The Wednesday HodgePodge (September 7, 2022)

Hi everyone. It’s Wednesday again, so it’s time for the Wednesday HodgePodge. Here are Joyce’s questions and my answers.

1. Tell us a little bit about the best birthday you’ve ever had.
I honestly can’t decide on any specific one. Birthdays were always stressful when I was a child, but they’ve gotten easier as I got older. Now that I think of it, I’m going to pick last year’s, my 35th, because it wasn’t as loaded as the ones before and I got some of the loveliest presents.

2. In what way(s) have you changed in the last five years?
Five years ago, I was struggling greatly living with my husband. I had already had my first major mental crisis, but not my second or third and I was still trying to uphold the image of myself as the successful psych survivor. As such, the most important way in which I’ve changed over the past five years, is having learned to embrace myself with all my limitations, rather than wanting to prove my capabilities to the world. It’s a delicate balancing act and sometimes I wonder if I’ve swung too far to the dependent side of things. I’m trying to reclaim some of my fierce self-reliance indeed, without losing the self-determination I didn’t have five years ago. For those who don’t know, living with my husband rather than in a care facility wasn’t my choice; instead, I had been kicked out of a psych hospital in May of 2017 for allegedly misusing care. I am so glad my community support team and I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to be in long-term care after all. Now I need to find the balance between passive dependency and stubborn self-reliance.

3. What’s your favorite thing about the street on which you live?
The fact that the care facility is right at the end of the street, overseeing the meadow, so it’s relatively quiet.

4. The Hodgepodge lands on National Beer Day…are you a beer drinker? What’s a recipe you make that lists beer as one of the ingredients? If not beer, how about yeast?
I can’t stand beer, doesn’t matter whether it’s alcohol in it. I honestly don’t know any recipe with beer or yeast in it. That being said, my father used to make bread from scratch, including “waking” the yeast for the dough. That expression always made me laugh.

5. As I grow older I would like to be a woman (or man, if there are any men in the HP today) who…
Practises expressing gratitude everyday.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
Speaking of my answer to #2, I had an interesting conversation with the student staff today. I have as soon as I came here expressed that I’d prefer not to be helped with my personal care by male staff. When discussing this with this student staff a few days ago, I said that I could try to do my personal care myself if there’s no female staff available. This staff either understood this to mean that, if he works on my side of the home, I’ll do my personal care by myself, or I thought he understood it this way. Rather, I had meant it if no female staff are available at all.

It may seem weird that, if I can do my personal care by myself if absolutely necessary, I may want help with it sometimes or most times. The reason has to do with the fact that doing my personal care costs me a lot of energy without giving me much satisfaction at all. I don’t personally feel that self-reliance is an end goal in itself, so I get help with my personal care. Thankfully, my staff agree. Then again, I can’t expect there to always be a female staff in the home, so when there isn’t, I make the choice to invest the extra energy into my personal care in order to preserve my dignity as a married woman.

My Ideal Space

I have been thinking about my ideal living space lately; a space I can feel safe, secure and at home in. When I wrote my post describing my safe space a few weeks ago, I realized that, other than the unicorns, I could almost recreate my safe space right here in my current care facility. In fact, I have nothing to complain about my room, with my private bathroom, kitchenette and even my own balcony.

So why do I feel I want to move to a different care facility, and why, in fact, do I feel like I actually want to sacrifice some of the aspects that make my current room great, in order to live in a more suitable care home, and what does “more suitable” even mean? I’ve said many times that I want to move to institution grounds, because then I’d be able to feel like I’d be more sheltered when going outdoors. Thankfully, most of my current readers didn’t know me fifteen years ago, or they’d call me crazy now for such a 180-degree turn from saying institutionalization is bad and community care is always preferrable to now wishing to be institutionalized myself.


This post was written for this week’s Six-Sentence Story link-up, for which the prompt word is “space”.

A Courageous Choice

I was a shy, withdrawn teen who was loyal to my parents even though they didn’t have my best interest in mind. I mean, if they’d had their way, I’d have gone to university and lived on my own straight out of high school in 2005, even though I could barely take care of myself. That had been their attitude towards raising “responsible” children ever since I was a little girl: if I couldn’t – or in their opinion was too strong-willed to – learn a skill as a child, I’d learn it as an adult by myself. Or not. In any case, there was no safety net.

Though I do indeed feel that children benefit from learning by doing themselves, this was not how it worked in my family. I don’t blame my parents for not having the patience to teach me self-care skills, given that I got frustrated very easily, but I do hold them responsible for not having accepted the help they could have gotten. Though it might not have led to me becoming as independent as they’d want me to be, my current situation is about as far from that goal as can be. Then again, my parents hold me responsible for that. And I, in a sense, do too.

I was reminded of this situation when I read a journaling prompt that asked me to reflect on a courageous choice I made as a teen that’s still helping me today. I immediately thought of the choice to go into blindness training rather than straight to university once I’d graduated high school. Though this decision itself did not by far lead to the self-awareness I needed to try to get into long-term care, it was my first step into the care system. And, of course, as my parents predicted, I never fully got out.

Back in June of 2005, when I accepted the blindness training center psychologist’s offer to put me on the waiting list for the basic training program, I still had my head deep in the sand about my lack of independence skills. The psychologist did not. He suggested I go to a training home after finishing the program. He probably knew that, like many young people blind from birth, and especially those from families like mine who value academics over life skills, I wouldn’t be ready to move into independent living after a four-month, basic program. I wasn’t. I never would be. Till this day, I’m not sure whether this is my blindness or my autism or my mild cerebral palsy or what. I believe strongly that, with multiple disabilities, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Thankfully, the authorities approving my long-term care funding, eventually agreed.

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.

Rebirth

I remember reading a story some years ago in the book Preemie Voices by Saroj Saigal. This is a collection of autobiographical letters from people who were once premature babies in the university hospital NICU Saigal worked for. I, like the contributors, was a preemie.

In this particular story, the author shared how she felt she has three birthdays: one, her actual birthday, the second, her original due date, and the third, the day of her rebirth. In this author’s case, her rebirth meant being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (her choice of words).

I haven’t experienced one such pivotal moment in my life. I mean, I too could choose the day I was diagnosed as autistic (March 16, 2007). Then again, my diagnosis has been removed and reaffirmed so many times that I could just as easily choose the last time I was diagnosed (May 1, 2017). Besides, self-diagnosis is valid too.

I could choose the day I was given long-term care funding (June 4, 2019). Maybe that is the most pivotal moment in my life, but it didn’t exactly mean I was reborn.

I could, of course, choose the day I became a Christ follower (December 7, 2020). Many people in the Evangelical Christian community say they are Born Again and indeed, rebirth in Christ is a common Biblical concept. However, I am more of the opinion that, as Christians, we are on a continuous path towards God. I believe that, each time I consciously pick up my Bible, or the cross my husband gifted me and which I use for prayer, or each time a message from God truly enters me, I am transformed a little bit. I don’t believe that I will be made fully new until the day of Jesus’ return.

All that being said, I do believe I am not the exact same I was a year ago. I am not even the same I was yesterday. Or when I started writing this post. In my view, every single moment is an opportunity for rebirth. Every second we are given is another second chance.

This post was written for Reena’s Xploration Challenge, for which the prompt this week is a theme: rebirth.

Making Up My Mind: Why I Want to Live in an Institution

Last week, the behavior specialist for my care home came by for a visit to discuss my housing profile. This is the thing with my wants and needs with respect to a new prospective care home on it. I initially wasn’t too picky, saying for example that I would most like to live on institution grounds but if that isn’t possible, a quiet neighborhood home would do too. Then when I talked to my husband, he said that an integrated neighborhood doesn’t get much quieter than my current neighborhood in Raalte. He also told me I don’t need to make compromises about where I want to live as of yet, since I will be looking to stay in my prospective new home for the rest of my life.

The reason I initially compromised about living on institution grounds, is that my current care agency has only one such institution and that one at least wasn’t admitting new clients back in 2019. I’m not sure about right now or whether not admitting new clients means they aren’t keeping a wait list either. However, I was wary of contacting other agencies due to the bureaucracies involved. Then my husband said though that this shouldn’t be something for me to worry about.

Eventually, after talking about it with my assigned home staff, my husband and my mother-in-law, I decided to make up my mind about my wishes for the housing profile. I said I’d really like to be looking at institutions.

This does mean I had to drop my objection against contacting external agencies. I offered two agencies we could contact other than my current one. One has an institution in Apeldoorn, the city I grew up in, and another in a small town elsewhere in Gelderland, about a 45-minute drive from Lobith, where my husband lives. For reference: Raalte is about a 75-minute drive from Lobith and I did agree with my husband that I won’t be looking at care homes that are farther away. The other agency has an institution near Apeldoorn and one near Nijmegen. I’m not sure the one near Nijmegen was acceptable distance-wise to my husband, but the one near Apeldoorn certainly was.

Both agencies are unlikely to refuse to consider me based on my IQ alone, even though both primarily serve people with intellectual disability. The reason I think so is that both also serve other populations and I have some experience with both agencies.

I do feel all kinds of feelings about the fact that I’ve made up my mind. For one thing, I do feel some form of shame about wishing to live on institution grounds. Back in 2006 and 2007, I wrote agitated articles about the fact that deinstitutionalization was said not to be working by some non-disabled advocates for the disabled, claiming it was poor care, not community living, that was at fault. I meant, for example, the fact that people in the community need more support to go outside if, for example, they aren’t safe in traffic, than they would need in institutions. Then, if that support isn’t provided, it’s no wonder they’d rather go back to living in the woods.

Now one of the reasons I want to go into an institution is the fact that I don’t feel safe leaving my home and the only way of preventing me from leaving it anyway is locking me up. Now tell me again you want the least restrictive environment.

Another feeling has to do with the institution in Apeldoorn specifically. My family home was quite close by that institution. So close in fact that I remember one day when I was eighteen, having an encounter with the police and being asked whether I’d run away from there. I know my parents would feel intense shame if I moved there. Then again, they probably feel intense shame at the fact that I live with people with intellectual disabilities already. Besides, who cares what my parents think?

I do have a few things I need to consider when looking at external agencies. For example, my current agency provides free, pretty much unrestricted WiFi in all rooms of all its homes and it’s available to clients if they wish to use it, which I do. I am not sure the other agencies do, but I will inquire about this when the need arises.

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.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (April 27, 2022)

Hi everyone. It’s King’s Day, so I have the day off from my day activities. This means for me that I don’t have one-on-one support between 1:30 and 4:00PM. This in turn means plenty of time to blog, so I’m aiming for two blog posts today. First, I’m participating in the Wednesday HodgePodge for this week. As the questions went online yesterday and the host participates in the #AtoZChallenge too, her questions are all related to words starting with the letter V. Here goes.

1. What does the word values mean to you personally? Where did your values come from? What are some of the values that have guided you throughout your life?
I discussed some of this yesterday already. Values to me are those abstract qualities that are important in my life. Among my values are authenticity, connection, self-determination and growth.

as for where they came from, I’d like to say I developed them in spite of my upbringing. My parents are very success-minded and more concerned with outward appearance than authenticity. I do think my self-determination comes from my parents though, as they did somewhat raise me to make my own choices.

2. Your favorite vanilla flavored something?
I love everything vanilla really (well, except for vanilla coke, because I can’t stand fizzy drinks), so picking just one is hard. I’m going with ice cream though, yum!

3. What’s something you’ve seen/done recently that you found to be very difficult, very confusing, very helpful, very interesting, or very special. Elaborate.
Deciding to have a discussion with the behavior specialist on the possibility of finding me a more suitable care home. It’s been a very difficult, very confusing time. I thankfully have been able to share my thoughts with most staff, who all have been as supportive as possible.

4. Something you own and love that is violet in color?
I don’t think I own anything that’s specifically violet. I mean, I have a lot of shades of purple in my polymer clay collection, including lilac and translucent lilac, lavender, plum and a couple colors I mixed myself. However, none are exactly violet. I’ve heard it’s one of the harder colors to mix with polymer clay too.

5. Do you have vacation plans on the calendar this summer? Tell us more.
No, I don’t. I was joking around with my husband yesterday about going camping out this summer, but really, we haven’t been on vacation since 2014. I really would like to someday, but I’d go into a hotel then (like we did the last couple of times we went on vacation). My husband is off work for two weeks around my birthday in late June and two more weeks around our wedding anniversary in September. We may plan some extra time together then, but that’s it.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I just want to share I went on a giant outdoor trampoline this morning. Last year this day, my assigned home staff asked me whether I’d like to go to a playground in a neighboring village that had a giant trampoline and I said yes. I was discussing ways to get out of my room today when I remembered this and so we went again. It was fun!

Reasons I Think I Want to Stay in My Current Care Home

Last week, I was discussing my insecurity about living in my current care home with my assigned home staff. I still keep searching for another place to live, even though staff keep reassuring me that I don’t have to leave. Part of the reason for this is probably habit, in that I feel I ought to be looking for another place because that’s always been the case. However, my assigned staff also challenged me to write down a list of reasons I want to stay in my current care home and a list of reasons I may want to leave. Today, I’m going to share my list of reasons I think I want to stay. I’m pretty sure I won’t be sharing my list of reasons I may want to leave, as these are more like things I am hoping to find a solution to within my current care situation. Anyway, here are the reasons I probably want to stay in my current care home.

1. My one-on-one support. Of course, this is government-funded and may be transferable to another care facility, but I do like the fact that my current care team really think my care is important, in that staff shortages won’t easily mean my care will be cut.

2. The fact that I have gotten to know most of my staff. Of course, no-one can guarantee they’ll remain part of my team for the foreseeable future, but if I leave, the whole team will be new at least at first.

3. The fact that my staff help me with activities of daily living. This is a bit of an uncertain thing, as I sort of feel I ought to be able to do more of them independently.

4. The fact that I get day activities in the home and am the only one who does for now. Even though it may be possible to get day activities in my room at another care facility, I might not be the only one. I like the peace and quiet during the day as it is now.

5. The fact that fellow clients hardly make an appeal on me. Most leave me alone most of the time. This is a good thing, but I did put in my other list that I wish to interact with other clients somewhat more than I currently do.

6. My own room with my private bathroom, kitchenette and balcony. Thankfully, shared rooms are no longer in existence within disability services as far as I’m aware, but shared bathrooms definitely are.

7. The weighted blanket the care facility paid for me to sleep under. I mean, seriously, if I were to transfer to a different care agency, I’d lose that too.

8. The Internet access. Pretty much unrestricted, mind you. At least, I haven’t run into any sites that are blocked by the care facility’s WiFi. At least social media and games are allowed. I’m not particularly interested in anything adult content, so haven’t checked that. I can also use the Internet whenever I please, including at 3AM should I so desire (which I occasionally do). I am pretty sure some other care homes would be more restrictive about this.

Overall, looking over this list, I think that, while things aren’t perfect, my care home is pretty good. Actually, I am quite sure it’s pretty much the best I can get.

loopyloulaura

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