Confronting My Dependent Shadow Side

This afternoon, I downloaded a small collection of shadow work-based journaling prompts. One of them is to write about the time I felt most offended by someone. What did that person say or do? And more important, what was my reaction? I am encouraged to focus mostly on the emotions involved rather than the mere facts.

The first thing that came to mind, was my former psychologist diagnosing me with dependent personality disorder. This, though, didn’t really offend me: it scared me. After all, she claimed not just that I was being passive and clingy, as people with DPD often are, but that I was misusing care. I, obviously, disagreed and feared losing my care because of her diagnosis. This, indeed, did happen about six months later.

The moment I felt most offended though, was the moment in June of last year when my husband said he thought I might have DPD. He may’ve forgotten that this was the exact diagnosis my psychologist had given me in order to kick me out of the psych hospital, since he did not propose I move back in with him. His reasoning was, however, the fact that, even with one-on-one support for most of the day, I still struggle.

I felt intensely triggered and scared again, but also angry. However, I wasn’t necessarily angry with him, but with my own dependent side. After all, maybe, just maybe, he is right indeed.

Deep down, I do know it is crazy to want – to feel I need – one-on-one attention all of the time. I don’t even want it, truthfully. Right now, I’m very content being by myself. But then again, why do I feel so anxious some of the time when my staff leave? Why can’t I make simple choices? Why do I need my husband to take responsibility for any major parts of my life? These are telltale DPD criteria!

I am not even scared of the diagnosis itself. Diagnoses are just labels. But I am scared of losing the care I have now, like I did in 2017. And then the little voice, my independent part, is telling me that I coped just fine. I mean, I know I took two overdoses of medication during my first six months of living with my husband, but wasn’t that just manipulation?

Couldn’t I have a much better, much richer life if I unlearned this intense fear of needing to fend for myself? Yes, yes, yes, I could! But does unlearning this fear mean being given a kick in the behind and being forced to live with my husband again? Maybe there are steps in between. Like, today I poured myself a glass of fruit-infused water, spilling a little over myself, but I did it anyway. I felt intense anxiety, because I knew my staff noticed and maybe she’s going to expect me to always be able to do this independently. Then again, so what? Then the worst thing that could happen is I can’t get fruit-infused water if this staff is working my shift and I don’t feel like pouring it myself. Is that so bad after all? And just to say, the staff didn’t even tell me to pour the drink myself. I just noticed the bottle was in front of me and I decided to try to do it. I could’ve asked her to pour the water for me, in which case she’d likely have done so. She is a staff who generally encourages independence, which sets off my demand avoidance. However, the fact that I not only did something independently I wouldn’t normally have done, but took the initiative rather than being encouraged (read: pushed), gave me a confidence boost.

What If I Lose My Care?

Today’s prompt for the Weekly Prompts Wednesday Challenge is fear. More specifically, the organizers ask us to consider whether we ever worry about the “what if’s” of a situation without looking at the positive present. Fear, for me, takes many forms, including post-traumatic stress, in which I relive the past. However, it also includes worrying about the future indeed.

Specifically, I worry about losing my support. Of course, this is a realistic worry in a sense, in that my one-on-one support has only been approved until sometime in late 2023. However, right now it’s only May 2022 and a lot could happen between now and then.

This worry also takes unrealistic forms. For example, sometimes I’m convinced that the psychologist from the psychiatric hospital who diagnosed me with dependent personality disorder to “prove” that I was misusing care, will find out that I’m in long-term care and will report me for care fraud. If she does and if the authorities follow along with her allegation, I will not just lose my one-on-one, but all my long-term care and will essentially be required to move back into independent living with my husband.

In a sense, the fact that this “what if” is my worst fear, does prove sort of that I do have dependent traits. However, dependent personality disorder or dependency in general is not the same as misusing care. After all, I never disputed my psychologist’s claim that I wished to be cared for. What I disputed, is her claim that this wish is unfounded, in that I don’t really need this care.

In a similar fashion, recently I’ve had “what if’s” in my head about moving to another care home. What if the staff there expect me to be much more independent than I am right now? In a sense, one reason I want to move to another care home is to have a better quality of life, a broader perspective. This may include greater independence. But I don’t want to be forced into it.

I am reminded of a question on a personality test I had to fill out for my autism re-assessment back in 2017. The agree/disagree statement went something like this: “Being left behind alone is my worst fear.” I didn’t know how to answer it back then, as I thought at the time that being in serious pain would be worse, so I ticked the “Disagree” box. Then again, at the time, I hadn’t experienced significant time being left to my own resources in at least nine years. Now, I would certainly tick the “Agree” box even though I know it was a red flag for dependent personality disorder. I don’t care.

What if I lose all my care and am left to my own resources? During the same assessment, I had to answer a question about how difficult it would be to stay on my own for a couple of days. I ticked the “Very difficult” box, not the “Impossible” box that I would have ticked now. Then again, if my husband had stocked up on food and I had my computer and phone with me, would it literally be impossible? Hmmm, well… emotionally, yes, it would be.

A Letter to Myself Five Years Ago

Today, I stumbled upon a journaling prompt that asked me to write a letter to myself five years ago. I’m pretty sure I’ve done something similar to this at least a couple of times before. In fact, when I searched this blog for letters, I saw that I’d written A letter explaining my life at the time in early 2020, a letter to my younger self in general in October of 2018 and even a letter from my (then) future self in 2019.

Those who know the timeline of my life, of course, will not be surprised that I am going to pick this prompt anyway, as the “five years ago” part of the prompt is particularly significant. After all, it was weeks before I’d be kicked out of the mental hospital. I am not going to bore you with a timeline of the past five years in this letter. Instead, I’m trying to provide some new insights.

Raalte, March 27, 2022

Dear Astrid,

It is tempting to start this letter with a cliché, such as, “How are you?” However, I know how you are. You are struggling greatly with self-doubt and uncertainty. Fear of abandonment and attachment loss. You’d rather avoid taking the next step in your life, leaving the familiar behind to step into unfamiliar territory. Even though you’d rather not admit it, your psychologist is right that you’re scared of needing to become independent.

I want to let you know I understand. Independence is scary. The unfamiliar, leaving the psychiatric institution to go live with your husband, is even scarier. I understand you’d rather stay with unsupportive people you know, ie. in the psych hospital, than live with a supportive person, ie. your husband, under circumstances you don’t know.

And, to be honest, if I had a choice back when I was you, I’d not have chosen to live with my husband. The thing is, you don’t have a choice. Not yet. But you will, at some point.

Please, for my sake, hold on for a bit. Do what your psychologist tells you, but also stand up for your right to proper day activities and community support. It will be hard, living in the community with your husband. But things will get easier.

I am writing from a care facility. In 2019, I was approved for long-term care based on blindness. I also have extra one-on-one support. Please don’t tell your psychologist all of this, as she’s going to time travel right ahead to me and make sure my funding gets taken away. This is just between you and me, so that you know things will improve. I know they will get worse first, but please do hold on.

Looking to you, I do see that you struggle to let go of the familiar, even when it isn’t good for you. I sometimes think I face the opposite issue, chasing perfection rather than being content with what I have now. It’s a true balancing act.

I also want to let you know that, as much as you’d like to make your own choices, being allowed to make those choices also can be a burden. The fact that, now, I am free to stay in the care facility for as long as I want or leave when I want, is quite scary, I must admit. In that sense, your psychologist was probably right about my dependent personality disorder features.

I wish I could tell you that your attachment issues would be over by now. They aren’t. I’m still struggling with them, worse even than I was when I was you. However, I do have a supportive mental health treatment team now,for which I’m forever grateful.

In summary, please do believe in yourself. You have every right to feel that you need more support than your psychologist says you need. You just won’t get it yet. Eventually though, you will.

With love,

Your future self

#WeekendCoffeeShare (January 30, 2022)

Hi everyone. I’m extremely late joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare this week. I already had all my coffee for the weekend, in fact, so the title of my blog post is rather off, but oh well. The linky’s still open for another nine hours, so I’m going to take advantage of it and participate. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d start by sharing that the weather is slightly better than it was last week. It’s warmed up a bit, at least. That being said, we’re supposed to get rain all of next week, so I’m probably still not going out much.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that today is my father-in-law’s 65th birthday. Retirement age is now 67 here I believe, so it’s not significant in that sense. At least, my father-in-law is keeping his dentistry practice until he’s 67. My husband did buy him a beer and I sent him a text, but that’s as far as birthday celebrations go, I think.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I’ve been creating some quite interesting polymer clay things lately. One is a flower fairy, another a kawaii pig pendant and another a daisy. That daisy didn’t turn out as good as I’d like, but my husband did say he liked the fairy. I haven’t baked any of the things yet.

If we were having coffee, I’d use the rest of my post to whine about how my anxiety is still through the roof. I hardly slept at all Friday night. Then yesterday, I had an okay day until in the evening a fellow client started screeching. I tried to get the staff’s attention but they wouldn’t react until I grabbed the other client by the arm, then only told me that said client, who is non-speaking, couldn’t help her behavior. I’ve been feeling extremely unsettled and unsafe in my current care home ever since. I am all the more triggered because staff keep repeating that I’ll likely feel unsafe in any other place. They probably say it to mean every other place has its drawbacks too, but I take it to mean that my anxiety is my problem and I’m the one who needs to change so I just need to suck it up and stop complaining.

I’ve also been thinking about how I had fewer crises when living with my husband than now that I live in the care facility. Isn’t this telling? I mean, doesn’t this mean that I should get a kick in the butt and go back to living semi-independently? Granted, I had far fewer moments of joy too, but I’m not sure that matters if I was less dependent back then. Isn’t the goal independence, after all? Eek, that scares me, and that in turn should be quite telling, right? I’m probably just one giant mess of a dependent, manipulative, attention-seeking monster.

Okay, if we were having coffee, I’d end on a positive note and say I had a delicious tuna wrap today when going to the Subway drive-through for lunch with my husband. I also had one half of a Bueno candy bar, as my husband had bought it at the supermarket. I originally wanted to refuse as it isn’t on my food plan, but the dietitian had said exceptions are okay.

How have you been?

My Shed

One of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompts this week is to write about your very first apartment. I am going to cheat a little and write about the first apartment I rented rather than the very first apartment I lived in. The first apartment I rented was my student housing apartment, which I called “my shed”. This sounds affectionate in English. In Dutch, not so. “My cage”, though not as correct a translation, more correctly captures the feeling I had about this apartment.

When I got on the housing list in Nijmegen for the academic year starting 2007, the student counselor made sure I got a letter getting me to a priority place on the list because of my disabilities. This meant I was allowed to provide a preference for which student housing complex I wanted to live in. I had to list my top three. Based on the little information the housing association provided and what my support staff at the independence training home I lived in before moving to Nijmegen knew, my number one choice became the complex “my shed” was part of. My reasons were that its apartments reserved for disabled students were on the ground floor and the neighborhood was supposedly quiet.

Indeed, my apartment was on the ground floor, right beside the main entrance to the building. I didn’t have to enter the complex to get to my apartment.

It was a one-bedroom apartment. When you entered through the door, you were in the long, narrow living room and kitchen. Then you went through to something like a landing, with the bathroom on your right hand. Then, you’d enter another long, narrow room, which was the bedroom. The apartment altogether was 35m².

My apartment had just a few, very dim lights in the living room and one equally dim light in the bedroom. I guess my parents thought that I didn’t need much light since I was blind anyway. I had my desk, the one I currently still use to sit on whilst typing this post, in the living room. Other than that, I just had two kitchen chairs and a folding table to eat at. I did have one recliner that I’d gotten at a thrift store and a few rather tacky pillows. I had never thought of decorating my place at all. In fact, this past holiday season is the first time I’ve ever decorated my room and that’s quite a milestone.

Like I said, my apartment was very narrow and long. Its windows were on the short end of the apartment. Due to this and the lack of lighting, the apartment looked rather dark and gloomy. If I wasn’t depressed already, I’d become depressed from the lack of light in my shed.

The place quickly got rather filthy from my poor cleaning habits. I did try, but due to the combination of my disabilities, I just couldn’t keep the place properly cleaned. Looking back, I am so grateful my now husband didn’t go on a run as fast and as far as he could when I invited him into the shed on our second get-together.

I only actually lived in the shed for three months before landing in the psychiatric hospital. It is by far the worst place, in terms of interior, I’ve ever lived in.

Mama’s Losin’ It

House Inspection

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to tell us about a time someone showed up at your front door. Since I no longer live in regular housing since moving into the care facility, no-one ever shows up at my front door unexpectedly and, if they do, the staff will open it for me. When I still lived with my husband though, several times, people would show up at my front door unexpectedly. Not salespeople, thankfully. However, my experiences with the housing corporation were so bad that my husband actually asked me not to open the door. I always reflexively did anyway.

One time, the housing corporation, or I’m assuming some technical company sent by them, showed up when I did expect them. They were supposed to be repairing our gutter, but asked a ton of questions about where the problem was located and what kind of gutter we had. I had no idea and the people said they couldn’t just climb onto the roof and have a look. I called my husband to inquire, but he didn’t answer the phone, so they left without having done anything. This encounter led me to get into a mental crisis.

The first time the housing corporation showed up unannounced was in early August of 2017, just two weeks after the gutter repair guys had showed up. They came to ask us to weed the path behind our backyard. I had no idea there even grew plants there, but, under pressure, agreed to ask my husband to do it within a couple of weeks. Apparently, the back neighbors had been complaining, since I don’t expect the housing corporation to come out from the town to check on our tiny village house for no reason.

The other time was in September of 2019. My husband had scheduled the final inspection of our home for the 26th, when I’d be at the care facility and he’d be home alone. However, they showed up a week early when I was home alone. I was sleeping when I heard the doorbell and felt I had no time to dress into my day clothes, so quickly ran downstairs to open the door.

I told them they were a week early, but they insisted they take a look around “now that we’re here anyway”. After their inspection, they asked me to sign a document. I initially refused, but they insisted I am a renter too (I was). Then they asked: “Can you read?” I explained that I can, but not print, since I am blind. “There’s nothing to worry about in this document,” they told me. In my overwhelm, I signed and sent them on their way. My husband did complain about the way they’d treated me this time and it was my final reminder of why I want to never live in regular housing again.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Life Skills I Struggle With As a Multiply-Disabled Person

Earlier today, Ann Hickman wrote an interesting list of ten life skills she is teaching her autistic teenager. As a teen, I missed out on most of these lessons she mentioned, leading to a big gap in my skills as well as my awareness of them.

Of course, lack of education isn’t the only reason autistics and otherwise disabled people may struggle with life skills. I struggle with many of them due to lack of energy, executive functioning issues and other things.

Today, I am sharing life skills I struggle with and why.

1. Personal hygiene. I remember vividly my sister gave me a deodorant for my fourteenth birthday as a hint. I didn’t get it. I wasn’t taught about hygiene much beyond childhood, but even if I were, I didn’t grasp the concept.

Similarly, because we had a bath at my parents’ house, I didn’t learn to properly shower. I didn’t know until a few years back that you’re supposed to use body wash when showering each time.

Other personal care tasks, I simply cannot do due to my physical limitations. I cannot clip my nails, for instance. I know some other blind people (presumably without physical disabilities) can, but other blind people I know go to the pedicurist for this.

2. Meal preparation. While in the training home, I tried for weeks to learn to put peanut butter or jelly on my bread without success. My mother can’t do it blindfolded either. My father can, but he assembles all his supplies around him in a very structured manner.

To be honest, I never had to prepare my breakfast or lunch before going into the training home, as we didn’t eat breakfast at my parents’ home and my lunch was always packaged by my mother (or I’d eat a sausage roll at the cafeteria).

There are probably ways I could prepare my own meals if I really need to. I mean, when living on my own, I just ate plain bread without toppings. However, I prefer my staff prepare it for me.

3. Cleaning. This is a difficult task for most blind people, but it can be done. I can dust my desk and table with minimal help if I’m reminded to do so. However, I can’t vacuum or mop the floors. I learned both, but with each house having a different way it’s set up, it’s very hard to find my way around it with a mop or vacuum cleaner.

What I struggle with most with respect to cleaning, is remembering how often each task needs to be done and actually organizing them. For example, in the training home, I’d clean the top of the doors each week despite no-one ever touching them. On the other hand, I’d procrastinate about changing my bed sheets, sometimes leaving them on for months.

4. Getting around. Ann mentions navigation for a reason: regardless of high-tech solutions to help people navigate, they still need to learn to use maps or to use public transportation. For me as a blind person, mobility was always more important, as it additionally involved safe white cane travel. I never mastered this, even with seven years of mobility training in special education and many more lessons once out of special ed. I only recently learned that more blind, neurodivergent people struggle with white cane usage.

Currently, I can for the most part move around inside the care home by myself, but I cannot at all get around outside without a sighted guide. My parents used to blame this on lack of motivation. While I am pretty sure this, as well as anxiety, does play a part, it is also about other things. Besides, lack of motivation is not the same as laziness. In my case, it feels as though the activity of independent travel overloads me cognitively to the point where I feel incapacitated.

I am assuming Ann’s son is “just” autistic, whereas I am multiply-disabled: autistic, blind and mildly physically impaired. However, with this article, I want to make it clear that there are many reasons a disabled teen or young adult might struggle with life skills and, for this reason, many different approaches to supporting them.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
loopyloulaura

Loneliness Comes From Within: Some Reflections

I am still struggling badly. I have been having flashbacks of the time when I lived on my own in 2007. When I told my husband this tonight, he asked whether any traumatic events happened there. Not really in the classic sense of the word, but I did suffer intensely. The “cage”, as I called my apartment, was a filthy, dark and gloomy place. Neither I nor anyone else had ever thought of making it into a home.

I was intensely lonely during the three months that I lived in that place. Nonetheless, people did reach out to me. I was in touch with several of my fellow students in the linguistics program at university, one of whom lived in my housing complex too.

When I mentioned this, my husband said that loneliness rarely comes from the environment. It wasn’t that no-one cared, as had been the case during most of my high school years. In fact, multiple people reached out to me, but I was closed off to contact with others. I was so convinced that I was unloveable that I didn’t attempt to form genuine bonds with people.

Sadly, it’s still mostly this way. Just a few days back, I was telling my husband that all caring staff eventually leave, referring to the idea I’ve gotten in my head that my assigned staff is not coming back. Indeed, a number of staff have left in the past or told me they had to distance themselves from me due to my behavior. However, a number have stayed too. In particular, my support coordinator from when I lived with my husband, stuck by me till the end.

Of course, staff/client relations are different from friendships. Staff might leave for reasons that have nothing to do with me. Others will come in their place, sad as it may be. Friends though will not necessarily be replaced. And that’s where it hurts more: I feel intensely incompetent at forming friendships.

I mean, though I did have contact with fellow students and people in my housing complex while living on my own, I mostly sucked up their energy. I feel intensely sad about this. I still feel like I’m not able to make friends ever at all. However, there is hope. Now that I (hopefully) am in a stable living situation, I may be able to build on some genuine friendships after all. I already consider some of my fellow clients my friends. I don’t need to rely on them for support, as I (hopefully) have my staff for that. That should be a relief.

My Worst Fear

This week, one of Mama Kat’s writing prompts is to share one of your fears. I have a lot of fears and phobias, to be honest. I probably would even meet the criteria for generalized anxiety disorder if it weren’t for my autism, which encompasses a lot of worry in itself already. In fact, when my former psychologist had removed my autism diagnosis, she at one point considered diagnosing me with GAD.

She ended up diagnosing me with dependent personality disorder though. And, as much as I used to fight this diagnosis, it fits in some important ways: being left all alone is probably one of my worst fears.

I obviously didn’t tick that box when filling out the screening questionnaires for my independent second opinion after said psychologist’s diagnosis. I also ticked the box for “very difficult” rather than “impossible” on the WHODAS (assessment of level of disability) question on being on your own for a few days. Obviously, that only got me assigned a lower number on level of disability, not a different diagnosis, but I wasn’t aware of this. Besides, my diagnostician was able to see through my not having ticked that one box, so, though she didn’t diagnose me with DPD, she did recommend I work on my self-confidence.

Whether it means I’m pathologically dependent or not, I don’t care though: I fear being left to my own resources. And to be honest, no amount of kicking me in the butt has helped with this so far. Neither have so many years of independence training and therapy. I guess I just need to live with it. And that’s okay at least as long as the authorities aren’t going to see this as a reason to revoke my access to long-term care.

I mean, it’s not just fear. I fear being left to my own resources because I legitimately have no clue how to live my life independently on a daily basis. I can, with a lot of difficulty, perform most activities of daily living, such as showering, brushing my teeth and getting dressed. I now mostly get help with these, because it costs me a ton of time and energy having to do them on my own. For those saying I used to do these things by myself, I would like to add that this came at a cost to my dental health and physical hygiene. But if I really had to, I probably could do all of this. However, where it comes to housework, I’m pretty much lost. I cannot prepare my own food. Like, when I lived on my own in 2007, I ate bread without toppings because I couldn’t put them onto my bread. I wouldn’t die doing this for a few days, of course, and there the “very difficult” answer on the WHODAS may be correct. But it would be my worst fear come true.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Free to Belong in Long-Term Care

Today, one of Mama Kat’s writing prompts is to write a blog post inspired by the word “Free”. This definitely appealed to me, as a survivor of childhood trauma as well as abuse in the psychiatric system that continued until I was 30.

Last Tuesday marked the five-year anniversary of the opening of my current care facility. It also was the day I was here eighteen months. Five years ago, I myself still resided in the psychiatric hospital. Some of the worst abuses of power of my psychiatric hospital stay hadn’t even happened yet.

As a child, I suffered significant trauma both at home and at school. Most of it left only invisible wounds, but these are as deep as any physical wounds could’ve been.

Like I said on Sunday, my parents fought my schools, especially special ed, all the time. As a result, I endured frequent school changes and was at the center of conflicts pretty much my entire childhood. Whenever I had adapted to a school environment, I was removed again. I also didn’t have the opportunity to form lasting friendships. The feeling that I didn’t belong anywhere, was instilled in me from an early age.

When I finally moved to the mainstream high school my parents deemed best for me, I knew within a month that I didn’t belong here either. I managed to finish the grammar school program and graduate in 2005.

Then started my long journey through the adult disability and mental health care systems. My parents wanted me to go to university and live independently right away, but I asserted myself and sought help first.

I eventually lived independently for three months in 2007, but then landed in a mental crisis and was hospitalized. Over the following 9 1/2 years, I endured a lot of ongoing trauma at the hands of the psychiatric system. I eventually got kicked out of there and started living with my husband. That didn’t work out either. That is, our marriage is still strong, but I couldn’t cope living semi-independently.

All this to say, now I’m in long-term care and finally free. I am able to make my own choices now. It’s still a little hard to grasp that I am asked to sign for any restrictions to my freedom that may be needed for my safety. In the psychiatric hospital, seclusion and restraint were just shoved down my throat even though I was an informal admission. Either that or I was basically left to my own resources, since, being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, I needed to take responsibility. Both of these extremes left me feeling unsafe.

Now, I not only am asked to sign for restrictive measures, but I am allowed to request extra support. This allows me freedom as well as safety. I am free now and yet I belong. If only I felt this way already. That may take a long while still.

Mama’s Losin’ It

PoCoLo