Understanding and Dealing with Anger #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 21 and my letter U post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today I’m going to write about dealing with anger.

First, before you can learn to deal with it, you have to figure out whether what you’re experiencing is truly anger. I mean, anger is often our first go-to emotion even when what we’re truly feeling is guilt, sadness, fear or hurt, for example. I for one tend to express all strong emotions, even “positive” ones, as anger. (I put that between quote marks because no emotion is truly positive or negative.)

Second, check whether you are hungry, thirsty or not feeling well physically. Particularly hunger can cause you to feel angry. Anna Borges explains in her book, The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care, that the same chemicals are released in the brain when your blood sugar is low that are released when you are angry. Usually when I’m hungry, I want to overeat and the thoughts I use to suppress that, cause me frustration and anger.

Also, pain can be a really frustrating feeling. When you’re not used to dealing with pain or physical discomfort, it can be that your go-to emotion is once again anger. It is for me.

When you have figured out that you are actually angry, there are several things you can do.

Firstly, leave the environment. Literally physically leave the room. Tell the people you’re with that you need a break to calm down.

Also, write an angry letter – but don’t send it. It may even be helpful to shred it at the end. Write out all your angry thoughts, whine if you want to, let it all out.

Another strategy is to self-soothe. Anna Borges explains that you can see anger as an inner baby who cries. Hold it by doing deep breathing and maybe talking calmly to it.

Lastly, Borges doesn’t mention this but I find it extremely helpful to exercise vigorously. This helps release chemicals in the brain that make you feel good. Also, tearing apart an old magazine or newspaper, stomping your feet, or otherwise expressing your frustration safely, can certainly help.

What do you feel helps you when you’re mad?

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?

A Letter Explaining My Life Right Now

Today’s topic in 7 Days 7 Posts is to write a letter to someone explaining your life right now. I have been thinking about reconnecting with the head nurse from the psychiatric resocialization unit for a while. She was one of the most supportive people I ever met during my psychiatric hospital stay, but still, she was a bit prejudiced. Here is a letter to her.

Dear K,

How are you? I hope you are well. Do you still work for the psychiatric hospital? When I last spoke to L (my named nurse from the resocialization unit), she informed me that the entire Nijmegen long-term care hospital was closing and moving to Wolfheze. Do you work there now?

When I last wrote to you and L, I explained that I was living with my husband in the tiny village and going to day activities. I didn’t inform you that I was struggling. I eventually got kicked out of my first day center with this agency and transferred to another one.

Still, I struggled with independent living with my husband. My husband is a truck driver now and his shifts are like 12 hours a day. For this reason, we finally applied for long-term care funding at the end of 2018, which after a long battle was granted in June of 2019. As of September, I live in a care facility for people with intellectual disability in Raalte. I know you didn’t want me to go into housing for people with intellectual disabilities. Well, I am happy here.

We involved the Center for Consultation and Expertise again when I was struggling at my first day center. The consultant psychologist assigned to my case assessed my needs. Among other things, she concluded that I function emotionally at a level of around 6-18 months.

I go to day activities at a group for older people with profound intellectual disability, most of whom live with me too. I go for almost daily walks. I love to go to the snoezelen® room too. I also do a weekly cooking activity with the staff intern. It’s sometimes difficult to figure out activities I can do, because the other clients mostly just sit around and I almost need one-on-one support with most activities.

I am still married to my husband. We bought a house in Lobith, but this is mostly for him to live in and for me to go to on week-ends.

I still see the mental health team, but have decided not to pursue any formal therapy program for now. Dialectical behavior therapy, which I used to try, didn’t work out because of my autism and my dissociative symptoms. I don’t feel comfortable going through the assessment for dissociation though.

Anyway, hope you are doing well. I suppose L is around retirement age now, but if she still works at the hospital and you still see her, send her my warm regards.

Astrid

When This Is All Over: A Letter From My Future Self

I am feeling rather low right now. I am in fact struggling somewhat with suicidal thoughts. To motivate myself to keep going, I’m writing a letter as if it were say 2021 (because in 2021, everything will be okay) and I am writing to myself right now. In other words, I am writing a letter from my future self to my current self. Of course, in this letter, I’m assuming that by 2021, I’ll be in long-term care. I really hope and pray I’ll be in long-term care much sooner, but I know that at least they won’t be able to deny me funding by 2021.

Dear you,

I see you. I feel your pain. I understand 2021 seems like far away and I know you hope to be granted long-term care funding earlier. I know you need it. I know you’re struggling right now, seeing that your application is likely to be turned down. I know your support staff are fighting like lions to get you funding. Please appreciate that.

Please don’t end your life now. Things will get better. I am here, in a suitable supported housing facility, looking at you. Look at me and please give me a chance. I don’t want to be dead.

Please, for the sake of me, keep going. You’ve been through so much already. I know that isn’t particularly motivating to keep going, as each disappointment drags you further down the rabbit hole of depression. However, I am here to guide you through.

Please, for your husband, keep going. He loves you. He supported you through the twelve years up to this point and he’ll support you through the rest of the time needed to finish this thing.

Please, for your parents, keep going. They may see you as manipulative. They may have felt in 2007 that the main reason not to kill yourself is that they’d have to pay for your funeral. They no longer do, but they don’t deserve to be proven right about the manipulativeness. Please keep on fighting and show them you can be a happy, positive person.

Please, for your support staff, keep going. You have the best support coordinator you could wish for. She fights like a lioness for what you need. She believes you. Please don’t let her down.

I know you want to be included on the Autistic Memorial Blog if your suicide is successful. Fine by me but I’d rather you be a living person rather than a statistic on a blog. I know you say that your suicide might wake up the politicians and policy-makers involved in healthcare, but they’re already working on changing the law. They can’t speed up things just because you’re gone.

And what if you attempt suicide but fail? Then you’ll be exactly where you are now, except that you’ll be there to remember your parents being proven right about your manipulativeness. Because quite frankly, killing yourself for political reasons is manipulative. I know that, if you ultimately decide to attempt suicide, you’ll not be thinking about this, as you’ll most likely act in an impulse. However, I am here on your blog to remind you that, as shit as this may be, suicidality won’t get you what you want, or even what you need. Look back at yourself in 2007 for that. You might get temporary relief from the current situation, but it won’t last and you won’t be relieved from yourself, except if you truly die. Which I know isn’t what you want or need either. Please, stay safe.

Me

A Letter to the Insiders

I want to write, but I don’t know where this is going. In fact, until I wrote down the title of this blog post just minutes ago, I had no idea I was even going to write a letter to my alters. I was inspired to do it by the recovery-based letters some people write to their mental health conditions.

Another thing that inspired me subconsciously, was a conversation with a dear friend on the need to integrate as part of treatment for dissociative identity disorder. This is often seen as the only possible end goal, and this dear friend was even told so on her first appointment with a therapist. We feel very strongly about this. First of all, integration is the third and last phase of treatment for DID, so it feels very wrong to discuss it at the very start. Second, integration can also mean living a functional life (ie. integration into society). I know many therapists, including I think our psychiatrists, feel a merger of all alters as somehow more healthy than living as a functional multiple. Well, agree to disagree.

The first phase of treatment is stabilization. This includes getting to know your system, learning to deal with feelings, developing inner communication, etc. After this, the second phase is trauma processing. Only once all traumas have been processed can you begin to integrate.

We don’t do DID treatment and aren’t likely to get it ever at all. After all, the diagnosis process scares the crap out of us and we’re unlikely to be believed. As such, it’s all the more important that we validate ourselves.

Dear you,

Welcome. We appreciate you. We are glad that you’re here, for you helped us survive. Without you, we wouldn’t be where we’re now. Thanks for that!

We know you may feel sad, or angry, or confused. that’s all okay. It may not feel okay to you, but that too is okay. Your feelings are valid. They’re there for a reason.

We want you to know there are people out there to support you. Inside, you have an entire system of alters that will help you be the best you you can be. If we work together – and that includes you -, we’ll heal.

Outside of the body, you’ll meet our support staff. Maybe you’ll be able to meet our mental health team too. Most of the people in our current life are supportive. We know this hasn’t always been the case and that’s one reason you’re here. We are here to help you heal from those experiences. You can trust us.

You may not be able to disclose your true identity as an alter to everyone, but there are people in the DID community you can talk to as yourself.

We hope this letter helped you feel a little bit safe. It’s still scary, but things will get better.

Love,

Us

A Letter to My Younger Self #Write31Days

Welcome to day nine in my #Write31Days series on personal growth. Today, I chose yet another prompt from The Self-Exploration Journal. It asks what one piece of advice you would give your younger self if you could go back in time. Ths question couldn’t be more timely, as I’m facing a lot of regrets from the past right now as I face the decision to apply for long-term care. I am spinnning this questioon around a little and going to write a letter to my younger self. I don’t have an idea for the age of this younger self, but the piece of advice should be the same anyway.

Dear Younger Self,

This is your 32-year-old self writing. I want to reassure you that I see you. I see your struggles for autonomy, for self-determination. And yet, I see your struggles with your limitations. You have yet to come to terms with the fact that you’re multiply-disabled.

I see that peope try to control you. Your parents consider you worth parenting only so long as you prove that you’re going to give back by contributing to society. Your support staff try to please your parents, sending you out to live on your own despite knowing this isn’t in your best interest. Your psychologist in Nijmegen, no matter how helpful she is in some respects, still doesn’t provide you with the opportunity to go into the right type of care. She, like eveyrone before her, values your intelligence over your need for support. Your psychologist in Wolfheze blames you. She robs you off your last bit of self-determination by kicking you out of the institution without proper after care.

I want to reassure you. I see your needs. I’m fighting for them to be met. I don’t have enough support yet, but I have people around me who are fighting for it with me. I can’t promise you that you will ultimately get into long-term care, as that’s up to the funding agency to decide. I can however assure you that I’m fighting for you.

If there’s one piece of advice I could give you, it’s to fight for yourself. No-one can live your life but you. You don’t owe your parents anything. You’re past that point. Care staff do only their job. This isn’t to discount the good work my current care staff do, but it’s just that, work. They will eventually fade out of our life. Even your husband, the only person who will most likely stick by you for a long time to come, doesn’t have the right to control you. I know you want to please him, because you love him, but that is different. Pleasing your husband is founded on love, not authority, and it is mutual. Even so, your husband does not live your life. Ultimately, the only person who will live the entirety of your life with you, is you.

I don’t mean this to criticize you at all. I see how hard it is for you to stand up to controling people. But you’ll learn to do so in time.

With love,

Astrid

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?