have loved, but I just had to include this one. This one provides a teen’s perspective on being diagnosed with Asperger’s.

As a bonus, I’m going to mention Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome by Luke Jackson. That one was published around 2003, when I was self-diagnosed with Asperger’s. I would have loved it if my parents had allowed me to read it then.

What books would you wish your younger self had had access to?

After Diagnosis: Dropping a Mask or Seeking Excuses?

I didn’t end up writing anything for the second and third prompt in the 10-day writing challenge. I also skipped the Insecure Writer’s Support Group day yesterday. It wasn’t really that I felt unmotivated or uninspired, but I was busy doing other things.

For example, I read a post on Facebook by a Mom of a neurodivergent child asking the autistic community whether it was possible that the child could be faking autism. That had me thinking. The short answer is that it’s highly unlikely. It is much more likely that, upon learning you are or may be autistic, you drop the mask.

I was self-identified as autistic for some years before I was formally diagnosed. However, my parents and high school tutor shamed me out of seeking an official diagnosis, claiming I was a hypochondriac for believing I’m autistic. Never mind that hypochondriasis is as much a mental condition as is autism.

At the time of my official diagnosis, I was resisting it a bit. I was in college with a psychology major and I didn’t want a diagnosis to stand in the way of my completing the program. Never mind that I was already failing and a diagnosis in fact helped me get some accommodations.

Then after I was diagnosed with autism, I started dropping the mask. Some people, including my parents and staff at the time, thought I was using my diagnosis as an excuse. Well, I wasn’t. I was experiencing what eventually turned out to be extreme burnout.

To get back to the topic of “faking” autism, I won’t deny that a small percentage of people may want to fake a disability to get services or financial help they don’t need. Others might be encouraged by family or friends to “just” go on disability. At least, I know some people who say they experience this. However, with how strict the social security and care systems are here, it is highly unlikely that someone would be granted benefits or care based on just a diagnosis. After all, a diagnosis is just a label.

Besides, said child had already been diagnosed with a neurodivergent condition. More labels doesn’t necessarily mean more care. It can mean more self-knowledge. It did in my case at least.

For example, I’ve over the years been given at least ten different diagnoses. Some may be correct while others most likely aren’t. Exploring these conditions did give me more understanding of myself. Especially with autism, there is a very positive community surrounding it. That definitely helps me finally find my tribe.

Today’s prompt in the 10-day writing challenge was “After”. The idea of the challenge is to write for five minutes. This post took me much longer, but that’s okay too.