#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 11, 2021)

Hi everyone on this cloudy and slightly rainy Sunday evening. I’m rather late writing my #WeekendCoffeeShare post this week. I’m having a rather hard time planning when to write, as I cannot concentrate on it when my one-on-one staff is with me and yet struggle to feel well enough to write when alone. I just finished my dinner, so no coffee for me as of yet (though with my parents, coffee after dinner was a ritual). If you’d like a Senseo though, I can make you one. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week was rather bad weather-wise. It’s been raining all week. On Monday and Tuesday, it even snowed a bit. It’s been near freezing cold too. How is your weather?

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week, the physical therapist and orthopedic shoemaker came by to discuss my getting semi-orthopedic shoes. My current, store-bought shoes aren’t great for fitting my AFO in. They also have laces, which I can’t tie myself. I’ll hopefully hear next week what models they have available. I did try on a pair already, but this was just to get an idea of what I’d need.

Thankfully, the shoes will be fully covered by long-term care. This did lead to a bit of self-loathing, in that I feel like a burden for costing so much with my one-on-one, the weighted blanket and all the other costs and now this. I try to calm myself by thinking it wasn’t really my decision. Besides, I will most likely experience less pain when walking and be able to walk longer distances. Still, I can hear my inner critic say that I fake my mild cerebral palsy.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that, last Friday, I was in a crisis. I don’t even know what led to me starting to feel triggered. At some point though, I left my room at night. On my way to wherever, I bumped into something and swore. Then I decided I’m unforgivable anyway now and decided to self-harm. I’m okay physical wound-wise and the night staff eventually calmed me down. Still, I have been feeling really unsettled all weekend.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share how proud I am of myself for continuing to blog each day and sometimes more than once. Of course, I’m busy with the #AtoZChallenge, but I also managed several other blog posts. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

How has your week been?

The Most Important Milestone

This week’s prompt for Reena’s Exploration Challenge is “Milestones”.

I am a big calendar girl. As such, I always remember important dates. As a teen, I used to commemorate an important event in my life at least once a month. For example, September 24, 1999 was the day I realized I hated mainstream secondary school and I remembered it for several years afterwards. Similarly, on November 2, 2001, I was in crisis. Same on November 2, 2007 and I was sure the reason (or part of it) was the day (Friday) and date. I still to this day commemorate the day I landed in the psychiatric hospital, even though it’ll have been fourteen years this year.

I realize now that all of these are negative. Don’t I have positive anniversaries? Sure I do. September 19 is the day my husband and I first met (in 2007) and the day we got married (in 2011). On May 7, 2008, we started officially dating and on June 4, 2010, my husband proposed to me.

Then there is the day I was approved for long-term care funding, also June 4 but in 2019. Finally, the day I moved into the care facility, September 23. I only now realize that there were twenty years minus a day between the important event that defined my teens and the important event that I hope will define at least most of the rest of my life.

Okay, that makes me feel ashamed. After all, shouldn’t the most important milestone of my life be the day I met my husband or the day we got married? It probably should be, but right now, honestly, it isn’t. Sorry, hubby.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 4, 2021)

Hi everyone on this chilly and cloudy Easter Sunday. I am rather late joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. The reason is that I’m participating in the #AtoZChallenge too and couldn’t find the time to publish another post until today. I just had my afternoon coffee and am going to have a soft drink in a bit, so if you’d like something to drink, that’d be great. Let’s grab a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share how much fun I’m having with the #AtoZChallenge. It is a great way of connecting with new bloggers and challenging myself to write (almost) everyday. For those who don’t know, the challenge is to write posts using each letter of the alphabet on each day of April except Sundays. This is the reason I have time to write a blog post today. My theme is aromatherapy and natural wellness.

If we were having coffee, I would share that this week was rather eventful in general. On Monday, I was very much triggered. I have been having emotional flashbacks a lot, as well as paranoid thoughts about my former clinician reporting me for care fraud if she finds out I’m in long-term care. My staff try to reassure me that I’m not responsible for my care funding. After all, my staff, the manager and behavior specialist applied for me. I am still unsure though.

Anyway, on Monday, when I was particularly triggered, I did an exercise of hitting a pillow to symbolically kick my former clinician out of my life. It was truly empowering!

If we were having coffee, I would also share that, on Friday, I had a treatment review at the mental health agency. My nurse practitioner tried to tell me that I’m already actually processing my trauma with the steps I’m taking now, such as the exercise on Monday. This validated me. My community psychiatric nurse, however, wasn’t fully sure of her role in my treatment and wondered whether she could visit me less frequently. For now, we have decided against this in order to maintain weekly appointments with mental health, alternatingly with my nurse practitioner and CPN.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I finally managed to go to Lobith over the weekend. My cold is still not fully gone, but it’s gone enough that I could see my husband. We had delicious Airfryer fries, turkey and peas for dinner yesterday, as well as pudding for dessert. This morning, we had breakfast in front of the television while watching Hour of Power. It was great!

How has your week been? And how’s your Easter weekend?

Angry and Dissatisfied

Today, I feel flooded with emotional flashbacks that I’m not 100% sure about what triggered them or even what they are about. To give myself some insight, I picked up the book Journal Writing Prompts for Child Abuse Survivors again. Somehow, the prompts about anger appealed to me.

Growing up, I was always described as “too quick to anger”. There is some truth to this, in that I have and always had an extremely low level of distress tolerance.

My parents would react to this with resentment, but they’d generally solve my problems anyway. This at one point was described as having low expectations of me. When the psychologist who did my latest autism assessment, said that, I was triggered. After all, if my parents had expected me to be able to work stuff out myself, would that have been any better? I understand all about letting babies “cry it out” and I’m not a fan of it. I don’t have a clue whether I was left to “cry it out” a lot. I think so, as I was in the hospital for the first three months of my life and I don’t expect the nurses to have attended to each baby’s every cry. As such, even if my parents did attend to my every cry for attention, I must’ve been allowed to learn some self-regulation through “crying it out”.

My parents weren’t the most patient people in the world. At one point, my father explained to me that a family is like a business, in that it has to be run efficiently. As such, I can understand why my parents rarely let me work stuff out on my own. I also understand why they resented helping me.

Growing up though, my poor distress tolerance skills were seen as mere anger and oppositionality. I’m not sure why people perceived me as always angry. They weren’t just my parents, after all. Maybe I am quick to anger. I don’t know, but to be honest I think distress is different from anger.

When I became an adult and was admitted to the psych hospital, my nursing diagnosis at least off the record was “angry and dissatisfied”. Again, I’m pretty sure the staff confused distress with dissatisfaction. Distress is an inability to cope. Dissatisfaction is an unwillingness to accept the situation. I was perfectly willing to be discharged back into independent living if that was what was deemed necessary, but I didn’t promise I’d cope. This was considered blackmail.

Now that I’m in long-term care, my staff no longer see me as angry or dissatisfied a lot. Even so, I haven’t changed much. I still swear and scream when my computer or iPhone won’t cooperate. Staff do help me now, but they don’t resent it anymore. This has also allowed me to practise asking for help in more productive, proactive ways, which, in turn, helps me become frustrated less easily. I like it that way.

Runaway #SoCS

When I was still in the psychiatric hospital, I’d run off often. At the locked unit, this was dealt with by introducing seclusion and restraining measures. On the other hand, at the unit I resided at later, I was made to be accountable myself. This meant that staff wouldn’t go after me if I ran off. They believed that, if I got lost enough times, I would unlearn to elope. I didn’t.

I am a truly frequent runaway. Always have been. When I still lived with my parents, I would often run away too. Same when living independently. I had frequent police encounters because of this. They would invariably call the crisis service, who would refer them back to my home support team. They all had no idea how to handle my elopement.

Then, when I went into long-term care in 2019, I still ran off a lot of times. I usually didn’t get far, as my staff would come after me. I also did get some restrictive measures, such as a sensor that alerts the staff when I leave my room. The door of my care home is locked at night because of my elopement risk too. (The other clients can’t work the key and most aren’t safe outside of the home alone either.)

Since my one-on-one support got introduced last December, I hardly ever run away. It’s been a true blessing. Sometimes though, I still wonder whether I’m indeed just manipulating, like the people in the psychiatric hospital would say, and need a lesson in accountability.

This post was written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday or #SoCS, for which the prompt this week is “Run”.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (March 27, 2021)

Welcome to another #WeekendCoffeeShare post. I just had my afternoon coffee about an hour ago and am going to have a soft drink in a bit. Of course, I can still make you a Senseo if you want. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d say that I’m just about as well as it gets with respect to my cold. I am still a tiny bit sniffy, but I don’t think it gets any better anytime soon. I didn’t go to Lobith this weekend, even though my husband had promised me pizza at our house if I did. After all, yesterday I still wasn’t convinced I was well enough. Instead, my husband is coming over tomorrow.

If we were having coffee, I would say that this past week has been great in the walking department. Like I said yesterday, I’ve been quite active. Today was an exception, as it was raining on and off all day so far. I hope to still get some steps in this evening.

If we were having coffee, I would talk some about the political saga that unfolded after last week’s general election. The current prime minister, Mark Rutte, won the election again, probably because people are used to him doing the corona-related press conferences. Before the election, he’d hinted at some restrictions being lifted for Easter. Of course, that was just a political game to win voters, as in the last press conference, only the curfew got moved from 9PM till 10PM.

Speaking of the lockdown, my husband predicts from what he’s read that most of the restrictions will remain until mid-June. I really hope he’s wrong, but at least we can still see each other (provided neither of us is under the weather).

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’ve been loving reading other blogs as well as writing my own blog posts. I’m not yet preparing for the #AtoZChallenge. Maybe I should, as it’s in less than a week.

I’ve also been in contact with WP support again. The reason is the news that the classic editor might be disappearing after all. I’m not sure WP support itself knows what it’s doing, as I get mixed messages. I’m trying to let it go for now though, as so far at least I can still blog.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that we might get new staff here in my care home soon. I think I mentioned last week that a male staff was having a look around our home last week Saturday to see if he wanted to work here. Turns out he does. He’s been orienting here a few more times. He used to work in a home for people with intellectual disability who also have complex care needs due to behavior. I got the impression he didn’t like that anymore, so I feared I’d scare him away from wanting to work here. Turns out he’s going to work in both homes.

Then on Thursday, another prospective staff, also male, toured my care home. The manager informed me in advance that he was coming, which I liked. I’ll be curious to know if he decides to work here.

What’s been going on in your life?

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

Things That Made Me Smile (March 22, 2021) #WeeklySmile

Hi all on this lovely Monday! I am so excited to have discovered the Weekly Smile. This is, as the name suggests, a weekly blog event in which participants share what made them smile. Having discovered this meme itself is a reason to smile. I love being positive! Let me share what else made me smile.

First up is my new assigned staff’s kindness. Like I said in my #WeekendCoffeeShare post on Friday, I have a new assigned staff. She is calm, kind and very dedicated to her job. I initially worried she might get too attached and then have to withdraw as my assigned staff. She reassured me though that she maintains her professionalism.

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit triggered. The student staff, with whom I am not fully comfortable yet, had been my one-on-one for the evening. In addition, a male staff may get to work in my home soon. He seems kind enough, but still, it’s an adjustment. All this led me to feeling a bit stressed out when I was going to bed. Thankfully, my new assigned staff comforted me.

After the staff had taken me to bed, I pressed the call button a few times for the staff to come back, but she didn’t mind. She has this little rhyme she tells me each time she puts me to bed. It goes something like this:
Sleep well,
Head on the pillow,
Ass in the straw,
Then Astrid sleeps soon.

This time, the staff adjusted the rhyme to address not just me, but all of the voices (alters) inside my head. That definitely made me smile.

Second is my sensory room experience that I was able to create in my own bedroom. First, I found a calming essential oil blend to put in my diffuser. Then, I found the album on Spotify that I used to have in the CD player in the day center’s sensory room. It is called Songbird Symphony. Lastly, I crawled under my weighted blanket and had my staff cover me with the ball-filled blanket that came with the sensory bed from our makeshift sensory room. In total, I had at least 20kg of weighted blankets on top of me. This probably isn’t healthy for actual sleeping, so I threw off the ball blanket before actually drifting off to sleep. However, the feeling before this was so peaceful. It reminded me of Temple Grandin’s “hug machine”. Reading about that introduced to me the comforting effect of deep pressure years before I felt able to explore my own sensory experiences. Now, I totally appreciate my care staff, physical therapist and the manager for having helped me find my sensory comfort.

What made you smile this past week?

Good Enough

Today’s optional prompt word for #LifeThisWeek is “Good”. Denyse takes on a cynical approach to the word, which reminds me of the many degrees of being called “good” I experienced.

In my elementary school years, my parents were in a constant fight with the schools for the blind I attended about my educational needs and my potential. According to the school, I was a good enough student. That’s the literal translation of the words that appeared on my report card often. Sometimes, when I was better than average, just “Good” appeared.
My parents thought I ought to get some more recognition. They thought I was excellent, sublime, a genius.

My schools thought I should be going to their secondary school program, which at the highest level catered to average students. My parents believed I could do far better.

I doubt, to be very honest, that my teachers truly didn’t see that academically, I was above-average. At least some of my teachers must have seen this. However, socially and emotionally, I was significantly behind. This was probably the real reason my schools recommended I continue in special education. My parents disagreed. They felt that I would be overprotected and underestimated in special ed. They might’ve been right. We’ll never know, since my parents took me from educational psychologist to educational psychologist until they had the recommendation for mainstream high level secondary education in their hands.

What I do know, is that I ended up being overestimated and underprotected. My parents would love to deny this and blame the staff in independence training for essentially setting me up for long-term care. Agree to disagree. Then again, we’ll never know, because I didn’t go into independent living and on to university right out of high school.

Sometimes, I wish I was just the average, good enough student that some of my teachers saw me as. Then at least I wouldn’t have to face the enormous challenge of both a high IQ and an emotional level comparable in many ways to an 18-month-old child. Then, I might not be writing blog posts in English, but I also might not need 24-hour care.

Then again, I enjoy writing blog posts. I like my care facility. Life is good enough for me.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (March 19, 2021)

I am once again early at least for me with my #WeekendCoffeeShare post. It’s right between my dinner and my evening coffee now, but I can make you a Senseo coffee if you want it. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m still having a cold. It’s a lot better than it was last week, but I’m still sniffy. This morning, I had a bad cough, but that seems to be gone now.

I am so glad though that it’s not COVID. This afternoon, I was informed that another home within my care facility is in isolation due to a client having tested positive for COVID. This does worry me a bit, since that client must’ve contracted the virus after being fully vaccinated. The staff do try to reassure me though.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that, now that I’m feeling a lot better cold-wise, I picked up the walking habit again. I managed to reach my goal of 10K steps both yesterday and today.

I did fall on my knee today while walking. Thankfully, I just suffered a slight scrape to the skin.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that yesterday marked one year since the day center closed due to lockdown. A staff and one of my fellow clients made cheesecake to celebrate. Yummy!

A photo of me in front of the cheesecake

If we were having coffee, I would share about some changes to my care. First, I have a new assigned staff. She isn’t new to me or the home, just new to being my primary support worker. My former assigned staff is in college getting her nursing degree and was a bit too busy to have me in addition to two other clients to be assigned to. I really like my new assigned staff.

However, I was briefly triggered too. After all, my new assigned staff is really involved with my care and I worried she might get too attached and then have to step back. I thought this might’ve happened to my old assigned staff, but they both reassured me this isn’t the case.

Also, my one-on-one got extended with half an hour each day as of today. This might not seem much, but it prevents me having to deal with too many staff changes. After all, in the old situation, I’d have day activities till 4PM, then have to rely on the regular evening shift for half an hour before my one-on-one comes on. Now I’ll have that half an hour covered by one-on-one too. I’ll still have some time without one-on-one in the evenings and on week-ends in the afternoon, but that’s totally okay.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would share that my husband plans on visiting me briefly tomorrow. That is, if my cold isn’t too bad. We’re planning on going to a fast food chain drive-through.

How are you all doing?