Reflecting on My Life: 2003

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was looking for some link-up parties to join in and came across the Life This Week linky. In this week’s edition, host Denyse shares her memories of the year 2003. As this is my first time participating in the linky, I should really start my story from the beginning on, but for some reason, I can’t.

I may have shared this before, but in secondary school, I always had this superstition that life ran in circles. There’d be a year of struggle and crisis, a year of renewed hope and finally a year of disillusionment, after which I’d spiral back to struggle and crisis. The year 2003 was a year of disillusionment.

In 2003, I was sixteen. I turned seventeen at the end of June. I was in the tenth grade for the first half of the year and in the eleventh for the last half.

In the summer of 2002, I had barely moved up a year. My grades weren’t that good and I only moved up because I worked very hard the last few weeks of the year. I had been struggling with feeling like an outcast due to my blindness the entire 2001/2002 school year. That was to change by late 2002, or so I believed. My high school tutor promised me he’d help me feel better.

What he did was come up with a social skills assessment for blind students and have the teachers fill it out. That was no good for my self-esteem, as I showed considerable weaknesses. No-one knew at the time that I was also autistic, even though I suspected it.

The year 2003 was the year I started to learn about myself from a possibly autistic point of view. Even though I had started suspecting I was on the spectrum in mid-2002, I didn’t feel comfortable joining online support groups for it till 2003.

This was also the year I expanded my horizons where it came to using the Internet in general. I had gotten an Internet connection in May of 2002. By April of 2003, I started keeping an online diary on DiaryLand, which several years later morphed into my first WordPress blog.

In the summer of 2003, I attended the International Computer Camp for blind students in Switzerland. I had attended it the year before, when it was held in England, too. This year, I felt a bit disappointed in the end, because it didn’t provide me with the cathartic experience I’d felt the year before.

In 2003, I also explored fictional storytelling as a way of expressing myself. I was experiencing some significant selective mutism at the time, which I could circumvent by pretending I wasn’t talking about myself. This is how my “mirror image”, Kirsten, came to be. She is one of my main alters to this day.

Finally, this was the year I was first starting to explore future planning. Here in the Netherlands, students with disabilities attending mainstream education didn’t get any type of special transition planning at the time. I was expected to just get by and go to university straight out of high school in 2005. In 2003, I started to doubt this would be a success, but I didn’t voice my doubts yet. As it is, I didn’t actually make it clear that I wasn’t going to university right out of high school until April of 2005.

Where were you on the path of life in 2003?

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?

A Month Without a Laptop

I am writing this post on my new computer. I love it. Definitely a PC is much more user-friendly than a Mac if you are not too tech-savvy. My mother-in-law would say the opposite, but oh well. I’m just glad I got to sell her my Macbook.

Today, when I read on another blog about someone having to do without a laptop for a few days, I was reminded of the month I spent without a computer. Of course, people older than me will remember the years they spent without a computer and, in fact, I didn’t get my first computer till I was eleven and didn’t have access to the Internet till nearly sixteen. I quickly became addicted though, so when my laptop broke down in 2009, I was lost.

I had at the time just transferred from the locked psych unit to the open resocialization unit. The locked unit didn’t have a patient computer. This got me to consider getting a wireless cellphone-like modem for my laptop. However, at the time, I was too scared of getting Alzheimer’s from electromagnetic radiation. This meant that, in the early months of my hospitalization, before I was allowed on leave, I didn’t have access to the Internet. I had a computer though.

The resocialization unit did have a patient computer that was connected to the Internet. It didn’t have a screen reader on it, of course, but I just removed the network cable from the computer and plugged it into my laptop. And then one day my laptop crashed. This was, obviously, before accessible smartphones. In fact, though I had a phone that could connect to the Internet, I could only use it to make phone calls.

I was frustrated, but not as frustrated as I’d be now if I lost access to the Internet. For an entire month, I typed up my diary in Braille and listened to audio books and magazines on my digital talking book player. I do still have my Braille typerwriter and my digital talking book player, but both are pretty much useless.

Since having no computer for an entire month, I usually make sure I have at least two devices that connect to the Internet. Currently these are my PC and my iPhone. My old PC could probably be revived if need be too.

I also did finally get myself a wireless modem. I just threw it away yesterday, as I’ve not paid f or the data that goes with it in years.

I guess I could technically (no pun intended) deal without going online for a while now. However, I am always very happy to discover that a potential new living faciltiy has WiFi. I guess some people take this for granted, but the psych hospital didn’t have WiFi till 2015 and even then it was very limited.