Home Sweet Home

This week, Eugi’s weekly prompt is “Home sweet home”. I’ve never participated in this prompt before, but I thought I’d now.

Two weeks from now, I’ll be living in the care facility one year. It feels closer to home than any of the homes and facilities I’ve lived in before did. That feels weird. My parents’ house felt like home, but that’s just because I knew nothing else. My parents felt as safe as possible, but again that was because I knew nothing else.

Then I went into the training home. That was temporary, as you were supposed to live there for at most two years while training for independent living. That’s what I did eighteen months later. I cried my eyes out the first day, in front of my mother, who got angry with me.

It felt horrible to know that this was it forever. I mean, for at least the duration of my university studies, so four years, I’d live there. Then I’d live in a rented house on my own. It completely overwhelmed me.

As regular readers know, it didn’t last. Three months in, I landed in a mental crisis and was hospitalized. Though I stayed in the psych hospital for 9 1/2 years total and for over four years on one ward, it never felt like home. I knew it was temporary, after all.

And then I got kicked out. I lived with my husband in our rented house in the tiny village for 2 1/2 years. Even though I got by okay, it never felt good.

And now I’m here. I got that overwhelming feeling that this is it forever in the first weeks too, but this time, it was good.

I struggle to believe that this is not yet another temporary living arrangement or one in which I cannot cope. I act in and out a lot, probably to somehow “prove” that I’m not suited to this home. That I’m not suited to any home in the world. That there is no home sweet home for me.

Yet my staff so far say that I can stay here for the rest of my life. That, too, feels kind of overwhelming, but like I said, in a good way.

I also of course have my and my husband’s home in Lobith. That one still feels a bit odd to me. I never really lived in it, since we bought it two days after I moved into the care facility. In fact, I struggle to consider it my house too. When I write about it, I often write that it’s my husband’s house, then correct myself and add “and my”. I want to keep a connection to that house too, but it doesn’t feel like home.

Advice to Today’s High Schoolers

This week, one of the prompts over at Mama’s Losin’ It is to share advice you’d give today’s high school students. I cringed a lot at Mama Kat’s own post, as it was based on the idea that all high schoolers have parents who have their best interest in mind. I mean, I lied regularly as a teen. Though I wouldn’t advocate for that, it was all I could, because honesty led to harsh punishment.

I am not sure how much of my experiences was shaped by my neurotype, ie. being autistic. I mean, the main reasons I was ridiculed and punished harshly were because I was “weird”. However, there are lots of high schoolers who for whatever reason cannot follow Mama Kat’s advice, either because of their own situation or because of their parents.

For this reason, the main piece of advice I would give any high schooler is that it’s okay to be themselves no matter what. Whether your parents accept you, is something about them, not you. Do stand up for yourself if they are abusive or hurtful. You may be a minor, but that doesn’t mean your parents are all-powerful and all-knowing (especially that).

Also, seek out adult role models other than your parents. I felt helped a lot by being in contact with disabled adults. Even for neurotypical, non-disabled teens, it is useful to have people that inspire them other than their own parents.

Use social media, but of course use it wisely. There are spaces on social media for people just like you. Of course, I know most parents supervise their teens’ social media use and I think there is some good reason for that. Mine thankfully didn’t, but then again I was pretty careful not to engage in unsafe behavior online.

I do agree with Mama Kat that honesty is part of a good family dynamic. It has to come both ways though. As teens, it will help you to not give your parents reasons to snoop on your private life by being open about it. If your parents aren’t safe, seek out another adult to talk to.

What advice would you give current high school students?

Mama’s Losin’ It

A Trip to Berlin

Fandango has started a new challenge for the month of August and the prompt word for today is Trip. I’m going to write about a train trip my parents, sister and I took to Berlin in 2002.

At the time, you had this bargain called “schönes Wochenende” in Germany, which meant that for just €28, four people could travel all over Germany by train on a Saturday or Sunday. The only catch was that you had to take local railroads.

My parents, sister and I at the time lived in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, which isn’t too far from the German border. So we drove to Bad Bentheim to go on the train. The first train we took, drove us to Osnabrück. Then we took three more trains until we finally arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The last train we took, I remember, had Frankfurt an der Oder as its final destination. I found that fascinating.

I at the time had train routes as one of my autistic special interests. It was totally awesome learning all about the German local railroads.

The holiday in Berlin itself wasn’t a good experience. I had a lot of meltdowns and was pretty confused. I did like visiting a street called Straße des 17. Juni, because that year on 17 June I had first opened up about my distress that I’d suffered with for years. The street was named after a protest in east Berlin in 1953.

This was, actually, the last trip I took with my parents. The next year, I went to computer camp in Switzerland and the year after that, to blindness skills camp at the country’s training center for blind people. The year after that, I graduated from high school.

I feel pretty sad that I don’t have many memories about the trip to Berlin and the ones I do have, aren’t good. I guess trips rarely were enjoyable for me. That’s probably why I haven’t been on vacation with my husband in six years.

The Roles I Play

I haven’t been able to write much this week. I’ve been feeling really off lately. I may write more about that later. For now, I’m picking a prompt from the book The Year of You by Hannah Braime. It’s the first prompt in the book. It asks us to list the roles we play, such as daughter, sister, friend, etc. We’re supposed to think of as many as possible. Here goes.

1. I am a wife. My husband is the most important person in my life (after myself sometimes). My husband and I will be married nine years in September. The measures implemented due to COVID-19 were hard on our relationship. Tomorrow I’m for the first time in for months going to sleep at home with him.

2. I am a daughter. I don’t have the best relationship with my parents. It’s civil but distant.

3. I am a sister and by extension an aunt. I think now that my sister is a mother, we share even less common ground than before, but Janneke (my niece) is a good conversation starter.

4. I am a daughter-in-law and sister-in-law. Particularly with my mother-in-law, my relationship is good. She acts as my informal representative when needed.

5. I am a cat’s staff. I originally typed that I’m a cat Mommy or cat lady, but I think Barry sees me as nothing more than the one who provides him attention and food. Now I no longer do this, of course, as I no longer live with my husband. However, my husband says I helped socialize Barry.

6. I am a blogger. I have had one blog or another ever since 2007 (or 2002 if you count my online diary that gradually morphed into a blog).

7. I am a disability, mental health and autistic advocate. I don’t do nearly  as much advocacy work as I did some ten years ago, but I still identify as an advocate.

8. I am a long-term care client. Well, this is probably self-explanatory.

9. I am a friend. I don’t have any offline friends, but I cherish the online friendships I’ve made over the years.

These are mostly roles I play based on the relationships I have with people in my life. With respect to my interests, personality traits and opinions, I am still pretty unsure.

What are the roles you play in life?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (June 27, 2020)

Happy late Saturday evening everyone! Welcome to another edition of the #WeekendCoffeeShare. Today is my birthday. I think I still have tompouces in the fridge, so grab a cup of coffee, tea or your favorite cold drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I was stressed out all week about my parents visiting yesterday. As regular readers of my blog may know, my parents are big on independence and in denial of most of my disabilities. They don’t think I should be in a care facility. Like I said yesterday though, they weren’t overly judgmental. My father made a rather bad pun on the facility’s name and my mother asked whether no-one had taught my nonspeaking fellow clients to talk, but that was about it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about all the lovely presents I got for my birthday. My parents gave me a drinking bottle with fruit infusion filter. I’d had it on my wishlist for years and am now loving making fruit-infused water. They also gave me a spiky or hedgehog ball. My father said it looked like a virus and my husband joked that they’d gifted me corona. Lastly, they gave me some punches, which I can use in cardmaking or other craft projects. They got these as well as the spiky ball at the thrift store.

My husband gave me a sturdy bookcase for my iPhone. It’s supposed to protect your phone against dropping from 2 meters. I’d rather not try it out though.

Lastly, my mother-in-law gifted me this giant teddy bear! It’s 1.60m tall, which is even taller than I am. I love it!

Giant Bear

I’m still not sure what to call it. I initially called it just Giant Bear, because my big panda was called Big Bear and my not even that little bear stuffy was called Little Bear. Or something. I can’t remember, honestly. Then I figured I should be calling it Joenie, which is my nickname for my husband. My husband said to call it Baloo after the bear in Jungle Book. I guess I’ll call it whatever strikes my fancy at that moment. Rainbow/Sofie, the unicorn, also has two names, after all.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I ate some delicious Domino’s pizza this evening. My husband and I had it delivered to the care facility. I had the spicy chicken pizza and so did he, as my husband usually ends up liking my pizza more if we each order something different. I loved it! Then I had some ice cream for dessert. I got a nice present from the care facility too: a Domino’s gift voucher. I already have a reputation for eating lots of yummy food, even though today was the first time I’d ordered Domino’s since coming to the care facility last September.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that next week, I have a meeting with my community psychiatric nurse and nurse practitioner from mental health. We’re going to discuss my possibly getting EMDR treatment for some of my traumatic experiences. Now that my visit with my parents went well, I feel slightly guilty about considering some of my experiences with them traumatic, but well.

If we were having coffee, I would report on my steps as usual. This week so far, I reached just over 60K. I managed 69K last week and am doubtful I’ll reach that this week, as I’m probably going to have a lazy Sunday tomorrow.

How are you all doing?

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.

What’s Up (June 2020)

Wow, can you believe it’s already the last Wednesday of the month? I truly can’t. Time flies! Today I’m joining in with What’s Up Wednesday.

What We’re Eating This Week

Well, like I said last month, I live in a care facility with food delivery, so I don’t get to meal plan. We’ve been having an insane amount of baked potatoes lately though.

What I’m Reminiscing About

Not really anything. I mean, occasionally memories pop up, but they’re usually neither pleasant nor significant to share about here.

What I’m Loving

Sunshine! The weather is truly beautiful out here. Tomorrow and Friday the temperature is supposed to rise to 30°C (86°F). That’s a bit hot for my liking, but oh well.

What We’ve Been Up To

Lots of walking! I loved taking several long’ish walks a day with my staff. Today it was a bit hot, but we managed two shorter walks anyway.

What I’m Dreading

My parents possibly being judgmental about my living situation. They will visit me for my birthday on Friday. As much as I try not to stigmatize my intellectually disabled fellow clients, I still fear they’ll feel shame.

What I’m Working On

I started working in the book DIY MFA yesterday and immediately was inspired to write a piece of short fiction. It’s not remotely good enough to go on the blog and it doesn’t have an actual ending yet, but I liked the writing process.

What I’m Excited About

My birthday! Tomorrow, the festivities will start with my mother-in-law visiting. On Friday, my parents will visit. That’s a little scary, but it’ll likely be okay. Then on Saturday, which is my actual birthday, my husband will be visiting. I invited him to get pizza delivered.

What I’m Watching/Reading

I’ve been watching Diagnosis on Netflix and reading the book by that same title, written by Lisa Sanders. I also finally started reading The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth. I’ve been excited about it ever since I first heard about it in like January. It was released earlier this month.

What I’m Listening To

I’m frequently listening to the Harp Music for Sleeping playlist on Spotify. It’s very relaxing. This afternoon, in fact, I fell into a deep sleep listening to it.

I’ve also been discovering podcasts. Early this month, I mostly listened to true crime podcasts. Now I’m occasionally listening to progressive Christian podcasts.

What I’m Wearing

A skirt and a black T-shirt. I have three skirts that are the exact same model yet a different color. As I am blind and haven’t labeled my clothes, I don’t know whether this is the blue, green or red one.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

Having pizza with my husband on Saturday, like I said. I’ll probably have a lie-in on Sunday.

What I’m Looking Forward To Next Month

Probably visiting my husband for a weekend again. Like I mentioned a few times, the visiting rules at my care facility will be relaxed come this Friday. This means I’ll be allowed to go home to my husband for a weekend again. I don’t want to right away, but I’m hopeful in July I’ll be able to go a few times.

What Else Is New

My husband has two weeks off work this week and the next. He’s getting workmen over to replace the outer doors and some other big things that need doing.

What’s up with you?

Decisions

This week, V.J.’s weekly challenge is all about decisions. V.J. is facing a decision regarding an opportunity to buy a house.

My husband and I faced a similar decision last summer. I had been approved for long-term care funding on June 4. This would mean higher costs for my care, as the copay for long-term care is several hundreds of euros a month, while the copay for community care is at most €19. This made our search for a house to buy more urgent. After all, mortgages are usually cheaper than is rent on a similarly-priced house. We had inquired about buying the house we were renting at the time, but the housing corporation had refused.

My husband did most of the visits to possible houses by himself, including the one to the house we ended up buying. This house was about the only house within our budget that wasn’t falling apart or being rented out for an undefined time. The latter of which is illegal, but that didn’t help us.

So my husband ended up choosing our house in Lobith. I was hardly involved with the paperwork, except where I had to be because we’re married. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to live in this house for long anyway.

Similarly, my husband left all decision-making regarding the care facility I was going into up to me. Of course, this is in a way different, in that I’m a legal owner of our house and he’s not legally anything regarding the care facility.

I ended up moving to the care facility in Raalte just two days before we were to sign the contract on our house.

It’s indeed somewhat interesting that my husband and I leave each other so much room for decision-making regarding our own lives. Other married couples probably do much more shared decision-making. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not the way we do it. People have encouraged me to get more involved with the financial and legal aspects of the house. I’ve also been told my husband could (should?) be more involved with my care. But as long as we’re both competent adults, it works okay.

I’ve been thinking of making my mother-in-law my official decision-maker should that ever change in my case. I know my nearest relative would be my husband, but I want in any case to prevent my parents or sister from becoming my guardians. After all, I’m not too sure they truly would have my best interest in mind, though obviously they’d think they do.

Gratitude List (June 20, 2020) #TToT

Hi everyone! How are you all doing? I’m a bit tired, but not ready to go to bed yet. Instead, I’m going to write a gratitude list again. As always, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Here goes.

1. Sunshine. The weather was really good over the past week. We had some light rain some days, but most days were sunny and warm.

2. An anti-allergy medication. I have bad eczema that itched like hell for some weeks. I finally went to the doctor on Wednesday and got an antihistamine called desloratadine. It didn’t help at all the first few days, or maybe without the medication the itch would’ve been even worse. In any case, now it does seem to help.

3. An antibiotic ointment. One spot, which the doctor initially thought was the result of an insect sting, got inflamed. Thankfully, with some Fucidin applied topically, the inflammation is a lot less now.

4. The night staff. A few nights ago, the itch was so bad and the inflamed spot so painful that I got really scared. I called for the night staff to apply some oily cream to the eczema. She did this, but I remained very scared. Somehow, I had gotten it in my head that I’d get sepsis from this. I pressed the call button again at around 2:30AM. The night staff was so kind and reassuring.

5. Alternatives to bread. I don’t really care for bread for lunch, at least not when topped with the ordinary kind of things you normally put on bread, such as cheese, peanut butter, etc. Thankfully, we had some lettuce left over from making burritos last week, so I had a salad for lunch one day. Another day, I had noodles.

6. Pancakes. Today, two staff came to our home on a voluntary basis just to bake us pancakes. They were so delicious!

7. Reaching my step goal. I reached over 12K steps (my goal being 10K) on three days this week. Today, I didn’t do so well, so I will still need to get some 5K steps tomorrow to break my weekly record of just under 65K steps.

8. The visiting rules at my care facility likely being relaxed as of next week Friday. The announcement will go onto the facility’s COVID-19 page on Monday.

9. My parents offering to visit me. I called my Mom last Sunday and, as we were discussing the visiting rules, my father asked if they could come too. I initially was a bit hesitant and I’m very nervous, but also excited. They will be visiting me next Friday.

Oh, and now I can’t think of a number 10, but whatever. I’m grateful for being able to express my gratitude. Consider that my tenth thankful. Besides, the number is just a suggestion.

What are you grateful for?

It’s Been Three Months

Today, it’s been three months since the day center closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown. A few days earlier, we’d already been advised not to get visitors at the care facility, but the no-visiting rule didn’t take effect till March 25. Over at Mama’s Losin’ It, Kat asks us in one of her writing prompts this week how we’re doing three months into lockdown.

Of course, the restrictions are slowly being lifted. As of May 21, we’re allowed two visitors, ideally from the same household. They still need to maintain distancing, can’t have physical contact with us and can’t enter the care homes.

I found out yesterday that more restrictions may be lifted as of June 26. I already arranged for my parents to come visit me on the 26th, as my staff said this was okay even though my mother-in-law will be visiting me on the 25th and my husband on the 27th. I guess they’re being less strict as it’s my birthday on the 27th.

The new rules, if they take effect on the 26th, would allow limited outside activities, such as visits with family. Then again, a lot is still uncertain and is left up to the specific homes’ staff and management. Regardless, the day center won’t fully reopen till October.

I’m doing pretty well amidst the lessening restrictions. I mean, I’m really excited but also a bit anxious about possibly being allowed to go home to Lobith again. It’d be cool if I could have a real birthday celebration even if it isn’t right on the 27th.

With respecct to the day center, I’m happy it won’t reopen fully till October. I feel a lot more comfortable getting day activities in my own home, where I can retreat into my room. I also think I get more support now. I really hope a way will be found for me to retain a similar level of support once we return to the day center.

It’s interesting that, with quarantine having lasted for three months and still a lot of restrictions remaining, I hardly ever think of COVID-19 or the lockdown. Last week, another writing prompt I came across was about quarantine and I couldn’t think of what to write for it. Several people I know were tested for coronavirus recently, but I readily assumed they would be negative (and they were).

Other than that, we don’t shake hands and keep our distance whenever possible. That will likely continue for a long time still. generally though, I’m going with the flow, as they say.

Of course, I’m happy I can see my husband and family again. I’m also still very happy that this thing didn’t happen last year, because then I’d have to stay at home alone for so many months. Remember, the day center won’t reopen till October. Now this feels comforting. Last year, this definitely wouldn’t have been the case.

Mama’s Losin’ It