Identity: Who Am I As a Creative? #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter I post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to talk about my creative identity. Well, I’ve been talking about that for most of this challenge already, so this may get a little repetitive. I’m trying not to make it that way. So, who am I as a creative?

Of course, I could start by what I do. With respect to writing, I am a blogger who writes primarily about her personal experiences. In the crafting area, I am a polymer clay hobbyist. I make all sorts of things out of polymer clay, from all kinds of jewelry, such as beads, charms and earrings to sculptures. The only thing I do not make are miniatures, because I’m cluless about scale. However, the thing I love making most are sculptures, especially unicorns.

In addition to what I do, I could share the social roles that creating allows me to have. For example, being a blogger allows me to be part of the blogosphere. With respect to polymer clay, like I said before, I haven’t yet found such a community outside of Facebook.

Lastly, I could share about the higher pursuits I achieve by being a creative. For example, I make other people happy when I give them a handmade gift that I crafted myself. I also find meaning in the creative process itself, in that it provides me something to do on a daily basis that I can be proud of.

Since I dabble in many creative hobbies, not just blogging and polymer clay, I struggle to find a clear identity as a creative. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

I also haven’t yet found a style that is clearly mine in my polymer clay, with the exception of unicorn sculpting. As such, I often walk the fine line between copying work I find in online tutorials and being inspired by it. With respect to my unicorns, I think I can safely say they are mine, not a copy of something I found in a tutorial. In fact, even with the first one I created, though it was based on a tutorial, I purposefully changed some things to suit my own style.

Artistic Self-Discovery: Am I Even an Artist? #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to day one in the #AtoZChallenge. I have been uncertain as to what topic to choose for my first post. Last year, I chose to use my letter A post as an opportunity to introduce my topic. Today, I’m doing something similar. My topic this year is creative self-discovery and self-expression. A question that’s always been on my mind though, is: “Am I even an artist?”

When I joined some groups for creatives and artists on Facebook, I initially wasn’t sure whether they would be for just visual artists like those using paint or drawing as their primary medium. I mean, even “mixed-media” art usually includes some aspect of visual art. Thankfully, the members of most groups have been able to reassure me that, as a polymer clay hobbyist, I am more than welcome.

Then comes the question of quality. I mean, does my work have to meet certain standards to be considered art. I am still in many ways a beginner and, in all of the creative pursuits I have made, never got beyond that level, if I even got beyond the level of a 3-year-old.
Then I am reminded of Julia Cameron’s words in The Artist’s Way that you need to be a bad artist before you can be a good artist. In other words, no-one really is naturally good at art. She in fact seems to go as far as to say everyone has the ability to be creative within them.

The thing is, I am both rather impatient and perfectionistic. This combination means I feel easily discouraged by negative feedback on my first attempts at something creative. I really want to skip the “bad artist” phase and, especially when I know other people move on from that stage more quickly than I do, I feel disappointed in myself.

That being said, I realize now there is a reason Julia Cameron says you shouldn’t show your Morning Pages to anyone and shouldn’t even reread them yourself until week eight of the program. Wanting to share your creativity too soon, may lead to negative feedback and this in turn may lead, as it has with me, to discouragement.

I am learning this as I start to explore macrame, first learning the knots quite well before I’ll even think of showing anything online. That way, I am still trying, might still fail, but the chances are less that I’ll make a fool out of myself on Facebook.

To get back to the question that sparked this post: yes, I am am artist, just like I am indeed a writer even though it’s been nearly seven years since that one little piece I got published in an anthology. And even if I had nothing published in print, I’d still be a writer. Similarly, just because I don’t sell my artistic creations, doesn’t mean I’m not an artist.

I Am Not Alone: Reflections on Being Different As an Enneagram Four

I have been watching videos about the Enneagram recently. One I watched, talked about the differences between a 5w4 (Enneagram type Five with a strong Four wing) and 4w5. One of the distinctions the YouTuber made was that Fours tend to take pride in their being different, while Fives try to hide their difference. That kind of hit a nerve with me.

I always saw myself as so uniquely different from others that it’s almost impossible to be true. Not just in the “You are unique, just like everybody else” type of sense. In fact, I always thought that I belonged to just a little too many minority groups to be real. I thought that there must not be anyone else in the entire world who could relate to my combination of minority statuses.

At the time, I was about fourteen and just identified as blind and possibly queer. Well, I know quite a lot of blind people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community now.

Then came being autistic, having dissociative identity disorder, my childfree status, etc. My fourteen-year-old self would certainly have believed no-one in the entire world would belong to all of these groups. Well, quite truthfully, I’ve met several people who belong to most if not all of these minority groups. That’s the great thing about the Internet.

About ten years ago, I read something on Tumblr that should’ve struck a chord with me, but didn’t. I read that, if you are white, but belong to a hundred minority groups, you are still white. Of course, the point was to prove that white privilege isn’t negated by other minority statuses. I at the time started writing a list of ways in which I was privileged, but didn’t realize these are also ways in which I am part of the majority. Ways in which I belong to the human mainstream.

Instead, I still focused my attention, aside from that one blog post and acknowledging when I’d reacted out of privilege in safe spaces, on ways in which I’m different from the mainstream. And still I somehow couldn’t believe there were people who genuinely belonged to at least as many minority groups as I did. I still somehow saw myself as the most special person in the world.

Isn’t that a bit grandiose, narcissistic even? In fact, feeling that only a select group of “special” people will understand me, is the only legitimate narcissistic personality disorder trait I have.

The truth is, everyone is special and everyone is unique and everyone has some parts of themselves that ar ordinary at the same time. At the core, no-one is fundamentally different from everyone else. And isn’t that a wonderful thing to realize? After all, it means that, at the core, we all have something in common which connects us to each other. That of course doesn’t mean I need to associate with all seven (eight?) billion people in the world. It just means that there will always be someone out there who can relate to me. Just like there is no-one exactly like me (God created us all individually for a reason, after all), I am not radically different from anyone else (we were all created equal, after all).

Accepting My Ordinary Identity in Christ #Write28Days

Welcome to day two in #Write28Days. Today’s optional prompt is “Ordinary”. Immediately, I thought: what a dull prompt! I don’t want to be ordinary. I don’t even want to write about it!

Like I said yesterday, I am an Enneagram type Four. One of the descriptors for type Fours is “The Individualist”. Another, less kind one, is “Specials”. As these denominators say, we don’t want to be boring, like everyone else, ordinary.

When I had just been admitted to the psychiatric hospital in 2007, my parents came to talk to my doctor. They said that, in order to avoid accepting the fact that I am blind, I sought out to be different in every other way possible. For example, as a teen I thought I was a lesbian. I had just gotten acquainted with my now husband at the time that my parents used this against me, but we were by no means dating yet. Besides, in my mental state at the time, my sexual orientation was about the last thing on my mind. That being said, at the core, my parents were probably right: I saw myself as a complicated, unique, special person. Extraordinary.

Now we’re nearly fifteen years on. In a way, I still see myself as different from “ordinary” people in many ways. For instance, I am multiply-disabled, including blind and autistic. I am a trauma survivor and identify as a plural system (dissociative identity disorder). I, however, also now see that I am loved by God and by others as I am. And that is what matters most: my ordinary identity in Christ.

I still sometimes focus on the aspects of my identity that make me different from most other human beings. That’s okay though, as long as my “otherness” doesn’t become all-encompassing. Ultimately, my main identity is as a person loved by God.

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.

My Twelve-Year-Old Self Would Be Surprised

Today, Emilia of My Inner MishMash had a very interesting question of the day. She asks what twelve-year-old you would never believe about your current self. This is the perfect question to get me reflecting on how I saw my life at age twelve.

Honestly, there is nothing about my current life that would be so far off that my twelve-year-old self wouldn’t believe it. I mean, I alternated between seeing my adult self as a professor and seeing her as a care facility resident. That first image, I saw as the “good” one. I would be a linguistics or mathematics professor. Never mind that, at least here in the Netherlands, mathematics isn’t a suitable university major for a blind person.

That second image, I saw as the “bad” one. I have probably written before about the sixteen-year-old girl in the media in around 1997 or 1998, when I was eleven or twelve. She had a low IQ, but not so low that she’d fit in with intellectual disability services. She also had severe challenging behavior. The reason she was portrayed in the media, was the fact that she was being restrained and held in solitary confinement in an adolescent psychiatric hospital. I totally identified with this girl.

Of course, currently, I’m not being restrained or secluded. I have some experience of manual restraint and seclusion, but not to the extent this girl did.

This gets me to the part that would probably surprise my twelve-year-old self most about my life right now: that I am relatively happy. For what it’s worth, I totally thought that, if I had to be in long-term care as an adult, I would be utterly desperate.

Another thing that would’ve totally surprised twelve-year-old me, is that I’m married. In truth, it still surprises me at times that my husband is willing to share his life with me. Though as a teen, I imagined becoming a mother later, I never quite considered a partner in my life. Besides, being married doesn’t at all fit in with the “bad” image of myself as a care facility resident.

Lastly, like I commented on Emilia’s post, the one thing that my twelve-year-old self wouldn’t believe about me, is that I found my faith in God. After all, I was raised atheist and was at age twelve clueless about faith. My teachers at the Christian school for the blind made me participate in prayer, something I had a huge aversion to. Honestly, till this day I struggle to pray at set times of the day because it feels more like a ritual than an investment in my relationship with God.

What would surprise twelve-year-old you most about your life right now?

Profession or Identity? #Write28Days

Today I finally remembered to check out the #Write28Days Facebook group and jump back onto the challenge bandwagon. The prompt for today is “Profession”.

I immediately thought of all the career paths I had envisioned for myself as a teen. When I was sixteen, I was planning on becoming an English major in college, choosing to specialize in American studies and was sure I’d leave for the United States in my third year. I actually half-joked that I’d obviously find employment there and never come back to the Netherlands.

Now of course I never even made it to being an English major. I never made it to my third year in college either and haven’t been to the United States as of yet. I’ve never been employed, in fact.

For some time, I listed my old blog as my place of employment on Facebook. Now because I’m not keen on my family reading my blog, I no longer list it on my personal profile. I don’t have work listed on my FB profile at all.

Today, I was discussing my personal strengths profile, which the mental health agency is supposed to have on file for each client, with my community psychiatric nurse. It scared the crap out of me. In the plan, you’re supposed to write about your former abilities (before becoming mentally ill or whatever), your wishes and ambitions and your current abilities. I immediately thought big, thinking that since I used to go to university before my autistic burnout and lived with my husband before coming to the care facility, I should probably want to go back to these. My nurse said I can think small too. I later thought of the fact that I used to be stable on a much lower dose of daily medications and would really like to go back to a lower dose of my antipsychotic at least. That’s a valid ambition too. I don’t really need to find a profession.

In fact, I am also reminded of last week’s Hour of Power show, in which the preacher talks about one’s title vs. one’s testimony. In the Dutch show, Carola Schouten talked about her title as the minister of agriculture and vice-prime minister. She contrasts this with her identity in Christ. I love this and felt an interesting connection to her, even though with respect to profession, she is infinitely more successful than I am. With respect to identity though, we’re both children of God.

This Is Me: Beyond the Labels #Blogtober20

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

What are some things that make you uniquely you?

#Blogtober20

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?

Know Yourself: Self-Discovery for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter K post in the #AtoZChallenge. This was a hard letter, but I managed to come up with something, though today’s post is brief. Today I will talk about how self-discovery can help you care better for yourself.

It may be hard to actually know who you are or what you need, but figuring this out is vital to actually meeting your own unique needs. I mean, there are lots of ways to take care of yourself – many more than I will discuss during this challenge -, but most of them are not suitable to everyone. So take time to observe yourself.

I find journaling is a great way of getting to know yourself. There are a lot of guided self-exploration journals out there. There are also tons of journals that claim to be about self-exploration but are really just random lists of prompts. The self-discovery journal I like best is the 23 Days Self-Discovery Journaling Challenge by Mari L. McCarthy. Her other journaling challenges are fab too!

Mindfulness can also help you discover who you are. So can going to therapy or counseling. Regardless of what approach you use, try to be non-judgmental. Like I once read on a website of a personality disorders treatment clinic, the best person you can become is yourself.