Gratitude List (December 26, 2020) #TToT

Hello everyone and a belated merry Christmas to you all! As usual on Saturdays nowadays, I’m writing a gratitude list. I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Enjoy!

1. I am grateful for Jesus! I’m so grateful I became a Christian this year and this time hopefully for real. I say this because I’ve been a progressive believer for many years but hardly took my faith seriously at all. I still could take it more seriously and I’m praying God will open my heart and mind to him even more.

2. I am grateful for my family. My parents sent me a Braille-typed Christmas card and my sister sent me a card too. This reminds me that, even though we don’t have the closest relationship, I still matter to them.

3. I am grateful for my husband and in-laws.

4. I am grateful for great Christmas meals. Yesterday, my husband and I made use of the fact that people can legally have two (actually three on Christmas and boxing day) visitors and celebrated Christmas with my in-laws. We had a delicious dinner.

Also, the bakery in a nearby village sent the entire care facility a Christmas lunch of freshly-baked buns. Normally they give it to the day center in that village, where the clients help package their goods. However, that day center is closed due to COVID. Most clients from my care facility don’t work at the day center there, but some do and the bakery was so generous as to give us all the lunch.

5. I am grateful for my psychiatrist. As we wrote on Tuesday, she completely validated us. I haven’t yet needed my new PRN medication.

6. I am grateful the days are getting longer again. Ugh, how I hate the dark days!

7. I am grateful for the motivation and focus to be able to read again. I’m reading a middle grade novel, but that’s okay.

8. I am grateful for uplifting, Christian music. My husband has some on in the car and I discovered some on Spotify.

9. I am grateful for sausage rolls this morning. My husband joked that he was going to eat them all if I didn’t make it downstairs soon enough. I guess I did though.

10. I am grateful for a lie-in this morning. My husband didn’t get up at 7:30AM like usual on Sundays (maybe because it’s Saturday today), so I slept in longer than usual too.

I hope you all had a very happy Christmas. What have you been grateful for lately?

A Really Validating Psychiatrist’s Appt

Today, we had our first appointment with the psychiatrist from the local mental health team. To my surprise, our nurse practitioner came to get us out of the waiting room. He attended the appt too though and looking back, it was really good.

I started to explain that our PRN lorazepam hardly worked at all. The psychiatrist seemed to think that’s a bit odd. We ultimately came to the conclusion that it does do something but the anxiolytic effect causes more emotions to surface.

The psychiatrist then started to talk about the “pieces”, as we call ourselves when talking to mental health professionals. She asked whether I’d ever been in touch with people with similar experiences. This utterly surprised me, as our nurse practitioner had said comparing our experience with others’ is useless. I felt able to share that I’d Googled my symptoms and come across dissociation and had met other people with similar symptoms that way. I did say I don’t really want a diagnosis.

The psychiatrist asked whether each of us experiences the effects of medication differently. Thankfully not, but some are more willing to take medication and to let it work than others. She explained that the mind is stronger than a pill, so if we don’t want to calm down, no medication can make us.

She ended up prescribing us a low dose of quetiapine (Seroquel). This is an antipsychotic when used at higher doses (like in the 100s of mg) but has a greater calming effect when prescribed at lower doses. She told me she had learned how this works – why its calming effect is greater at lower doses -, but had forgotten. I said I’d find out about it someday and let her know.

At one point, I started zoning out. The psychiatrist as well as the care staff who attended, noticed. I honestly had no idea other people, let alone virtual strangers like the psychiatrist, could tell if I didn’t say I was feeling out of it. The psychiatrist told me it’s a coping mechanism and fighting it will only make it last longer. I will work with my nurse practitioner on ways of coping with it when alone.

I also mentioned compulsively looking up things that trigger us online. Like, I now remember yesterday someone was reading a newspaper story about Russian opposition leader Navalny’s poisoning. Then one of the littles got triggered into thinking someone had put poison in her underwear too. The same happens on a more severe scale with us compulsively looking at other places to live. Our nurse practitioner said he’s definitely going to remember this for our upcoming appts.

Looking back, I’m so glad we had this appointment and also so glad our nurse practitioner attended too. He had seemed a bit dismissive when we had an appointment on Thursday, but we were able to express that via E-mail too.

Clarissa

Another Appointment With My CPN

Today, I had an appt with my CPN again. I can’t remember all the details, but I did tell her that I had had a breakdown on Sunday. I was completely honest, sharing that I had seen and heard things that aren’t there. It was as if something was truly telling me I’m a monster and everyone will leave me. Then I saw some form of Heavenly light. I can’t describe it really and it wasn’t very vivid even then, but it was more than mere wishful thinking.

My CPN encouraged me to discuss this with the psychiatrist when I see her on the 22nd. I really hope she can help me. My husband later asked me whether it was truly psychosis or a panic attack. I don’t think I was full-on psychotic but my perceptions and thoughts were definitely headed that way. My CPN agreed.

I can’t remember whether I told my CPN, but I had these thoughts and perceptions once before. Well, a few weeks ago I had them too, back when this depressive stuff all started, but then it wasn’t that bad. Back in December of 2009, I think it was even on Christmas, it was. I had run off from the psych ward in the snow. I picked up snowballs and somehow was convinced they contained drug needles. I wasn’t depressed at the time, just batshit crazy. It lasted only for a few hours though, but came back several times within the next few months, only disappearing when I was put on Abilify.

Now I’m pretty pessimistic. After all, I’m already on the highest dose of both Abilify and the antidepressant Celexa. (I mention this because I’m pretty sure I’m depressed, whether clinically or not.) I’m hoping though that the psychiatrist can put me on some PRN medication other than lorazepam, which I can use if I fully break down again. I know I have had experience with Phenergan (promethazine, a low-potency neuroleptic) and that worked great when I was on no other medication but not at all once I was on my current regimen. Maybe the psychiatrist can prescribe me something similar but different.

I also talked to my CPN about the incessant crying. She told me this may be useful. After all, I learned from a young age on to hide all negative emotions except for frustration (because I couldn’t hide that). In fact, I was told that I was “too quick to anger”, but this was used as an excuse to force me to repress every emotion other than a smile. I hadn’t been able to cry unless I was angry first until only a few months ago. As such, my CPN reasoned that I might have a lot of catching up to do.

Gratitude List (December 5, 2020) #TToT

Hi everyone. I hope you’re well. Last week, I said I’d like to make gratitude lists a weekly habit again. Here goes. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. My mood being slightly better than it was last week. I seem to be slowly climbing out of the pit of depression and overload. I am still in crisis multiple times a week, but it’s no longer an almost-daily occurrence.

2. St. Nicholas. This is celebrated today here in the Netherlands. Usually, kids get gifts then. We no longer celebrate it in our family and my niece is probably too young to understand the concept too. We don’t really celebrate it in the care facility this year either. However, we do have lots of special St. Nicholas candies.

3. My mother-in-law. She visited me on Thursday, which was good. I really had a good time.

4. Reading. Like I said earlier, the second novel in Kenneth Oppel’s trilogy is out this week and I immediately downloaded it off Bookshare. It’s a true page-turner.

5. Playing cards. I love to play the game of mau-mau or “bullying”, as it is called here.

6. A rainbow-colored ball. I can’t remember how I got it, but it’s among my toys. I have been loving throwing it back and forth with the staff.

7. The snoezelen® equipment we got at the home now. I may have said before that there’s an empty room that the staff had turned into a snoezelen® room when the day center closed. Then we got a client temporarily placed in that room, so its sensory equipment had to be removed. That client left though and it’s unlikely we’ll get a new placement anytime soon. So our staff bought some more sensory equipment. We now have a special sensory bed with speakers installed in it. I lay on the bed yesterday and loved feeling and hearing the soothing music.

8. Getting to the psychiatrist sooner than expected. Originally, I heard me appt isn’t till sometime in January. Thankfully though, the psychiatrist had a cancellation or something, so I was fitted in for December 22. Though my mood is slowly lifting, I am still glad I can see her.

9. Essential oils once again. Okay, I’ve shared about those before, but I keep discovering new blends. Yesterday I had one that included geranium and I hated the smell. I quickly emptied the diffuser though and then tried another blend.

10. Sleep. I haven’t had nightmares in a week or so. At least not ones that haunt me during the day. That’s definitely a win!

Yay, I got to ten. I know some are repeats, but that’s okay. And at least I didn’t include a ton of food-related thankfuls.

What have you been grateful for lately?

A Profound Appt with My CPN

Yesterday I had another appt with my community psychiatric nurse (CPN). At first, we went into how I’m doing at the moment. Then my CPN scheduled some appts for me with my nurse practitioner. Last Monday, after all, he and the behavior specialist from my care facility had finally come to the conclusion that I need to do some work on stabilizing myselves and developing inner cooperation before I can do EMDR or another form of trauma therapy. At first, the secretary said the first appt she had available was late December. It turned out to be December 17, so that’s pretty early considering how long I’ve been waiting already.

Then we got to discuss some issues relating to my diagnosis or the lack thereof. These were mostly theoretical, since I have no idea what my current diagnosis is and I really don’t care. I mean, the most recent treatment guidelines here in the Netherlands for complex dissociative disorders, aren’t suited to me (or most plurals, honestly), so I have no reason to want such a diagnosis. All I want is help in getting the inner turmoil under control.

Then I somehow got to mention my former psychiatrist’s comment when first considering assessing me for DID/OSDD in the summer of 2018. She held both of my hands and said: “You have just one body.” Then she went on to explain that, while she was holding our hands, none of us could put our fingers in our ears and pretend not to listen.

We then repeated this exercise. A staff always attends our appts with mental health with us. She now held both our hands and said that we can stay at the care facility. Someone asked cautiously: “Even if I need more help than I get now?” She then reassured us that yes, even if we need more help, we can stay here.

Then the staff asked our CPN what she’s supposed to do when we openly switch, as we had the day before. My CPN seemed not to know, so I suggested she do not elicit it, but do not fight it when it happens either. After all, when she insists that “Astrid” come back, this may create some trouble since “Astrid” is either everyone or no-one at all.

I really hope our nurse practitioner isn’t going to insist people only talk to “Astrid”, as the current guidelines on DID/OSDD seem to suggest as far as I know. I mean, we are okay all listening to the body’s name and won’t sign our names on E-mails or the like when it’s not appropriate, but one of our main issues is that there is no host who somehow “owns” the others. As such, the daily living parts or apparently normal parts or whatever don’t have access to every bit of information needed to cooperate.

Appointment With My CPN

Yesterday, we had an appt with our community psychiatric nurse (CPN). I can’t remember all that we discussed. I went into some detail about our sadness and overwhelm over the last few weeks and explained that we had signed a letter to the manager requesting more help.

I tried to ask my CPN to get me an appt with the psychiatrist to discuss my meds, as my overload and irritability are increasing. While I was trying to get this out, I constantly heard someone in my mind say I shouldn’t be asking this as it’s attention seeking or drug seeking or whatever. I don’t even want a med increase per se. In fact, I’m at the maximum dose for both my antipsychotic and antidepressant already. I might want something to help with sleep and especially the restless dreams/nightmares. I feel intense shame about discussing that though, as my nightmares aren’t your standard PTSD nightmares. In fact, my trauma isn’t your standard PTSD trauma.

That is another issue I’m facing. Yesterday, I read an elementary school friend’s story of child abuse. It triggered me to an extent, because I can relate. Still, my trauma wasn’t that bad. She is a child sexual abuse survivor. I am not. Though I endured some physical abuse, it wasn’t that which caused my complex PTSD and dissociative symptoms. The most significant trauma in my life was the emotional abuse and neglect.

Of course, I just told another survivor that childhood emotional neglect and emotional abuse can cause C-PTSD and dissociative disorders too. In fact, dissociative disorders are largely attachment-based, so anything that disrupts normal attachment, can cause it. Still, to apply that knowledge to myself, is quite a bit harder.

I eventually did ask my CPN to refer me to the psychiatrist. My nurse practitioner would normally prescribe my medication, but he does consult with the psychiatrist also. Besides, I’ve never even seen the psychiatrist. So my CPN was more than happy to get me an appt.

My Medication Musings: Abilify

It’s been a while since I last did a post on my medications. Today I’m writing about the medication I’ve been on the longest: aripiprazole (Abilify). I’ve been taking this second-generation antipsychotic for over ten years.

When I first got prescribed Abilify in 2010, I had been on no psychotropic medications except for PRN oxazepam for over two years. I was having a lot of meltdowns though and the staff at the psych hospital couldn’t adequately care for me. I was sent to the locked ward for a time-out shortly before starting on Abilify.

When my psychiatrist proposed this medication, he made a pun about the drug’s name by saying it makes things a little easier. I didn’t like that, but agreed to take a low dose of Abilify anyway. I started at 5mg a day.

Within half a year, I had had my dose upped to 15mg a day. I did pretty well on that moderate maintenance dose for several years, until I moved to another hospital. There, the staff/client ratio was lower and besides, staff weren’t as willing to accommodate for my needs. I quickly had to up my dose again to eventually 30mg a day.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go beyond 15mg, as most clinical guidelines recommend a higher dose for acute mania or psychosis only. My new psychiatrist disagreed and seemed to have no interest in lowering my dose once I had upped it. For this reason, I’m still on 30mg a day.

When I first came here, I expressed a wish to lower my dosage once I’d settled into the care facility. The intellectual disability physician for my facility as well as my psychiatric nurse practitioner recommended I wait at least six months. I’ve now been in the care facility for a year, but haven’t felt comfortable asking to be tapered yet.

Now I must say I don’t experience any of the more major side effects, such as akathisia (a form of physical restlessness). I however do feel slightly sedated.

I also feel that the medication’s effect has worn off over the years. I recently learned that your neurotransmitter receptors overgrow when you’ve been on psychotropic drugs for a long while. At least, that seems to be the case for the dopamine D2 receptor, the one Abilify mainly acts on. Recommended action is lowering the dosage or trying another medication. I will definitely raise this issue with my nurse practitioner.

As a side note, like I said, I had my dosage upped once I moved to a psych ward with a lower staff/client ratio and less willingness to accommodate my needs. This is not an appropriate reason for medication increases, but I didn’t know what else to do.

My Medication Musings: Risperdal

I started this should-have-been-series a long time ago, but never got beyond the first post. Today I’m not very inspired to write, but I want to write something anyway, so I am deciding to continue with my medication musings. The medication I’m covering today, is the first daily medication I was evver prescribed.

Risperdal, which is now sold under its generic name risperidone, is an atypical antipsychotic. It was approved by the U.S. FDA for use against irritability in autistic children in 2006. I was not a child when I was prescribed Risperdal in 2007, but I was definitely irritable and autistic.

I remember very clearly when I saw a psychiatrist I’d never met before and who may or may not have read up on my psychiatric history on July 25, 2007. She had a strong Flanders accent. My CPN had referred me to her after my staff at the independence training home called her because I had been very irritable of late. Looking back, it’s no wonder, since I was due to move out of the home and into independent living the next week. But my staff were desperate and so was I.

My CPN had suggested a sleeping medicationor tranquilizer, as I was also sleeping very poorly. Not that the psychiatrist agreed, since when I reported how many hours of sleep I got at a later phone consultation, she said that wasn’t worrysome. The psychiatrist listend to my symptoms and suggested Risperdal.

I agreed without much further questioning. That evening, I wrote a blog post saying antipsychotics in autistics are a matter of really well-informed consent. The post was a response to the general consensus at the time among vocal autistics that antipsychotics should never be considered.

Looking back, while I don’t feel that antipsychotics are completely off limits for autistics – I still take one -, I do agree with another notion from said vocal autistics: psychiatric medication is no substitute for proper support. And yet, at the time, there was no convincing my staff that I shouldn’t move into independent living, so I felt I had no other option if I wanted to have somewhat of a life worth living.

And yet, I was scared. When, after two days, I started experiencing palpitations, I was extremely anxious. It happened on a Friday night when my staff were already gone. Don’t ask me how I got through that night. The next morning, I rang the out-of-hours GP, who recommended I stop taking the medication for a few days and consult my psychiatrist on Monday. Said psychiatrist didn’t believe that this could be a Risperdal side effect or I’d have experienced the palpitations right from the start. So back I was on Risperdal.

I was on a low dose of 0.5mg twice a day. My psychiatrist was in the training home’s city, so when I moved the next week, I had no psychiatrist nearby. My GP ended up prescribing my medication. When I complained to both the training home city psychiatrist and my new GP about continuing palpitations, both dismissed me. The psychiatrist even suggested I up my dose. I refused.

Because of the abrupt change in my living situation soon after starting Risperdal, I had no idea whether it was working. I was still experiencing a lot of meltdowns.

After two months, I took myself off of the medication. I more or less informed my GP, because she was really against me going off of it. I probably lowered my dose way too quickly, going from 1mg a day to 0.5mg for a week and then stopping altogether.

We will never be sure whether Risperdal worked for me, as I never went back on it. However, three weeks after stopping the medication, I started to spiral down into crisis and had to be hospitalized four days later. The crisis service psychiatrist didn’t say a thing about me having discontinued Risperdal.

An interesting thing I need to note, is the fact that Risperdal is notorious for increased appetite and weight gain. However, I experienced the opposite if anything. This could’ve been due to stress though.

A Day I Will Never Forget

I’m a day late with this topic in 7 Days 7 Posts. The Tuesday topic didn’t appeal to me and besides, I was really anxious then. Yesterday I had a lot of meetings to discusss my anxiety and the reasons for it. I made it clear that I really needed some more care and particularly more consistency and clarity in my day. I went to bed at 8:15PM, having taken an Ativan to help me sleep.

Yesterday’s topic was to describe a day you’ll never forget. I already described how I met my husband sometime during the #AtoZChallenge last April. Another day I will never forget, though for less pleasant reasons, is the day I landed in crisis in 2007. I probably described that day a few times before already, but right now I can’t find where. If you’ve read this before, I apologize.

On November 2, 2007, I was in my parents’ city to get a landline phone I wanted to use in my student apartment. The reason I wanted a landline was the fact that I was scared of mobile phone radiation causing Alzheimer’s. It’s weird that now I use my iPhone like all the time and don’t worry about it much.

I had come to my parents’ the previous evening and was planning on going back home to Nijmegen that Friday afternoon. However, on the train station, I had a meltdown. The police were called and removed me from the station.

I went to the independence training home where I used to live until that summer. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted, but I needed to look up some phone number on my laptop. I knew I shouldn’t go back to my parents’, as they’d probably be angry with me.

After having called whoever I needed to call, I wandered around the training home neighborhood for some hours, not sure what to do. At one point, a fellow client at the training home realized I was struggling, so she offered me to come into her apartment and stay for the night, so that we could find a more long-term solution the following day. However, the staff came to her and told me to leave. They weren’t going to take responsibility for me.

At that point, I had another meltdown. I walked to the nearby bus stop, catching the 8:01PM bus to the train station. In my memory, it was still light outside, even though that’s not possible at such a time in early November. I called my support coordinator to let her know I was going to commit suicide. The bus driver overheard me and called the police.

I was terribly scared, because the police had kicked me off the train station that afternoon. However, I willingly went with them to the police station. They called someone called a community physician, who is in charge of triaging people not known to that city’s mental health agency. He was a really blunt man, telling me that I made people feel responsible for me in a way as if I was just seeking attention. He even used a kind of threatening voice when he said he was going to call the crisis service. I didn’t mind.

The crisis service psychiatrist and CPN came out to the police station. After assessing me, they asked me what I wanted. To this day, I’m not sure whether I really didn’t know what I wanted or felt too embarrassed to ask for help. After all, when talking to the behavior specialist for my current care facility yesterday, I also said I didn’t know what I needed even though I did. Anyway, the psychiatrist proposed that I be admitted to the mental hospital and I agreed.

My Medication Musings: Celexa

Like I said last week when participating in Working On Us, I wanted to write a series of posts on the medications I’ve been on. I won’t promise this will be anything like a regular feature. However, today I saw that Medication Monday over at The Dark Tales Project is about a medication I currently take: Celexa. I already wrote several posts on this medication in the past, so may be repeating myself. Let me share though.

I was first prescribed Celexa in September of 2010. At the time, I had just finished a book whose title translates to Prozac Monologues, which was about the positives and mostly negatives of antidepressants. I didn’t really care. One comment I remember, by one of the pro-Prozac people, was that she’d become nicer on antidepressants. That comment was on my mind when my psychiatrist suggested Celexa and boy did I hope it’d do this for me. I was a definite bitch! The saying that depression makes you feel as though you’re not okay and neither is anyone else, definitely related to me.

The thing is though, I wasn’t sure I was depressed. No proper assessment of my mental state preceded my being prescribed Celexa. Yes, I was irritable and no amount of tranquilizers or antipsychotics could help that. But is that depression? Would Celexa help?

As it turned out, it helped a little with that. I felt a little calmer, a little nicer on the medication. I never asked my husband to comment on the level of my irritability and can’t remember for sure whether he ever made any positive comment on it. If at all, that must’ve been in 2018, when my dosage got increased.

I actually wasn’t diagnosed with depression till 2017. At the time, my irritability was one symptom that prompted the psychologist to diagnose me with major depression. I’m pretty sure I have persistent depressive disorder (formerly known as dysthymia) too though, but I don’t think I’m currently even diagnosed with any mood disorder at all.

It took another year before my Celexa dosage finally got increased to first 30mg and then my current dosage of 40mg.

I was very irritable at the time of seeking my psychiatrist’s help with my depression. I was also most definitely depressed, in that I didn’t have much energy or motivation for anything. As is known for Celexa and other SSRIs, the medication caused my energy to go up first before actually helping with my mood. My mood however did eventually lift. I am pretty sure that, had it not been for Celexa, I would’ve sank deep into depression during the long process of applying for long-term care.

But the story isn’t all positive. Aside from the side effects, Celexa (and Abilify) took only the edge off of my irritability. I’m in fact noticing it getting worse again. I’m not exactly sad, but I’m most definitely pretty negativistic lately. I’m not sure why. I mean, maybe it’s something to do with the lack of an over-the-moon sense of relief at going into long-term care. Or maybe it’s the other way around and my negativistic state prevented that. I’m not sure.