What I Wanted to Be When I’d Grow Up #Blogtober20

Today’s prompt for #Blogtober20 is “Wannabe”. I originally had no idea what to write for it, until I saw Mandi’s own post mentioned writing about what she wanted to become when growing up. Mandi chose against this theme, but I’m going with it. I can’t remember whether I ever covered this topic on this blog – I’m pretty sure I did on one of my older blogs, but it might have been here too. Even if I did cover the topic here, I have a lot of new’ish readers, so it may still be interesting.

I remember in Kindergaten we had some type of celebration that included a “fortune-teller” with a crystal ball – of course, it was another grade’s teacher. I remember she asked us all what we wanted to be when we’d grow up. Most girls wanted to be a princess, of course. I can’t remember what I said I wanted to be.

When I learned to write, however, I knew pretty soon that I wanted to be a writer. My parents, realistic as they were, told me up front that writing wouldn’t earn me a living unless I was a real good one. So for money I usually wanted to be a teacher.

I originally wanted to teach small children, of course, because I myself was still young. When I got to the later elementary grades, I made up my mind and wanted to become a high school teacher. Or a professor even. I remember proudly telling people when I was twelve that later I wanted to be a Dutch-language linguist. Later, I wanted to become a mathematician.

This was, at least, what I told others when my parents or teachers were present. Secretly, I made plans to become a psychologist. I wanted to help children or adults with my kind of problems, which I was well aware of by that age.

When I was in my later years of high school, the thought of becoming a psychologist remained at the back of my mind. Openly though, I chose to go the “safe” path and applied to become an English major. Then I made up my mind at the last moment and chose to take a gap year to go to the rehabilitation center for the blind.

I got the opportunity to study psychology, albeit not at university, in 2006. I jumped at the opportunity and did eventually earn my foundation (first-year diploma) in applied psychology. I passed communication skills only if I promised that I wouldn’t continue in this field though. I know, psychology isn’t the best major for an autistic. But I didn’t want to do something I didn’t like, so I picked linguistics as my university major with the intent of doing my minor in speech and language pathology. As most of my readers know, it didn’t work out.

I still intend on someday taking some more psychology or pedagogy classes. I will most likely never work at any paid job though. Still, my original dream of becoming a writer, has at least partly come true.

#Blogtober20

My All-Time Favorite Food

I was feeling a little down on Sunday, so I checked out the gratitude section of the book Journaling With Lisa Shea. This is really a collection of ten 32-day guided journals and an introduction to journaling. I bought the entire thing for a deal price on Amazon several years ago.

I already covered some topics from this section before, but one I didn’t write about is my favorite food. The prompt asks me to recall what favorite food makes me brim with joy and sigh with delight. It goes on to ask whether I can remember eating it for the first time.

Well, my all-time favorite food has to be Domino’s pizza! I am not 100% sure whether this was the first time I ever had it, but I think it was. It was sometime in late 2010 or early 2011. My husband, then still my fiancé, lived in student accommodation in Kampen, where he studied theology. His studio was real close to the train station, the river IJssel, and several snack corners and fast food restaurants. Including Domino’s.

I can’t remember which pizza I took that first time. It might’ve been during my six months or so of trying to pass as a vegetarian to my fiancé, who was a vegetarian at the time. I might also have taken one of their chicken pizzas. I think I did that. I probably also chose red peppers as an extra topping, as I was and still am a lover of very spicy food.

Nowadays, I almost always choose a chicken kebab pizza, but I think they didn’t have that one back then. I also always look at the new and noteworthy category, because sometimes they have truly delicious pizzas. I particularly remember one called something like Chicken Zanzibar, which had a piri-piri swirl on it. I topped it off with extra red peppers. Since I took a large pizza and didn’t have the monstrous appetite I’d expected, I left my husband a slice. He pretty soon texted me with a list of swear words about how spicy the pizza had been. Even thinking back to that makes me laugh.

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.

Millennium: Growing Up Blind in 2000 #Blogtober20

I’m a bit late to publish my #Blogtober20 post today. Well, not as late as yesterday, but then I already had a post up in the afternoon. Today’s prompt is “Millennium”.

Let’s see… we’re now 20 years into the new millennium, which I realize isn’t even the “new” millennium to some adults right now, as they were born in 2000 or later. I always find it surprising that there are people who will be legally old enough to vote in next year’s national election who weren’t even born when politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered on May 6, 2002. Yeah, I’m getting old!

In 2000, I turned fourteen. I was in my first year at a mainstream grammar school. I had already decided I hated it, but my parents and teachers had decided that, if I failed, I’d fail within the first three months and those were up. Woohoo, my mainstream education was a success! Okay, it was, since I did graduate with pretty good grades in 2005, but yeah.

In January of 2000, I suffered a bad case of the flu. I rarely got the flu back then and still get it only once every five years or so, so I remember. In fact, I’m not 100% sure of this but I think it was my only time being off school sick in my entire grammar school career.

In February, my outreach teacher for the visually impaired came to talk to my classmates. They had already decided they didn’t like me one bit. In fact, when the teacher asked casually what having me, a blind student, in their class evoked in them, they didn’t think of a single positive. They started saying that I was being favored by the teachers. They also resented the need to help me get around. This instilled in me the feeling that I had to make up for my blindness in some way by being extra, well, anything.

I had read a book called Het instituut (which translates to The Institution) by blind comedian Vincent Bijlo in 1998. This book is about a boy who goes to a boarding school for the blind and his teachers constantly instill in him the idea that the “sighted school” is really hard and that he’ll need to compensate for his sight loss. For all I knew, my parents and teachers at the grammar school agreed: I was an inherent burden due to my blindness unless I showed my classmates I was more independent, nicer, more hard-working and in any way better than them. Then when I tried to work hard and got good grades, my classmates decided I must be favored by the teachers.

My idea about myself as an inherent burden on the world around me due to my blindness didn’t change till I went to an international computer camp for the blind in 2002 and discovered the English-language Internet in that same summer. It never completely disappeared though.

Later in the year 2000, my classmates started openly bullying me. Again, my parents and teachers blamed me. I was too dependent, too unsociable, too much of a burden in general. I had ruined the only friendship I had developed (which in hindsight was based on pity mostly) by getting my “friends” an only average grade in a music performance in October. Though these girls didn’t actively bully me, they mostly ignored me.

I realize, looking back, that the attitude towards people with disabilities was generally very hostile back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I was growing up. I mean, I bullied a girl with a visual and intellectual impairment on the special needs bus to the school for the blind in the late 1990s. Though my parents disapproved of it, both they and my teachers didn’t do much to stop me. When this girl was dying of a brain tumor, my parents even openly criticized her religious parents’ hope that the girl would miraculously survive.

I can only hope that, with more children with significant disabilities being mainstreamed nowadays, that attitudes have changed.

#Blogtober20

If I Could Turn Back Time… #Blogtober20

Today’s prompt for #Blogtober20 is “If I Could Turn Back Time”. I think we all would do some things in our past differently if we could. I certainly would.

I mean, when I was in the psych hospital from 2007-2017, I regretted almost every step I took or didn’t take. My last psychologist was right in a way that so many places to live had passed that I’d turned down. I had turned down a shelted living place for the mentally ill, a workhome for autistics, a training home for autistics, etc. They were not suitable places for me and I completely understand I decided not to take the step. However, I particularly completely regret the step I did take to move to that last psych ward in 2013. Most of the places I’d turned down, seemed more suitable in hindsight than that last unit.

Still, now that I’m in a suitable place, I can see why the things happened the way they did and I made the choices I made. None of the places offered to me back in those early years in the psych hospital were as suitable as my current care facility is.

For the most part, this boils down to them being psychiatric living and/or treatment facilities rather than those serving people with developmental disability. You see, here in the Netherlands, autism is seen as a psychiatric condition if you have an IQ above 85. And in case it isn’t clear, the care approaches of psychiatry and developmental disability differ significantly. In particular, all psychiatric facilities are aimed at people developing their independence, or as they call it “rehabilitation”. I find this particularly unsuitable an approach to me.

Looking back, I maybe should have accepted the very first placement offered to me: a treatment unit and independence training home for autistics. Maybe the staff would’ve recognized my needs there. Or maybe not. Maybe I should’ve gone to the workhome. At the workhome for autistics, the staff did understand I needed more support than they could offer. They tried to help me and my staff find another place for me but came up with a facility for people with intellectual disability. The staff at the psych unit at the time were very understanding of my needs, but they still felt an intellectual disability place wouldn’t be suitable. You all know that I beg to differ.

To make a long story short, I’ve had quite a few regrets, but in the end, my life is good the way it is now. And that’s what counts!

#Blogtober20

The One I Love: My Husband #Blogtober20

Welcome to day two in #Blogtober20. I realize that when I wrote about myself yesterday, I never mentioned the fact that I’m married. Thankfully, the second prompt in the series is “The One I Love”, so now is my opportunity to talk all about my husband, Jeroen. I usually don’t refer to him by his name, but right now it’d be confusing to refer to him as my boyfriend, now husband or whatever constantly.

I met Jeroen on an Internet forum in 2007. Neither of us were looking for a relationship. I wrote on the forum that I was bored and lonely living on my own in student accommodation in the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands. He went to school in Nijmegen at the time. He was also looking to expand his social circle, so he PM’d me asking if we could drink a cup of coffee or tea in Nijmegen somewhere. We met at the bus stop near the university’s dentistry department, because that was the only bus stop near the uni that my bus would stop by. We went for a coffee or tea at the uni’s cafe. I was so nervous that I tumbled off a step and dropped my coffee.

Thankfully though, Jeroen didn’t mind. Though he had been nervous too and had mixed feelings about our first time meeting, he did want to meet again. I invited him to my student apartment, just because I had no clue where else to meet. That could’ve been really stupid, but thankfully it turned out well.

Six weeks after first meeting Jeroen, I was hospitalized onto the psychiatric ward, which didn’t have an Internet connection for patients. I didn’t have Jeroen’s phone number, so asked my staff to log onto the forum and send him a message. The staff didn’t include my phone number, because I hadn’t requested it.

Several weeks later, my father called to ask whether he could give my number to Jeroen. It turned out that Jeroen had found my father’s E-mail address by googling the whois info for his website. I am so grateful my father didn’t have privacy protection on, as I do with my websites.

It certainly wasn’t love at first sight (oh, that sounds stupid for a blind person) for me. On the contrary, when Jeroen told me he was in love with me, I let him wait four months before reciprocating it. Similarly, when he proposed to me in June of 2010, I replied: “So do you think that’d be cool then?” He did really want to marry me and we had our wedding date on September 19, 2011, exactly four years after we’d first met.

Jeroen and I don’t live together. Like I said, he fell in love with me while I was hospitalized. This hospitalization lasted 9 1/2 years, after which I was kicked out to live with Jeroen. I really struggled to cope living semi-independently, so eventually applied for long-term care funding.

Jeroen is 31-years-old (32 next month). He sometimes jokes about my having married a younger man, as I am 34. I am glad he isn’t significantly younger than me though, as, when I was hospitalized on the locked unit, I wasn’t to leave the ward unless with someone 18 or over. We loved going to the hospital cafeteria to have tea or hot cocoa. We also loved playing cards.

Jeroen and I have the same sense of humor. We love wordplay and have our own phrases and terms for communicating certain things. For example, when we get bored of each other, we say “banana spider”. He is also really inventive with new nicknames for me. I, not so much.

I really love Jeroen and want to be married for the rest of our life. Not living together has its ups and downs. Particularly in these times of corona, we’ve had to be separated more than we’d like to. Thankfully, our love has survived.

#Blogtober20

Activities I Enjoyed As a Child

Hi everyone! How are you doing? For today, I have a rather joyful post. I’m going to share stuff I enjoyed doing as a child. I mean, I didn’t have the best of childhoods, but there were definitely things I enjoyed. Here is a list of activities I liked as a child, and some I still do.

1. Listening to cassette tapes. At around age five, my parents got me a subscription to the Dutch audio magazine for blind children. It was on cassette tape at the time. It lasted only an hour and was sent out every three weeks, but I still loved listening to it. I also loved listening to old editions. Back then, you had to return the cassette tapes after listening, but you could also send a guilder with the empty case and a note saying you kept the magazine. I did this almost with every edition and listened to a lot of them repeatedly.

My parents got me a subscription for the magazine for blind preteens for my tenth birthday and I started subscribing to the one for teens at age twelve. I had that one for about ten years I believe.

I also loved listening to audiobooks. I hated reading Braille books, but really loved the cassette taped books.

2. Playing with dolls. I had a favorite doll, Roza (it was really spelled with a Z). I got her for my third birthday from my grandma, who had bought it on a trip to Berlin. Roza had blond hair and light skin color. My sister’s favorite doll was called Marijke and she was dark-skinned with black hair. We often played that the dolls came from Suriname and went back there on vacation.

3. PlayMobil®. I started playing with PlayMobil® at around age three. Back then, I had three favorite figures, whom I called Pekel, Laren and Foet, none of which are actual Dutch names. These figures did normal everyday stuff like eating, going to the toilet, etc.

When I got older, I played more complicated games. At one point, when I was around eleven, I had two Native American figures whom I called Ingassa and Maranna. My sister played with these figures, while I played with a red-haired figure called Pippi. We said that Ingassa and Maranna were originally from Costa Rica and we again played that we were going back there. Okay, I sound real racist right now with all my stereotyped games.

4. Playing outside. When I still lived in Rotterdam, we had a sandpit that my father had built. It was made of wood which hadn’t been varnished I think, as it was often moldy. I loved playing in it.

We also had a set of swings. I loved those! In Apeldoorn, we got a large set of playing equipment from our grandma. It included a rope, a horizontal bar to bend over and also swings. Until I was at least thirteen, I spent a lot of time on the swings. At the day center, we have a set of indoor swings and I love them, even though I get dizzy quickly going on them.

What activities did you enjoy as a child?

Weird Dreams

It’s already Thursday here, so I’m technically a day late to join in on Fandango’s Provocative Question. I’ve never joined in on this meme before, but I really liked this week’s question. It is to share the strangest, weirdest dream you can remember.

I already shared about the dream that got me to quit putting sugar in my coffee some months ago. That wasn’t as weird a dream, considering that refined sugar is by some people considered pure poison indeed.

Another weird dream that had an impact on my later life is one I had when I was about seven-years-old. I dreamt that there was a big soccer match between Ajax and Feijenoord, the two main rivaling clubs in the Netherlands and the only ones I’d heard of at the time. I apparently was an Ajax fan and they won. So far, nothing weird, except that I knew nothing about soccer and certainly wasn’t a fan of any club. The weird bit comes now: someone gave me some pills that made me cry, so that everyone would think I was sad and hence supported the “right” club.

As a side note, I lived in Rotterdam at the time, so indeed Feijenoord would’ve been the club to support. I became a wannabe Ajax fan as soon as I learned anything about soccer at all, as my friends at the school for the blind were Ajax fans. This was probably after our move to Apeldoorn though.

Like I said, the dream had an impact on my later life. Indeed, when I went to the school for the blind at age nine, I got a phys ed teacher who looked a lot like the man who’d given me those pills in my dream. I took an instant dislike to him and even though I knew why, I couldn’t help it. He was a pretty strict teacher, so I may’ve disliked him anyway.

What was one of the weirdest dreams you can remember?

A Time I Decided to Speak Up for Myself

The weather has cooled off some, but I’m still somehow lacking motivation to do much. For this reason, I scrolled aimlessly through some journaling prompt books I have in my Kindle app. In one of them, one of the prompts that caught my eye was to recall a time when you spoke up for yourself.

I am usually not one to speak up for myself easily. Especially not when the person I’m needing to advocate to is an authority figure. The memory I’m going to describe involves my last psychologist at the psychiatric hospital.

She was somehow convinced that I have dependent personality disorder. There are good reasons to think so, but her reasons were not among those. To put it bluntly, she thought I misused care.

More importantly than her diagnosis of DPD though was her removing my autism diagnosis that I’d had for nine years. She believed that I could not possibly be autistic because I had a brain bleed as an infant and that instead my diagnosis should be some form of brain injury. She ended up putting hydrocephalus (which I’d developed as a result of the brain bleed) on axis III of the DSM-IV classification and that apparently should suffice in explaining my difficulties. That plus, of course, DPD. Well, it didn’t.

Like I said, I have trouble sticking up for myself. This is indeed a DPD criterion. Honestly I don’t even care whether I might have DPD actually. I can see how I have some traits. But DPD is different from care misuse. And that’s what my psychologist was accusing me of.

So I finally decided to stand up for my rights and demand an independent second opinion. This was extremely hard and my psychologist had been successfully trying to talk me out of it before. Not this time though. In February of 2017, I had an appointment with a clinical neuropsychologist at Radboud university medical center in Nijmegen. Three months later, on my would-be discharge date from the mental hospital, I got my autism diagnosis back.

Autism, of course, doesn’t explain everything I experience. I might have DPD too. And God knows what else. But I don’t misuse care.

My psychologist, interestingly, claimed that I spoke up for myself really well. That’s a rather contradictory statement to the DPD diagnosis. After all, dependents are often seen as passive. I still wonder why she didn’t have the balls to “diagnose” me as a malingerer.

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

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