I Am Not a Calculation Mistake

Like I mentioned last week, I have been doing a Bible study plan on YouVersion called Hope Heals in the Midst of Suffering. I finished it yesterday and it was awesome. It was written by Katherine, a woman who survived a severe stroke shortly after becoming a mother, as well as her husband.

The plan follows Joseph’s story, the part of Genesis I had gotten stuck on in my Bible in a Year plan. I was glad to read it now.

At one point, Katherine shares that, about a year after her stroke, she is still unable to perform many basic functions. She is still in adult diapers, unable to eat, unable to even lift up her head. Her family is having Thanksgiving dinner with her son, then a toddler. As the family are playing with her son, she wonders if there was a mistake. Should she have died from her stroke?

It was at this point that a lightbulb went off in my head. I, too, have often wondered whether my life is a mistake. A calculation mistake, to be exact.

You see, I was born over three months premature. Officially, I was born at 26 weeks 4 days gestation. However, it is quite probable given the circumstances of my conception that my mother really wasn’t yet 26 weeks along. At the time, 26 weeks gestation was the cutoff for active, life-saving treatment in the NICU.

My parents weren’t even sure I should be treated actively. At one point, when I’d suffered a brain bleed, my father asked the neonatologist what he was doing with regards to my treatment. “We’re just keeping her alive,” he said. He (or his nurse) added that my father shouldn’t interfere in my treatment or he’d lose custody of me.

In 2004, when I was eighteen, this same doctor was quoted in a newspaper as saying that he sometimes meets preemies he’s kept alive back in his early days as a doctor, about whom he wonders: “What have we done?!” I at the time tried to reassure myself that he wouldn’t have meant me. Or would he? I, after all, am multiply-disabled and in long-term care.

The devotional in the Bible plan I was reading continued. Katherine at this point heard God clearly speak: “I am God. I do not make mistakes.”

This was what I needed to hear! I have tried to find my neonatologist on Google several times since that newspaper article. However, I don’t need his opinion. I have talked to my father about his views on my quality of life several times, but it hasn’t helped. I don’t need my father’s opinion either. God chose for me to be kept alive and that’s what matters.

Grace and Truth

Also joining Friendship Friday this week.

Birthday #WotW

Hi all on this beautiful Sunday! It’s already 8:30PM as I start typing my post. It’s my 35th birthday today and I spent most of the week stressing about it and the weekend celebrating it. For this reason, I’m choosing “Birthday” as my word of the week, even though the week is practically over already.

Early in the week, I talked over my birthday with my husband. I had already invited my parents to come over to Lobith today. They hadn’t seen the house since we’d bought it, or the inside of it at all for that matter. My parents need to drive over two hours from their home to Lobith and I’d asked them to drop me off at the care facility in Raalte on their way back. For this reason, I pretty much felt obligated to invite them over for dinner in Lobith. However, this also stressed me out, as it would mean I wouldn’t be in Raalte till like 8PM, by which time my one-on-one would’ve left.

My husband told me I could text them with a time proposal for them to arrive, like early afternoon. That way, they still had some hours to be with us and could still be dropping me off in Raalte and arrive home at a reasonable time. My father doesn’t text and my mother doesn’t drive, so I texted my mother to ask her if this was okay with both of them. It was.

Yesterday, my mother-in-law picked me up in Raalte and we drove to my in-laws’ house. It was good to be there. I in fact had only been there once since the pandemic started. Before then, and especially before I went into long-term care, I’d be at my in-laws’ at least once a week on average. I always loved walking their dog, a black lab called Bloke. My mother-in-law and I walked him again yesterday.

For dinner, we indeed had lasagne and indeed without celery. It was great! I also had a Magnum Billionaire ice cream for dessert.

I also got lovely presents. One of my sisters-in-law had been sent shopping for the largest Rituals gift box she could find. I think it’s amazing!

Today, like I said, my parents visited. I don’t have the greatest relationship with my parents. Like usual, my father kept infodumping on his interests, which he was able to relate to our house in Lobith, since he practically renovated my parents’ house on his own. I could hardly get a word in, but my husband seemed interested. I made some smalltalk with my mother.

The presents I got from my parents, were great though. I had asked them for a surprise box from my favorite beading shop, which happens to be local to them. Aside from that package, I also got another box of jewelry-making supplies they’d found at a thrift store, a turtoise soft toy and fresh cherries and strawberries.

When I returned to the care facility at about 6:15PM, I had dinner: noodles another client and staff had cooked this morning. It was good.

Overall, the day was good. So was the rest of the week for the most part. I seem to slowly be crawling out of the dark pit of emotional dysregulation I was in last week. I’m relatively calm considering the fact that my birthday is a trigger for my C-PTSD.

How was your week?

Word of the Week linky

Looking Forward to Summer

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to share what you’re looking forward to about summer. Summer is my favorite season. I just love the sunshine and warm temperatures, even though I don’t care for temperatures above 30°C. In 2018 and 2019, we had a lot of crazily hot weather, with temps rising to nearly 40°C on several days each year. I don’t like that. However, usually our summers are warm but not hot.

The main thing I look forward to each year, is my birthday. My birthday is this coming Sunday – I’ll be 35. This year, I don’t really have much planned and am a bit apprehensive about it, but I bet I’ll still have fun once it’s there.

On Saturday, my husband and I are going to visit my in-laws. My husband talked about asking his Mom to make lasagne. Without celery, mind you. Yes, she usually puts a small amount of celery in her lasagnes and, while I am not so picky anymore that I’ll fish it out of my serving, I don’t like it at all.

I haven’t asked my mother-in-law for any specific present, so I’m not sure what I’ll get. Last year, she gave me a giant teddy bear.

On Sunday, my actual birthday, my parents will visit me and my husband in Lobith. They haven’t seen the house since we bought it, so my husband will likely have a lot to show them. I’m a little worried about topics to talk about, as I don’t want to cause tension by bringing up my own issues. My staff suggested I tell my parents that we went to the monkey zoo a few weeks ago or the like.

I asked my husband for an outdoors side table for on my balcony. From my parents, I asked for jewelry-making supplies. I really hope my creative juices will be flowing again soon.

I will probably return to the care facility by about 6PM. During our evening coffee break, I will treat my fellow clients at the care home to custard cupcakes or nut bars (those who can eat those).

As for my plans for the rest of the summer, I am hoping to visit some new places, like the local large playground. Aside from social distancing, most restrictions due to the pandemic will be lifted by this Saturday (hopefully not to return again by the fall). I also hope to go on many walks, as well as sit on my balcony some more.

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Mama’s Losin’ It

A Very Intense Day Today

Today was an intense day. I started it with a weigh-in. To my surprise, I had lost almost 2kg. Last week, I had gained 1kg compared to the week before, so I had decided to try to cut back on snacks. That lasted all of one day and then I was back to snacking as usual. I don’t really trust my scale, as it isn’t officially calibrated, but well, who cares? I feel pretty fit and healthy and at least remain within the same 2kg range.

At 11:30AM, I had a nurse practitioner’s appt. My new’ish assigned home staff attended it with me rather than my assigned day activities staff, who usually does. Yesterday, this staff had been my one-on-one too and we had discussed my frequent dissociation and switching. She asked me whether I wanted to talk about it to my nurse practitioner and at first I said yes. Then later in the evening, I got anxious and decided to E-mail my nurse practitioner. I explained about the frequent switching and flashbacks. I also expressed my concern that, if the alters take over too much, my team will resort to denying their reality and ultimately to denying my reality as a whole. Then I will have lost all the trust I’ve gained in my team so far.

I can’t remember the entire appt, but at one point, Jane popped forward. She is the one most in denial of my trauma-related symptoms and yet it seems like she’s always the first to pop out and reveal our being multiple to a professional. My staff had probably already met her, and I think so has my nurse practitioner, but not to this extent. Thankfully, neither one objected to her being openly out.

I started feeling depersonalized after Jane was back inside and it didn’t fully clear up till just about an hour ago. In the evening, it got particularly bad.

Then for whatever reason, Karin, one of our fourteen-year-olds, popped out and started talking about a high school memory. We were still partly in the here and now, as she apparently recognized our one-on-one. Thankfully, our one-on-one reassured Karin that she’s now safe and the memories are in the past. She also told us that our teachers and parents, while probably meaning well, didn’t really help us and that none of our issues is our fault. That still feels rather off. I mean, of course I didn’t choose to be blind, but my parents reminded me over and over again that my behavior was definitely a choice. They always saw (and maybe still see) me as one giant manipulator, not an autistic, multiply-disabled trauma survivor. And they’re not the only ones. If I’ve learned one thing in my nearly 35 years of existence, it’s that sooner or later, people will always come to the conclusion that I’m one giant manipulator.

Basic Mistrust

I have been compelled to read up on emotional and psychosocial development. One theory is Erik Erikson’s theory, which states that, at each different stage in life (from infancy to old age), a particular conflict is present. In infancy and early toddlerhood, this conflict is basic trust vs. mistrust.

I initially thought that this stage corresponds pretty much to the first adaptation phase in attachment theory, which takes place between birth and age six months. When I checked it though, it includes this stage as well as the first socialization phase, age six to eighteen months. This may be one reason why I relate strongly to basic mistrust even though, in attachment theory terms, I function in most areas consistent with the first socialization phase.

One thing I’m facing lately is a chronic feeling of anxiety and distrust. In my care plan, my emotional development is outlined and in the fear domain, I am said to function at an age comparable to somewhere between zero and eighteen months. This includes all of Erikson’s first stage of psychosocial development. By contrast, it encompasses both the first adaptation and first socialization phase of attachment development. The reason my development in this area isn’t pinpointed to either of these two phases, is that I experience both basic fear (consistent with the first adaptation phase) and strong separation anxiety (consistent with the first socialization phase). Apparently, a baby under six months cannot yet express separation anxiety.

I have little idea why I might experience such strong anxiety, as in, what in my early development contributed to it. I mean, my parents claim I didn’t have these issues until I started to lose my eyesight at age seven. Seven is another important age in both cognitive and psychosocial development, but I don’t think that one is particularly important in my life. The earlier stages seem to make far more sense to me.

Of course, I do know that I probably didn’t have optimal care in my early life. This isn’t anyone’s fault. I was, after all, born prematurely and spent the first three months of my life in hospital. Though my parents visited me often, I don’t think I could rely upon them for meeting my every basic need. After all, they cannot possibly have been in my proximity 24/7, like the mother of a typically-developing child usually is at least for the first few weeks to months. My nurses must’ve provided me feeding and comfort at least part of the time.

As for affection, I have absolutely no idea. NICU nurses aren’t likely to be able to provide any significant level of affection to a baby at all, but I guess my parents would’ve made up for that. I went into this when discussing mother as source and mother as place of attachment. The truth is, I honestly mostly rely on my current feelings to guide my ideas. I, after all, don’t have many early memories of affection. My first memory related to it is from age four or five and it involves my mother using a nickname for me that referred to her needing to be at my side all the time. Then again, most people don’t have many early memories at all and remembering is still a form of reconstruction. In other words, because I experience a lot of basic mistrust now as an adult, it is easier for me to remember the memories that point to this.

This post was inspired by Fandango’s one-word challenge (#FOWC), the word for today being “Basic”.

Angry and Dissatisfied

Today, I feel flooded with emotional flashbacks that I’m not 100% sure about what triggered them or even what they are about. To give myself some insight, I picked up the book Journal Writing Prompts for Child Abuse Survivors again. Somehow, the prompts about anger appealed to me.

Growing up, I was always described as “too quick to anger”. There is some truth to this, in that I have and always had an extremely low level of distress tolerance.

My parents would react to this with resentment, but they’d generally solve my problems anyway. This at one point was described as having low expectations of me. When the psychologist who did my latest autism assessment, said that, I was triggered. After all, if my parents had expected me to be able to work stuff out myself, would that have been any better? I understand all about letting babies “cry it out” and I’m not a fan of it. I don’t have a clue whether I was left to “cry it out” a lot. I think so, as I was in the hospital for the first three months of my life and I don’t expect the nurses to have attended to each baby’s every cry. As such, even if my parents did attend to my every cry for attention, I must’ve been allowed to learn some self-regulation through “crying it out”.

My parents weren’t the most patient people in the world. At one point, my father explained to me that a family is like a business, in that it has to be run efficiently. As such, I can understand why my parents rarely let me work stuff out on my own. I also understand why they resented helping me.

Growing up though, my poor distress tolerance skills were seen as mere anger and oppositionality. I’m not sure why people perceived me as always angry. They weren’t just my parents, after all. Maybe I am quick to anger. I don’t know, but to be honest I think distress is different from anger.

When I became an adult and was admitted to the psych hospital, my nursing diagnosis at least off the record was “angry and dissatisfied”. Again, I’m pretty sure the staff confused distress with dissatisfaction. Distress is an inability to cope. Dissatisfaction is an unwillingness to accept the situation. I was perfectly willing to be discharged back into independent living if that was what was deemed necessary, but I didn’t promise I’d cope. This was considered blackmail.

Now that I’m in long-term care, my staff no longer see me as angry or dissatisfied a lot. Even so, I haven’t changed much. I still swear and scream when my computer or iPhone won’t cooperate. Staff do help me now, but they don’t resent it anymore. This has also allowed me to practise asking for help in more productive, proactive ways, which, in turn, helps me become frustrated less easily. I like it that way.

Free to Belong in Long-Term Care

Today, one of Mama Kat’s writing prompts is to write a blog post inspired by the word “Free”. This definitely appealed to me, as a survivor of childhood trauma as well as abuse in the psychiatric system that continued until I was 30.

Last Tuesday marked the five-year anniversary of the opening of my current care facility. It also was the day I was here eighteen months. Five years ago, I myself still resided in the psychiatric hospital. Some of the worst abuses of power of my psychiatric hospital stay hadn’t even happened yet.

As a child, I suffered significant trauma both at home and at school. Most of it left only invisible wounds, but these are as deep as any physical wounds could’ve been.

Like I said on Sunday, my parents fought my schools, especially special ed, all the time. As a result, I endured frequent school changes and was at the center of conflicts pretty much my entire childhood. Whenever I had adapted to a school environment, I was removed again. I also didn’t have the opportunity to form lasting friendships. The feeling that I didn’t belong anywhere, was instilled in me from an early age.

When I finally moved to the mainstream high school my parents deemed best for me, I knew within a month that I didn’t belong here either. I managed to finish the grammar school program and graduate in 2005.

Then started my long journey through the adult disability and mental health care systems. My parents wanted me to go to university and live independently right away, but I asserted myself and sought help first.

I eventually lived independently for three months in 2007, but then landed in a mental crisis and was hospitalized. Over the following 9 1/2 years, I endured a lot of ongoing trauma at the hands of the psychiatric system. I eventually got kicked out of there and started living with my husband. That didn’t work out either. That is, our marriage is still strong, but I couldn’t cope living semi-independently.

All this to say, now I’m in long-term care and finally free. I am able to make my own choices now. It’s still a little hard to grasp that I am asked to sign for any restrictions to my freedom that may be needed for my safety. In the psychiatric hospital, seclusion and restraint were just shoved down my throat even though I was an informal admission. Either that or I was basically left to my own resources, since, being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, I needed to take responsibility. Both of these extremes left me feeling unsafe.

Now, I not only am asked to sign for restrictive measures, but I am allowed to request extra support. This allows me freedom as well as safety. I am free now and yet I belong. If only I felt this way already. That may take a long while still.

Mama’s Losin’ It

PoCoLo

Good Enough

Today’s optional prompt word for #LifeThisWeek is “Good”. Denyse takes on a cynical approach to the word, which reminds me of the many degrees of being called “good” I experienced.

In my elementary school years, my parents were in a constant fight with the schools for the blind I attended about my educational needs and my potential. According to the school, I was a good enough student. That’s the literal translation of the words that appeared on my report card often. Sometimes, when I was better than average, just “Good” appeared.
My parents thought I ought to get some more recognition. They thought I was excellent, sublime, a genius.

My schools thought I should be going to their secondary school program, which at the highest level catered to average students. My parents believed I could do far better.

I doubt, to be very honest, that my teachers truly didn’t see that academically, I was above-average. At least some of my teachers must have seen this. However, socially and emotionally, I was significantly behind. This was probably the real reason my schools recommended I continue in special education. My parents disagreed. They felt that I would be overprotected and underestimated in special ed. They might’ve been right. We’ll never know, since my parents took me from educational psychologist to educational psychologist until they had the recommendation for mainstream high level secondary education in their hands.

What I do know, is that I ended up being overestimated and underprotected. My parents would love to deny this and blame the staff in independence training for essentially setting me up for long-term care. Agree to disagree. Then again, we’ll never know, because I didn’t go into independent living and on to university right out of high school.

Sometimes, I wish I was just the average, good enough student that some of my teachers saw me as. Then at least I wouldn’t have to face the enormous challenge of both a high IQ and an emotional level comparable in many ways to an 18-month-old child. Then, I might not be writing blog posts in English, but I also might not need 24-hour care.

Then again, I enjoy writing blog posts. I like my care facility. Life is good enough for me.

Truthful Tuesday: Birthdays

Hi all! It’s Tuesday and I’m feeling a little better still than I was yesterday. I’m still having a cold, but it’s mostly manageable now.

Today I’m participating in Truthful Tuesday. This week’s question is: as you have gotten older, do you still celebrate your birthday, or has it become just another day to you?

The presumption behind this question is that, as we get older and the effects of aging become less positive than they were when we were a child or teen, some people no longer appreciate their birthdays.

I find, and maybe this will change when I get even older, that the opposite is true. I will be 35 in June and have found that, with increased age, does come increased wisdom. I am probably not old enough yet to start feeling depressed about my life’s regrets. That doesn’t mean I don’t have many, but they don’t weigh me down that much as of yet. I hope that won’t come either, but I’m pretty sure it will.

In contrast, when I was a child, I feared growing up. My birthdays were fun because of the gifts I got, but that’s about it. I never felt that flash of excitement that some children and teens feel as they get older. No, not even (or especially not) when I turned twelve, sixteen or eighteen.

When I turned 30 in 2016, I did have some mixed feelings. I was excited to be allowed into the over-30s groups on Facebook but also felt that, at my age, I could no longer have emotional outbursts. I still did. That latter feeling subsided over time though as I realized a neurotypical ten-year-old wouldn’t have meltdowns like mine.

My birthday has always been an exciting yet stressful event. Now though, it’s more exciting than stressful usually. My parents don’t make a point of telling me to act grown-up anymore. For this reason, them visiting me for this occasion – usually the only time a year I see them in real life -, is mostly fun.

I do indeed still celebrate my birthday. Months in advance, my husband starts asking me what I want for my birthday. It’s also a bit of a tradition that he takes the week around my birthday off from work.

Most years, I spread out my birthday party over several days, as I don’t want to have the house full of visitors. Last year, the visiting restrictions due to COVID were lifted the day before my birthday. This meant that my parents could actually take me out for a ride in their car rather than having to sit in the care facility’s garden for the entirety of the visit.

My mother-in-law visited me the day before and brought me the giant bear soft toy. That’s another thing that makes birthdays fun: I love getting gifts. Of course, I can buy myself the things I really want too, but I actually like the fact that people give me something I wouldn’t buy myself.

Maybe, now that I’m inn my thirties and don’t have to act grown-up, as I’m on disability and in long-term care, I can finally feel the excitement of being a kid at heart.

Places I and My Family Have Lived

Today, I once again looked to a book of journaling prompts for inspiration for a blog post. One of the prompts in the first chapter of Journal Writing Prompts for Child Abuse Survivors is to list all the places you’ve lived. There may not be any need to elaborate on them, but I am going to share my thoughts and feelings that come up. For this post, I’m just going to talk about the houses I lived in with my parents. Otherwise, this post is going to be way too long.

First up is my parental house in Rotterdam. My parents bought the house a year before I was born. To be quite honest, I have very few memories of this house, even though I lived there until I was nine. I do remember my and my sister’s bedroom, which had a bunk bed in it. My sister slept at the top and I slept at the bottom.

I don’t remember most other rooms in the house. I know my parents must have had a bedroom, but I can’t remember its location relative to the kids’ bedroom.

I do remember the garden. It was small, but still big enough to play in. It had swings and a sandpit. I loved to play here with my childhood friend Kim.

I also remember the neighborhood. I played in the “thick street”, a square bit of pavement between two blocks of houses. I also often went to the playground across the road from there. When I had lost some of my vision at around age eight, I felt too scared to cross the road.

Like I said, I lived here until I was nine. Then, my family and I moved to Apeldoorn. We moved to a quiet neighborhood. The house we moved into, had a large kitchen-diner and a living room downstairs. We called the living room the “library” because it housed my mother’s huge book collection. Upstairs where three bedrooms, two large and one very small. One was my parents’ bedroom. The small room was my mother’s office, while the other large bedroom was my father’s.

My sister and I each had a bedroom in the attic. I remember not wanting to have my own bedroom at first, probably because I was used to my sister’s company when going to sleep. I eventually grew to like it though. I had the same bed for all of the years I lived here, one of the original bunk beds. My sister claims I got hers and she got mine after the move.

The other two smaller rooms in the attic were a laundry room and a guest bedroom.

We had a large garden. The first summer we lived here, my paternal grandma gifted us a wooden play set that had swings and climbing equipment. I could be found on the swings many hours each dry day until I was at least fourteen.

During the first few years that I lived in this house, I loved exploring the neighborhood. It had at least four playgrounds within a five-minute walking distance from my home. I would often roam about trying to find new playgrounds farther and farther off. When I lost more of my vision at around age twelve, that mostly stopped. Besides, of course I was too old for playgrounds then. I still went to the nearby shopping center regularly, often getting lost on my way.

I generally really liked the house in Apeldoorn. When my parents were trying to sell it and my husband and I were looking for a home, my parents initially offered it for rent to us. We however had the provision that it’d go off the market for a while. Of course, this wasn’t really reasonable. My parents sold the house in December of 2013. I am glad in a way now that they did, as now I have no need to be reminded of the house and my childhood when I don’t want to be.