Gratitude List (May 16, 2020) #TToT

Goodnight everyone. It’s past 11PM here and I can’t sleep. I’m feeling rather hopeless. To cheer myself up, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful. It feels like forever since I last did a gratitude list, even though I did one two weeks ago. Anyway, here goes.

1. Spotify playlists. I already mentioned the Cardio playlist on Thursday. Today, I discovered the Harp Music for Sleep playlist. It wasn’t created by Spotify staff, but whoever created it is awesome! I just tried falling asleep to it. That didn’t work yet, but it definitely helped me relax.

2. Lorazepam. As we speak, I’m recovering from a rather bad crisis. After an hour-long crying fit, I finally asked the staff to give me a PRN lorazepam and it helps at least a little.

3. Dancing. I mentioned this already on Thursday. Today I was in a rather low place and felt like lying in bed all day. I did manage to fit some dancing in though.

4. Pretty good food this past week. I had boiled potatoes only once and the pasta with tuna sauce I had today was truly delicious.

5. Whipped cream custard. To top it off, we had whipped cream custard for dessert today.

6. Insight Timer. Like I said earlier today, I plan on making meditation part of my daily routine. I listened to a body love meditation this evening. The instructor’s voice was a little off to me, but it was a great meditation.

7. A lovely card. Last Thursday, I got another card from the friend who lives in another home in our care facility. She had previously given me an Easter card. Now the card had written in it that she hopes to see me soon. (For context: due to COVID-19, we are currently only allowed to interact with clients and staff for our own homes.) The card was handmade and truly lovely. I will send her one (though not handmade) probably tomorrow.

8. Possibly seeing my husband soon. Currently, we are not allowed visitors at all due to COVID-19. Management though has said they’ll work out a plan on visiting next week. This may mean we need to see our visitors in an assigned room and may need to keep our distance, but anything is better than no visits at all.

This is all I can come up with right now, but it already helps. What have you been thankful for lately?

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.

Dentist’s Appointment

I shared last week that I was going to have a dentist’s appointment soon and was really nervous. I reluctantly agreed with the care facility physician that 1mg lorazepam the night before and 1mg about an hour before my 8:30AM appt should help me enough. It for sure must’ve helped some, but I was a little disappointed in how much of the edge it took off.

I had my appointment today. Went to bed at 8:30PM yesterday evening to hopefully get a good night’s sleep. I didn’t. I half-awoke at least eight times before finally waking up at 4:15AM and not getting back to sleep.

Still, I was calm’ish on the way to the dentist’s office. My dentist’s practice is at the main institution for my care agency in Wilp, which is a 45-minute drive from Raalte. I had fully expected to fall asleep in the car, but I didn’t.

I still didn’t really know what to expect, even though I’ve had a lot of cavities filled before. This was an old filling that needed replacing, so that should be easier. It wasn’t. I did get a topical anesthetic. That reminded me of why I hadn’t had it when I had seven cavities filled at age eighteen. The anesthetic is really, well, weird. I really expected the injection to hurt, but it didn’t. Instead, the feel of numbness and thickness was more annoying.

I was really anxious all throughout the procedure, but had no idea how to make it clear. I mean, my day activities staff was with me and she held my hand, but she apparently didn’t feel me pinching it. Then again, what could we have done anyway?

I had one filling replaced and a new cavity filled. It also turned out I have a pretty bad mouth ulcer near the tooth that needed the filling replaced. That will need to go away on its own. I will need to return in April to get some fillings on the other side replaced.

Now we’re twelve hours on and I do have some slight pain still, but it’s manageable.

I’m just trying to relax this evening. Had a pretty good day overall today. Having lunch with the anesthetic still wearing off, was kind of hard, so we chose to move the Tuesday morning cooking activity at day activities to the afternoon. The tortilla wraps were delicious!

January Health and Wellness Update

So it’s already been over six weeks since I posted that this time finally I was serious about my weight loss and healthier living journey. I still didn’t post an update. Now is the time for one. I’ll also include a general health and wellbeing update.

I didn’t get weighed in over the holidays. Even though I took some care not to overeat, I didn’t stick to a healthy routine either. In fact, on Christmas Eve, my staff ordered Chinese and I had three servings. That clearly was a bit too much, as I had a tommy ache afterwards. Over the rest of the holiday season, I did okay’ish.

I still use my water reminder app and make sure I drink plenty of water nearly everyday. Sometimes I forget to log it, but I can be assured that I drank enough at least. When at my husband’s, it’s still a bit hard.

In January, I’ve been eating healthily most days. I eat plenty of vegetables and particularly fruit, taking care not to go for the sugary ones like bananas too much. My day activities orders grapes regularly, which the other clients can’t eat due to choking risk. I can, so I usually have them all over the course of a week.

Then of course I got sick. I didn’t eat very well for a few days two weeks ago, so that could have led to weight loss too. Then again, I did eat dinner each day. As soon as I felt a bit healthier, I started eating a good breakfast and lunch again. Lunch is still a struggle, as I’m not a fan of bread, so I often skip that. This means I only eat fruit. I don’t eat bread for breakfast usually either, but I do make sure to add muesli to my yoghurt.

I musst say I still indulge into snacks at times, but I try to limit them, so that I’m not eating all day. After all, having high blood sugar all the time contributes to type 2 diabetes.

Exercise-wise, I do pretty well. I go for a long’ish walk four to five times a week. Over the past while, I’ve managed at least 150 active minutes most weeks. I didn’t when I had the flu, of course. Still, it’s extremely hard to get to my step goal or even close. When I go for one half-hour walk a day, I usually get about 4000 steps.

So did this pay off or do I need to work harder? Regardless, I need to work harder, as healthy eating is more important than weight loss itself. Given that I only managed to do okay in the healthy living department, I was surprised to see the result on the scale last Friday. I had gone down 2.8kg or 6lbs since early December. Of course, my sickness may’ve contributed. I hope I’m not down too much when I get weighed in again at the beginning of February. I mean, that would fuel my hypochondria. I hope for a maintain or small loss. Only two more pounds and I’ll no longer be obese.

In other respects of health, I did okay too. Like I said last week, my sleep is a little messed up, in that I get a lot of vivid dreams and nightmares. For this reason, I try to do a mindfulness practice or at least listen to soothing music before going to bed now. This seems to have helped some so far.

Another Crisis

As those who’ve been following along with my writing will know, I was in a bit of a crisis on Monday. Tuesday and yesterday were better, but today was bad again.

It started out with a horrible nightmare last night. I still can’t shake the thought that I’ll be kicked out of the care facility sooner or later and that was what the nightmare was about. I woke up all sweaty and fearful. I called the night staff to calm me down.

Then by mid-morning, I felt rather insecure. My day activities group is divided into two subgroups. There are three full-day staff for these two subgroups combined, plus one staff who has the short 10AM-2PM shift. Today, one of the three staff who would otherwise stay the entire day, had the short shift too. I didn’t mind as much, as still each subgroup would have one staff for the full day. Then one of the regular staff, who would stay the full day, had to attend to a client one-on-one. The would-be third full shift was a sub, so she needed help doing lunch. So at the end, my full-day staff ended up helping her in the other room and the short-shift staff was attending to my subgroup on her own. She had to help people get around, to the bathroom, etc., too, so I was feeling rather left out. Everything went a little chaotic and that led me to enter the orange phase of crisis prevention.

There are three or four phases: green for adequate coping, yellow for mild distress (this one is sometimes left out), orange for serious distress and red for crisis. I was eventually able to go back to yellow as lunch was served and I ate.

Then I wanted to go into the snoezelen® room to further calm down. However, the music, though it was my favorite calming record, was way too loud. After some time, I ended up having a severe meltdown. I wasn’t able to calm down once back at my group.

In the end, I decided to take a PRN lorazepam and go back to the home to lie on my bed. I slept for two hours straight. Now I’m back to green again.

I’m joining in with #FOWC, for which the prompt today is “Crisis”. The prompt couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

Attachment Issues and Other Ramblings

Hi people, how are you? I hope you’re doing better than I am, as I’m basically feeling pretty crappy. I tell myself I need to enjoy the good moments, good days even, here in the care facility. I believe that if I don’t feel happy here, then the staff could just as easily kick me out and make room for another person. I know paradise doesn’t exist, so can’t I just be happy with what I have?

That’s not the problem though. I’m not looking to leave this place or thinking I can have a better life elsewhere. I can’t. But still, I’m unhappy at times. Then again, isn’t everyone? And yet I beat myself up over it, which leads to more unhappiness, which leads me to beat myself up even more.

At the root of all this seems to be a deep-seated belief that there’s no place I’ll ever fit in, and if I do believe I fit in, the staff won’t agree and will kick me out. I feel as though I have to prove that this place is perfect for me – which it isn’t, of course. But it’s as close to perfect as can be and that’s enough for me. But is it for the people around me?

Last night I barely slept for two hours. At 5:30AM, I accidentally sent out a video call to my husband while trying to distract myself. He called back almost immediately, as he was at work already. He assured me that he doesn’t want to get rid of me and my staff don’t want to get rid of me either. I was happy enough with that that I could sleep.

This morning, a relatively new to me staff woke me up. She asked whether I’d manage getting started on my personal care. Normally, I get some help on Wednesdays, but I was too tired or confused or scared to ask her for help, so I just went about doing my morning routine. I was feeling pretty out of it, but I couldn’t explain.

The rest of the day was okay. I went to the dentist this afternoon for a check-up and because I’ve been having some pain. I have inflamed gums, but other than that my oral health is good. I was told I brush my teeth well, something I attribute to the electric toothbrush my husband gifted me for my birthday. Now I will need to use toothpicks too. One filling that I’ve had for like fifteen years needed replacement, but that will happen at my next appt.

Gratitude List (September 7, 2019) #TToT

Hi everyone! I’ve been wanting to write a lot today, but somehow, I once again couldn’t find the words to write a proper blog post. This week was a good one in some major ways, but it was also a very stressful one. To focus my mind on the positives, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. The sensory room at day activities. I have been relaxing in it a lot lately. There’s a guy who uses it often, but he was off this past week, so I took full advantage of the available room.

2. Tranquilizers. On Tuesday, I was very irritable. I am so glad that the staff offered to give me my lorazepam and it worked.

3. Great news from the care facility, of course. I got to speak to the behavior specialist and support coordinator, which was good. It was great to hear that I will most likely be moving by September 23.

4. Hearing more about the house we’re buying. We got a go on the mortgage and are now waiting to get the keys.

5. My husband having been able to change the days he’ll be off work. He would originally have the week of September 16 off, but since I’ll be moving to Raalte on the 23rd and we’ll get the keys to our house most likely on the 25th, that wasn’t ideal. My husband will now have the week of the 23rd and the week of the 30th off.

6. Nice food. To celebbrate the great news about my moving to the care facility, my husband got us pizza and a tompouce (a Dutch pastry) on Tuesday. On Thursday, I was stressed, so I bought myself a lot of snack food. Still, I enjoyed it.

7. Horseback riding again. Yesterday marked my first riding lesson after the summer break. I rode Morritz again. I didn’t ask about Angie, the horse I previously often rode, who was injured some six months ago. As the weather was relatively good, we rode our horses outside.

8. My stuffed bear. I had a lot of nightmares and vivid dreams this past week, so I am all the more grateful for the stuffed bear my mother-in-law won for me at an animal shelter event last year. I have a ton of other soft toys, but this one is the biggest.

I am also grateful for the extra duvet my husband laid over me some nights back when he realized before me that I’d otherwise feel cold.

9. Painkillers. I’ve been having a toothache lately and had a headache yesterday. They may or may not be related. And yes, my father-in-law is a dentist, but this makes me more wary of going to the dentist (him) with this. Thankfully, paracetamol has been working.

10. My amazing fellow clients at day activities. A new girl started yesterday. She’s nice. So are the others. Most don’t understand that I’ll be moving, so I haven’t told them yet. I’ll be missing them.

What have you been grateful for lately?

Working On Us Prompt: Sleep Disorders

The past few days have been pretty busy, so even though I did want to blog, I hardly found the time. Now it’s already latish evening too.

Today I’m once again joining in with Working On Us, for which the prompt this week is sleep, insomnia and other sleep disorders.

As a child and teen, I suffered from insomnia a lot. I would often be awake for the whole night or hardly sleep at all. On week-ends, I sometimes made up for it by sleeping in, but I was definitely chronically sleep deprived. Though my parents sometimes suggested, and I don’t know whether they were joking, that I take valerian or melatonin, I wanted nothing of it. In fact, when I was going in for eye surgery at age seven or eight, I refused the tranquilizer they offered us before the operation. I also constantly fought the anesthesia.

When I was 20, I sought treatment for my insomnia for the first time. My GP prescribed temazepam, the most commonly-used sleep medication here in the Netherlands at least at the time. I was very scared when first using it, being that I’d not taken any medication in years, not even paracetamol.

I think that what lay underneath both my insomnia and my refusal to take medication for it, was an intense fear of losing control. I was, after all, pretty compulsive particularly as an older child and teen.

My sleep issues escalated in 2007, when I lived on my own in Nijmegen. Though I didn’t sleep less than I had as a younger person, I did suffer from the effects of sleep deprivation more. When I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital, the first medication I was prescribed was again temazepam. Then followed another few benzos and even levomepromazine (Nozinan), which is normally only used for palliative sedation.

I had to take “twilight anesthesia”, which means high doses of benzos, several more times prior to procedures and chose them over the pain that would otherwise ensue. However, I still had terrible fear when I “awoke”.

Other than insomnia, I’ve had an assortment of other sleep issues. My husband said at one point that I have hypersomnia, because I slept so much. This was probably down to a combination of medication, vitamin and iron deficiencies and lack of structure.

I am a sleep talker and I snore too. The snoring got slightly better as I lost weight last year. I’m not sure whether it’s worsened again since I’ve gained weight back up again. The sleep talking comes and goes with stress.

Lastly, I suffer from vivid dreams and nightmares. They’ve gotten a little better now that the long-term care situation is more or less settled, but during times of stress, I very often awaken in a state of shock because of vivid dreams. That is, I’m not 100% sure they’re REM sleep dreams or night terrors (which happen during stage 4 sleep). I’ve never had a sleep study done either.

Gratitude List (November 30, 2018) #TToT

It’s Friday again! I am not a big fan of the week-end, but I like Fridays nonetheless. I don’t relly know why. Maybe it’s just that they’re blue in my mind’s eye’s synesthetic perception and blue is my favorite color. Who knows?

Friday also means it’s time to link up with #TToT again. Here are the things I’ve been thankful for this past week.

1. Tarot apps. I don’t really believe in the spiritual basis of tarot, but I wanted to learn it anyway to use as a thought-starter. I read up about it on some blogs, but didn’t know how to make it work for myself, as I, being blind, cannot use real tarot cards. After looking for a while though, I found some accessible-with-VoiceOver tarot apps. Of course, I still miss out on the visual aspects, but I can still reflect on the card meanings.

2. Gratitude journaling. Okay, yeah, I am doing this now, but I also have been doing it in an iPhone app this past week. I couldn’t manage to do it daily, but I managed two tims since installing the app on Monday. It does help me.

3. Yet another extra afternoon at day activities. This was just once though. Because my support coordinator was off sick and my support worker or mother-in-law couldn’t come either, the staff got the manager’s permission to let me stay at day activities on Wednesday afternoon. It was really nice.

4. Horseback riding with my mother-in-law. My support worker couldn’t come on Thursday to go riding with me, but my mother-in-law could. It was a lot of fun.

5. Dinner with my in-laws. Alos yesterday, I decided on a whim to go have dinner with my in-laws. I was scared my husband would be mad with me for it, but thankfully he wasn’t. We ate delicious macaroni.

6. My fabulous husband. Need I say more? I just love him.

7. Good food. My husband has been experimenting with healthier food choices. On Tuesday, he made zucchini noodles. When on Wednesday he made rutabaga (Swedish turnip) fries, I was a little suspicious. However, I liked it.

8. A lie-in on Thursday. I didn’t have anything to do except for horseback riding at 4:30, so I slept in till 11AM. I also listened to some relaxing music in bed.

9. Relaxing in the snoezelen (sensory) room. On Tuesday, I took my phone into the sensory room with me and listened to whale sounds and music while lying on the water bed. I also took time to relax in the sensory room on Wednesday morning.

10. Chatting to a former nurse. Yesterday, a former nurse from the acute psychiatric ward I spent sixteen long months on in 2007-2009, sent me a text message. It wasn’t intended for me, so I told him who I was and that he probably had texted the wrong Astrid. He started chatting to me anyway. I don’t have a lot of memories of that time, but I did remember him.

What have you been thankful for this past week?

Gratitude List (October 26, 2018) #TToT

Man, I really am falling into a writing rut. I don’t even know why. I’m still not feeling too well, but I wouldn’t say I’m seriously depressed either. For a bit in early October, I did feel extremely low, bu I picked up the pieces again reasonalby soon.

Today, to get myself motivated for writing again, I’m participating once again in #TToT. It’s not a weekly gratitude list anymore and I may be sharing some things I’ve been grateful for over the past few weeks.

1. A skirt-wearing day in October! This was already a few weeks ago, but I’m still so thankful for it. About two weeks ago, the temperature rose to 26 degrees Celsius and I loved it!

Generally speaking, the weather has been extremely mild here with hardly any rain. We got some rain only over the last few days and that wasn’t a lot. Today is one of the first days it’s really rather cold.

2. Sleep. Like I said above, fall weather came late this year but it well and truly came. I am very sensitive to cold, so I’ve been complaining for a few days that it’s cold already. This means that nothng’s cozier than crawling under the covers against my husband or with my sensory cat. The sensory cat is a soft toy that can be put in the microwave and then gives off heat and a lavender scent.

3. Swimming. At day activities, we go swimming every other Tuesday. Two weeks ago, I was a bit sick, so didn’t go. This week I did though. It was lovely. My Fitbit activity tracker says I swam 1200m total, which I can’t believe but oh well.

4. A full day at day activities. Three weeks ago, I got permission to come to day activities one full day a week in addition to the three other mornings. I now go on Tuesdays for a full day and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the morning. I am still settling in a bit but so far I love it.

5. Making smoothies. I really, really need to get into a healthier eating habit again. I haven’t been on the scale in months and I’ve probably gained lots of weight. To get myself motivated, I bought a lot of frozen fruit and a can of soy milk last Monday. Bananas were sold out, so my husband bought those on Tuesday. Yesterday, we made a banana-strawberry-soy milk smoothe and it was delicious!

6. Horseback riding again. Some of my fellow clients at day activities go horseback riding at my riding school on Friday afternoons. I go on Friday afternoons too, but usally the class after theirs. Today, one of these other clients was on vacation, so my staff offered to ask whether I could come in her place and I could. My assigned support worker from day activities walked beside my horse. It was a lot of fun!

7. My very accommodating staff. My support coordinator and home support worker are going out of their way to help me. So are my day activities staff. Particularly, they offered me to come to day activities two full days on December 27 and 28, since the other days of that week, the center is closed for Christmas. They’ll have room for me even on that Thursday, which is normally my day off. I’m so grateful for this!

8. Accessible games on the iPhone. I never took much of an interest in accessible computer games, because I believed most would be very boring. Now this week I decided to take a look at the AppleVis directory of iOS apps in the Games category. Of course, most games that are really popular with sighted people, are totally inaccessible. However, some accessible games are pretty cool after all. I so far downloaded Dice World, which is a collection of six dice games, and Alter Ego.

Alter Ego was originally created as a fully text-based game in 1986 but was adapted for use on the smartphone. It is a game in which the scenario is that you’re born and will eventually die. The life you lead in between will depend on your answers to a lot of multiple-choice questions. On my first round playing, I chose to be a very angry, rebellious baby and ended up with burns from an iron in infancy and killed by a kidnapper in childhood.

9. Twister fries! I have no idea whether twister fries exist in other parts of the world and, if so, whether they’re really called twister fries. They are my favorite type of fries, but they had apparently been taken off the menu at my local cafeteria. Last week at his once-a-week round to the cafeteria, my husband informed me that he had a nice surprise for me and it turned out they were back. I enjoyed them both last week and this week. I also love love love the African-style burger they have on the menu.

10. My mood being slightly better. Like I said, I had a really low few days earlier this month. Over the past two weeks or so, my mood seems to have been slowly but steadily improving. I cannot say I feel good, but I don’t feel that bad either.