Independence

In last week’s Sunday Poser, Sadje asked what independence means to you. Her question was related to Independence Day in the United States. Of course, one can view independence and freedom in light of one’s national political situation. For example, the Netherlands is a pretty stable democracy. The country has been independent in its current form ever since 1815, though Wikipedia even lists 1648 as the Netherlands’ independence year.

I for one, however, tend to apply independence and freedom much more personally. By independence, I refer to the skills I can do by myself, ie. self-reliance. This includes eating, toileting, dressing myself, writing my blog, etc. But it also includes the skills of self-determination.

I think self-determination is particularly important. By this I mean the ability to know what you want and make it clear in some way or another. Everyone, the disability rights movement assumes, has this capacity. Yes, even people who can’t talk and are labeled as profoundly intellectually disabled. However, it is so commonly overridden by well-meaning family or “helping” professionals.

I remember a client at the first day center with my current care agency for people with intellectual disability I attended. This client had severe cerebral palsy, was profoundly intellectually disabled, couldn’t speak, had epilepsy and was blind. However, somehow, the staff had figured out that bergamot essential oil was her favorite scent.

The same client was also sometimes called “spoiled” when she cried and then was quiet once the staff put a vibrating hose around her body. I’d say she was making known what she wanted. She was using her independence!

With respect to independence as freedom, I, for one, think that self-determination is more important than self-reliance. For example, I get help with my personal care. I myself asked for this after I noticed that it cost me a lot of energy to do it myself. Even though I could, with a lot of verbal instruction, take care of my personal hygiene independently if I really needed to, I decided this isn’t a priority for me. My staff, thankfully, agree.

What is important to you where it comes to independence?

I am also joining MMA StoryTime’s Word of the Day.

A Letter to My Younger Self #Write31Days

Welcome to day nine in my #Write31Days series on personal growth. Today, I chose yet another prompt from The Self-Exploration Journal. It asks what one piece of advice you would give your younger self if you could go back in time. Ths question couldn’t be more timely, as I’m facing a lot of regrets from the past right now as I face the decision to apply for long-term care. I am spinnning this questioon around a little and going to write a letter to my younger self. I don’t have an idea for the age of this younger self, but the piece of advice should be the same anyway.

Dear Younger Self,

This is your 32-year-old self writing. I want to reassure you that I see you. I see your struggles for autonomy, for self-determination. And yet, I see your struggles with your limitations. You have yet to come to terms with the fact that you’re multiply-disabled.

I see that peope try to control you. Your parents consider you worth parenting only so long as you prove that you’re going to give back by contributing to society. Your support staff try to please your parents, sending you out to live on your own despite knowing this isn’t in your best interest. Your psychologist in Nijmegen, no matter how helpful she is in some respects, still doesn’t provide you with the opportunity to go into the right type of care. She, like eveyrone before her, values your intelligence over your need for support. Your psychologist in Wolfheze blames you. She robs you off your last bit of self-determination by kicking you out of the institution without proper after care.

I want to reassure you. I see your needs. I’m fighting for them to be met. I don’t have enough support yet, but I have people around me who are fighting for it with me. I can’t promise you that you will ultimately get into long-term care, as that’s up to the funding agency to decide. I can however assure you that I’m fighting for you.

If there’s one piece of advice I could give you, it’s to fight for yourself. No-one can live your life but you. You don’t owe your parents anything. You’re past that point. Care staff do only their job. This isn’t to discount the good work my current care staff do, but it’s just that, work. They will eventually fade out of our life. Even your husband, the only person who will most likely stick by you for a long time to come, doesn’t have the right to control you. I know you want to please him, because you love him, but that is different. Pleasing your husband is founded on love, not authority, and it is mutual. Even so, your husband does not live your life. Ultimately, the only person who will live the entirety of your life with you, is you.

I don’t mean this to criticize you at all. I see how hard it is for you to stand up to controling people. But you’ll learn to do so in time.

With love,

Astrid

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?