A Favorite Childhood Gift

One of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompts is to share about a favorite Christmas gift you received as a child. Here in the Netherlands though, Christmas isn’t that popular for gift-giving. Instead, we celebrate St. Nicholas on December 5. I can’t remember that many gifts I received for St. Nicholas and the entire celebration was one big stressor once I no longer believed in St. Nick. We celebrated it until I was 20 in 2006. Then in 2007 I was in the psych hospital and my parents didn’t want to risk inviting me. That’s how the tradition ended.

The other major gift-receiving opportunity was and still is, of course, my birthday. It is on June 27, so pretty much as far from Christmas as you get it. Still, I’m going to share about a favorite gift I received for my birthday as a child. Mama Kat twisted the prompt too by listing several things, so oh well.

I can’t remember whether I had invited anyone to a birthday party when I turned eleven. After all, I was pretty much friendless at the time. However, I did celebrate it with my family. The main gift I remember getting was a Barbie doll with aerobic attire. I named her Teresa. I loved the doll, even though I knew already that eleven was a little old to play with it.

Later that summer, my mother took me on a “mother-daughter walk”, which was mainly an opportunity for her to tell me the school had recommended I go residential there. She claimed the reason was that I had behavior problems, which she attributed to my having too many toys. I can’t follow that train of thought other than through some idea that I was so spoiled I somehow felt entitled to have tantrums. That wasn’t true, for clarity’s sake. In any case, my mother regretted having given me the Barbie doll.

I cherished Teresa even more from that moment on. When, during the following school year, I’d have a meltdown, my mother would often pack a random number of toys and claim to throw them out. (In reality, she hid them in her room downstairs.)

The followign year, when I turned twelve, I felt so ashamed for still playing with Barbie dolls that I claimed they’d aged with me, so it was okay. Most of the dolls are still with my parents, I think. I think at one point I broke Teresa’s leg though and had to actually throw her out.

Mama’s Losin’ It

#WeekendCoffeeShare (November 8, 2020)

Hi all on this sunny Sunday! Okay, it’s past 9PM here and the sun has set already, but it was sunny during the day. I should really have taken a picture.

I just had my last drink for the day. However, the beauty of virtual coffee shares is that people can join in whenever they want. So grab a cup of coffee, green tea or water. I’m pretty sure there are also soft drinks in the fridge, but I rarely drink those now. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up. As usual, I am linking up with #WeekendCoffeeShare.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this whole week, the weather has been beautiful. It was a little chilly some days, but not as cold as you might expect in November. In fact, today, I even took a walk with my husband without my coat on. I did of course wear a fleece vest. It was sunny and almost warm.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I canceled my sister’s visit for this week too. The reason this time is a combination of the stricter COVID-19 management rules and my husband wanting to celebrate his birthday with me this week-end. With respect to the former, for example, my sister could be visiting with her husband and daughter, but three adults are not allowed together outside. This would mean my brother-in-law wouldn’t be able to go on walks with me and my sister. As if the risk of contracting COVID is higher outside than inside.

Also, I wouldn’t be allowed to go to my husband’s after they visited. Or maybe strictly speaking I could, but it’d be against the spirit of the lockdown. My husband felt pressured by me to let my sister and family visit, but eventually it became clear he’d really like to have me over for the week-end to celebrate his birthday. His birthday is on the 12th, by the way. So since my husband’s birthday is more important than a random visit from my family, we’re going to reschedule that sometime after the worst of the lockdown has ended.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I gave my husband an Airfryer for his birthday. He made us both thick fries in it yesterday. Even though I’m pretty sure he didn’t salt mine, or at least not as much as I’d have done, they were still delicious. My husband joked that we’d have vegan fries (duh!) but to make up for it, we would eat real hamburgers. They were great too.

If we were having coffee, lastly, I would tell you that I was in a bit of a crisis this evening again. I got majorly triggered by a staff raising her voice as she commanded me to go to my room. She had intended for me to seek the quiet of my room, because I was rapidly becoming overloaded with all that was going on with the other clients. Her wording that I’m not the only one (I’m pretty sure she didn’t say it that way, but that’s how I interpreted it) triggered me to feel that I wasn’t allowed to feel the way I did and was attention-seeking. This then quickly spiraled out of control. Thankfully in the end, I was able to talk it through with the staff and also write down my feelings. I did take a PRN lorazepam, but that’s totally okay.

What’s been going on with you lately?

In Crisis Yet Again #Blogtober20

Okay, this may not be the most appropriate post for #Blogtober20. After all, the prompt for today is “relax”. It is also World Mental Health Day. Most people would use this to advocate for better mental health services, or to share tips on coping with mental health issues. Tonight, I’m too stressed out to do either. In fact, this is just going to be a raw post on my having been in crisis tonight – and not having fully recovered yet as I write this, in fact.

I was on edge all day. By mid-morning, I started feeling irritable, but it was still manageable. When it was time for lunch, a different staff from the one assigned to my side of the home came to eat with us. We also didn’t get the usual weekend lunch stuff, such as sausages, pancakes or soup. We did get a baguette with cream cheese on it. It was okay. IN fact, I much prefer that to our weekday lunches. I don’t think it’s even the fact that I didn’t get the treat I wanted, that set me off, but the fact that so much was different about the lunch. Thankfully, after being on the verge of a meltdown for a bit, I was able to calm down.

Then in the evening, I spiraled into crisis. I don’t even know why honestly. I was getting very irritable about the staff having the TV on even though the volume was turned to low. Within the next fifteen minutes or so, I landed in a full-blown meltdown that seemed to last forever. I eventually asked the staff to fetch me a PRN lorazepam, but then somehow got it into my mind to climb over the balcony railing. I didn’t, but the mere fact that I was standing on my balcony on bare feet in the rain and disclosed my thoughts, worried the staff.

I was near a staff all the time until I had to go to bed at 10:15PM because the evening staff were leaving. They did remove the knob on my balcony door, so that for now I cannot go on there. I gave them permission for this, for clarity’s sake.

The lorazepam has started to kick in, but I’m still pretty tense. I must say that I am completely in awe of how my staff handle my challenging behavior too. It must be hard having a mentally disturbed person on an intellectual disability unit. In psychiatric care, they’d probably have sent me for a time-out off the ward. After all, psychiatric professionals commonly see me as a borderline case. I’m not sure my current place is the most suitable for me, but the staff definitely are.

#Blogtober20

The Kindness of Strangers

Okay, it’s past 2:30AM and I just said I wasn’t going to blog right now, but CrunchityFrog’s prompt for today (well, yesterday) has me thinking. This is supposed to be a daily prompt thing, so I might join in more often. Anyway, the prompt is to write about the kindness of strangers.

I’ve probably written many times already about overbearing, intrusive strangers. Particularly when I was a teen, I didn’t realize that my autistic behavior (of which I was unaware that it was autistic) combined with my blindness often caused people concern. I am more appreciative of people’s attempts, even awkward ones, to help now. That probably changed on the evening of November 2, 2007.

Okay, I’ve shared the story of my mental crisis probably more often than anyone cares to know. Today I’d like to focus on the kindness of the people who helped me stay alive and safe.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I was in a suicidal crisis that evening. I had left the training home I was a former resident of and had hoped to find safety in, because I was told the staff had no responsibility for me and I was to leave.

I took the bus to the city’s train station, talking into my former care coordinator’s voicemail. I told her I was going to take my life that night. I was completely unaware that people could hear me until a woman across the aisle from me started to talk to me. She told me that the bus driver had heard me, which initially only caused greater panic. She kept saying over and over again that he was getting help for me. (“Help”, of course, came in the form of the police, as is customary here in the Netherlands if someone’s safety is in question.) I was in utter shock, constantly crying and very overwhelmed. I am forever grateful for this woman’s kindness. And of course for the bus driver’s. It most likely, after all, wasn’t within his duty to report his concerns to the police.

Looking back, I realize I rightfully worried random people on the streets many times before and they were kind enough to help. Even if “help” meant to call the police. My parents often felt that people were just stupid, assuming that a blind person shouldn’t be traveling independently. Some were, indeed, but in some cases my parents were stupid, assuming that I was just blind.

Negative

This is probably going to be a quick post. Like I said on Sunday, I was interrupted while blogging by a staff to tell me I and all other clients with cold symptoms were from then on in room-based isolation. We would be tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. Thankfully, yesterday morning, the facility’s nurse came to test us. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was okay. I am however pleased to inform you that I, as well as all other clients, tested negative for coronavirus!!!

It was no fun being in room-based isolation. The hardest part, for me, was the fact that staff had to go to each client’s room for individual support rather than combining care activities, so there was effectively less time for each of us. The staff who had come to inform me of the isolation, said I could press the call button as often as needed. Well, press the call button I could, but that didn’t guarantee a staff would have time to come.

Yesterday, I landed in a rather bad crisis. Initially, I had been really upset and crying and screaming. Then one staff came to inform me that she wasn’t wearing protective clothes and the staff who was, would come “in a while”. That’s a rather unclear comment to make to an autistic person. I freaked out and became destructive.

For those asking why that staff wasn’t wearing protective clothes, staff need to change into different protective clothing when visiting each person suspected of coronavirus separately. They also need to leave the protective clothing at the client’s doorstep. After all, suppose my snot gets onto the staff’s protective clothing and they then go help someone who isn’t showing symptoms. Then that person runs extra risk of contracting COVID-19. You see, over half of the clients did not show symptoms.

Thankfully, the staff in protective clothing came about ten minutes later. She was able to comfort me a little.

Today at around 2:15PM, I heard the day activities staff tell another symptomatic client that he was free to leave his room. I thought I heard her say that “all is well again” or something like that, but I didn’t dare hope I was negative too. Well, I was! The first thing the staff asked when telling me everyone had tested negative, was whether I wanted to go for a walk. Of course I did.

We also had French fries at the facility’s cost to celebrate the good outcome. I was almost writing “positive”. It’s a positive outcome indeed that everyone was negative!

We’re In Pain

So we’ve had a mouth ulcer for some days now and as of today, it really hurts. Our staff called the GP, since we can’t go to the dentist now due to our facility’s COVID-19 restrictions and also since they already knew it was a mouth ulcer. The medical assistant couldn’t decide what to do right away so she talked to the doctor herself. Our staff called back some time later. At first, the doctor said to just take paracetamol, but our staff nagged a bit, so now we’ll get some lidocaine gel. This will probably arrive tomorrow.

We somehow misunderstood the doctor’s telling our staff to just give us paracetamol as her thinking we weren’t in significant pain or that we were overreacting. This caused some of us a lot of upset. Over dinner, we were feeling really overwhelmed by the pain and also other clients’ noise. We somehow couldn’t speak until after we’d had a full-on meltdown. Then we got to express our pain and our staff fetched us some paracetamol. That did help some. We’re still in pain, but it’s manageable.

We generally feel very triggered of late. We’re currently reading a foster care memoir by Maggie Hartley called Who Will Love Me Now?. It’s about Kirsty, a ten-year-old being rejected by her first foster carers after they took her in from a neglectful biological mother as a baby. Understandably, Kirsty feels that no-one loves her now and is acting out a lot to prove this point.

I feel a lot of the more disturbed younger parts can relate to this. Thankfully, our parents never abandoned us, but they did threaten to institutionalize us a lot. Age ten was around the time this started.

I also showed a lot of the behaviors Kirsty shows. I mean, I would also often tell my parents that they didn’t love me. Though I didn’t experience the early abandonment Kirsty did, I do most likely suffer with some attachment issues. I can only speculate as to why this might be.

As we’re now in a place where at least so far the staff are saying we can stay, I notice we act out a bit out of a need to “prove” our point. Which is what, really? That no-one wants us, I guess. I’m not 100% sure how to let go of this feeling.

I did journal a lot in my Day One journals over the past few days. It feels good to let out my thoughts. I’m trying to make this a daily habit and hope my blog won’t suffer because of it.

A College Memory

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to write about a college memory. I wrote about the very same topic on my old blog in 2016, some weeks after it was also a prompt on Mama Kat’s blog. I reread that post just now and was actually going to share the exact same memory. Now I don’t think most people who read my blog now, read my blog then. Still, I want to choose a different memory.

In 2016, I shared the memory of my first day at Radboud University as a linguistics major. I had a massive meltdown upon entering the lecture hall then, because I hadn’t known that there were over 200 students in there. I left and called my support coordinator, who took me to her office. This was the first time the psychiatric crisis service was called on me, but they said I wasn’t “mad enough” (my support coordinator’s words) to be admitted to the hospital.

Roughly eight weeks later, on October 30, I had my last day at Radboud University. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, since I wasn’t admitted to the mental hospital until November 3.

I had an exam that morning. It was my first introduction to language and communication exam. Passing this exam wouldn’t award me any credits, as the credits for the course weren’t applied until you passed the second exam some weeks later.

As always, I took a ParaTransit taxi to the university that morning. I think I had a meltdown right as I went into the building the exam was supposed to be held in, but I’m not 100% sure. I definitely had a meltdown when I was finished. The taxi driver driving me home threatened to dump me at the police station.

Regardless, I did sit in on the exam. Introduction to language and communication is basically a course in dissecting words into morphemes and sentences into their different components (no idea what those are called). That’s why the course was also sometimes called universal grammar.

Several months later, when I was home on leave from the hospital, I retrieved my E-mails. Back at the hospital, I sat down to read them. Among them was an E-mail from the director of studies telling me that the intro to lang and comm instructor had been missing me so had I dropped out? I also found an E-mail from administration notifying me of my grade on the exam: I scored 85%.

Several months ago, when my husband was clearing out the attic for our move to our current home, he found a letter from Radboud University. It was my provisional report on whether I could continue my studies or not. “Your studying results are grounds for concern,” it said. I’m so glad I never saw this piece before.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Thankful Thursday (March 26, 2020): My Staff’s Approach to a Meltdown

Today I’m having a really hard day. I found out this morning that my husband is not allowed to visit me for the duration of the COVID-19 situation. Only in exceptional cases such as when you’re terminally ill can you have a visitor. Well, I guess I’m grateful I’m not in that situation.

During this time of day activities at the home and the chaotic situation that ensues, I’m struggling a lot with basic mistrust. As I explained to my staff, including the behavior specialist, some weeks ago, I’m finding that I experience a lot of distress due to past trauma. I’m pretty sure I suffer with significant attachment issues and am acting those out towards the staff now that I’m beginning to feel slightly safe. I mean, there’s a part of me who says that if the staff truly know me, they’ll kick me out of here or abandon me in some other way. I guess this part is giving the staff a hard time because they’ll ultimately abandon me anyway so I’d better push them away first.

As such, this afternoon, I had a major meltdown. I was watching a video on the Center for Consultation and Expertise website about a man with mild intellectual disability who had a lot of challenging behavior. The way in which I could relate to him, triggered me. I tried to tell my staff, but couldn’t and then I threw a glass to the ground.

Now here comes the reason I prefixed this post with Thankful Thursday: my staff were amazing about it!

My assigned support worker, who happened to work on my side of the home today, called another home for a staff to come over. This was a staff who had also worked in my home previously. She hugged me and took me to my room to talk while my assigned staff cleaned the mess.

This did further trigger me, but it was a good trigger. I mean, in the psychiatric hospital I would’ve been secluded or kicked off the unit and basically abandoned. I had tears of gratitude and sadness at the same time because of how lovely my staff handled this situation. My assigned staff even said maybe we should watch the video together sometime so that I could point out in which ways I relate.

Now here’s hoping my behavior won’t escalate further. After all, then I may in fact be abandoned. My inner critic still says that I’m making up all the factors behind my challenging behavior and it’s all just attention-seeking and abandonment is exactly what I deserve. Regardless, I’m so extremely grateful for my staff!

#WeekendCoffeeShare (February 2, 2020)

It’s February, yay. I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare again, even though I’m not 100% sure I feel like writing. I had a lot of green tea and only one cup of coffee today. It’s interesting that, at my husband’s and in-laws’, I mostly drink green tea, whereas in the care facility I almost always drink coffee. Anyway, let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week was a hard one. I don’t even remember what I did on Monday. On Tuesday, I was in a near-constant panic at day activities. I eventually asked to go to the behavior specialist’s office to see if I could schedule an appointment with her to talk. However, the behavior specialist on my case wasn’t in the office. Another one was, but I couldn’t quite make it clear what I needed and so I went back downstairs.

That evening, I had another huge crying fit. I took a PRN lorazepam, but still didn’t sleep all night. In the morning, I kept crying. My assigned support worker informed me that the behavior specialist responsible for my care was on sick leave, but she called the one who’d been in the office on Tuesday.

She visited me at day activities at around 11AM and I talked for about an hour. I talked about all that I was overwhelmed by. Particularly, I felt that I need more support at day activities. This still needs some sorting out, but mostly I do now get an assigned staff member each day.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that from then on, I felt okay and haven’t had panic attacks or meltdowns. I do struggle with some level of overwhelm and anxiety, but it’s manageable.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that on Thursday, the family of a potential new client came for a visit. This stressed me out a little, because I thought another client coming to my home means less care for me. This isn’t the case, the staff said.

If we were having coffee, I’d say that I traveled by train to Arnhem yesterday. A transregional ParaTransit taxi drove me to Deventer station. There, a travel assistant was waiting to help me onto the train. She apparently needed to help someone in Arnhem next, so she actually traveled all the way to Arnhem with me rather than just helping me get on the train. My husband picked me up from the station at Arnhem again. It was a relatively comfortable way of getting eased into traveling by train again.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my husband and I had pizza at our in-laws’ yesterday. Then today my mother-in-law would be driving me back to the facility, so she picked me up at my husband’s at 4PM. We first went to my in-laws’ house again, where we walked the dog and ate fried potatoes, broccoli and chicken. I had a Magnum almond ice cream for dessert.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I finally brought some of my soaping supplies to the facility with me today. One of our home staff was leaving this week, so I had originally intended to make her a soap earlier. Thankfully, she will be working at another home with this facility, so when I do make the soap, I can bring it to her.

How has your week been?

A Day I Will Never Forget

I’m a day late with this topic in 7 Days 7 Posts. The Tuesday topic didn’t appeal to me and besides, I was really anxious then. Yesterday I had a lot of meetings to discusss my anxiety and the reasons for it. I made it clear that I really needed some more care and particularly more consistency and clarity in my day. I went to bed at 8:15PM, having taken an Ativan to help me sleep.

Yesterday’s topic was to describe a day you’ll never forget. I already described how I met my husband sometime during the #AtoZChallenge last April. Another day I will never forget, though for less pleasant reasons, is the day I landed in crisis in 2007. I probably described that day a few times before already, but right now I can’t find where. If you’ve read this before, I apologize.

On November 2, 2007, I was in my parents’ city to get a landline phone I wanted to use in my student apartment. The reason I wanted a landline was the fact that I was scared of mobile phone radiation causing Alzheimer’s. It’s weird that now I use my iPhone like all the time and don’t worry about it much.

I had come to my parents’ the previous evening and was planning on going back home to Nijmegen that Friday afternoon. However, on the train station, I had a meltdown. The police were called and removed me from the station.

I went to the independence training home where I used to live until that summer. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted, but I needed to look up some phone number on my laptop. I knew I shouldn’t go back to my parents’, as they’d probably be angry with me.

After having called whoever I needed to call, I wandered around the training home neighborhood for some hours, not sure what to do. At one point, a fellow client at the training home realized I was struggling, so she offered me to come into her apartment and stay for the night, so that we could find a more long-term solution the following day. However, the staff came to her and told me to leave. They weren’t going to take responsibility for me.

At that point, I had another meltdown. I walked to the nearby bus stop, catching the 8:01PM bus to the train station. In my memory, it was still light outside, even though that’s not possible at such a time in early November. I called my support coordinator to let her know I was going to commit suicide. The bus driver overheard me and called the police.

I was terribly scared, because the police had kicked me off the train station that afternoon. However, I willingly went with them to the police station. They called someone called a community physician, who is in charge of triaging people not known to that city’s mental health agency. He was a really blunt man, telling me that I made people feel responsible for me in a way as if I was just seeking attention. He even used a kind of threatening voice when he said he was going to call the crisis service. I didn’t mind.

The crisis service psychiatrist and CPN came out to the police station. After assessing me, they asked me what I wanted. To this day, I’m not sure whether I really didn’t know what I wanted or felt too embarrassed to ask for help. After all, when talking to the behavior specialist for my current care facility yesterday, I also said I didn’t know what I needed even though I did. Anyway, the psychiatrist proposed that I be admitted to the mental hospital and I agreed.