Too Many Toys

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is toys and pastimes. The first question Maggie asks in her post is: “Did you have a lot of toys?” The short answer would be that yes, I was privileged to have quite many toys, but I must say I wasn’t so spoiled that I always got the latest trendy toy.

I probably shared this story before, but I played with toys quite a lot until I was at least eleven. By that time, my parents and teachers were looking into options for secondary schools and their opinions couldn’t have been any different: while my parents wanted me to go to mainstream grammar school, my teachers felt special education at their low-level secondary school for the blind, preferably residential, was in my best interest. My mother one day took me for a “mother-daughter walk” explaining the school’s stance and said that the reason they felt I needed residential special ed, was my behavior. That, in turn, she attributed to my having too many toys. The logic, I never quite understood, but it must’ve been something like my being so spoiled that I somehow felt entitled to display challenging behavior.

She went on to explain that, at the residential school, I would only be allowed one doll and one soft toy. She had given me a Barbie doll for my birthday earlier that summer, but told me she regretted it as soon as she received the school’s report. Needless to say, I always felt weird about playing with dolls from that age on, even though I continued to play with toys and dolls and everything until I was at least fifteen.

Fast forward some ten to fifteen years. When I was in my mid-twenties and diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, I felt it might help my littles (child alters) if we had toys again. I first bought a box of old Barbies for €70 on a marketplace site. That wasn’t a wise decision as, though the box did arrive, the Barbie dolls were in such bad condition I eventually threw them away. I then decided to buy a couple of new ones at a toy store, but the littles hardly played with them. They prefer soft toys.

Speaking of which, one of Maggie’s questions is whether you still have any toys from your childhood. I don’t, as they’re probably all at my parents’. However, I do still have my stuffed whale Wally, whom I got when I left the NICU at three-months-old. I still sometimes sleep with it.

Wally

Did you have many toys growing up?

We Are Cinderella!

Hi all! Today, I discovered Throwback Thursday. Well, I had heard of it before, but always assumed it was an image-based blog hop, as this is what the term usually means. Not so in this case. Lauren and Maggie’s Throwback Thursday allows us to write a post taking a stroll down memory lane. I’m pretty sure photos are allowed, but the main focus seems on writing. Today’s topic is nicknames.

I have had many nicknames throughout my life. Some are derived from my name. For example, many people simply abbreviate “Astrid” to “As” and my husband and his family then add the commonly-Dutch “-ie” suffix for “little”, so my nickname becomes “Assie”. My husband and his two sisters all have -ie nicknames, with my husband Jeroen’s nickname, “Joenie”, being the most related to his actual name.

Then there are these nicknames that are based on some letters out of my name but not many. An example is the Dutch word “asbak” (which translates to “ashtray)”. I hate that nickname with a vengeance.

Another one is “Assepoester”. This is the Dutch name for Cinderella in the fairytale. I don’t like the Dutch nickname, but I for one do relate to Cinderella, particularly to the feeling of having to be transformed by a fairy (ie. put on a mask) in order to be acceptable as I am.

For this reason, I sometimes still use Cinderella as my nickname. That is, I do so when referring to myself and my multiple alter personalities (dissociative identities) as a system. Usually, I refer to the collective as Astridetal, as in my blog’s URL, but at one point we felt somehow like we needed a collective name that didn’t claim that Astrid was the “owner” of everyone else. So Cinderella System was born!

Did or do you have any interesting nicknames?

The Puzzle and Its Pieces #SoCS

When I was first diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) in 2010, I was already aware of some of my alters. I at the time explained to my therapist that the body or “Astrid” was the puzzle and the alters were the pieces. In other words, there was no host who “owned” the other alters as such. I felt that we needed to cooperate as one collective, not as one piece.

I was, at the time, unaware of the other significant meaning of the puzzle piece in my mental health experience, that is, its symbolism in autism-related lobbying. I mean, Autism Speaks and other cure-focused organizations employed the puzzle piece as a symbol of something being “broken” or “missing” about us autistics. That’s why autistic activists are so vehemently against it.

I personally till this day don’t mind the puzzle piece as much. I mean, I don’t like it that Autism Speaks uses it, but other than that, I’m not sure what I think of the symbol. I’ve heard the alternative is something like a rainbow-colored infinity symbol or something, which I have absolutely no concept of, never having seen the infinity symbol when I still had enough vision to picture it.

I do think the puzzle is a great symbol for plurality in general and dissociative identity disorder in particular. Another one is the kaleidoscope, but I don’t like that one as it is the name of the Dutch DID charity. That one is very exclusionary and kicked me out on the basis of not having a diagnosis given to me by someone they approved of.

So, the puzzle. The pieces, when cooperating perfectly, make up the proper image of what should be “Astrid”. Then again, that’s an ideal. Hard to achieve. I don’t think we ever will. And that, in my opinion, is okay.

This post was written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS), for which the prompt today is “Puzzle”.

#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?

Dissociative Identity

The person in the mirror is not me. The person who carries this body’s name, doesn’t really exist as its own identity. We, as in, me and about 40 other insiders (also known as alters, parts or headmates depending on your perspective), share the body. We each have our own names; none of us claim the body’s given name, even though we’ve never felt comfortable claiming a collective name for ourselves other than Astridetal. We all have our own ages and more or less age-appropriate abilities too.

This evening, I was talking with our assigned staff after another small crisis in which one of the more emotionally immature insiders came forward. I was talking about the fact that we switch between alters more than I’d like to admit on a daily basis. I mean, Annemiek is our crafty insider. When we do polymer clay or jewelry-making, she’s out in the body. She, however, can see in the inner world, even though the body is completely blind. So when she gets frustrated with the intricate aspects of crafting, she shoves someone else forward.

Deborah was out this evening. She is 22-years-old, but very emotionally immature and very mistrusting of others. She is one of the ones claiming to need even more one-on-one support than we already get.

Our staff knows about our existence, but she didn’t know how we juggle the frequent switches on a daily basis. Some of these switches are not as overt as Deborah’s coming forward this evening. For example, when Annemiek is crafting and everything goes to plan, she can be pretty well-collected.

At one point, the staff suggested we create a list of insiders. We used to have one here on the blog, but deleted it as this blog evolved from a mental health blog to a more eclectic blog. Sadly, it turned out I hadn’t saved the file anywhere, but I had created a list some nine years ago for a former therapist. That one was quite eye-opening, as not only have a lot of insiders emerged since then, but some old ones have changed roles. It was very interesting looking at and updating the list.

Sometimes, it hurts that I’ve lived with these strangers for so long. I know for certain that some of us emerged as early as 2001. That’s twenty years ago. Even so, I suspect some of us have been inside this body for far longer, as is commonly the case with people with dissociative identity disorder (a diagnosis we do not currently have, by the way, but used to). I cannot at least remember a time without alters.

This post was written for Reena’s Xploration Challenge #197.

Just Rambling

IWSG

I really should be posting my Insecure Writer’s Support group post today, but I’m not fussed. I didn’t write as much over the past month as I’d liked to and the optional question doesn’t appeal to me. For this reason, I’m just going to ramble. I will post the #IWSG link and image on this post, but I won’t really be sharing much writing-related news.

I mean, the optional question is how long you let drafts sit there before redrafting. The short answer is that I don’t really do drafts. I write my pieces in one go usually and publish them onto my blog right away. Of course, I do have freewrites and some works-in-progress that I haven’t published anywhere, but even my one published piece that I wrote back in 2014, I wrote in one sitting.

Okay, now that we have this out of the way, let me ramble about other stuff. Today, like most of the past month, has been mixed. I was okay for most of the morning and afternoon, but in the evening, I’ve really been struggling. My feelings that, if I drop my mask (figuratively speaking), everyone will run from me and no-one will want to care for me anymore, are intense. For those who might be visiting from the IWSG: I live in a care facility due to my multiple disabilities, including challenging behavior. Lately, I’m spiraling more and more out of control and this seems to create a vicious cycle of anger, shame, self-hatred and more anger.

Yesterday, I had an appointment with my psychiatric nurse practitioner. We decided there that I won’t go the diagnosis route for dissociative disorders, but that off the record at least we agree that I have dissociative identity disorder (DID). We won’t do a whole lot of system mapping. Not only have I done this already, but it seems counterproductive to the idea of needing to practice being present.

Speaking of which, I looked up the learning to be present exercise in the first chapter of Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation and had my staff write it down. The book is in English (at least, my edition is) and my native language is Dutch, so I translated the exercises and where appropriate, adapted them to suit my needs. After all, one of the exercises is naming three things you can see around you. As I am blind, this won’t work. I do find that other exercises do help me. One in particular is the butterfly hug.

Tomorrow, my GP will get back to me about my medication. I would’ve gotten topiramate prescribed to me for my PTSD symptoms, but found out last week that it’d block my birth control pill from working. My nurse practitioner would originally have prescribed the topiramate, but now I need to work something out about getting on a different contraceptive first. This will hopefully be sorted tomorrow or at least then I’ll know when I can come in to see my GP about it. I really hope this medication (the topiramate) will help, since I’m on quite an emotional rollercoaster.

My Top Ten Favorite Inspirational Memoirs

Hi everyone! Today I’m joining in with Top Ten Tuesday (#TTT), a weekly book-related meme. Since I don’t read nearly as much as I would want to or as book bloggers do, I don’t participate in this meme that often. I love it though! Today its topic is a freebie, so I get to pick one. And you know, I’ve always wanted to share about my top favorite inspirational memoirs. Here goes, not in any particular order.

1. The Hospital by Barbara O’Hare. This is a truly gripping memoir by a woman who survived secret experimentation and sexual abuse in a children’s psychiatric hospital. I read it back in 2018 and still love love love it.

2. Who Will Love Me Now? by Maggie Hartley. This is my favorite foster care memoir by this author. I reviewed it last year.

3. Where Has Mummy Gone? by Cathy Glass. This is another foster care memoir. It is my absolute favorite Cathy Glass memoir, but I love many others. See my review.

4. Today I’m Alice by Alice Jamieson. This is a memoir of a woman with dissociative identity disorder. Since I have this condition too, I wanted to share at least one memoir by someone wiht DID and this is the most recently-published one I’ve read. It was still published back in 2010, but I think it’s still available.

5. Let Me Go by Casey Watson. Yet another foster care memoir. Can you tell I love this genre? I was almost going to make this list all about those. Let Me Go came out last year and I reviewed it back in October.

6. No Way Out by Kate Elysia. This is a truly gripping story. It deals with sex trafficking of young women in the UK. I was going to review this one last year too, but didn’t get down to it.

7. Finding Stevie by Cathy Glass. Yes, another Glass book. This one deals with a genderfluid teen who is being exploited online. I really liked it. See my review.

8. A Road Back from Schizophrenia by Arnhild Lauveng. I had to google its English title, as I read it in Dutch. I am not sure it’s still even available, but it was definitely a great read.

9. Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet. This is another older book which I read in its Dutch translation before I had access to Bookshare or eBooks. This is a memoir by an autistic person.

10. A Real Person by Gunilla Gerland. Okay, I’m getting annoying with my older books that I didn’t even read in English. Sorry. This was one of the first memoirs by an autistic person I read after being diagnosed myself.

Do you like memoirs? Any recommendations?

A Very Intense Day Today

Today was an intense day. I started it with a weigh-in. To my surprise, I had lost almost 2kg. Last week, I had gained 1kg compared to the week before, so I had decided to try to cut back on snacks. That lasted all of one day and then I was back to snacking as usual. I don’t really trust my scale, as it isn’t officially calibrated, but well, who cares? I feel pretty fit and healthy and at least remain within the same 2kg range.

At 11:30AM, I had a nurse practitioner’s appt. My new’ish assigned home staff attended it with me rather than my assigned day activities staff, who usually does. Yesterday, this staff had been my one-on-one too and we had discussed my frequent dissociation and switching. She asked me whether I wanted to talk about it to my nurse practitioner and at first I said yes. Then later in the evening, I got anxious and decided to E-mail my nurse practitioner. I explained about the frequent switching and flashbacks. I also expressed my concern that, if the alters take over too much, my team will resort to denying their reality and ultimately to denying my reality as a whole. Then I will have lost all the trust I’ve gained in my team so far.

I can’t remember the entire appt, but at one point, Jane popped forward. She is the one most in denial of my trauma-related symptoms and yet it seems like she’s always the first to pop out and reveal our being multiple to a professional. My staff had probably already met her, and I think so has my nurse practitioner, but not to this extent. Thankfully, neither one objected to her being openly out.

I started feeling depersonalized after Jane was back inside and it didn’t fully clear up till just about an hour ago. In the evening, it got particularly bad.

Then for whatever reason, Karin, one of our fourteen-year-olds, popped out and started talking about a high school memory. We were still partly in the here and now, as she apparently recognized our one-on-one. Thankfully, our one-on-one reassured Karin that she’s now safe and the memories are in the past. She also told us that our teachers and parents, while probably meaning well, didn’t really help us and that none of our issues is our fault. That still feels rather off. I mean, of course I didn’t choose to be blind, but my parents reminded me over and over again that my behavior was definitely a choice. They always saw (and maybe still see) me as one giant manipulator, not an autistic, multiply-disabled trauma survivor. And they’re not the only ones. If I’ve learned one thing in my nearly 35 years of existence, it’s that sooner or later, people will always come to the conclusion that I’m one giant manipulator.

Things That Made Me Smile (March 22, 2021) #WeeklySmile

Hi all on this lovely Monday! I am so excited to have discovered the Weekly Smile. This is, as the name suggests, a weekly blog event in which participants share what made them smile. Having discovered this meme itself is a reason to smile. I love being positive! Let me share what else made me smile.

First up is my new assigned staff’s kindness. Like I said in my #WeekendCoffeeShare post on Friday, I have a new assigned staff. She is calm, kind and very dedicated to her job. I initially worried she might get too attached and then have to withdraw as my assigned staff. She reassured me though that she maintains her professionalism.

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit triggered. The student staff, with whom I am not fully comfortable yet, had been my one-on-one for the evening. In addition, a male staff may get to work in my home soon. He seems kind enough, but still, it’s an adjustment. All this led me to feeling a bit stressed out when I was going to bed. Thankfully, my new assigned staff comforted me.

After the staff had taken me to bed, I pressed the call button a few times for the staff to come back, but she didn’t mind. She has this little rhyme she tells me each time she puts me to bed. It goes something like this:
Sleep well,
Head on the pillow,
Ass in the straw,
Then Astrid sleeps soon.

This time, the staff adjusted the rhyme to address not just me, but all of the voices (alters) inside my head. That definitely made me smile.

Second is my sensory room experience that I was able to create in my own bedroom. First, I found a calming essential oil blend to put in my diffuser. Then, I found the album on Spotify that I used to have in the CD player in the day center’s sensory room. It is called Songbird Symphony. Lastly, I crawled under my weighted blanket and had my staff cover me with the ball-filled blanket that came with the sensory bed from our makeshift sensory room. In total, I had at least 20kg of weighted blankets on top of me. This probably isn’t healthy for actual sleeping, so I threw off the ball blanket before actually drifting off to sleep. However, the feeling before this was so peaceful. It reminded me of Temple Grandin’s “hug machine”. Reading about that introduced to me the comforting effect of deep pressure years before I felt able to explore my own sensory experiences. Now, I totally appreciate my care staff, physical therapist and the manager for having helped me find my sensory comfort.

What made you smile this past week?

An Intense Monday

I’m not really sure what I want to write today. I started writing this blog post several times, only to delete it again halfway through. I intended on doing a food diary, then realized I wasn’t intending on sharing it here. (I did write a food log in Day One, my diary app, for today.) I then tried to do a more general health and wellness log, only to realize these don’t make sense if I don’t do them regularly. Then I started writing a post about today.

Today was, indeed, rather intense. Not really because of the food journal. I did okay on that one and it helped me make some healthy choices without becoming obsessive about it.

In the morning, a staff made a phone call to the assistive tech company. Yeah, my Braille display is once again broken, for the fifth or so time in eighteen months. I can still work around all the stuck dots, but I really want it repaired.

Then in the afternoon, I had an appt with my nurse practitioner. I can’t remember exactly what we talked about. I mean, yes, he shared about the bus metaphor. This is a metaphor in which a person is like a bus driver and all their thoughts etc. are passengers on the bus. I had already commented last time that my bus has multiple drivers, in that, if I hear a voice commanding me to do something, that voice (ie. alter) can take over the wheel too. Now I am hesitant to use words like “alter”, because I know my nurse practitioner doesn’t believe I have a dissociative disorder. This is my blog though so I can do with it what I want.

Today we somehow got talking about this metaphor in relation to emotions. Sometimes, you see, I get an emotion or urge or whatever and have no clue why. Honestly I can’t remember how this relates to the bus metaphor, but oh well. Oh yes, I told my nurse practitioner that Astrid is the bus with all its passengers and drivers. The body, then, is the bus.

Later, in the evening, we had an emotional reaction to a minor situation. After I calmed down, I talked it over with the staff who’d seen me have the reaction and it turned out I had no memory of it. I can now sort of see how I probably had that reaction, but I still can’t remember it as my own reaction.

This makes me feel kind of freaked out. I know that amnesia is part of dissociation, but didn’t we agree that I don’t have a dissociative disorder? Besides, whenever I do claim to have an undiagnosed dissociative disorder, it’s OSDD1B, which means having alters without significant amnesia.

I knew from previous experiences that I do experience what’s called emotional amnesia, where I can remember something but not the feels that go with it. The incident of amnesia that got my former psychologist, back in 2010, to suspect DID, was, in fact, emotional amnesia only. I know this because I claimed that I’d not remembered what went on in our session, but I clearly must’ve remembered something as otherwise I wouldn’t have known to tell her.

I know I don’t need a diagnosis right now. I can function okay’ish most of the time. Or can I? After all, when I’m functioning, I can’t remember that sometimes I am not and when I’m in severe distress, I can’t remember what it’s like to function normally. Or maybe I can, on some level. This is all so confusing.