Mid-Year Reflections

Hi all. How can it be the middle of July already? It’s amazing how time flies. This week, one of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop writing prompts is to look back at your new year’s resolutions for 2021. As I do each year, this year I called them hopes rather than resolutions as a way of lessening the pressure. As I look back though, I seem to be doing pretty well.

My first hope was to eat a somewhat healthier diet. Indeed, I am making sure to eat enough fruit and veg each day, unlike apparently during the last few months of 2020. I however still struggle to make healthier breakfast and lunch choices.

In the exercise department, I’ve not been as inventive as I’d hoped. I blame COVID, as, even though gyms reopened to the public a while back, I haven’t felt comfortable to go.

With respect to getting stable mentally, this is a work in progress. I’ve only actually noticed some seemingly significant improvement over the past month or so, after first falling deep into crisis in mid-June. I cannot say for sure the one-on-one support is helping me get mentally stable, but I do know for sure that I certainly don’t want to go back to the situation before the extra care hours were approved.

Faith-wise, I am still on my journey with God. I pray everyday, read the Bible everyday and am learning to put Jesus first. I am however still struggling. I really want to get baptized, but have no idea where to start, as I don’t currently even go to a physical church. More importantly though, I am still regularly tempted to think that, since God is in charge, I shouldn’t even bother with wanting to be saved.

On the leisurely side of things, I’m doing pretty amazing if I can say so myself. I have kept up a pretty good blogging routine and actually love jewelry-making and bath and body product making again. I am glad I didn’t resolve to be able to do these activities independently, as that’d be an unrealistic goal.

The only area I’m not that satisfied with myself about, is my reading. I did a separate post on bookish resolutions for 2021. I guess I should have called those hopes too, as to be honest, I haven’t really met a single of my goals as of yet.

How did you do on your new year’s resolutions so far?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Nurse Practitioner’s Appt This Afternoon

I had a brief meeting with my nurse practitioner this afternoon. Even though it was only half an hour, we discussed a lot of things. First we made concrete plans for me to start the topiramate. Like I said before, I would need to be on the injectible birth control for two weeks before I could start it. That would be next Thursday, but I proposed I won’t start with the topiramate until the Sunday after that, July 4. That way, I won’t be just starting out when I go to Lobith on July 3. This was okay with my nurse practitioner and he’d make sure the pharmacy would get it ready on time.

Next, we discussed my bloodwork results. In the part that measures metabolic health, nothing worrisome was found. I asked about my kidney function and first my nurse practitioner said that unless your estimated GFR is below 60, it’s no reason to worry yet. Mine was 81. He checked my previous lab results. My estimated GFR was 71 in 2019 and 82 in 2020, so there’s not a clear decrease either.

He also complimented me on my cholesterol level, which was completely normal. Of course, there is only so much you can do about high cholesterol, but apparently I’m doing what I need to. It probably helps that I don’t drink and try to eat a relatively healthy diet.

Then the other page showed my blood level for my antipsychotic aripiprazole and its active metabolite. These were quite high. This means that side effects may outweigh the effectivness of the medication. While I don’t experience any major side effects, we will try to lower my aripiprazole dose in the not-too-distant future. That’s been a long-time wish for me anyway.

Then we got to discuss my crisis last week and my conversations with my husband. My husband had suggested I might have dependent personality disorder and I eventually thought he was right. Of course, in my mind, this led to all kinds of additional conclusions that my husband hadn’t mentioned, like my not having trauma-related issues and my not even being autistic and my being one giant manipulator.

My nurse practitioner said that DPD rarely if ever goes alone and that he wonders whether it even is a valid diagnosis. It is according to DSM-5, of course. He added that this is one of the most negative diagnoses to give someone. My nurse practitioner obviously didn’t mean my husband, as he didn’t really try to diagnose me at all, just wanted to give me food for thought. We will further discuss my issues with dependency in the future.

Overall, it was a good appt. As my nurse practitioner hadn’t read the E-mails we (meaning my inner people) had sent him over the weekend, we didn’t go into those specifically. Those E-mails had included a lot of self-loathing and self-doubt, including about our possible DID. I did explain about the dependency issue, like I said above. He also made sure I’m no longer in actual crisis. I confirmed this. This means I no longer need more frequent contact with the mental health team than I normally have.

My Top Ten Favorite Inspirational Memoirs

Hi everyone! Today I’m joining in with Top Ten Tuesday (#TTT), a weekly book-related meme. Since I don’t read nearly as much as I would want to or as book bloggers do, I don’t participate in this meme that often. I love it though! Today its topic is a freebie, so I get to pick one. And you know, I’ve always wanted to share about my top favorite inspirational memoirs. Here goes, not in any particular order.

1. The Hospital by Barbara O’Hare. This is a truly gripping memoir by a woman who survived secret experimentation and sexual abuse in a children’s psychiatric hospital. I read it back in 2018 and still love love love it.

2. Who Will Love Me Now? by Maggie Hartley. This is my favorite foster care memoir by this author. I reviewed it last year.

3. Where Has Mummy Gone? by Cathy Glass. This is another foster care memoir. It is my absolute favorite Cathy Glass memoir, but I love many others. See my review.

4. Today I’m Alice by Alice Jamieson. This is a memoir of a woman with dissociative identity disorder. Since I have this condition too, I wanted to share at least one memoir by someone wiht DID and this is the most recently-published one I’ve read. It was still published back in 2010, but I think it’s still available.

5. Let Me Go by Casey Watson. Yet another foster care memoir. Can you tell I love this genre? I was almost going to make this list all about those. Let Me Go came out last year and I reviewed it back in October.

6. No Way Out by Kate Elysia. This is a truly gripping story. It deals with sex trafficking of young women in the UK. I was going to review this one last year too, but didn’t get down to it.

7. Finding Stevie by Cathy Glass. Yes, another Glass book. This one deals with a genderfluid teen who is being exploited online. I really liked it. See my review.

8. A Road Back from Schizophrenia by Arnhild Lauveng. I had to google its English title, as I read it in Dutch. I am not sure it’s still even available, but it was definitely a great read.

9. Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet. This is another older book which I read in its Dutch translation before I had access to Bookshare or eBooks. This is a memoir by an autistic person.

10. A Real Person by Gunilla Gerland. Okay, I’m getting annoying with my older books that I didn’t even read in English. Sorry. This was one of the first memoirs by an autistic person I read after being diagnosed myself.

Do you like memoirs? Any recommendations?

Powerful

My Braille display, which I use to access my computer and smartphone as I am blind, is giving me problems again. In fact, it’s been acting up ever since only a few days after it got fixed three weeks ago, but I hadn’t wanted to disclose this on my blog. After all, the Braille display costs several thousands of euros and the company had originally claimed that home contents insurance (which I don’t have at this point) should pay for the repair, so I had been wanting to keep this private while investigating my options. Now though, the thing has been acting up so badly that it caused me to spiral into a parasuicidal crisis. This may seem odd, technology being so powerful as to get me to lose my sanity. Thankfully, my husband calmed me down!


This post was written for Six Sentence Story Thursday, for which the prompt today was “Powerful”. It was also inspired by Abbie’s contribution to the blog hop.

An Unbelievably Good Psychiatrist’s Appt Yesterday

Yesterday, I didn’t blog, because I was overwhelmed and frustrated all evening. The frustration is a topic for another time. My overwhelm was mostly positive in a way, in that I’d had a psychiatrist’s appointment in the morning and was overcome with disbelief at how understanding she was. That in turn triggered feelings of disbelief at my current life situation in general, which triggered memories of trauma.

I’d seen this psychiatrist once before, last December. Then, she had switched my PRN medication from lorazepam to quetiapine. Now was the time to discuss whether this was the right medication for me. I wasn’t sure to begin with. I explained truthfully that, while the medication helps somewhat with my oversensitivity to stimuli like noise, it doesn’t help with the anxiety and PTSD symptoms. I didn’t mention PTSD as such, but I did mention that my basic level of arousal is already pretty high. She asked me to describe how I moved from my baseline, which I explained was already a five on a 1-10 scale, to a level ten. I explained that I move very quickly and, once I’m at a ten, I’m too overwhelmed and unable to process stuff to take a quetiapine. Then, when I recover slightly to, say, a level eight, I can take the medication and it helps me get back to my baseline level of five.

I can’t remember how we got talking about it, but I assume my nurse practitioner already told her some things about my anxiety. I mean, we got talking about my fear of going to sleep, which I up to that point had hardly realized was maybe an actual fear of going to sleep because of nightmares. Until this point, I’d always assumed it was some form of fear of abandonment, as the night staff isn’t in my home all the time.

The psychiatrist pretty quickly got to her suggestion, which is adding a low dose of topiramate (Topamax) to my daily medications. I had heard of this medication before and a person I know online, had gotten it at his own request to help with PTSD-related nightmares. This person got it only for a few nights when he had to endure a triggering situation though. Besides, I don’t have nightmares every night. So before I agreed to it, I asked the psychiatrist to explain what it would do. She said it’s normally prescribed for epilepsy or migraine, but low doses are also found to be effective for trauma-related symptoms. She explained that some people love this medication and some hate it due to its side effects. At first, I’ll get one 25mg tablet to be taken at night. I’ll notice any side effects I’m going to get within the first several days and can then stop right away if they’re too unpleasant. If I tolerate this medication, the dose can be upped, in which case I’ll need to take the medication twice daily. The highest dose she usually goes to for PTSD is 150mg a day. She said that it should help with nightmares, but also could be helpful in preventing me getting triggered and having flashbacks often during the day.

I loved how understanding she was of my symptoms. I can’t even remember having said that I experience flashbacks, but I quite often do indeed. She said that, though I can continue to take my PRN quetiapine, that one dulls me a bit, while the topiramate should actually make me less susceptible to flashbacks. It reminds me of an explanation of the different effects of antipsychotics vs. anticonvulsants in helping with sensory overreactivity that I once read. It said something like, imagine overload is hearing a hated radio channel at top volume in your head. Both antipsychotics and anticonvulsants change the channel, but while antipsychotics give you headphones, anticonvulsants actually lower the volume of the radio. Of course, I will continue to take my daily antipsychotic (aripiprazole) and antidepressant (citalopram).

A possibly not-so-undesirable side effect of topiramate is decreased appetite. Other than that, side effects include drowsiness, sleepiness, double vision and tingling in the hands or feet. That last one, particularly if it’s going to effect my fingers, sounds annoying, but I’ll get to experience that if it happens.

Since my nurse practitioner will have to talk to my care facility’s physician before the medication can actually be started, I don’t expect this to happen till sometime next week. It’s also been decided I will start this when a trusted staff is on shift.

Now this did get me into an excited yet overloaded state yesterday evening. I mean, seriously, how can it be that someone truly understands? It baffles me but I’m so relieved.

Five Daily Actions for Wellbeing

A long time ago, I read somewhere that doing five small things for your health and happiness each day, will get you started on a journey towards the bigger goals. Today, I came across a journaling prompt that explained that not all goals have to be big and asked what small goals you’re working on right now. I’m pretty sure I listed my five daily actions already before, but cannot find it right now. In any case, if this is a repeat, I’ll no doubt have changed something from when I did this before. Here are five daily actions I can take, and in many cases am already taking, to improve my health and happiness. Most of these are focused primarily on my mental and spiritual wellbeing, but the mind, body and soul are interconnected. This means that, ultimately, I’ll hopefully feel more physically healthy too.

1. Read the Bible. I am currently on a 142-day streak in the YouVersion Bible app. It’s not always easy to commit to reading my Bible, but I am motivated by both a wish to please God as well as my stats. I have found that I don’t do well reading the Bible in order and I have no intention of reading the entire Bible in a year. Instead, I started with a Bible reading plan and, when I finished it, started another. That way, I am not just reading the Bible as if it were a novel, but truly paying attention to its meaning. I just completed my thirteenth plan on YouVersion today.

Bible reading helps me feel connected to God. I really want to connect to other people on the app too, so that we can study together. That’s my goal for the upcoming month: find people to fellowship with.

2. Pray. This is something I really need to get woven into my routine. My husband prays the Lord’s Prayer each morning as he gets up and maybe I should do the same. I do pray almost everyday, but not at set times.

3. Journal. I have the Day One journaling app and really like it. Even so, I struggle to write in it each day, even though I have two reminders on a day: one for the daily prompt and one just to write. Last week, I resolved to write at least a few sentences each day, but I didn’t really follow through. I am pretty sure though that, when the A to Z Challenge of April is over, I’ll want to continue writing everyday. Since I’m not requiring myself to blog everyday then, it’d really help if I wrote in Day One everyday.

4. Be more mindful. This is a less measurable goal, but I can include some simple breathing or body scan exercises into each day. Not doing this at the moment, as some of them feel contrary to the Christian faith. Scratch that and insert another excuse that isn’t holding God responsible. Breathing exercises and body scans aren’t anti-Christian. I guess I just feel like this, like prayer, is something I struggle to find the discipline for. It also feels kind of scary, I guess, but I trust that will get better with practice.

5. Gratitude. Another less measurable goal, but I really want to be more appreciative in life. Now that I’m going to use Day One each day anyway as I journal, I could just add a simple gratitude list (or one grateful if I can’t make a list) each day too.

In addition, I would really like to improve on my expressing kindness and gratitude towards others. I will get to thank my staff and others for what they do more.

What are some daily practices that will enhance your wellbeing?

Joining in with the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop and Let’s Have Coffee.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 4, 2021)

Hi everyone on this chilly and cloudy Easter Sunday. I am rather late joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. The reason is that I’m participating in the #AtoZChallenge too and couldn’t find the time to publish another post until today. I just had my afternoon coffee and am going to have a soft drink in a bit, so if you’d like something to drink, that’d be great. Let’s grab a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share how much fun I’m having with the #AtoZChallenge. It is a great way of connecting with new bloggers and challenging myself to write (almost) everyday. For those who don’t know, the challenge is to write posts using each letter of the alphabet on each day of April except Sundays. This is the reason I have time to write a blog post today. My theme is aromatherapy and natural wellness.

If we were having coffee, I would share that this week was rather eventful in general. On Monday, I was very much triggered. I have been having emotional flashbacks a lot, as well as paranoid thoughts about my former clinician reporting me for care fraud if she finds out I’m in long-term care. My staff try to reassure me that I’m not responsible for my care funding. After all, my staff, the manager and behavior specialist applied for me. I am still unsure though.

Anyway, on Monday, when I was particularly triggered, I did an exercise of hitting a pillow to symbolically kick my former clinician out of my life. It was truly empowering!

If we were having coffee, I would also share that, on Friday, I had a treatment review at the mental health agency. My nurse practitioner tried to tell me that I’m already actually processing my trauma with the steps I’m taking now, such as the exercise on Monday. This validated me. My community psychiatric nurse, however, wasn’t fully sure of her role in my treatment and wondered whether she could visit me less frequently. For now, we have decided against this in order to maintain weekly appointments with mental health, alternatingly with my nurse practitioner and CPN.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I finally managed to go to Lobith over the weekend. My cold is still not fully gone, but it’s gone enough that I could see my husband. We had delicious Airfryer fries, turkey and peas for dinner yesterday, as well as pudding for dessert. This morning, we had breakfast in front of the television while watching Hour of Power. It was great!

How has your week been? And how’s your Easter weekend?

Profession or Identity? #Write28Days

Today I finally remembered to check out the #Write28Days Facebook group and jump back onto the challenge bandwagon. The prompt for today is “Profession”.

I immediately thought of all the career paths I had envisioned for myself as a teen. When I was sixteen, I was planning on becoming an English major in college, choosing to specialize in American studies and was sure I’d leave for the United States in my third year. I actually half-joked that I’d obviously find employment there and never come back to the Netherlands.

Now of course I never even made it to being an English major. I never made it to my third year in college either and haven’t been to the United States as of yet. I’ve never been employed, in fact.

For some time, I listed my old blog as my place of employment on Facebook. Now because I’m not keen on my family reading my blog, I no longer list it on my personal profile. I don’t have work listed on my FB profile at all.

Today, I was discussing my personal strengths profile, which the mental health agency is supposed to have on file for each client, with my community psychiatric nurse. It scared the crap out of me. In the plan, you’re supposed to write about your former abilities (before becoming mentally ill or whatever), your wishes and ambitions and your current abilities. I immediately thought big, thinking that since I used to go to university before my autistic burnout and lived with my husband before coming to the care facility, I should probably want to go back to these. My nurse said I can think small too. I later thought of the fact that I used to be stable on a much lower dose of daily medications and would really like to go back to a lower dose of my antipsychotic at least. That’s a valid ambition too. I don’t really need to find a profession.

In fact, I am also reminded of last week’s Hour of Power show, in which the preacher talks about one’s title vs. one’s testimony. In the Dutch show, Carola Schouten talked about her title as the minister of agriculture and vice-prime minister. She contrasts this with her identity in Christ. I love this and felt an interesting connection to her, even though with respect to profession, she is infinitely more successful than I am. With respect to identity though, we’re both children of God.

New Normal

Earlier today, Stevie Turner wrote a great piece on adjusting to the new normal of serious illness. In her case, it’s cancer. I have so far been able to avoid serious physical illness, but I get the idea of adjusting to a “new normal”.

In 2007, as regular readers may know, I suffered a serious mental health crisis. It was probably autistic burnout, though it got various labels over the years. I was 21 at the time and attending university and living on my own.

In the early months of my psychiatric hospital stay that followed the crisis, I was convinced I could go back to college, university or work and living more or less independently if I just had a little more support. I rejected the first place offered to me because I wouldn’t be allowed to cook in my own apartment. This, looking back, is ridiculous! After all, now, thirteen years later, I live in a group home with 24-hour care. I cannot cook, clean or even do some personal care tasks without help.

Now to be honest, I at the time didn’t have a realistic picture of what living in my own apartment in supported housing would be like. The training home I went to before living independently, had a 1:4 staff/client ratio during most of the day. That’s pretty high and it allowed for staff to help with most household tasks. If I went into supported housing in my own apartment, I’d be expected to clean it all by myself. The fact that I wouldn’t be allowed to cook, was understandable, as there wouldn’t be the staff to supervise me.

Then again, I thought I could handle a low staff/client ratio. It was 1:7 on week days at the resocialization ward and 1:14 on week-ends. I did okay with this. Now, not so much. The staff/client ratio here is 1:6 at the least and I get one-on-one for several hours during the day.

I often look back at myself before my crisis. When I was eighteen, I attended mainstream high school despite being blind. The autism or other issues hadn’t even been diagnosed yet. I coped with classrooms of 30’ish students with just one teacher. Sure, I had meltdowns multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day, but I somehow survived. Now, I can barely handle having my coffee in the living room without my one-on-one present to calm me if I start melting down. Oh my, this feels sick. I feel shame admitting this. Yet it’s my new normal. Whether I’m just lazy and manipulative and unwilling to be independent or I’m genuinely unable, it’s the way it is.

I often feel sad when I am reminded of my old life. I often dream that I go back to university. I most likely never will.

That being said, I’m also grateful for what I do have. I am forever grateful that my staff and behavior specialist saw the need for one-on-one. I am grateful whenever I can do a small activity, like this morning I made clay punch-out figures. Back in the psych hospital, I often couldn’t blog even once a week. Now I blog almost everyday.

The most frustrating aspect of my “new normal” is not knowing why. I constantly second-guess myself, wondering if I’m truly such a terribly manipulative attention-seeker. That thought is scary. Worse yet is the fear that this might be some type of neurological thing, that I might actually be deteriorating. There is apparently no reason to think this, but it’s still on my mind. Then again, it is what it is and I’ve got to deal with it.

When I Was Fifteen

One of Mama Kat’s writer’s workshop prompts for this week is to explain how a parent or sibling would’ve described you at the age of fifteen. What an interesting thing that Mama Kat should mention age fifteen!

I turned fifteen in June of 2001. By August, looking back, I was close to insane mentally. This was the summer when I first realized I had alters inside of me, although I didn’t know what they were at the time. I just heard some type of voices that were and at the same time weren’t mine.

Neither my parents nor my younger sister knew this at the time. Still, they did realize something was up, if for no other reason, then because I didn’t care about school. I had always been a pretty studious kind of child, but this changed by November or December of 2001.

In addition, I was a rather angry, moody child. I had suffered from depression on and off since age seven or so, but it was particularly bad at age fifteen. I even made suicide plans several times during that year. My parents, being the type to dismiss mental health issues, felt I was just attention-seeking, of course.

My life turned around in a sort of positive way a few weeks before my sixteenth birthday, although no-one saw either the change or how positive it was at that point. On June 16, 2002, my father called me autistic as an insult. This led me to search the Internet for autism and to discover I may be on the spectrum myself. Although it’d take nearly five more years before I was diagnosed, in part because my parents and teachers didn’t believe me, I see this as a pivotal point in my life.

The day after this, June 17, I finally disclosed to my teacher what had been bothering me over the past year. I sugarcoated it a little, not mentioning the voices or suicidality or autism for that matter. I did tell him I was struggling with being blind in a mainstream school and that I realized I had been less than good of a student lately.

My father, at the time, worked at my school. My teacher told him that I had disclosed something to him, but he refused to tell my father what it was. This led to a really traumatic experience, because my parents demanded to know too and they weren’t kind about it at all. I am pretty sure they just tried to gain fuel for their idea that I was one giant attention-seeker.

Many years later, my parents used many of my struggles at age fifteen to “prove” this very point. I can see their perspective, sort of. Thankfully though, my current professionals don’t go along with it.

Mama’s Losin’ It