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

Dancing Through Darkness #WotW

Okay, I’m supposed to be in bed already, but I can’t sleep. What better thing there is to do than write a blog post, right? I’m joining in with Anne’s Word of the Week for the first time in forever. The idea is to sum up your week in a word or phrase.

This week wasn’t the best mental health-wise. Yesterday, I landed in a full-on crisis. I didn’t express my dark thoughts right then, but I did to my staff this evening. It isn’t the first time I’ve experienced acute suicidality, but the intrusive thoughts and images I get then shock me everytime. Thankfully, I was able to calm down after taking a PRN lorazepam. I will be calling my nurse practitioner at mental health tomorrow, since my community psychiatric nurse is on vacation. I know I’m not clinically depressed (yet), but I do want my treatment team to know about my crisis.

The rest of the week I pretty much saw it coming. On Monday and Tuesday, I was still pretty much in my normal mood. Not euphoric, but not depressed either. In fact, I signed up for the Bout of Books readathon on Tuesday fully intending to spend the better part of the week reading or talking about books. I didn’t. The first day, I got through 23% of Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott. I abandoned the book for the rest of the week though.

Particularly Friday, Saturday and today were hard. I did try to remain active. Like I mentioned several times already this past week, I tried to dance. Today I actually sort of succeeded. I also managed slightly more steps and active minutes as recorded by my Fitbit this week than the week before.

I have been trying to be more mindful of myself this week too. By this I mean I’ve started up meditating again. I use Insight Timer, which has like thousands of free meditations. If meditating becomes a regular habit, and I sure hope it does, I may pay for the premium plan. Honestly, though I was still close to crisis today, the affirmation in one of the meditations I’ve been listening to, helped me.

I also started exploring some ways of getting my eating and ultimately my weight under control. This is where dancing comes in handy again.

To sum it all up, I’m choosing “Dancing Through Darkness” as my phrase for the week. I feel depressed, but I’m also trying to actively do something about it.

How was your week?

Word of the Week linky

ZZZ: The Role of Sleep in Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the last post in the #AtoZChallenge. For my letter Z post, I have, each year that I got to it, used ZZZ at least among other things. And yes, it’s totally fitting with the self-care theme too. Sleep is so important! Today I’m going to explain a bit about how you can take better care of your sleep hygiene and how sleeping issues can signal other problems.

Most people have some sleeping issues at times. I have had quite a few nights in which I fell asleep late recently.

When I was a child or teen, anxiety would often keep me awake. Since I didn’t get any help for my anxiety then, the issue grew until I had to use sleeping pills for a while at age 20. When I moved into independent living, my insomnia grew worse and it was one contributing factor to my suicidal crisis three months in. The first medication I got, was again a sleeping pill.

Now let me be very clear: sleeping pills are not to be used long-term. When I got my first script in 2006, my GP said to take it no more than two to three times a week. I was taking sleeping pills for a few months early in my psychiatric hospital stay, but I eventually decided less sleep without pills was better than less sleep with pills. I did take sleeping pills on an as-needed basis for a while after that. However, except in extreme cases of severe mental illness keeping you awake a lot, you ultimately need to find other solutions. So learn to practise proper sleep hygiene. I honestly don’t do too well on this now that I write about it.

For example, one tip is to use your bed for sleeping only. Though I do that, I tend to nap a lot too. I am learning to get up after at most an hour, so that I won’t disrupt my night-time sleep.

Also, it is recommended to turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime. I’ve heard this is because the blue light of your smartphone or computer screen can stimulate the brain to stay awake. As I always keep my screen curtain on, this isn’t an issue for me and it may not be with dark mode either. However, I do experience that keeping very busy shortly before bedtime keeps my brain awake.

Some people find that hearing some white noise or soft music can help them sleep. I usually turn on calming music when I’m struggling to fall asleep, but eventually turn it back off as it seems to lead to a more restless sleep.

Having a soft toy in bed does help me too. Occasionally, I diffuse some lavender essential oil. There’s no scientific proof that it works, but it may help.

In addition to insomnia, sleeping too much is also an issue. I find that I sleep way too much when I’m depressed. This, of course, in turn worsens my depression.

Lastly, waking up unrefreshed can happen even when you get the right amount of sleep for you. This can be caused by a number of factors, including medications you may be taking or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. If this happens a lot, it may be time to see your doctor. Then again, doctors can be incredibly dismissive where it comes to fatigue.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 26, 2020)

Hi all, how are you all doing on this fine Sunday evening? I just had a drink of my favorite soft drink, called Dubbelfrisss. I had my favorite flavor too, apple and peach. I also had some chips. If you’d still like a cup of coffee, I’m sure I can make some for you. I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare.

If we were having coffee, I would tell those of you who follow me from the coffee share linky that I’m rather active in the blogging department. I’m still going strong with the #AtoZChallenge. I in fact still have a long list of things I want to blog about even after this challenge is over. I really hope the writing juices keep flowing.

I did downgrade my WordPress plan from Premium to Personal. I, not being very tech savvy, can’t use most Premium features anyway and I don’t need the upload space, as I hardly ever post images. The only thing I used from the Premium plan, was Google Analytics, which was rather depressing.

Also in the tech department, I’d like to tell you that I’ve been struggling for weeks to get an eHealth app called Minddistrict working. Somehow, the E-mail that should have been sent to me to sign up, didn’t reach me. My CPN from mental health contacted some guy in IT about it, who replied rather bluntly that his role is not to teach clients to look in their spam folder. Well, if that had been the problem, my CPN could have told me. I’m not stupid! I eventually contacted my hosting provider, who want to look into it but need the headers of the bounce message Minddistrict should have received. My hosting provider was trying to be very helpful, but still the whole thing frustrates me to no end.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I reached my 10K steps three out of the seven days of this week. On two more days, I got over 8K steps.

I also got weighed in on Thursday. I didn’t use the same scale I normally use, because that’s at the day center. As such, my results may not be accurate. However, if they are, I lost over 1kg. According to this scale, I just about crossed the line back from obesity to overweight. Yay!

If we were having coffee, I would share that the client who came to our home as an emergency placement two weeks ago, left again yesterday to go to a more suitable home.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I’ve been exploring personality traits a bit more. Like, I’ve joined some Facebook groups for what I think is my MBTI personality type. Most other people see me as INTJ, but I honestly think I’m more INFJ, as the feeler/thinker dichotomy is based on how you make decisions. Note that I learned in psychology class in college that one changes personality type about every month if dichotomous scales are used. I’m a clear introvert, but have no strong preference on all three other determiners. I’ve heard cognitive functions can make the MBTI more reliable, but I find most tests that include that pretty inaccessible.

I also have been exploring the concepts of HSP and empath. I read Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person in Dutch back in like 2006. I downloaded the 2013 English edition on Bookshare a few days ago and got some books by Dr. Judith Orloff too. It does remind me that, when the Dutch translation of one of Aron’s books first came out in 2004, my father read me a skeptical article in the newspaper about everyone needing labels nowadays. He said I was an “asparagus addict”, making a bad pun on the Dutch word for asparagus being similar to Asperger. That got me to stop self-identifying as autistic. Well, I guess I don’t care now.

What have you been up to lately?

Signaling: Using Crisis Prevention Plans #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter S post in the #AtoZChallenge. There are really many S words that are fitting in a self-care routine. After all, “self” starts with an S and self-care is about YOU. I will be writing about creating a crisis prevention plan.

A crisis prevention plan, which is also called a signaling plan in Dutch (hence the letter S), details the signs and symptoms you experience leading up to a crisis. In most mental hospitals, it consists of three phases:


  • Phase 1 or green: I’m doing well.

  • Phase 2 or orange: I’m not doing well.

  • Phase 3 or red: I’m in crisis.

Here in the intellectual disability care facility, a signaling plan is more extensive and can also be used to signal lowalertness. It consists of six phases:


  • Phase -2: sleeping (when not appropriate).

  • Phase -1: low alertness.

  • Phase 0: adequate and alert.

  • Phase 1: low stress, highly alert.

  • Phase 2: high stress, too highly alert.

  • Phase 3: emotional outburst or loss of control (crisis).


I find it pretty hard to translate these into English, so sorry for my quirky word choice.

In each phase, the signaling plan lists signs patients or their staff will notice when the patient is in that phase. For example, one of my phase two behaviors is loud talking. Abilities are also explained. For example, in phase 0 in my case, I am able to make decisions adequately. In phase 1, I can make choices between a few (usually two) different options. In phase 2 and 3, it’s up to the staff to make decisions for me.

Mental hospitals and mental health agencies in general are strongly focused on patient self-reliance, so they include lots of stuff about what you can do yourself in the different phases. In most cases, in fact, the patient is held fully responsible for their self-care unless they enter phase 3. I mean, patients are allowed to ask for help in phase 2, but staff will not reach out and patients are usually required to come up with direct requests for help. IN my opinion, this is rather odd.

I find it extremely comforting yet a bit surprising to see that my current signaling plan, which was created by my care staff and the behavior specialist, details staff responsibilities for each phase.

Like I said yesterday, my signaling plan also includes a recovery phase, which lists signs I’m coming out of a crisis and ways staff can help me then. This is really helpful.

Prescription Meds Can Be Part of Good Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my rather late letter P post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today I want to talk about the role prescription meds, particularly psych meds, can play in good self-care. Because you know, there is still a lot of stigma attached to taking psychiatric medications or certain medications for physical health, such as opioids. Of course, medication isn’t for everyone and that’s normal. If you do experience serious mental health issues or physical ailments, it’s not weak to ask for meds.

You know, I didn’t take care of myself with respect to my medications until I was 31. Before that, I had subconsciously assumed I wasn’t taking meds for self-care, but rather to please others. That’s how psych meds had been used on me for years in mental health, since irritability (ie. being a pain in other people’s necks) was supposedly my main symptom. Well, it isn’t and even if it were, my irritability is a worse experience for me than it is for others. I mean, I’ve known people, such as those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, say they have a problem but don’t suffer. That’s okay, but it is rarer than to suffer in silence.

In early 2018, I finally decided I needed help for my depression. As those who read my blog regularly know, I was already on a low dose of an antidepressant, but had no idea why. I didn’t feel comfortable asking directly for a med increase. Let me tell you, however, suggesting specific med adjustments to your doctor doesn’t make you a drug seeker. They may know meds best, but you know you best.

Also, while meds won’t make you happy, you don’t have to settle for mediocre health if there are still options out there. And if you want to lessen a medication dose or stop it altogether, that’s okay to discuss with your doctor too.

Once you do get on the right meds, it’s your responsibility to make sure you take them as prescribed. Certain meds need to be taken right on time or they’ll not work as effectively. I’ve heard this is the case for antidepressants, so I really need to get back on track with taking my morning dose on time. Other meds cannot be taken together or should or shouldn’t be taken with certain foods. For example, when I took iron supplements, I didn’t know at first that it’s recommended you not consume them with dairy products. You don’t need to read everything that’s in the information on a medication you’ve been prescribed, particularly if you’re hypervigilant about side effects. However, you do need to take your medication as directed.

Music for Your Mood #AtoZChallenge

Oh my, I guess I’m growing a bit weary of the #AtoZChallenge. That is, even though a ton of topics were available for the letter M post, I’m still not sure I have any substantial material to share. Today, I want to talk about using music to help your mental health.

Music, both listening to it and playing an instrument or singing yourself, can really help your mental wellbeing. I find, for example, that it gives me something to focus my senses on when I’m overloaded. Like I’ve said before, exposing yourself to a strong sensation can really help you feel more aware of your body. It can also help override other strong internal or external stimuli.

It really depends on you what type of music will help you when you’re in which mood. For example, for me, listening to peaceful piano or guitar music or soundscapes, helps me calm down. My husband says the same music winds him up.

When I need a mood booster, it helps me to listen to faster-paced songs, often with funny lyrics. For example, Tom Lehrer’s music really lifts up my mood.

Song lyrics can also help you describe your mood boost your self-worth. English being my second language means, however, that I don’t often completely comprehend them. I find “powerful” songs in Dutch to be really annoying most times. That being said, I do at times listen to songs with strong lyrics, such as contemporary Christian.

Also, my favorite song of all time is I’m a Survivor by Reba McEntire, which does have strong, relatable lyrics. However, most times even when I don’t fully know what a song is about, its rhythm, beat or melody appeals to me. That’s why I like ABBA, even though their lyrics aren’t all that powerful.

When I’m angry, I like to listen to the likes of Cock Sparrer, Booze and Glory and The Business. I do have an inkling of what their songs are about, but the essential bit is really the beat.

I can’t sing or play an instrument myself. When you can, it can be a true outlet for your feelings. Even when you don’t have any talent, you can still feel better by playing an instrument.

What music helps you right now?

Gratitude: Counting Your Blessings #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter G post In the #AtoZChallenge. Today I want to talk about gratitude. Making a habit out of noticing what you have, can be very helpful for your mental health. Like most other self-care activities, it may be hard to do when you’re feeling low, so I recommend you start practising gratitude when you’re in a good or at least okay place. Then it will come more naturally when you’re feeling low.

On this blog, I aim to write gratitude lists regularly. These are usually lists of things I’ve been grateful for in the past week or so. However, you can also write a general gratitude list that lists things that are positive about your life. Such a list can look something like this:

  1. I am thankful for my physical health.
  2. I am thankful for my husband.
  3. I am thankful I have a home in the care facility I can feel safe in.
  4. I am thankful I am financially secure.
  5. I am thankful for my medication.

You can aim for a certain number of gratefuls, such as ten in the Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) blog hop. I have done other types of posts of this kind on this blog and older blogs. Examples include 99 things I like, 20 things I’m grateful for in life, etc.

However, when you’re feeling low, it may help to just write what you’re thankful for and not set a specific number you must reach. After all, that might create stress that you do not need right now.

Another form of expressing gratitude is the thankful letter. You can write thankful letters to people you’re grateful for in real life and actually send or give them to said person. However, you can also write thankful letters to things or situations.

A variation to this theme is the love letter. Of course, it may be good to write a love letter to your significant other, but again you can write love letters to anything.

If you don’t write gratitude lists or thank you letters, there are other ways of counting your blessings. Saying to yourself or aloud to someone else that you’re grateful for something, may be enough.

How do you express gratitude?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 5, 2020)

I more or less abandoned the What Day Is It Anyway? posts when A-to-Z started, but I wanted to write a check-in anyway. I am joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare, although it’s a bit late for coffee. I did have a cup of decaf about an hour ago. I also just had a nice orange-pineapple-guava drink. I am not a big fan of fizzy drinks, but thankfully usually we have some non-fizzy soft drinks or juice in the fridge for week-ends.

If we were having coffee, I would ask you all how you’ve been doing on your third week of lockdown. I had a pretty good week. It was better than last week. Last week, after all, I landed in some crises due to missing my husband and all the change that is brought on by this COVID-19 thing.

If we were having coffee, I would share that on Monday, my home’s manager came to talk to me. I was scared at first. Thankfully, she came to reassure me that I won’t be kicked out of the facility for having challenging behavior. That was quite a relief to me.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I made delicious crispy chicken with the staff intern at day activities on Tuesday. I made them with dorito chips for the crisp. I think I’d prefer them with slightly more spicy doritos, but I had intentionally picked the cheese-flavored ones, as I normally don’t like the paprika or chili-flavored ones.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I didn’t do as well on my step goal as I did last week, but I still managed to get to 10K steps once and reached over 8K steps on three other days.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I struggled a bit with health anxiety at the end of the week. Like I mentioned in passing in one of my A-to-Z posts, I’ve been convinced for years that, once I’d find a suitable living place, I would get a serious illness and die. This caused me to feel some intense anxiety when I had some health symptoms. Thankfully, I was able to talk it through with my staff.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I would originally have had a phone appt with my community psychiatric nurse from mental health last Friday. I waited for twenty minutes for her to call and then decided to call the secretary. Turns out my CPN was off sick and the secretary had forgotten to tell me. Thankfully, I didn’t have a face-to-face appointment.

Because I was struggling a bit, my staff arranged for me to have a phone check-in with the facility’s behavior specialist. She was pretty good at calming my nerves. She reminded me to look at today only. I won’t die today and I won’t be leaving the facility today. That was helpful.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I’d been trying to record a video and then take a picture of myself for my husband. I reasoned he may like to see me now that he can’t come here. We don’t normally video call or anything, so he hadn’t seen my face in a month or so. Unfortunately, the picture I took showed my eyes and nose only. I wonder how other totally blind people learn to take pictures. Anyway, I finally had my staff take a picture of me. In this picture, I’m holding my stuffed panda. I often cuddle it when I miss my husband, because the panda is the largest soft toy I own. No, my husband isn’t fat like the panda, LOL.

How have you been?

Diet and Exercise: A Healthy Lifestyle for Wellness #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter D post in the #AtoZChallenge. Usually when looking for inspiration this year, I have looked to The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care by Anna Borges. Today though, no “D” topic inspired me. Besides, I had basically already made up my mind that I was going to write about diet. Then I decided to add exercise to today’s discussion, as I already have an “E” topic in mind.

Having a healthy lifestyle can be hard for most people and it’s especially hard for those of us struggling with mental health issues. When I suffer with major depression, for example, all I feel like is sleeping and eating and I certainly don’t feel like moving. I’m not telling you that you should force yourself to have a healthy lifestyle all the time. That’s not possible for most people and, when you suffer with serious mental health issues, it’s often not a priority. If it takes all your effort to get out of bed, I’m not telling you to exercise.

But generally, it can really be helpful for your wellbeing to mind your diet and physical activity level. I, for one, need to lose weight to get to a healthy BMI. However, that number on a BMI chart or even on the scale isn’t the main reason I try to eat a relatively healthy diet. It makes me feel better mentally if I get enough healthy food in me and don’t overeat. Getting enough veggies is a struggle with the poor quality of food we get here at the care facility, but I do try to eat enough fruit.

Besides nutrition, hydration is important too. I try to make sure I drink at least two liters of fluids a day. This has been harder now that my days are less structured due to the day center being closed, but I really need to get my hydration habit back up. I use an app called Water Reminder, which is free (with a one-time in-app purchase to remove ads and add some additional features).

It also certainly helps me to get moving. Now I must say that I’ve not been majorly depressed in a long time, so moving comes relatively easily to me. I particularly love walking, as regular readers of this blog will know. I also try to go on the elliptical a few times a week.

Do you try to develop or maintain a healthy lifestyle? Does it help with your mental health?