Things That Made Me Smile (March 22, 2021) #WeeklySmile

Hi all on this lovely Monday! I am so excited to have discovered the Weekly Smile. This is, as the name suggests, a weekly blog event in which participants share what made them smile. Having discovered this meme itself is a reason to smile. I love being positive! Let me share what else made me smile.

First up is my new assigned staff’s kindness. Like I said in my #WeekendCoffeeShare post on Friday, I have a new assigned staff. She is calm, kind and very dedicated to her job. I initially worried she might get too attached and then have to withdraw as my assigned staff. She reassured me though that she maintains her professionalism.

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit triggered. The student staff, with whom I am not fully comfortable yet, had been my one-on-one for the evening. In addition, a male staff may get to work in my home soon. He seems kind enough, but still, it’s an adjustment. All this led me to feeling a bit stressed out when I was going to bed. Thankfully, my new assigned staff comforted me.

After the staff had taken me to bed, I pressed the call button a few times for the staff to come back, but she didn’t mind. She has this little rhyme she tells me each time she puts me to bed. It goes something like this:
Sleep well,
Head on the pillow,
Ass in the straw,
Then Astrid sleeps soon.

This time, the staff adjusted the rhyme to address not just me, but all of the voices (alters) inside my head. That definitely made me smile.

Second is my sensory room experience that I was able to create in my own bedroom. First, I found a calming essential oil blend to put in my diffuser. Then, I found the album on Spotify that I used to have in the CD player in the day center’s sensory room. It is called Songbird Symphony. Lastly, I crawled under my weighted blanket and had my staff cover me with the ball-filled blanket that came with the sensory bed from our makeshift sensory room. In total, I had at least 20kg of weighted blankets on top of me. This probably isn’t healthy for actual sleeping, so I threw off the ball blanket before actually drifting off to sleep. However, the feeling before this was so peaceful. It reminded me of Temple Grandin’s “hug machine”. Reading about that introduced to me the comforting effect of deep pressure years before I felt able to explore my own sensory experiences. Now, I totally appreciate my care staff, physical therapist and the manager for having helped me find my sensory comfort.

What made you smile this past week?

Creating a Sensory Room Experience in My Own Bedroom

It’s been a year since the day center closed. For the most part, it was a good thing for me. I, after all, was often overwhelmed in my day activities group. One thing I miss about the day center though, is the sensory or snoezelen® room. Today, I am sharing how I recreated a sensory room experience in my own bedroom. Since I am blind, I skipped the visual aspect mostly, but I’ll add some ideas for it regardless. That way, you can create a sensory environment for yourself.

Sound

In the day center sensory room, we have a really cool speaker system that’s attached to the bed. It isn’t likely that advanced, so with some speakers at the right position, you may be able to recreate it. I don’t own wireless speakers. However, I found that I can recreate similar effects with earbuds or headphones. I would recommend earbuds for better positioning, but since I don’t have wireless ones, I use my wireless headphones anyway.

I mentioned before that I use an app called MyNoise. This app has over 120 soundscapes and you can customize each individual sound to your own hearing. There are nature soundscapes, but also white noise, Buddhist-like and SciFi soundscapes. I prefer the nature ones.

Like I said, I don’t own wireless speakers, though I might want to invest in some at some point. My phone or computer speakers work okay when listening to music though. There are many calming playlists on Spotify and undoubtedly other music apps too. The ones I love most are Harp Music for Sleeping, Peaceful Guitar and Peaceful Piano. There are also a number of nature sound playlists.

I at one point wanted a music pillow. I may still buy one at some point, but I haven’t yet found one that’s big enough to be used as a sleeping pillow and also works with Bluetooth.

Smell

One thing that my bedroom has and the snoezelen® room didn’t, is an aromatherapy diffuser. I have posted many times about my love for it. Mine cost €40, but they start at as cheap as €15. Essential oils can be a bit expensive depending on the quality you choose. I am obsessed with creating my own blends, so I really like to have a large collection of essential oils. However, if all you want is a nice smell, fragrance oils are also great.

Touch

In the day center sensory room, we had a specially designed waterbed. That felt good, but my own bed is also a pretty good substitute. I usually turn up the head side of the bed slightly.

A thing that’s a true blessing for my senses though, is my weighted blanket. These come in different forms. Some are filled with plastic balls. Mine is filled with sachets filled with granules. It’s a rather expensive blanket at over €500. Thankfully though, my care facility paid for it. With the company we used, you can borrow the blanket on a try-out basis for two weeks for just postage. That helped me make sure it was the right one for me. Mine weighs 12kg, which is relatively heavy considering my body weight of 70kg, but I actually love it this way.

I put a flannel duvet cover over my weighted blanket in winter. When it’s really cold or I need some extra softness for sensory reasons, I use a fleece blanket too.

In addition, I have various soft toys. My favorite is an ordinary stuffed bear. However, I also have a 1.60m large stuffed bear that I got from my mother-in-law for my birthday last year. This one was probably quite expensive. Another of my favorite soft toys, is my sensory cat. This stuffed cat can be microwaved and then gives off heat and a lavender scent.

Sight

Like I said, I am blind with the exception of a tiny bit of light perception. I for this reason don’t benefit from visual stimuli. That being said, I do know a bit about making your room visually appealing to the senses.

My essential oil diffuser works as a night light too. It can be set to seven different colors and I believe also two intensity levels.

Of course, you may want to use your sensory room experience for more than just sleeping. I’m pretty sure in my care home’s makeshift sensory room, the staff put up some form of Christmas lights for the visual effect.

In addition, there are many different visual projection systems. My care facility owns the Qwiek.

Conclusion

I really love my makeshift sensory room in my own bedroom. Generally speaking, creating a true sensory room requires a lot of money. I am so glad though that I could buy some equipment myself or ask for it as a gift. That way, I was able to skip the unnecessary for me expensive things and find things I truly would use. I am very glad that my facility paid for the weighted blanket.

loopyloulaura

Gratitude List (December 12, 2020)

Hi all on this rainy Saturday. I am feeling so grateful for a lot of things right now. Let me share! I was going to be linking up with Ten Things of Thankful, but then I saw the linky isn’t up this week. This isn’t holding me back though.

1. I am grateful for the staff who supported me through my crisis on Sunday.

2. I am grateful for my physical health. This should always be something I’m grateful for, but I’m specifically listing it today.

3. I am grateful a fellow client who had cold symptoms tested negative for COVID. I was very worried already when I found out he was in isolation yesterday. The staff weren’t notified of his negative test results until mid-afternoon today.

4. I am so grateful the above means we aren’t in isolation at our care home as of yet. This means that my appointments with mental health for the coming weeks can go forward (unless I or a fellow client develops symptoms suggestive of COVID, of course).

5. I am grateful for my husband, as always. We have been talking more than we used to over the past week and that’s truly a blessing.

6. I am grateful to be able to read the Bible on my phone. I now have a six-day streak on YouVersion and am hoping to get to my first perfect week tomorrow.

7. I am grateful to have found and consistently listened to First United Methodist Church of Austin’s sermons.

8. I am grateful there still was a meal I liked in the freezer this evening. I am a rather picky eater and I didn’t like what I had for dinner this evening. Then I microwaved another meal we had in the freezer, but the rice got all weird from microwaving it straight from the freezer or something. I feel pretty bad for having thrown out two meals to finally accept a third one, but well, I can’t change it now. All I can do is try to train myself to be a less picky eater in the future.

9. I am grateful for paracetamol. My feet cramped a little (well, a lot) this evening, but thankfully the pain is pretty mild now that I took some paracetamol.

10. I am grateful for the sounds of nature CD I listened to in the sensory room this evening.

So what are you grateful for?

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?

Gratitude List (March 20, 2020) #TToT

It’s Friday and that means the Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) linkup is open again. I haven’t participated in a while, but in these weird times, we need gratitude more than ever. Here are the things I’ve been thankful for lately.

1. Relatively tasty dinners. Here at the care facility, we get our dinners from a meal delivery company. Last week or the week before, I complained that we got boiled potatoes like four times a week and that I’d like rice, pasta or the like more often. Thankfully they customize the meals for each resident, so it’s not like if I want pasta, everyone gets pasta. I think my assigned staff told the company. In any case, I’ve had pretty varied meals lately. On Saturday, we got tuna macaroni and I loved it!

2. The sensory room. The real one at the day center and the makeshift one at the home. The day center was still open on Monday and Tuesday, so I was able to use the snoezelen® room then. On Thursday, some of the staff created a makeshift sensory room in the currently empty bedroom at our home.

3. Walking. Yay, we’re not in complete lockdown (yet)! I’ve been grateful for walks often before, but in these weird times, I get to appreciate it even more. I managed to get over 9000 steps everyday this week so far except for today (and I’m not going to make it today either).

4. Getting day activities at the home. I was a little scared that, once the day center closed, we’d get no activities at all. Thankfully, that’s not true. I brought some games from the day center to the home with me and we have enough staff to do activities with us.

5. Going on the elliptical. I went on Tuesday, thinking I wouldn’t be able to use it for three weeks after that. However, two staff members transferred the elliptical to the empty room in our home, so that it’s now a combined sensory and gym room. I went on it for like 20 minutes yesterday.

6. Modern technology. I’m so glad this pandemic is happening now that we have the Internet and smartphones and the like. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to connect to my husband, my family or the wider community at all. I’m so happy this thing does connect us all in a weird kind of way.

7. Meditation. I use an app called Insight Timer on my phone for meditating, but I hadn’t used it in a while. Then I checked it out and saw they have a whole section devoted to overcoming fear in these weird times. I loved listening to some guided meditations.

8. A phone appt with my CPN from mental health. We had a pretty good session. We actually did get started on some cognitive behavior therapy like we were planning on. She’s also going to get me signed up for the eHealth module with the agency.

9. My husband. Yesterday I was suddenly overcome with fear that I’d never see my husband again or that he’d want to divorce me due to our inability to be together in this crisis. My husband reassured me that I won’t lose him. He’s so lovely!

10. My health. I almost forgot that this thing is about a viral disease that takes actual lives. I so far haven’t had symptoms of COVID-19, but I’m confident that when (yes, it’s most likely a “when”) I do get the disease, I’ll survive.

What have you been grateful for lately?

#AutisticBliss Is…

A few days ago, I came across a discussion on Twitter with the hashtag of #AutisticBliss. I don’t follow many autistic bloggers, so I cannot be sure the conversation has been taken over to WordPress yet. Regardless, I wanted to write a blog post in contribution to the topic. Here are a few things I consider sincere bliss as an autistic person.

1. The sensory room at the day center. I mentioned this in my Twitter reply too. Back when I was trying to prepare for leaving the mental hospital in 2017, I asked my psychologist whether I could try out snoezelen® at the intellectual disability unit. She said I couldn’t, as it is only offered to people with severe intellectual disability. I’m so extremely grateful I ended up attending a day center for people with intellectual disability once kicked out of the hospital. Ever since, I’ve come to very much enjoy the sensory room.

2. My own sensory equipment in my room. When at my first day center after leaving the psych hospital, I discovered an online sensory equipment store while looking for birthday presents for myself. I currently own two lavender-filled, microwave-safe soft toys from that store, one in my room at the care facility and one in our house in Lobith. I also have a lot of soft toys that aren’t specifically sensory. I enjoy my exercise ball too, as well as my essential oil diffuser.

3. Being able to hyperfocus on my special interests. One of the main autistic characteristics I love about myself is my ability to perseverate. I love it when I’m in hyperfocus mode and actually have an interest I’m passionate about.

4. Being able to collect things, particularly if they’re cheap or free. For example, I have at least a dozen books of journaling prompts on my phone. Most were free either on Kindle or in Apple Books. Now that I am more money-conscious than I used to be, I no longer spend as much on my special interest du jour. However, I really love collecting free stuff.

5. Stimming. Especially if I’m happy. Stims were often so discouraged that I struggle to find ones I can engage in for fun, but when I can, that’s utter bliss.

6. Having found my tribe. I love being part of the autistic community. It helps me feel that I belong somewhere.

What surprising aspect of life do you find is utter bliss?

Whale Sounds #SoCS

When I started day activities at the first center I went to when being kicked out of the mental hospital in 2017, I experienced snoezelen® for the first time. Snoezelen® is a type of sensory experience at day activities for people with intellectual disability. The idea is that the entire sensory environment can be tailored to suit the client’s needs. In that room, there was a waterbed. I lay on it listening to a CD called something like Whales of the Pacific. The waterbed had speakers inside of it too, so that it vibrated along with the music.

I grew to love love love that CD. When I left for another day center, I tried to get ahold of this CD but found out it was no longer available in stores. My staff at the old center tried to copy it for me, but that didn’t work. At the next center, they didn’t really have relaxing music I liked, so I usually just lay on the waterbed without listening to music. Their waterbed didn’t have speakers in it either anyway.

Now at my current day center, I have come to enjoy relaxing music again. I particularly like a CD called Songbird Symphony. It has music and bird sounds on it. I was able to find the album on Spotify too, so that I can listen to it while lying in my own bed or while relaxing in my recliner too.

As for whale sounds, I discovered an album on Spotify of whale sounds with music by a group called Robbins Island Music Group. They also release other types of relaxing and focus-oriented music, but I like the whale sounds the best.

Interestingly, I still really don’t like whale sounds without music. I love whale sounds, birdsong and the like, but there has to be a musical component to it too.

Looking back, I remember asking my psychologist at the mental hospital whether snoezelen® would be a suitable activity for me. She didn’t think it would be, as she claimed this is only suited to people with intellectual disability. Well, I love lying on the waterbed, Songbird Symphony surrounding me. I don’t care that I’m apparently too intelligent for it.

I’m joining in with #SoCS, for which the prompt today is “animal sounds”.