TGIF: Lonely in a Crowd

Today, Paula Light talks about loneliness in her TGIF post and I thought I’d follow suit. There is this weird feeling when you feel loneliest when surrounded by a roomful of people. I’ve been feeling this way lately.

It’s not as bad as it was during my high school years, when I felt isolated in the full cafeteria because I knew no-one wanted to talk to me. I mean, back then, especially in the first year, classmates were assigned to guide me through the building and I’d be sitting during lunch break with whoever was my guide for the day. It was very obvious that most if not all classmates didn’t want me there.

The situation is different now. My fellow residents definitely do seem to want me in the living room with them. Several ask when I’m coming to have coffee there again as opposed to in my room. Some specifically come out of their rooms to join me when they hear my voice. In short, it isn’t that I’m unwanted.

And in a sense, it isn’t that I can’t connect either, although that’s probably more where my loneliness is coming from. I struggle to strike up conversations with my fellow clients especially when more than one person is talking at the same time and even more so when the staff are having a separate conversation among themselves. I also get overloaded really easily, but don’t tend to notice until it’s too late. As a result, I struggle with a need for connection but also a need for a sensory-friendly environment and these often clash. Lately, I’ve chosen connection, but I fear this will lead my staff to decide I am ready for less one-on-one support. I don’t want to be seen as too demanding of attention, but when my needs clash, I really do need support to find the right balance.

Visiting Extended Family

Hi all. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is contact with extended family and especially the coming together and leaving.

When I was a child, my extended family lived all over the country. For reference, I live in the Netherlands, so “all over the country” means anyone was still within a three-hour driving distance. However, we didn’t visit with extended family very often. I rarely saw my aunts and uncles except at my grandparents’ house. As for those, we visited my maternal grandparents several times a year even though they lived closer by where I lived as a young child than my paternal grandmother. My paternal grandmother, we saw most often and had sleepovers with each summer and sometimes at Christmas too.

I don’t think we had any rituals for the coming together. For leaving, my paternal grandmother wanted to give everyone a kiss on the cheek. I didn’t mind and hardly even noticed it until she wanted to give my husband a kiss when we last saw her in 2016. My husband politely refused.

Like I said, my sister and I had regular sleepovers at my paternal grandmother’s house. We always slept on thick matresses on the floor, but they felt pretty comfy nonetheless. My grandmother made her own quilts, so she probably lay one of them over us as a duvet.

As for my paternal grandfather, I only ever visited him for day trips, but my sister once went on a week-long trip on my grandfather’s powerboat with him. They actually slept on board.

I can’t remember whether I found saying goodbye to extended family after a visit was over difficult or not. It probably depended on how well I liked said family member.

That brings me to the question of which family member I would like to bring back to life for a visit. I’d certainly choose my paternal grandmother. I have talked positively about her many times before. She declined a lot both cognitively and physically over the last few years of her life and I didn’t feel comfortable visiting her anymore during the last eighteen months she lived. Even so, I know she remained resilient up till the end and, when she could no longer take it, I know she had seriously exhausted all possibilities of remaining optimistic. She died during palliative sedation on May 12, 2018. If I could bring her back to life for a visit, I’d tell her I’m still happily married to Jeroen. For those who don’t know, my paternal grandmother was my official witness during the wedding ceremony.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (October 19, 2022)

Hi all. I’m joining the Wednesday HodgePodge again. This week’s questions are truly random or at least I cannot see a common theme to them. I don’t mind though. Here goes.

1. What’s something you wish you’d figured out sooner?
That I am the beloved of God and that it really doesn’t matter what my family or anyone else thinks of me in the end, God will ultimately judge my heart.

2. Something from childhood you still enjoy today?
Swimming, playground equipment (when it’s strong enough to carry adult me, such as here at the institution), children’s books.

3. Are you a fidgeter? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word fidget?
I am a definite fidgeter! The first thing that comes to mind is hair twirling. I’ve done it since adolescence. When I was 21, my autism diagnosing psychologist in fact told me I really had to unlearn it because it was a “serious social handicap”. Thankfully, the only people who agreed were my immediate family, who had more or less abandoned me by this time anyway.

4. Your favorite fall vegetable? How do you like it prepared?
Broccoli! In fact, about a month ago, I was discussing with a former staff what vegetable I’d choose if I could eat only one for the rest of my life and I picked broccoli. It is such a versatile vegetable. I love it cooked plain or with a creamy sauce, stir-fried or even raw in a salad. Next up are carrots. I eat them raw as a side to my lunch almost everyday.

5. What’s something you find mildly annoying, but not annoying enough to actually do anything about? Might you now?
My headphones (the cheap Chinese brand ones I bought six months ago as a replacement for the Bose QuietComfort 45 ones that broke within three weeks of me having bought them) being basically useless as wireless headphones due to the battery draining very quickly. I have been intending to replace them for a few weeks, but can’t decide for sure on a new model. For now, I’m using my AirPods with my iPhone, but this is indeed slightly annoying.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I’ve been in the main institution care home for two weeks today and it’s going pretty well. We had some issues early on, among other things with my medication, but all has been sorted now.

I Would Never (Or So I Thought): My Changing Perspective on My Care Needs #31Days2022

Hi everyone. Today’s optional prompt for #31Days2022 is “never”. I am immediately reminded of my shifting perspectives on my care needs over the 17+ years that I’ve been in the care system. Some things I thought I’d never accept, let alone want, in my care, are now things I wish for.

Most notably, in 2008, when I’d been in the psych hospital for about three months, I was being discussed among some autism know-it-alls. When asked what I wanted them to know before the meeting – since I wasn’t present at the meeting itself -, I wrote down that I wanted to be back in the community as much as possible as quickly as possible.

Out of the meeting came the recommendation that I be transferred to an autism treatment facility on psych institution grounds. I eventually ended up going to the orientation visit for the facility and the treatment coordinator and I mutually agreed it wouldn’t be the best place for me, precisely because of what it was: a treatment facility. I didn’t need further training in independence skills, after all, because, due to the combination of my disabilities, this wouldn’t be successful.

At first, I however misunderstood the meeting’s recommendations and thought they wanted me to go into the workhome, which is essentially a long-term living facility for autistics on the same institution grounds. And this is where I started to object in a way I wouldn’t now: I didn’t want to go live on institution grounds long-term.

For the first several years of my experience in the care system, I thought that institutionalization was an excuse for poor care. I am not saying it isn’t, because people who live in the community may need more support than those who live on sheltered institution grounds. In fact, when my current care facility was built in 2015, grouping several community-based care homes together, it was out of a need for budget cuts.

However, that wasn’t the reason I didn’t want to live on institution grounds. Indeed, the reason was the fact that I perceived myself as far more independent than I currently perceive myself. Not just that, but I had a misguided view of the amount of care I could receive.

You see, in 2007, I left an independence training home, where, during the week, the staff/client ratio was usually 2:7. Granted, there was no night shift, not even a sleeping one. I could deal with that at the time and, as a result, thought I could live in a community supported housing facility with staffing available even part of the day. Never mind that this usually meant a much lower staff/client ratio, so that within staffing hours, I would need to share my staff with a larger number of fellow residents.

I also rebelled against living on institution grounds because of my wish that more people could be integrated into society with the right support. Then again, I realized within the past several years that just because I and other people would wish for integration within society, doesn’t mean society wants us in it. For example, institution grounds are just much safer to walk on for people who aren’t safe in traffic, and that happens to include me. Just because I wish all drivers would stop their vehicles when they saw me, with or without my white cane, doesn’t mean they do. And it’s not like they can’t tell I’m disabled when I’m not using my white cane.

Also in 2008 or maybe it was 2009, I saw this documentary about a care agency in the southwest of the Netherlands which had completely done away with institution grounds in 1997, even for the most severely disabled clients. The presenter started out by saying that half (I think) of the clients in another province wanted to go back into institutions. The southwestern agency’s director started talking highly of his agency’s approach, where for instance they call their support workers “personal assistants” and where he at first claimed all clients are successfully integrated within the community. The presenter started showing examples of clients who were drowning, figuratively speaking, in the community. The bottom line of the documentary was that the director made up his mind and invited the presenter to come back a year later to hear his revised approach. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t believe the presenter, saying the clients had obviously not received the right amount of support. But if you need a “personal assistant” by your side all the time in the community while you can roam institution grounds freely by yourself, living in the community isn’t necessarily the obvious choice.

Finding My Way #31Days2022

Hi everyone. The first optional prompt for #31Days2022 is “way”. I thought of several titles for this blog post, but ultimately decided on this one. The rest just randomly flowed out of my fingers.

Only four days before I move to the new care home. I told my mother about it on Tuesday. Somewhat surprisingly, she didn’t react weird to the fact that I’m going to live on institution grounds. Not surprisingly, she did start talking to me about how I might be able to walk around grounds independently then.

I did, indeed, mention to the support coordinator and behavior specialist for the new home, when they came to assess my suitability for the home, that I may want to learn to take a little walk myself on institution grounds someday. Afterwards, my current assigned staff cautioned them against too high expectations. After all, I want to be “normal” pretty badly, but I still remain multiply-disabled in some significant ways.

I know that people who are “just” blind can learn to find their way around institution grounds quite easily. But I’m not “just” blind. For one thing, I am not even sure I could use my white cane in a manner that would allow me to detect obstacles safely, given my mild mobility impairment due to cerebral palsy. For another, due to autism-related executive dysfunction and other factors, my energy level varies greatly from one day to the next. So does my capacity to handle sensory stimuli. Consequently, I may be able to find my way for a short walk around grounds pretty easily one day and get hopelessly lost and frustrated the next.

I remember back when I was in the psych hospital, I voiced a similar wish to learn to take a quick walk around the building. An orientation and mobility instructor from the blindness agency came by, taught me a few times with very limited success. Before she was even finished teaching me, the staff decided it was my responsibility, so no matter my mental state, if I left the ward (even in a meltdown), no staff would come after me. I was then supposed to take my little walk, despite the fact that, in a meltdown, I wouldn’t remember where to go at all.

I know at least here in the Netherlands staff can’t legally restrain you once you’ve left an open ward, but that wasn’t the point, since I didn’t need restraining. Their point was that I was now somehow capable enough to find my way by myself and, if I wasn’t, it wasn’t their problem. This at one point led to my husband needing to drive over from the next town to take me back to the ward.

In a sense, I should know the new care home isn’t like the psych hospital, but I keep getting flashbacks. All I can hope for is that my current staff will do a proper handover.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (September 21, 2022)

Hi everyone. I haven’t blogged in several days. A lot is still on my mind, but I’m too all over the place to write it all down in a coherent way. Don’t worry, I’ll get to it, eventually. For right now, I’m joining in with the Wednesday HodgePodge. Here goes.

1. Volume 478. Sounds like a lot. Where were you in 1978? If you weren’t born where were you in 2008?
In 1978, my parents got married. I wasn’t born yet. As for 2008, I spent the entire year on the locked acute psychiatric unit. I got there in November of 2007 and left for the resocialization unit in March of 2009. This year was also the year I started officially dating Jeroen, whom I married in 2011.

2. Raise your hand if you remember records playing at a speed of 78 rpm? What’s a topic that when it comes up you “sound like a broken record”?
No, I don’t think I remember that. As for the second part of the question, anything that causes me stress or worry can get me talking like a broken record.

3. What’s the last thing you recorded in some way?
I rarely if ever make audio recordings. In fact, I did one once in my private diary app Day One just to see if it’d work. Can’t remember when though. Joyce supposes many will reply with something they’ve added to their DVR, but I have no idea what that even is. So yeah, like her, I’m going with something I wrote down and it’s my worries about the prospective new care home. I E-mailed them to my assigned home staff Monday night.

4. Thursday is the first day of fall (in the northern hemisphere). How do you feel about the changing seasons? Something you’re looking forward to this fall?
Fall is my least favorite season, so I don’t really like this change of the seasons. However, I do look forward to hopefully being able to capture some photos of the amazing fall colors. I’ve heard the main institution that I may move to in two weeks is surrounded by beautiful nature.

5. In what way (or ways) are you like the apple that didn’t “fall far from the tree”?
My mother half-jokingly says that I got all my negative traits from her and all my positive traits from my father. Indeed, I do share my mother’s short temper, but I also share her creative talent. In many other ways, we differ. For one thing, she hates to depend on others (except for my father). For this reason, she can’t stand those in the helping professions, including doctors. This is somewhat worrisome now that she’s in her late sixties and her health is declining. However, she considers me an attention-seeker for accepting care.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I’m so nervous! In less than an hour, I will be headed to the main institution to have my first orientation visit with the prospective new care home. I am really hoping it is as good as people say it is. Please all pray this works out for me.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (September 7, 2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mutism or Manipulation?

When I was a teen, I’d often go mute whenever certain personal topics of discussion came up. My mental health was such a topic. Much as I wanted to speak, my mouth wouldn’t form the words I wanted to tell my teachers or other people who intended to help me.

Even though I felt intensely anxious, my silence was commonly viewed as an act of rebellion. A way of manipulating those around me into, well, I honestly don’t know what.

When my parents and high school tutor had finally agreed that I needed professional counseling – or rather, my tutor had convinced my parents of the need, I assume -, my tutor informed me that the counselor had to meet certain very specific requirements. He or she needed to know blindness, because, well, I’m blind. The second requirement, I can’t remember, but the third was that he or she had to be exceptionally intelligent. The reason for that one was the fact that I, too, was supposedly extremely intelligent. If the counselor wasn’t smart enough, my tutor explained up front, I’d outsmart them with my manipulation. By this, he meant my so-called refusal to speak.

To this day, I am still unsure as to what made him think my silence was an act of willful defiance. Of course, everyone manipulates others at times, but I am pretty sure my mutism wasn’t – still isn’t – part of it.


This post was written for today’s Word of the Day Challenge, for which the prompt is “silence”, as well as E.M.’s RWP, which is “rebellion”.

Early Memories of Physical Activity

A few months ago, I read on another blog about Carrie Underwood’s book Find Your Path: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Soul, and Get Strong with the Fit52 Life. One of the aspects that immediately appealed to me in the book, are the journal prompts. Yes, duh, you know, I’m a sucker for journal prompts. However, Carrie Underwood’s journaling prompts are not just random one-liners, they’re deep questions. One of them is about early memories of physical activity. Today, I want to share my thoughts on this.

As a young child, I loved playing outside. I used to build sandcastles in the wooden sandpit my father had built, not even caring that the wood hadn’t been treated so it got moldy every once in a while. I remember telling you all the story of how my father used to call my Kindergarten friend, whose last name translates to Peat in English, “Kim Mud”.

When I got older, I loved learning to rollerskate. I remember joining an informal neighborhood rollerskating “club” led by the oldest of two girls who lived next door. She was my age and could rollerskate real good or so we all thought. I wasn’t nearly as good or even as good as my own younger sister, but who cared? I didn’t.

I got a large tricycle when I was about seven or eight because I couldn’t ride a bike due to my cerebral palsy. Not that I could safely ride a bike, given my visual impairment, but apparently the rehabilitation physician had no idea. I occasionally rode my tricycle, but preferred to walk around the neighborhood.

However, by age seven or eight, when I started to lose my vision, my physical activity level also started to decrease. I am pretty sure it’s more than just my vision though, but there’s no way to prove this as my parents stopped taking me to specialists around that age. I am considering asking my GP or the intellectual disability physician at the care facility for a referral back to rehabilitation medicine, because I want to learn to make the most use of the mobility I do have.

I did till my mid-teens love to sit on the swings. I’m not sure that counts, as it is a sedentary activity, but you do move your legs pushing yourself. I would go on the swings for hours on end. Now though, I get dizzy even going on the swings for five minutes at a time.

A thing I also did from toddlerhood until I moved out of my parental home at age nineteen, was this crawling-in-place movement while in bed. By the time I hit adolescence, my parents complained that I ruined the bed and made too much noise, but I continued to move in this way exactly until I moved to the independence training home. I could do this for hours on end too and I now realize it’s probably a form of autistic stimming.

Overall, I wasn’t physically active in most of the traditional ways. I wasn’t in sports as a child and P.E. was one of my least favorite classes. However, I can’t say I sat on my butt all the time. I didn’t even as an adolescent, though I probably was more sedentary then than I should have been.

How about you? Were you physically active as a child?

The Wednesday HodgePodge (August 17, 2022)

Hi everyone. I’m joining the Wednesday HodgePodge again. Here are Joyce’s questions.

1. August is National Back To School Month…how does that make you feel? Share a back-to-school memory.
I don’t really feel much regarding back-to-school time, as I’m not in school anymore (it’s been 17 years since I graduated high school) and my nieces are too young to be in school. I’m so glad to be out of school though.

A back-to-school memory? My first day at the school for the blind I spent fourth till sixth grade at. We went to church to mark the beginning of the school year, as it was a Christian school. I found it all very strange, having never been to a church before, since my parents are atheists. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep during the service though.

2. Something you’ve learned in “the school of life”?
People who get paid to have any sort of relationship with you, won’t stick around for you, so you have no reason to stay for them either. Yes, I’m referring to my wish to transfer to another care facility here.

3. Three words to describe your current mood.
Unquiet, determined, sad.

4. A summer food you’ve eaten too much of/are tired of? A summer food you haven’t had enough of?
There isn’t any summer food I’m really tired of, though today I turned down another ice cream cone because I’d had three in the past week already. A summer food I haven’t had enough of? Summer fruit!

5. What small stuff do you sweat that you know you shouldn’t?
I tend to get very easily frustrated, so quite a lot, but lately I’ve also tried to solve small problems more rather than just not caring. An example are air bubbles in my clay. The reason that I do try to solve the problem now, is that I know how to (to an extent) rather than just having to wait for my pieces to be cured and then deciding whether they go in the trash or are just about good enough to be displayed. It’s a tricky balancing act of trying not to sweat the small stuff but also trying not to be careless.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
Yesterday, we had daytime temperatures of 30°C. It isn’t expected to get this hot again anytime this year. My husband, not surprisingly, started the Christmas prep WhatsApp group with his family. He always does in mid-August. I, too, before we got to discuss this, started reading a winter-themed chapter book.