Gratitude List (May 16, 2020) #TToT

Goodnight everyone. It’s past 11PM here and I can’t sleep. I’m feeling rather hopeless. To cheer myself up, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful. It feels like forever since I last did a gratitude list, even though I did one two weeks ago. Anyway, here goes.

1. Spotify playlists. I already mentioned the Cardio playlist on Thursday. Today, I discovered the Harp Music for Sleep playlist. It wasn’t created by Spotify staff, but whoever created it is awesome! I just tried falling asleep to it. That didn’t work yet, but it definitely helped me relax.

2. Lorazepam. As we speak, I’m recovering from a rather bad crisis. After an hour-long crying fit, I finally asked the staff to give me a PRN lorazepam and it helps at least a little.

3. Dancing. I mentioned this already on Thursday. Today I was in a rather low place and felt like lying in bed all day. I did manage to fit some dancing in though.

4. Pretty good food this past week. I had boiled potatoes only once and the pasta with tuna sauce I had today was truly delicious.

5. Whipped cream custard. To top it off, we had whipped cream custard for dessert today.

6. Insight Timer. Like I said earlier today, I plan on making meditation part of my daily routine. I listened to a body love meditation this evening. The instructor’s voice was a little off to me, but it was a great meditation.

7. A lovely card. Last Thursday, I got another card from the friend who lives in another home in our care facility. She had previously given me an Easter card. Now the card had written in it that she hopes to see me soon. (For context: due to COVID-19, we are currently only allowed to interact with clients and staff for our own homes.) The card was handmade and truly lovely. I will send her one (though not handmade) probably tomorrow.

8. Possibly seeing my husband soon. Currently, we are not allowed visitors at all due to COVID-19. Management though has said they’ll work out a plan on visiting next week. This may mean we need to see our visitors in an assigned room and may need to keep our distance, but anything is better than no visits at all.

This is all I can come up with right now, but it already helps. What have you been thankful for lately?

Thankful Thursday (May 14, 2020): Dancing!

I’ve been feeling kind of depressed lately. Or rather, less non-depressed than I was over the past month. I’m not sure how “normal” feels, being that I’ve struggled with depression off and on (and mostly on) since childhood. I was finally thinking I could be inspired and motivated for a while, but that while has stopped now I think. I hope my creativity and motivation return soon.

When I shared about my mood on an E-mail support list yesterday, some people responded by saying I could focus my attention on what I can do rather than what I can’t. Like, even a day without blogging mojo was frustrating me, even though in other areas, I’m pretty much my normal self. I’m still honestly pretty active. I’m not sleeping 15 hours a day. Okay, I slept nearly 12 hours last night, but I barely got eight the nights before. So as sort of a pick-me-up, I’m joining in with Thankful Thursday and the reason I’m thankful today is my level of physical activity.

You see, I reached my goal of 10K steps today! If this doesn’t prove that I’m fine, I don’t know what does. I went for two longer walks during the day and a short walk in the evening. I’ve also been “dancing” some. By this I mean walking in place and swinging my arms while music is playing. I have absolutely no sense of rhythm, but so what? I put the Cardio playlist on Spotify on and just moved. I honestly really loved it.

Besides getting me active, this helped me discover new music. You know, I normally only listen to classic country and some other oldie stuff. I can’t stand most of the workout playlists on Spotify, but Cardio was an exception. I loved it! Here’s one of the songs I listened to several times.

Do you like to dance?

Gratitude List (May 2, 2020) #TToT

It’s been forever since I did a gratitude post. Right now I’m feeling a little frustrated with the fact that I am blind. I want to participate to the fullest in the social media thing, but it seems images are often required and I can’t do them. Other blind people apparently can, but I can’t. Anyway, to cheer myself up, I’m taking part in Ten Things of Thankful or #TToT. Here’s what I’ve been grateful for lately.

1. The beautiful weather last week. Okay, it’s been raining a lot this week, but last week-end, it was sunny and warm. I loved it!

2. Being able to take regular walks in spite of the bad weather this week. Somehow, my staff and I managed to find time inbetween rainstorms to go for some walks. Yesterday and today, I even took some late evening walks after most of the other clients were in bed.

3. Making plans for more activities I can do with my day activity staff. On Monday, we will be trying out a basic oatmeal recipe with banana. I remember my sister ate oatmeal for breakfast when she was little and I didn’t like it. I hope I like it with the banana added. I’ve also looked into overnight oats recipes. I definitely like that.

4. The orange puff pastry we ate with our coffee for King’s day on Monday.

5. Getting crunchy muesli for breakfast. It took the staff some time before we found the right one, the one with four kinds of nuts and crunchy muesli, not granola. Yes, I’m picky like that.

6. My teddy bear getting washed. I thought it’d gotten a hole in its fur, but it turned out to be just dirty. After I finish this blog post, I’m going to cuddle up with it in my bed.

7. My computer. I’m really enjoying using it. I know, I’ve had it for ten months already, but up till this week almost always chose my phone to do most things on. I’m now actually loving writing this post in good ol’ Notepad.

8. Having finished the #AtoZChallenge. I’m definitely proud of myself for actually getting it all done.

9. Keeping my writing mojo now that the challenge is over with. I don’t know for how long I’ll be motivated to keep writing, but we’ll see.

10. Being more alert in general. Okay, I think I may be a little overalert, but then again that’s a lot better than being tired and depressed.

What have you been thankful for lately?

Journaling for Emotional Wellbeing #AtoZChallenge

Wow, did I seriously not think about journaling when ruminating over what word to pick for my letter J post? Well yeah, indeed I completely forgot. But now I know, so for today, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite yet most challenging self-care habits: journaling.

I started my first journal when I was about eleven. It was a handmade diary with Braille pages stuck in it. I didn’t keep it for long though. When I was thirteen, I started writing a regular diary on my computer. That one lasted for over three years, until I discovered the Internet and online journals. I always wished for my journals to be read by others, even though I never wanted my parents to be those other people. That happened with the online journal, which gradually morphed into a blog.

That being said, I need to learn to write in private again. Not just anything that goes on in my head, is suited for the whole wide world to read.

Journal keeping can have many benefits for your emotional wellbeing. It can help you identify patterns in your thinking, find triggers for negative feelings and be more grateful, among other things.

Remember, the diary is just one form of journaling. Usually in a diary, you write what you did during a day, including how you felt. There are other types of more focused journals, such as:

  • Dream journal, in which you write down your dreams after you wake up in the morning.
  • Goal-related journal, such as weight loss or smoking cessation journals. In this type of journal, you track your progress towards a goal. For those of us dealing with addictions, eating disorders, etc., a journal for tracking how many days you’re in recovery, may help too.
  • Gratitude journal, in which you write a list of daily gratefuls or otherwise express your gratitude. See my letter G post for more tips on this.

Some journaling “experts” recommend writing stream-of-consciousness style. Others recommend using prompts. You can combine the two by responding to a journaling prompt in stream-of-consciousness style too. There are many free and cheap books of journaling prompts. My favorite is the Journaling with Lisa Shea series. I have the whole series in one single eBook.

There are lots of ways to keep a journal. You can have a standard paper journal or a document (or more than one) on your computer, tablet or smartphone. There are also lots of apps that are aimed at helping you journal. I have tried dozens of those on my iPhone. My current favorite is Day One, which is available for all Apple products and I believe Android now too. Still, no matter how many products you try, you need to be the one sticking to a regular habit of journal keeping.

Do you have a journal (other than your blog)?

Gratitude: Counting Your Blessings #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter G post In the #AtoZChallenge. Today I want to talk about gratitude. Making a habit out of noticing what you have, can be very helpful for your mental health. Like most other self-care activities, it may be hard to do when you’re feeling low, so I recommend you start practising gratitude when you’re in a good or at least okay place. Then it will come more naturally when you’re feeling low.

On this blog, I aim to write gratitude lists regularly. These are usually lists of things I’ve been grateful for in the past week or so. However, you can also write a general gratitude list that lists things that are positive about your life. Such a list can look something like this:

  1. I am thankful for my physical health.
  2. I am thankful for my husband.
  3. I am thankful I have a home in the care facility I can feel safe in.
  4. I am thankful I am financially secure.
  5. I am thankful for my medication.

You can aim for a certain number of gratefuls, such as ten in the Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) blog hop. I have done other types of posts of this kind on this blog and older blogs. Examples include 99 things I like, 20 things I’m grateful for in life, etc.

However, when you’re feeling low, it may help to just write what you’re thankful for and not set a specific number you must reach. After all, that might create stress that you do not need right now.

Another form of expressing gratitude is the thankful letter. You can write thankful letters to people you’re grateful for in real life and actually send or give them to said person. However, you can also write thankful letters to things or situations.

A variation to this theme is the love letter. Of course, it may be good to write a love letter to your significant other, but again you can write love letters to anything.

If you don’t write gratitude lists or thank you letters, there are other ways of counting your blessings. Saying to yourself or aloud to someone else that you’re grateful for something, may be enough.

How do you express gratitude?

Thankful Thursday (March 26, 2020): My Staff’s Approach to a Meltdown

Today I’m having a really hard day. I found out this morning that my husband is not allowed to visit me for the duration of the COVID-19 situation. Only in exceptional cases such as when you’re terminally ill can you have a visitor. Well, I guess I’m grateful I’m not in that situation.

During this time of day activities at the home and the chaotic situation that ensues, I’m struggling a lot with basic mistrust. As I explained to my staff, including the behavior specialist, some weeks ago, I’m finding that I experience a lot of distress due to past trauma. I’m pretty sure I suffer with significant attachment issues and am acting those out towards the staff now that I’m beginning to feel slightly safe. I mean, there’s a part of me who says that if the staff truly know me, they’ll kick me out of here or abandon me in some other way. I guess this part is giving the staff a hard time because they’ll ultimately abandon me anyway so I’d better push them away first.

As such, this afternoon, I had a major meltdown. I was watching a video on the Center for Consultation and Expertise website about a man with mild intellectual disability who had a lot of challenging behavior. The way in which I could relate to him, triggered me. I tried to tell my staff, but couldn’t and then I threw a glass to the ground.

Now here comes the reason I prefixed this post with Thankful Thursday: my staff were amazing about it!

My assigned support worker, who happened to work on my side of the home today, called another home for a staff to come over. This was a staff who had also worked in my home previously. She hugged me and took me to my room to talk while my assigned staff cleaned the mess.

This did further trigger me, but it was a good trigger. I mean, in the psychiatric hospital I would’ve been secluded or kicked off the unit and basically abandoned. I had tears of gratitude and sadness at the same time because of how lovely my staff handled this situation. My assigned staff even said maybe we should watch the video together sometime so that I could point out in which ways I relate.

Now here’s hoping my behavior won’t escalate further. After all, then I may in fact be abandoned. My inner critic still says that I’m making up all the factors behind my challenging behavior and it’s all just attention-seeking and abandonment is exactly what I deserve. Regardless, I’m so extremely grateful for my staff!

Gratitude List (March 20, 2020) #TToT

It’s Friday and that means the Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) linkup is open again. I haven’t participated in a while, but in these weird times, we need gratitude more than ever. Here are the things I’ve been thankful for lately.

1. Relatively tasty dinners. Here at the care facility, we get our dinners from a meal delivery company. Last week or the week before, I complained that we got boiled potatoes like four times a week and that I’d like rice, pasta or the like more often. Thankfully they customize the meals for each resident, so it’s not like if I want pasta, everyone gets pasta. I think my assigned staff told the company. In any case, I’ve had pretty varied meals lately. On Saturday, we got tuna macaroni and I loved it!

2. The sensory room. The real one at the day center and the makeshift one at the home. The day center was still open on Monday and Tuesday, so I was able to use the snoezelen® room then. On Thursday, some of the staff created a makeshift sensory room in the currently empty bedroom at our home.

3. Walking. Yay, we’re not in complete lockdown (yet)! I’ve been grateful for walks often before, but in these weird times, I get to appreciate it even more. I managed to get over 9000 steps everyday this week so far except for today (and I’m not going to make it today either).

4. Getting day activities at the home. I was a little scared that, once the day center closed, we’d get no activities at all. Thankfully, that’s not true. I brought some games from the day center to the home with me and we have enough staff to do activities with us.

5. Going on the elliptical. I went on Tuesday, thinking I wouldn’t be able to use it for three weeks after that. However, two staff members transferred the elliptical to the empty room in our home, so that it’s now a combined sensory and gym room. I went on it for like 20 minutes yesterday.

6. Modern technology. I’m so glad this pandemic is happening now that we have the Internet and smartphones and the like. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to connect to my husband, my family or the wider community at all. I’m so happy this thing does connect us all in a weird kind of way.

7. Meditation. I use an app called Insight Timer on my phone for meditating, but I hadn’t used it in a while. Then I checked it out and saw they have a whole section devoted to overcoming fear in these weird times. I loved listening to some guided meditations.

8. A phone appt with my CPN from mental health. We had a pretty good session. We actually did get started on some cognitive behavior therapy like we were planning on. She’s also going to get me signed up for the eHealth module with the agency.

9. My husband. Yesterday I was suddenly overcome with fear that I’d never see my husband again or that he’d want to divorce me due to our inability to be together in this crisis. My husband reassured me that I won’t lose him. He’s so lovely!

10. My health. I almost forgot that this thing is about a viral disease that takes actual lives. I so far haven’t had symptoms of COVID-19, but I’m confident that when (yes, it’s most likely a “when”) I do get the disease, I’ll survive.

What have you been grateful for lately?

#AutisticBliss Is…

A few days ago, I came across a discussion on Twitter with the hashtag of #AutisticBliss. I don’t follow many autistic bloggers, so I cannot be sure the conversation has been taken over to WordPress yet. Regardless, I wanted to write a blog post in contribution to the topic. Here are a few things I consider sincere bliss as an autistic person.

1. The sensory room at the day center. I mentioned this in my Twitter reply too. Back when I was trying to prepare for leaving the mental hospital in 2017, I asked my psychologist whether I could try out snoezelen® at the intellectual disability unit. She said I couldn’t, as it is only offered to people with severe intellectual disability. I’m so extremely grateful I ended up attending a day center for people with intellectual disability once kicked out of the hospital. Ever since, I’ve come to very much enjoy the sensory room.

2. My own sensory equipment in my room. When at my first day center after leaving the psych hospital, I discovered an online sensory equipment store while looking for birthday presents for myself. I currently own two lavender-filled, microwave-safe soft toys from that store, one in my room at the care facility and one in our house in Lobith. I also have a lot of soft toys that aren’t specifically sensory. I enjoy my exercise ball too, as well as my essential oil diffuser.

3. Being able to hyperfocus on my special interests. One of the main autistic characteristics I love about myself is my ability to perseverate. I love it when I’m in hyperfocus mode and actually have an interest I’m passionate about.

4. Being able to collect things, particularly if they’re cheap or free. For example, I have at least a dozen books of journaling prompts on my phone. Most were free either on Kindle or in Apple Books. Now that I am more money-conscious than I used to be, I no longer spend as much on my special interest du jour. However, I really love collecting free stuff.

5. Stimming. Especially if I’m happy. Stims were often so discouraged that I struggle to find ones I can engage in for fun, but when I can, that’s utter bliss.

6. Having found my tribe. I love being part of the autistic community. It helps me feel that I belong somewhere.

What surprising aspect of life do you find is utter bliss?

Gratitude List (February 8, 2020) #TToT

It’s Saturday and I haven’t published a blog post in a few days. Today I am bored and slightly depressed, so I thought I’d join in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) to lift up my mood.

1. Soap making. On Sunday, I asked my husband to sort through my soaping supplies. He didn’t need to though, as the essentials were all in a wheeled shopping bag. My mother-in-law took me back to the facility on Sunday evening, so she put the entire thing in the back of her car and helped me get it inside. I took it to day activities on Monday and have been making soap a few times this past week already.

2. Ordering new supplies. I didn’t have a lot of soap base in the bag, so I had an excuse to order new soaping supplies. Besides new soap base, I ordered bath bomb and bath salt making supplies. I never made bath bombs or bath salts before. I am really excited to try.

3. The cooking activity at day activities. I used to do a simple cooking activity with the staff intern on Wednesday. Now that her schedule has changed, we do it on Tuesday. This past Tuesday, we in fact had ingredients for two recipes: ham and cheese sandwiches and a creamy cookie dessert. The reason is that last week, we didn’t do the cooking activity because I had a meeting with the behavior specialist then. The intern had time to help me with both. We ate the sandwiches for lunch and had the cookie dessert later in the afternoon. It was extra gratifying, as the clients on my side of my day activities group can’t have sandwiches due to swallowing issues, but most can have the dessert. We served the sandwiches to the other side and I actually had both.

4. My weight. I got weighed in on Wednesday and I had a small gain of 200 grams (less than half a pound). I attribute that to all the treats I had on Tuesday though. I’m also happy, because people actually notice that I’m skinnier (or rather, less fat, of course) than I used to be.

5. Some long’ish walks. I mean, no, I don’t walk for an hour like I used to at my old day activities and with my home support staff, but I did have some walks of about half an hour. Despite not having walked in the evenings much this past week, I did manage to get to 175 active minutes.

6. The support from my assigned staff. I was somewhat distressed this past week, as I’m still not fully recovered from the meltdowns I had last week. However, my support staff are all very helpful.

Like, yesterday I had a meeting with my nurse from the mental health agency. When I explained my difficulty coping with the noise at day activities, she started to suggest I move to an apartment building for autistic people and occupy myself there or go work at a sheltered workshop. This isn’t suitable and my staff helped me explain this to my nurse.

7. French fries and ice cream. My husband said on Thursday that he couldn’t come by for a long visit today but could take me out to have some fries and a snack for dinner. Today, he canceled. Of course, I miss my husband, but I didn’t miss the fries, as my staff thought it’d be a good idea to order fries and snacks for the entire home. We also had ice cream, which was still left over in the freezer from Christmas. I had the last serving of whipped cream-flavored ice cream.

I can’t get to ten, but I’m definitely in a brighter mood now. I guess that should be my eighth grateful on this list. What have you been grateful for lately?

Gratitude List (January 17, 2020) #TToT

It’s been forever since I last wrote a gratitude list. This past week has been truly mixed, but I still feel there’s enough I can be thankful for. I’m joining in with #TToT again.

1. Domino’s Pizza. Last week, I went home to my husband for the week-end. When we were in the car, my husband asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner. I said “Pizza” and my husband in turn asked me whether there’s a Domino’s in Zevenaar, the city closest to our home in Lobith. I said there is. However, we’d been taking an alternate route to Lobith, so my husband said we wouldn’t drive through Zevenaar, so did I mind getting pizza elsewhere? Then he started teasing me, saying stuff like “You’re still a bit sick right?” and wouldn’t it be better if we had macaroni with lots of veggies. Eventually though, he did drive to Zevenaar and we had Domino’s pizza. I loved my chicken kebab pizza!

2. The flu being gone. I feel pretty much as well as possible now.

3. Meeting the neighbors. On Sunday, our next door neighbors organized a New Year’s gathering for the people in our street and the surrounding neighborhood. My husband and I are new, so as a kind gesture to me, they had each person in attendance introduce themselves and also describe the appearance of the person next to them. I liked it. The neighbors seem nice. I at first wasn’t too sure how much to disclose about my situation, but eventually did manage to explain some without launching into some type of self-centered and depressing monologue.

4. The soap making plans. I told you about it already on Monday. I’m hoping my husband will be able to bring my supplies tomorrow. He did ask me to think of another activity we can do together in Lobith, since I asked him to bring all my supplies. I after all didn’t feel it’d be a good idea to let him sort through my stuff. Now that I think of it, several ideas come to mind.

5. Ylang Ylang essential oil. I had this in my diffuser on Monday night when I was too hyper to sleep. It’s a lovely scent.

6. Over 8,000 steps on Tuesday. I walked three times. The other days have also been relatively good in the activity department.

7. The peanut butter-chocolate smoothie bowl we made on Wednesday.

8. Chatting to some fellow clients. Like I’ve said before, most people in my home are non-speaking and severely intellectually disabled, but there are some clients in other homes and at day activities who can speak and with whom I can have a normal by non-disabled standards conversation. I had some nice interactions this past week.

9. Lorazepam. Like I said yesterday, I was in a bit of a crisis. Thankfully, the PRN lorazepam I took worked.

10. Getting my Braille display fixed. Some dots had been stuck up for a few weeks. I thought the thing just needed cleaning, so I was hesitant to call the company to get a tech guy to come over. Turned out two cells were broken. I’m so happy the thing is fixed now. I did okay reading with these few dots stuck up, but still, it was a bit annoying.

What have you been thankful for lately?