Something I Struggle With

A few weeks ago, Marquessa over at The Next Chapter started a writing challenge to get herself motivated to write everyday. Yesterday, I saw that Cyranny had joined in. Cyranny started with the first prompt. That one didn’t appeal to me, so I will go to the second. It is to share something you struggle with.

Regular readers may be able to guess what I’m going to share. It wasn’t the first thing that came to mind, but I got inspired by Marquessa’s post. She shared that she struggles with being called “pretty”. She then goes on to say that brains matter more to her than beauty. Well, I wouldn’t exactly say I’m the opposite, but I do struggle with being called “intelligent”.

As a child, I was often called intelligent. My parents loved bragging about my so-called genius. After I had an IQ test at age twelve, this became even worse. The IQ test, though not the first one administered to me, was the first one about which the assessor actually told my parents the exact IQ outcome. My performance IQ can’t be measured because I’m blind, but my verbal IQ was identified as being 154 on the Wechsler scale. This means I was supposedly within the highly gifted range.

As a preteen and early teen, I didn’t mind my parents bragging about this three-digit number as much. I was proud that, according to my mother, I had the same IQ as my father. Now the only time my father had an IQ test administered, he at least told me that was in the pub with a psychologist friend and he was rather drunk. I’m assuming his real IQ may be higher.

As I grew older though, my apparent high IQ more and more stood in the way of my being myself. It was frequently used by my parents and professionals to “prove” that I should be capable of solving my own problems in social situations. This got me interested in the concept of giftedness as asynchronous development. Later, I was diagnosed with autism. Still, my parents reasoned that I was just extremely intelligent.

The reason I struggle greatly with being called “intelligent” is the assumption that I am smart enough to solve non-intellectual problems. This may be so in most gifted people – I think I remember recent research disproves the theory of asynchronous development -, but it isn’t the case for me. Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, my emotional level is equivalent to someone approximately 18 months of age.

Last year, my IQ was used against me to deny me long-term care. I mean, due to my multiple disabilities and low emotional functioning level, I do best in a care setting normally catering towards severely intellectually disabled people. Because of my IQ though, I can’t get funding based on developmental disability. I am lucky that I’m blind in this respect, because I ultimately did get funding based on that.

Contrary to Marquessa, I do not struggle with compliments about my intelligence because I don’t agree with them. I mean, the IQ test I took at age twelve is rather outdated now and I scored much lower when I took another one in 2017. However, I still know I’m indeed intelligent. That being said, that’s not all I am. In the future, I’d like to be able to take pride in my intellectual abilities without them triggering the fear that I’ll need to be good at other things too.

Adult Separation Anxiety

One of the consultant’s comments in my emotional development assessment was that I have a lot of separation anxiety. The rest of my care plan is also full of how I’m afraid to be alone. A little over three years ago, my psychologist at the psych hospital said basically the same by diagnosing me with dependent personality disorder (DPD). Then, I vehemently disagreed. It wasn’t just out of anxiety that I needed lots of care, after all.

Another reason I was in denial of my separation anxiety/DPD, is the judgmental way in which my psychologist approached the matter. She felt I just needed a good kick in the behind and for this reason discharged me from the mental hospital almost with no after care.

Of course, that’s not the way to treat dependent personality disorder. Besides, one of the main features of DPD is not physical dependence, but unquestioning compliance, which I certainly don’t display. I don’t lack assertiveness at all.

I want to clarify here that, at least in my case, I’m not unwilling to be alone. I’m alone right now as I type this blog post. When I’m mentally well, I can be quite happy being alone, as long as I know there’s someone available if I need them.

It’s all too easy to judge people with adult separation anxiety disorder or DPD. Usually though, it’s much more helpful to approach them from an emotional development angle than from a character flaw angle. I again at least don’t want to ask for attention all the time. The things that I get help with from my staff, even though I can sometimes do them myself, I don’t ask for help with because I’m just lazy. In fact, it’s often easier to do some self-care tasks quickly by myself than to ask for help, but then the tasks don’t get done thoroughly.

I have for the majority of my life figured out how to care for myself alone. That’s because, despite all the independence training I got, no-one started with the very basics. Besides, like I said yesterday, I don’t usually distinguish between feelings of hunger, pain, etc. Isn’t it a bit odd then that you’d expect me to remember to do the day’s self-care tasks (which are many!) and actually do them all by myself?

I am so glad my current care facility isn’t as judgemental as my former psychologist was. My current staff don’t assume unwillingness, like she did. We may not find out soon yet what will turn out to have been the best approach. It will also probably depend on what measure of success you use for the outcome: independence, mental wellbeing, cost-effectiveness, etc.

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.

Mother As Place of Attachment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PoCoLo
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Carol and Jane

This week’s Reena’s Exploration Challenge is all about describing the interactions between (your) thinking brain and feeling brain as if they’re characters, perspectives or mindsets. In the theory of dissociative identity disorder, alters are divided into two categories: apparently normal parts (ANPs) and emotional parts (EPs). Some theorists refer to them as Daily Living and Trauma Fixated parts instead. Additionally, I have experience with dialectical behavior therapy, which has the concepts of rational and emotional mind and Wise Mind as the goal to integrate the two.

I don’t believe in the rigid ANP/EP divide and the alters I’m going to describe in the piece below, would most likely both be seen as EPs, even though they’re on opposite ends of a spectrum. You see, one of the main triggers for identity confusion for me is the inability to integrate my low functioning level with regards to my social and emotional development with my at least somewhat above-average verbal IQ. In this sense, Carol and Jane do represent thinking brain and feeling brain.

Yesterday I struggled. I got an official reminder from local taxes from when my husband and I still lived together in the tiny village. An official reminder means they’d previously sent out another type of reminder that doesn’t come with extra costs. This one did come with extra costs and the next step, if I don’t pay, would be a debt collector’s visit. I don’t know why the reminder was only sent to my My Government inbox and not to my husband’s and I didn’t understand the reminder. I texted my husband to ask him for help. By this time, Carol, the alter who is very emotionally immature and vulnerable, was already getting upset. Why don’t I just go under financial management and never bother with money again?

My husband was a little annoyed that I shoved this task onto his plate. For this reason, Jane, who wants to be the intelligent, successful, self-reliant one, said: “Okay, I’ll solve it.” Carol was still prominently present in my mind and she has difficulty thinking clearly. In the end, I paid off the tax debt, but put the wrong identification number in the Comments field. This means the tax agency won’t be able to identify me as the debtor, so it may mean I lost the money. It was €160.

From there on, Carol took full control of my mind. I cried my eyes out and really wished I could crawl under the covers, get a guardian, be supported in the care facility and never worry about difficult decisions again. I didn’t even feel like seeing my husband, as Carol feels too inadequate for marriage.

Ultimately, the situation got sorted (hopefully). My husband sent out an E-mail to the tax agency asking them to either process my payment with the wrong number or return it to me so I can submit it again. Still, this whole situation has us (as in, me with all my parts) truly triggered. It’s a sad reality that each time, I am confronted with the disconnect between my good intellectual functioning and my poor emotional functioning.

At Every Age

There’s so much I want to write about, but I can’t get myself to sit down and actually write. Well, sitting down is not the problem, as I’m probably still a pretty sedentary person, but actually writing is.

Today, I”m joining in with Finish the Sentence Friday (#FtSF). This week, the prompt is to write about your (or your child’s or whoever’s) favorite age.

I used to think being younger was better. I don’t really know why. Maybe I was conscious at an early age of the fact that life is finite, so growing up meant getting closer to death. I also thought that growing up meant an increase in responsibility, which scared me from an early age on. After all, I knew from as young as age nine on that I was supposed to leave the house and go to university by eighteen. That’s a huge burden of awareness to carry as a child that young.

Now I think being at every age has its beauty. I do worry that I’m declining in health already, and this is where the sitting down comes in. I really need to get more active, because I know that at every age, you can do something to improve your health and wellbeing.

I also think that, at every age, you can retain or regain some level of childlike wonder. We see this in the alters, who each represent a particular stage in development. Some are grown-up for their age, like Jace, the 9-year-old who was told about going to university and leaving the house. Others are more childlike, like Milou, who is 8-years-old and very playful. We also have an adult, Marieke, who, though she’s 32, enjoys sensory learning and play.

In my fellow clients at day activities, I also see the beauty in every age. They are intellectually disabled, most with a so-called “mental age” under six. Now the concept of “mental age” is highly ableist. However, learning about normal child development can teach us some interesting things about myself and others with developmental disabilities anyway. I was intrigued to read about emotional development as it pertains to people with mild intellectual disability and as it pertains to me in some way too. The consultant psychologist assigned to my case in my care-finding process, said I function emotionally at a 16-month-old level. This explains a lot of why I act the way I do. Interestingly though, we don’t have an alter who identifies with this age.

In short, I think every age and stage in development has its beautiful sides and its ugly sides. Childhood means your parents still have a lot of control over you, but it means you have relatively few responsibilities. Adolescence and young adulthood come with increased responsibility and freedom. I don’t know yet what middle age or old age will bring, but I’m confident I’ll find the beauty in it.

Long-Term Care Assessment

I’ve been wanting to write much more lately, but somehow, I can’t get myself to actually sit down and write. I remember originally posting twice a day almost everyday when I started this blog, and now I’m barely writing twice a week.

I still need to update you all on the meeting with the long-term care funding person. She wasn’t the physician but the one actually making the decision on funding. The physician may still need to contact my psychiatrist in order to advise this person on funding.

She asked a lot about my level of independence in various situations. Like, she asked whether I can cook or clean the house. I was expecting her to ask about much more basic self-care skills like showering. She did ask about those too. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or bad that she didn’t go into that much detail about my basic self-care. I mean, those are things I at least try to do myself, even though I fail miserably at them. I thought it should be obvious that I can’t cook or clean the house.

The funding person asked multiple times whether I’d had independence training. I couldn’t go into too much detail about that, but I did make it clear that I got tons of it. I also think I explained that the skills didn’t generalize to a new situation, such as living independently.

The funding person said she may want me to get some type of test for emotional development. There is a questionnaire called SEO-R that I think support staff or others involved with the client fill out to determine at what level a client is emotionally. I googled the descriptions of the different developmental stages. In some respects, I would really be like a 6-month-old, while in others, I’m closer to 7 years. I didn’t recognize myself in the most advanced stage, which corresponds to children age 7 to 12. There is probably a stage for adolescents too, but this scale was originally intended for people with mild intellectual disability, who by definition don’t reach this stage. I know the whole concept of mental or emotional age is ableist, but as long as it’s not used to actually infantilize clients, I think there is some use to it.

The intent of this scale being administered in my case is to maybe qualify me for an intellectual disability care profile. The funding person wasn’t impressed with my IQ anyway. I mean, it was measured as being 154 some twenty years ago, but was measured as at least 35 points lower in 2017 and with a ton of discrepancies. Like, I scored high on calculus, but slightly below average on comprehension. Besides, I didn’t say this, but only the verbal part of the IQ test could be administered because of my blindness. I liked it that this person didn’t see me as some sort of genius.

At the end, my support coordinator tried to explain what we’re going to do with the funding if we get it. She explained about the living facility we visited last week. I got a little unquiet at this point, so the funding person offered to talk to my support coordinator on the phone later. She never did. I don’t know whether that’s a bad thing or not.

I’ve been really stressed out these past few days. I dream almost every night about possible outcomes of this assessment. Like, will I get funding based on blindness or intellectual disability? Or will the funding people decide mental illness is my primary disability and deny me funding because I need treatment for that first? And if I get funding, will I get into the place I visited last week? I hope I will, but I’m not getting my hopes up too high yet.

Now my support coordinator is on vacation and won’t be back till the 27th. I think the funding decision has to be made by then. My support coordinator asked me to text her when I heard about the decision, so that she can bring cake if I get approved. Again, not getting my hopes up.