A College Memory

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to write about a college memory. I wrote about the very same topic on my old blog in 2016, some weeks after it was also a prompt on Mama Kat’s blog. I reread that post just now and was actually going to share the exact same memory. Now I don’t think most people who read my blog now, read my blog then. Still, I want to choose a different memory.

In 2016, I shared the memory of my first day at Radboud University as a linguistics major. I had a massive meltdown upon entering the lecture hall then, because I hadn’t known that there were over 200 students in there. I left and called my support coordinator, who took me to her office. This was the first time the psychiatric crisis service was called on me, but they said I wasn’t “mad enough” (my support coordinator’s words) to be admitted to the hospital.

Roughly eight weeks later, on October 30, I had my last day at Radboud University. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, since I wasn’t admitted to the mental hospital until November 3.

I had an exam that morning. It was my first introduction to language and communication exam. Passing this exam wouldn’t award me any credits, as the credits for the course weren’t applied until you passed the second exam some weeks later.

As always, I took a ParaTransit taxi to the university that morning. I think I had a meltdown right as I went into the building the exam was supposed to be held in, but I’m not 100% sure. I definitely had a meltdown when I was finished. The taxi driver driving me home threatened to dump me at the police station.

Regardless, I did sit in on the exam. Introduction to language and communication is basically a course in dissecting words into morphemes and sentences into their different components (no idea what those are called). That’s why the course was also sometimes called universal grammar.

Several months later, when I was home on leave from the hospital, I retrieved my E-mails. Back at the hospital, I sat down to read them. Among them was an E-mail from the director of studies telling me that the intro to lang and comm instructor had been missing me so had I dropped out? I also found an E-mail from administration notifying me of my grade on the exam: I scored 85%.

Several months ago, when my husband was clearing out the attic for our move to our current home, he found a letter from Radboud University. It was my provisional report on whether I could continue my studies or not. “Your studying results are grounds for concern,” it said. I’m so glad I never saw this piece before.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Reflecting on My Life: 2003

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was looking for some link-up parties to join in and came across the Life This Week linky. In this week’s edition, host Denyse shares her memories of the year 2003. As this is my first time participating in the linky, I should really start my story from the beginning on, but for some reason, I can’t.

I may have shared this before, but in secondary school, I always had this superstition that life ran in circles. There’d be a year of struggle and crisis, a year of renewed hope and finally a year of disillusionment, after which I’d spiral back to struggle and crisis. The year 2003 was a year of disillusionment.

In 2003, I was sixteen. I turned seventeen at the end of June. I was in the tenth grade for the first half of the year and in the eleventh for the last half.

In the summer of 2002, I had barely moved up a year. My grades weren’t that good and I only moved up because I worked very hard the last few weeks of the year. I had been struggling with feeling like an outcast due to my blindness the entire 2001/2002 school year. That was to change by late 2002, or so I believed. My high school tutor promised me he’d help me feel better.

What he did was come up with a social skills assessment for blind students and have the teachers fill it out. That was no good for my self-esteem, as I showed considerable weaknesses. No-one knew at the time that I was also autistic, even though I suspected it.

The year 2003 was the year I started to learn about myself from a possibly autistic point of view. Even though I had started suspecting I was on the spectrum in mid-2002, I didn’t feel comfortable joining online support groups for it till 2003.

This was also the year I expanded my horizons where it came to using the Internet in general. I had gotten an Internet connection in May of 2002. By April of 2003, I started keeping an online diary on DiaryLand, which several years later morphed into my first WordPress blog.

In the summer of 2003, I attended the International Computer Camp for blind students in Switzerland. I had attended it the year before, when it was held in England, too. This year, I felt a bit disappointed in the end, because it didn’t provide me with the cathartic experience I’d felt the year before.

In 2003, I also explored fictional storytelling as a way of expressing myself. I was experiencing some significant selective mutism at the time, which I could circumvent by pretending I wasn’t talking about myself. This is how my “mirror image”, Kirsten, came to be. She is one of my main alters to this day.

Finally, this was the year I was first starting to explore future planning. Here in the Netherlands, students with disabilities attending mainstream education didn’t get any type of special transition planning at the time. I was expected to just get by and go to university straight out of high school in 2005. In 2003, I started to doubt this would be a success, but I didn’t voice my doubts yet. As it is, I didn’t actually make it clear that I wasn’t going to university right out of high school until April of 2005.

Where were you on the path of life in 2003?

I Was Taught to Believe…

That, if I didn’t have my parents’ support, I had no-one’s and I would never get anyone’s support. “You are socially inept,” my mother said, “and you got it from us.”

This exchange happened in late April of 2006, when I had just been kicked out of my parents’ house. Not that I still lived with them, and not that I was ever planning on doing so again, but my parents made it very clear that they would no longer support me. I don’t even mean financially, but practically and emotionally.

What had I done to deserve this? I had told them I was delaying going to university one more year. I wasn’t giving up on it. I was still going to meet their expectations of me that I become a university student, grad student, Ph.D., professor, you name it.

And then I didn’t. In the fall of 2007, while attending the university I had originally been meant to go to in 2006, I gradually fell apart and was ultimately admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Though I was discharged in 2017, I never went back to university.

Though my parents and I are still in limited contact, I know I don’t genuinely have their support. Not emotionally. I mean, I see them twice a year, talk to them on the phone about once a month and get €1000 at the end of the year to spend on new technology mostly. I don’t know whether this will remain the same when I go into long-term care (or when they find out about it). And I’m not sure whether I care. They aren’t the type to stop talking to me at funerals or the like and I don’t really need their money or birthday presents or phone chatter, though they’re nice. I won’t go no contact, but if they decide to abandon me, that’s their choice.

Because, though I was taught that without my parents, I had no-one, this isn’t true. I met my husband in the fall of 2007. You know, the fall that was supposed to be the start of my academic career and ended up being the catalyst to my getting a life of my own. My husband supported me through the psychiatric hospital years. He supports me through the years we live together. I trust that he’ll support me through the coming years when I’m in long-term care. I may be socially inept, but that doesn’t mean no-one will support me. Love me even.

This post was written for V’J.’s Weekly Challenge. V.J. challenges us to think about the untrue things we were led to believe as children or in other dysfunctional relationships.

Job: What I’d Want to Do If I Were Employable #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day ten in the #AtoZChallenge. As with most difficult letters, I’ve had a theme word for today’s post in mind for a few days but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I am pretty tired already, so this will be a bit of a random ramble.

I am unemployable according to the Dutch social security administration. The guidelines for this were revised in 2015 and I was scared that I’d be deemed employable. After all, the guidelines say that someone who can do at least one task that is part of a job (so not a full job) and who has basic employee skills, is often employable. These skills that are part of a job, include for example doing the dishes. I thought I could do this until my husband informed me that I can’t. He also felt I didn’t have basic employee skills such as coming on time and accepting leadership. Apparently, the social security people agreed.

Until I had my major crisis at age 21, I thought I’d be perfectly employable and not just by the current standards. I was convinced I’d be able to have a regular, in fact high-level job. I studied linguistics and wanted to become a speech-language pathologist.

If I were to design my ideal job, I’d however be a type of social worker with some educational psychology involvement. I would be the person to find out what people in complex care situations really need and try to deliver that. Of course, with my poor social-communicative skills, I will never be a social worker. Educational psychology is also pretty much inaccessible a field to the blind because of its heavy reliance on statistics.

I think I’m pretty good though at coming up with creative solutions to problems at least when they are within my field of interest. I can be critical of my staff and often ask them why they do things a certain way. They are not always able or allowed to tell me, as I’m just a client. However, if I were a support worker, social worker or the like, I would not run into this.

Ever since I was old enough to be aware of my own unique situation within the care system at around age twelve, I’ve been wanting to be this kind of ed psych/social worker mix. I was convinced I could help prevent other people in similar situations to mine from falling through the cracks.

I tried to study applied psychology at college one year. With this one year behind me, I could’ve chosen a major such as social work or psychodiagnostics. I didn’t, after all, because my communication skills teacher told me I would be passed on the oral test if I didn’t continue in this field. This feels a little sad to me, but I still have the capacity to learn on my own terms. I will most likely never be employable, but I can still learn new things in this field.

Dreams I Had for Myself as a Child #Write31Days

Welcome to day 18 in #Write31Days. Today’s post is all about dreams and life visions. Specifically, I am sharing the dreams I had for myself as a child.

The first dream I remember having about what I’d be when I’d grow up, was a writer. I may’ve said as a KIndergartner that I wanted to be a princess or whatever, but as soon as I could write with some confidence, I wanted to make my career out of that. I remember my parents telling me pretty early on that writers usually don’t make a living writing, but I didn’t care.

As I said before, I started out wanting to write fiction. I didn’t keep a journal consistently until I was thirteen and fiction was all that I knew before then. I didn’t get access to the Internet until age fifteen, but by the time I had an Internet connection, I was hooked on non-fiction.

Another dream I had for myself as an older child and teen, was to become a teacher. My ideas varied as to which grade or subject I’d like to teach. I definitely looked up to my teachers, so it’s no surprise I wanted to be one.

When I was around twelve, I started to deveop a dream of becoming a psychologist. I wanted to help children who were likely to fall through the cracks, as I had a feeling I was. I started hoping every episode of my parents’ favorite news program had a feature on kids with psychological problems. Once, there was an episode on about autism and I was hooked. This was nearly ten years before my own autism diagnosis. I had a feeling I was somehow like the boy in the program. Similar with a seventeen-year-old girl who was being restrained in a psychiatric hospital in around 1997. She was too smart for intellectual disability services but didn’t belong in psychiatry either. Something clicked with me, but obviously I couldn’t put my finger to it. I still really can’t.

When I was sixteen, I developed another dream. I wanted to study in the United States once in college. I would be majoring in American studies at university in Nijmegen, which'd offer motivated, talented students the opportunity to study in the U.S. for six months in their third year. I was at the time pretty sure I'd be talented enough. I loved reading up about American cities on City-Data.com.

Looking back, obviously, I didn’t make any of my dreams come true. I write, but not for profit and I don’t intend on it ever at all. I have some education in psychology, but am nowhere near a degree.

At the back of my mind, there always was that seventeen-year-old girl in the isolation room in the psychiatric hospital. I’ve not become her either, but I’ve come close. Then I rose up above my fate and now I’m an advocate. I’m happy as I am now.