Book Review: Who Will Love Me Now? by Maggie Hartley

A few days ago, some people on an E-mail list were discussing a new collection of short stories by UK foster carer Maggie Hartley. I couldn’t find the collection on Apple Books, but I did stumble upon one of her full-size books, called Who Will Love Me Now?. Most people on the list had already read it, but I hadn’t, so I bought it and started to read it.

Summary

At just ten years old, Kirsty has already suffered a lifetime of heartache and suffering. Neglected by her teenage mother and taken into care, Kirsty thought she had found her forever family when she is fostered by Pat and Mike, who she comes to see as her real mum and dad.

But when Pat has a heart attack and collapses in front of her, Kirsty’s foster family say it’s all her fault. They blame her temper tantrums for putting Pat under stress and they don’t want Kirsty in their lives anymore.

Kirsty is still reeling from this rejection when she comes to live with foster carer Maggie Hartley. She acts out, smashing up Maggie’s home and even threatens to hurt the baby boy Maggie has fostered since birth. Social Services must take Kirsty’s threat seriously and Maggie is forced to choose between eight-month-old Ryan, who she’s grown to love, or angry Kirsty, who will most likely end up in a children’s home if Maggie can no longer care for her. Maggie is in an impossible position, one that calls in to question her decision to become a foster carer in the first place…

My Review

This book totally spoke to me! I could on some deep level relate to Kirsty. After all, I too displayed many behaviors similar to her at around this age. Age ten was also when my parents first considered (albeit not seriously) institutionalizing me at the school for the blind.

I could and to some extent still can relate to Kirsty’s volatile behavior. I have never had to live with anyone other than my biological parents until I was nineteen, but I did often feel rejected by them and showed this in quite dramatic ways.

I immediately, for this reason, rooted for Kirsty and resented Pat and Mike. It was for this reason that I loved to see how the story unfolded.

I read one earlier story by Maggie Hartley, but that was an eShort. I for this reason already knew I liked Maggie’s writing style. I loved it in this book too.

Overall, this was a great read and I finished it within less than a week.

Book Details

Title: Who Will Love Me Now?: Neglected, Unloved and Rejected. A Little Girl Desperate for a Home to Call Her Own
Author: Maggie Hartley
Publisher: Trapeze
Publication Date: July 20, 2017

Read With Me

A Trip to Berlin

Fandango has started a new challenge for the month of August and the prompt word for today is Trip. I’m going to write about a train trip my parents, sister and I took to Berlin in 2002.

At the time, you had this bargain called “schönes Wochenende” in Germany, which meant that for just €28, four people could travel all over Germany by train on a Saturday or Sunday. The only catch was that you had to take local railroads.

My parents, sister and I at the time lived in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, which isn’t too far from the German border. So we drove to Bad Bentheim to go on the train. The first train we took, drove us to Osnabrück. Then we took three more trains until we finally arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The last train we took, I remember, had Frankfurt an der Oder as its final destination. I found that fascinating.

I at the time had train routes as one of my autistic special interests. It was totally awesome learning all about the German local railroads.

The holiday in Berlin itself wasn’t a good experience. I had a lot of meltdowns and was pretty confused. I did like visiting a street called Straße des 17. Juni, because that year on 17 June I had first opened up about my distress that I’d suffered with for years. The street was named after a protest in east Berlin in 1953.

This was, actually, the last trip I took with my parents. The next year, I went to computer camp in Switzerland and the year after that, to blindness skills camp at the country’s training center for blind people. The year after that, I graduated from high school.

I feel pretty sad that I don’t have many memories about the trip to Berlin and the ones I do have, aren’t good. I guess trips rarely were enjoyable for me. That’s probably why I haven’t been on vacation with my husband in six years.

A Year Ago

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to look back at a year ago. Where were you then? What has changed and what hasn’t? Let me share.

A year ago yesterday, I had my intake interview and tour of the care facility in Raalte. We visited the sensory day activities group and snoezelen® room, as well as the home selected for me. At the home at the time was a respite placement for a man I knew from the day center I went to at the time. He greeted me excitedly: “Astrid!” He then went on to babble “respite fun”, “Mommy and Daddy vacation”, etc. I was shown around two rooms, one this man’s room at the time and one another client’s room. I think that client got moved to another room when I came and I now have his room.

Even though I had been invited on a tour of the facility, I didn’t know for at least another month that I had actually been accepted. The reason was that the staff all had to agree they could provide me adequate support and care, given that my needs are in some ways very different from the other clients’. They, after all, all have severe to profound intellectual disability.

Now, a year on, I’m settled nicely into the care facility. I didn’t get to attend day activities at the group they’d shown me. Now though, and for at least another two months, we get day activities at the home.

I think also around a year ago today, my husband had first seen the house in Lobith we ended up buying. I ended up moving to the care facility in the same week we got the keys to our new house. As such, a year ago today, I still lived in the tiny village rental house with my husband.

As I look back, I keep praising God that this whole COVID-19 thing didn’t happen last year. Even though the day center I attended at the time is slowly opening its doors again, community support is still mostly phone-based. I am forever grateful I got my long-term care funding approved last year.

In other news, the weather is drastically different now from last year. Last year, all weather records were broken with temperatures rising to 40°C. Now we’re lucky to reach 20°C and have a few hours of no rain each day.

How is your life different now from last year?

Mama’s Losin’ 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

I Am My Top Priority?

Today I decided to buy The Goddess Journaling Workbook by Beatrix Minevera Linden. This book of journaling prompts focuses on the Greek goddesses to explore yourself and keep a manifestation mindset all through the year. The first goddess to be explored is Persephone. She was led into the Underworld by Hades and ate a pomegranate there. This fruit was the fruit of the dead, so Hades could really keep her in the Underworld forever. Eventually, Hades and Persephone’s mother Demeter reached an agreement to keep Persephone in the Underworld half the year and in the upper realm the rest of the year.

Persephone’s story is used as a metaphor for our darker side and our mistakes that follow us throughout life (like Persephone’s eating the pomegranate did). The first prompt in Persephone’s chapter is titled “You are your top priority”. It asks us when we didn’t put ourself first.

Well, my first thought is: am I really supposed to be my own top priority? My husband often says he values me more than himself. I tend to reply that I value him more than myself too. Whenever I doubt that I value him more than myself, I feel guilty. But really, I currently choose myself over my husband whether that’s supposed to be so or not.

It wasn’t always this way. Until I made the decision to try to go into supported housing on September 20, 2018, I always put others first. Not just my husband, but literally almost everyone seemed more important than me.

I was diagnosed with dependent personality disorder in 2016. Though the diagnosis was made for all the wrong reasons, there is some truth to it. I remember my psychologist used my lack of resistance to her opinions against me and she was right. Until I decided to ask for a second opinion in November of that year, I never openly fought her list of ongoing misdiagnoses and mistreatments. It’s interesting that, later, she said I am very assertive but maintained that I have DPD nonetheless.

What also comes to mind, is that as a child and even as a teen, I always did what others wanted and put them before myself. I remember at one point using the Persephone myth to describe how I felt about my relationship to my classmates in high school. (Remember, I went to grammar school, so the classics were taught a lot.)

Still, I was thought of as self-centered or selfish even by my parents. This is probably because, in a materialistic way, I did put myself first. I was often jealous when my sister got gifts. Indeed, she did get more than I did, but I got more attention, albeit most negative.

Now I do generally put myyself first. I decided to go into long-term care despite no doubt disappointing my husband a bit. I mean, of course I struggled greatly living semi-independently, but it wasn’t like I was dying. Or maybe sometimes it was, because I did take two overdoses that could’ve killed me. Then again, wasn’t I selfish for doing this?

Linking up with Life This Week.

A Twelfth Grade Memory

Last Monday, I already shared some memories from the year 2003. Today, one of the prompts over at Mama’s Losin’ It’s Writer’s Workshop is to share a twelfth grade memory.

My senior year of high school was the year I was supposedly planning on going to university after graduation. I knew this was going to be hard, but my aversion to going to college straight out of high school, didn’t really form. Besides, I had no idea what else I was going to do. I remember one day, August 31, 2004, one of the first few days of the school year. I had already come out as dissociative (multiple personality) on my blog in March, but had only been aware of three alters at the time. That day, Carol, who was up to that moment my assertive helper part, gave up and a new one, who called herself Clarissa, emerged.

I wasn’t aware at the time that what I was experiencing was an actual mental health diagnosis, mind you. A friend of mine had told me about dissociative identity disorder after I first came out in March of 2004, but I was still in denial. Part of the reason is that one criterion of DID is amnesia, which we rarely experience.

In March of 2005, my high school tutor had arranged for me to see a blindness rehabilitation center psychologist. The high school tutor, I must say, read my blog, so he knew about the parts, including Clarissa. He had told the psychologist, who obviously immediately thought of DID. She started to ask me all sorts of questions, all of which I either circumvened or answered negatively to. I knew, after all, that, if I’d gotten the psychologist to think I had DID, I wouldn’t be accepted into the rehabilitation program.

In hindsight, of course, I wish I would’ve been more honest. I knew I didn’t have amnesia or time loss, but I did have most other symptoms of DID, some of which I hadn’t become aware of being abnormal. It took over five more years before I was diagnosed with DID.

In the end, I was accepted into the rehabilitation program. I started on August 22, 2005.

Full disclosure: after being diagnosed with DID in 2010, I lost my diagnosis again in 2013. I am pretty sure I don’t have full-blown DID, but probably do have some dissociative disorder.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Reflecting on My Life: 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where were you on the path of life in 2003?

My Medication Musings: Phenergan

It’s been a while since I last did a post talking about one of my medications. Today, I want to talk about one I’ve not used in a while: promethazine or Phenergan.

Phenergan was the first PRN medication I got prescribed while in the mental hospital. I remember clearly the state of mind I was in. I had been irritable for most of the afternoon and finally burned my hand using boiling water. This act of self-harm got the nursing staff to fetch the physician. I apparently had a smile on my face when I disclosed my having self-harmed, so he said there was nothing to laugh about. Obviously not, but I struggled to express my emotions. He offered me a PRN medication. I’d heard of Phenergan before and what I’d heard about it from autistic people, wasn’t good. However, I still agreed to take it.

Phenergan, for those not familiar with it, is a low-potency classic neuroleptic. It is currently mostly used as an antihistamine to treat allergies and such.

That evening, I was totally wiped out from the effects of the medication. I just lay on the couch or in bed feeling stoned out of my mind. That was what I needed at that point.

After that, unfortunately, I was prescribed oxazepam as my default PRN medication. Some years later though, I got prescribed Phenergan again after I’d pretty much exhausted all benzodiazepine options.

Unfortunately, by then, Phenergan did nothing. I only took it to make myself and others feel like I was doing something about my distress. At one point, my new psychiatrist once I was living with my husband, even suggested I swap it for a vitamin C pill so that I would still have the placebo effect but not the side effects. Not that I was having any side effects.

A few months later, however, I took an overdose of Phenergan that landed me in the general hospital. That was when I decided not to request a refill of the Phenergan. I by that time had lorazepam, which worked some but of course had the addictiveness as a negative. However, I’m not supposed to take PRN medications regularly anyway.

Coffee and Tea: My Favorite Hot Beverages

I’ve had a post by this title in my Drafts folder for over a month. I originally started to write it for my letter C post in the #AtoZChallenge, because I didn’t feel like writing a self-care themed post. I ultimately did anyway and this post sat in Drafts forever. I didn’t actually end up writing about coffee or tea in the draft. The post was, or so I believe, inspired by a fellow blogger’s question of the day or something. Anyway, today let’s discuss hot beverages.

I should really ask my parents whether they still have this photograph of me drinking one of my first cups of coffee and, if so, whether they can digitally send it to me. You see, I was about six when I first started drinking coffee and I hated the taste. I truly had a disgusted look on my face!

I at the time drank coffee with lots of milk and sugar in it. The milk was supposedly to lessen the impact of caffeine. I always left the sugar sitting at the bottom of the mug and spooned it up after finishing my coffee. I hardly ever drank tea as a child. When I drank it, I had milk and sugar in it as well.

When I was around fourteen, I had a weird nightmare about someone having switched the sugar with some type of poison. After that, I acutely decided to leave the sugar out of my coffee. Then some years later I left out the milk. Now I drink the pure stuff, but I still get the same disgusted look on my face that I got as a six-year-old. Guess I’m addicted.

With respect to tea, it took me a long time to figure out what I liked. When I was around nineteen, I somehow convinced myself that I liked strong, black tea. Well, I don’t. Then followed rooibos, which my fellow patients and I at the psych hospital referred to as stress tea for its supposed calming effect. I went through a phase of particularly liking rooibos with strawberry-whipped cream flavor.

Then followed Earl Grey tea, because my now husband was into it. I tried a lot of different tea flavors with him when he visited me at the psych hospital.

I don’t even remember when or how I got into the green tea phase. In any case, I now drink pure green tea only. Some years ago, I tried green tea with pink pepper and pineapple flavor because my mother-in-law had bought a package, but I really didn’t like it. I, by the way, drink my tea without sugar too.

Are you a coffee or a tea person? How do you like your coffee or tea?

When I Was Five

This week it’s 29 years ago that I spent a week in the children’s hospital with a collapsed trachea. It closed up on the night of April 28, 1991, the night after we’d celebrated my mother’s birthday, two months before my own fifth birthday. I was unquiet all night or so I’m told, getting up to go to the bathroom a dozen times. Eventually, my parents discovered what was going on and I was rushed to the hospital.

Thankfully, my trachea opened again within a day or two. I don’t know whether I had to be on a ventilator. In fact, I remember very little of these first few days. Then, on May 3, I had surgery to take out my tonsils and adenoids. That surgery had been scheduled for May 21 at another hospital anyway, but the children’s hospital could fit me in earlier now that I was there anyway.

After surgery, I had to stay in the hospital for another few days because I had a breathing tube inserted. That is, I’m not 100% sure the breathing tube was before or after surgery. I remember trying to talk through my tube, which was pretty much impossible.

This was probably also the time in hospital that my parents brought me their supermarket’s brand of peanut butter to eat, as I wouldn’t eat the premium brand the hospital had. Can you tell I was spoiled or autistic or both?

Finally, I got home on May 7. I was already a calendar freak, so I actually remember this without having been told.

As I write this, my inner five-year-old is trying to speak up, but she can’t. I don’t know whether this hospital stay was particularly traumatic for me, even though the going to the bathroom compulsively became a habit of mine in my teens. I may have made Lisel (that’s my inner five-year-old) up, because after all I remember this particular hospital stay so well.

I do think falling ill in early 1992, was more of an adverse childhood experience for Lisel (or me, if you think Lisel is made up). I remember I had some form of the flu, but in my own memory, it wasn’t entirely medically explained. My parents will probably say I’m trying to find clues that aren’t there so am making them up. I mean, they never talked about this experience when, in my teens, I was trying to remember when my negative mood started. They claim, as did I at the time, that it started when I was seven and having to learn Braille. In other words, I was going blind and I knew it but refused to accept it, so was becoming defiant to show a middle finger to the world. It’s easy to say it doesn’t matter. In a way, it doesn’t, but too often, I feel my parents are hiding the truth from me as a way of denying that I had significant mental health issues before the all-important age of seven. I mean, if my problems started at seven, I cannot possibly be autistic or have a dissociative disorder or anything originating in early childhood, right? Besides, I could have been old enough to be manipulative.

Am I being manipulative indeed? Or am I an early childhood trauma survivor? I don’t know and I’m not sure Lisel knows the answer.

Joining in with V.J.’s Weekly Challenge.