Category Archives: Journaling

Beautiful: What I Like About Myself #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 2 in the #AtoZChallenge of random reflections. Today’s prompt comes from the eBook 397 Journal Writing Prompts & Ideas. The prompt word is “beautiful”. The prompt attached to it is to descrie what you consider beautiful. Instead, I am going to share what I like about myself. First, I’ll start with my appearance and then my character.

Outwardly

I don’t particularly like my appearance, but I don’t hate it either. In fact, over the past few months, I’ve come to appreciate it a little more. I could post a selfie here so that you can see whether I’m actually the goregous princess I’ll describe myself as below. No, just kidding. Besides, I’m terrible with taking pictures and not just because I’m blind, so you’ll have to go with my description.

First, the part of my body I’ve come to appreciate more recently is my figure. Over the past ten months, I’ve lost nearly 10kg. I stll have quite the belly, but it’s less obvious than it used to be.

Then there is my head. I like the color of my hair, which is very dark brown, almost black. I still don’t have grey hairs, thankfully. That is, my husband pulled out one a few months ago, but apparently it hasn’t come back. I also like the fact that my hair is quite wavy, althoug as I need a haircut, the waviness is hardly visible now.

I think I like the color of my eyes too. I never had enough vision to see it in the mirror, but I’m told I have blue eyes. My left eye appeared quite grey from a huge cataract until I had the cataract removed in 2013. The surgeon told my husband after the procedure that, even if I weren’t to gain any vision, the surgery would yield cosmetic improvement.

Inwardly

Then on to what I like about my character. First, there is the fact that I’m quie strong-willed an stubborn. Some people say I’m very perseverant, while others say I’m the exact opposite. However, if I really feel strongly about something, I’ll stand my ground.

Then there is my cynical sense of humor. I remember that, when I had only been admitted into the mental hospital for a day or two, I was already cracking jokes about the difference between the patients and the staff in a psychiatric hospital. My cynicism really keeps me going when I’m depressed.

What do you like about yourself?

Astrid: The Story Behind My Name #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the 2018 #AtoZChallenge. This year, I’ll be posting the A to Z of random reflections. For the letter A, I chose my name: Astrid. In this post, I’ll tell the story behind my name.

I was born three months prematurely. At the time I was born, my parents hadn’t yet decided on a name for me. As a result, my hospital bed at first had “Baby Van Woerkom”, Van Woerkom being my last name, on its name tag. My father hated this so much that he quickly came up with a name and that became Astrid.

I am named after Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. As a child, I loved her books. I don’t think Astrid Lindgren is that popular in the English-speaking world, as I can hardly find any English translations of her books.

I don’t have a middle name. Neither does my sister Sigrid, who was named after Norwegian author Sigrid Undset (whose books I don’t know at all). As a teen, I would often give yself a middle name, usually one that was ridiculous combined with Astrid, such as Elena.

My mother says that she at one point entertained the thought of naming me Ulrike. Ulrike Meinhof was a well-known German leftist terrorist and yes, I would’ve been named after her. So glad I wasn’t, as, though I’m left-wing politically, I vehemently oppose violence. My husband jokingly calls me Ulrike sometimes. In the recent local elections, I voted for a leftist whose first name was Ulrike. I had harldly a clue who to vote for and her party came up highest in the voting guide and she was its highest woman on the list.

The name Astrid is derived from Scandinavian “as”, meaning god and “frid”, meaning beautiful. The name became most popular in the Netherlands and Belgium after queen Astrid of Belgium, who was very popular. Nowadays, only a few girls each year are named Astrid.

Do you have an interesting story to tell about your name?

Suddenly I Am

Sometimes, I am the wise woman. Inside, I am a college sophomore, though on the outside, life has moved on. I call myself Clarissa. I can talk up a storm about psychology and psychiatry, arguing that, yes, in fact autistic people can have multiple personalities. It’s a shame people tell me they can’t just because that person’s psychiatrist has told them so. It’s nowhere in the DSM-IV or DSM-5. In fact, autistic people are quite a bit more likely to suffer from trauma-related disorders like this.

Then suddenly, I am that autistic teen. Inside, I am 19-years-old, though on the outside, life has moved on. I call myself Carol. I am not your typical intelligent Aspie. In fact, I am quite severely autistic. I use repetitive language and engage in self-stimulatory behavior all the time. I can barely function at a day activities center for people with severe intellectual disabilities, even though I’m not intellectually disabled. I’m not gifted either, no matter what some people like to believe. I’m just average intellectually, but emotionally, I’m severely impaired.

Then suddenly, I am a little girl. Inside, I’m a shy and scared five-year-old, though on the outside, life has moved on. I call myself Little. By the time I first emerged, it was thought I was the youngest alter. I am not. I can’t breathe sometimes. Sometimes, I have to color inside the lines, and I can’t, because I can’t see very well. I am very scared.

Then suddenly, I am a precocious seven-year-old. Inside, I take care of the baby self (with help from the inner mother figure), though on the outside, life has moved on. I call myself Suzanne. As much as I want to help the baby,I also want my stuffie sheep meh-beh and beh-meh.

Then suddenly, I am that mother figure. Inside, I am 28-years-old, though on the outside, even now life has moved on. I call myself Esther. I sometimes go on Mommy forums as a child advocate, even though in real life, I don’t have any children. I grievethis fact, but don’t let it show.

Then suddenly, I am a childfree woman. Inside, I am 35-years-old, t hough life hasn’t caught up with me yet. I call myself Annemiek. I like to craft and like my childfree life with just my husband and Barry, our cat.

I don’t know whether switching several times a day, like I described above, is common in people with dissociative disorders. I don’t have a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder anymore, after all. To be honest, I don’t care. I have been told, when I write on this blog about my parts, that I’m obviously a really bad case of borderline personality disorder (BPD( trying to fake having dissociative identity disorder (DID). I don’t care. This is my experience and I don’t care what label best describes it.

This is not always how switching happens either. Usually, one of the functional adult parts is out in the body or “in front” about 80% of the time, though it depends which of the functional adult parts is. I didn’t describe either of the two current main fronters in this post.

It is also possible that multiple parts are out in the body at the same time. This can lead to what psychiatrists call identity confusion and also depersonalization and derealization, where you feel as though your body, mind or the world around you is unreal. The switchig I described above is called identity alteration. Then there is amnesia, which is a hallmark syptom of DID we don’t experience that often at all (so I don’t believe we actually have DID).

With this post, I didn’t mean to give you a thorough overview of dissociation. In fact, it was what randomly popped up in my mind when reading today’s prompt on The Daily Post, which is Suddenly. Like I said, I am not claiming that my experience is representative for those with dissociative disorders. It is just a tiny part of my experience, too.

How Our Cat Barry Became Our Pet

This week on Mama’s Losin’ It, the Writer’s Workshop prompts were beautiful. One of them is to share eight things you accomplished in the last week. I may write on that one later, but today, I’m writing on another one, which is to tell the story of how our cat Barry became our pet.

My husband had always recommended that we get a cat to be my companion when I’d go live with him. In the summer of 2013, he had settled in our apartment and hoped I’d soon join him. His mother, who works for the animal shelter, at the time was raising two kiittens, who were too young to be kept at the shelter at only a few weeks old. One o them, the most hyperactive of the two, we named Henk, while the other we named Harry. My mother-in-law recommended we get Harry, the quieter – or should I say less hyperactive? – one.

We got Harry when he was three months old in August of that year. As it turned out, he was rather the slightly less troublesome one than the quieter one of the pair, as he still ran around the house all the time, threw our belongings from tables onto the floor and climbed into and onto furniture.

In the spring of 2014, my husband figureed that maybe a playmate for Harry would help him calm down. His oldest sister, who also works at the shelter, went on the lookout for another cat for us. This became Barry. Yes, we purposefully named Barry this to rhyme with Harry. In fact, my husband half-jokingly gave me the choice between naming him Barry or Heinrich, and I obviously went with Barry.

Harry and Barry didn’t get along very well from the beginning. My husband thought of rehoming Harry to his sister a few times, but often missed him when he was away at hers. So Harry and Barry both moved to our current home with my husband in December of 2015.

The next spring, Barry got a non-bacterial UTI that was most likely stress-related. At first, we thought Barry’s stress came from wanting to go outside and not being allowed to, as he’d go onto the roof and not get off again. This probably was a factor indeed. It quickly becam apparent though that Harry was the main source of stress. While Barry was still recovering from his UTI, Harry started a play-fight with him that was rather bad. This led my husband to finally decide enough was enough. Harry was rehomed to my sister-in-law. She also has two other cats, but they apparetly don’t mind hyperactive Harry and one of them in fact plays with him a lot.

I finally moved in with my husband last May. To be honest, I’m so relieved to just have Barry with us, as Harry was a lot more of a handful. When I first got my iPhone, I worried that Barry would shove it off my table, but he never did *knock on wood*. With Harry on the other hand, I had to pack away all small-enough-to-shove items of value when not using them. That would’ve been quite a stressor to me now that I live here full-time.

Barry was a rather reclusive cat when we first got him and for a long time after. Not the ideal companion for lonesome at home me. Now though, he likes to keep me company even if he still isn’t the kind of cat to like being picked up. He even likes sleeping in our bed at night.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Currently – March 2018

For the first time in many months, I’m participating in the Currently link-up hosted by Anne of In Residence and Sarah of Foxy’s Domestic Side again. This month, the prompts are planning, seeing, making, pretending and wearing. I really love these prompts, so here goes.

Planning: a siblings day with my sister. She called me on Tuesday and talked about going to a spa together someday in June when her husband is in Switzerland for work. One immediately popped up in my mind, but it’s in Nijmegen, which is a fifty-minute drive from my home. The others that are closer by only have swimwear days on Tuesdays, which would be impractical given my sister’s work schedule.

Seeing: sunshine! This morning, while in the paratransit van to day activities, I saw the sun shine beautifully through the front window. The sunny weather didn’t last long though and was replaced by clouds and eventually rain. Thankfully, my day activities staff and I were still able to go for a walk while it still wasn’t raining this morning.

Making: a pineapple banana smoothie. I found this recipe a few days ago on AllRecipes.com I think. It’s made with just banana, pineapple, pineapple juice and ice cubes. I initially planned to buy canned pinapple slices and make this smoothie independently. My husband however said he’d like to help me make it. As it turned out, when grocery shopping with my home support staff, we stumbled upon a fresh pineapple quite easily, so I took that one. I bought bananas that turned out to be still pretty green, so I won’t be making the smoothie till tomorrow.

Pretending: that I’m fine, most of the time. I’m struggling badly with feelings of hopelessness regarding the situation at day activities, but I’m trying to keep a positive outlook. This is terribly hard and often involves pretending.

Wearing: my multicolored vest. I bought it many years ago and wore it for a while, then gained so much weight that I couldn’t anymore. Since having lost 10kg in the past nine months, I’m now able to wear it comfortably again. Or somewhat comfortably, as it itches a bit. I get a lot of compliments on it and apparently it makes me look slimmer than I am.

What have you been up to lately?

Seven Things to Do More Often

Seriously, I’ve been wanting to write more often. Writing helps me, or it used to. Also, it’s not that I’m uninspired. A dozen ideas to write on float through my mind, but once I sit down to actually blog, it seems all pointless. Today I feel relatively well mood-wise, so I’m just forcing myself to write. I am choosing to write for Mama’s Losin’ It’s Writer’s Workshop on the prompt of seven things to do more often. There is also a prompt to write on seven things to do less often, but I couldn’t think of that many things to do less frequently.

1. Write. This I explained above already. Writing used to be a way of helping me process stuff and at the same time a way of distracting me from my depressive thoughts. Now already for nearly two years, I seem unable to write as often as I used to. Whether depressive symptoms are the cause or the effect, I do not know.

2. Move. Last week, I finally bought myself a Fitbit activity tracker. It’s a cool gadget, but so far, I’ve not been able to get moving nearly enough to meet the recommended targets. For example, I average about 3000 steps a day, while 10000 is recommended.

I don’t think my depressed mood is the reason I’m not moving. I just don’t think I can find the opportunity to. I mean, I shouldn’t go running up and down the stairs for fun, should I? And since I can’t leave the house without assistance, going for a walk is rather hard. The weather lately obviously hasn’t helped, as it’s freezing and feels even coldre. I hope that, once the temperature rises, I can get my support workers to take me on some walks again.

3. Meditate. I have two meditation apps on my iPhone but havent’used them in weeks. I really would like to practise mindfulness more.

4. Do sensory-friendly activities, like melting a wax melt or listening to soothing music.

5. Read. I don’t just mean books, but blogs too. I after all don’t seem to have the attention span to read a book most of the time, but I can usually read blog posts.

6. Show my love to my husband. This has been hard lately because of my depressed moods.

7. Focus on the positive. I really want to seek out emotionally positive experiences more. The above six practices will help me achieve this. If I can appreciate positive experiences for what they are, I’ll hopefully feel even better soon.

Of course, these seven things won’t magically make me feel happy, but they will help me move in that direction. Depressive symptoms and inactivity make each other worse, after all.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Friendly Fill-Ins #1

A few weeks ago, I discovered the Friendly Fill-Ins linky hosted by 15AndMeowing and McGuffy’s Reader. I loved the idea but wasn’t inspired to write then. Today, I rediscovered the linky and the questions were rather interesting. Therefore, I’m participating now.

1. My Chinese zodiac animal sign is Tiger. I don’t know anything about Chinese astrology, so I googled it. They are said to be independent, courageous and powerful but arrogant too. I can see how that applies to me and definitely how it used to apply to me before I was institutionalized. Tigers born in June, like me, are said to have a life that twists and turns around a lot. That’s so true for me too. They also may be ambitious but won’t achieve their goals without support and financial resources. Those born on the 27th, like me, are said to have the perfect husband (or wife).

2. My zodiac sign is Cancer. The Cancer personality also definitely applies to me. That being said, I was born prematurely and should’ve been a Libra. I don’t believe in astrology, so when I read my horoscope and Cancer doesn’t seem to fit, I look at Libra.

3. Income tax season is confusing. I hate having to file for income tax, so I usually have my husband do it for me. Once, in like 2009, I filed for income tax for three years at once, since I hadn’t done this the two previous years. I wasn’t required to, but got a lot of money back when I finally reported my income.

4. In hindsight… Well they say hindsight is 20/20 but I’m still unsure about many decisions I made in the past. Usually, I know that I made the wrong decision but don’t know what the right decision would’ve been. I try not to dwell on regrets, although this is pretty hard.

Do you relate to your astrological sign?

Agree to Disagree

Prologue: two weeks ago, it was decided that, for two weeks, I would not be allowed to attend my day activities center in the afternoons. The reason was three new clients would be joining us and that would mean there’d be less support for me – at least while they get used to the day center. This made me quite unquiet. I wrote about this for Five-Minute Friday last week too, struggling to write a long enough, contextual enough post to be search engine-friendly within five minutes. Then I saw that people did prologues and epilogues to their posts that apparently do not count towards your five minutes of wrting time. So I decided to do this too. Here is my actual piece.

Yesterday, my staff asked me if I’d been feeling calmer now that my day activities hours were cut. I didn’t respond initially. Later, I did, assuming she had said, not asked, that I was calmer now.

I told her I feel awful each afternoon. Of course, the group is quieter without me, so I could see where she’d be coming from if she wanted to keep me out of day activities longer. I didn’t assume she had my best interest in mind – or at least the manager, who decided on these matters, didn’t. I’m not intellectually disabled, so I’m not the day center’s primary target population. As such, if there’s a disruption in the group that involves me, I’m the one who is out.

Indeed, today, I was informed that my day activities hours will remain as they were for the past few weeks. It was all in my best interest, the staff tried to say. Well, agree to disagree.

Epilogue: I was quite distressed by this whole thing during the day. Then I remembered someone’s comment on my FMF post from last week, that God never closes a door without opening a window. On Thursday, I will have a meeting with my day activities and home support staff, my community psychiatric nurse and the local authority social consultant. I hope this meeting will yield some positive results.

Linking up with Five-Minute Friday again.

Surrender

Last week, it was decided that, for a while, my day actvities hours will be cut. It was also suggested that my current day activities center, which caters primarily to people with intellectual disabilities, may not be the best fit for me. I’m not intellectually disabled, after all. I’m autistic, but if you’re of at least average intelligence, somehow that doesn’t count as a developmental disability.

I had to accept this, to surrender to the decision made for me. But I decided not to give up. I am okay with this being a temporary thing, but I don’t want to be shoved around like a cart. I’m a person, after all. I know I don’t fit neatly into one dsablity label box. I am both blind and autistic and have mental health issues.

Over the past week I alternated between fight and surrender. When surrendering, I was depressed and didn’t feel like there’d ever be a place for me. I even pushed my husband away, because I wasn’t sure I could choose between him and proper care. Now I know this is a false dilemma.

When in fight mode, I felt energized. I’ve been making phone calls, thinking up next steps. I have an appointment with my community psychiatric nurse on Monday to discuss how to proceed.

It doesn’t help this wasn’t the first time I fell between the cracks care-wise, but in a way, it does. I know how to navigate the system, after all, and I know not to surrender to a poor quality of life.

I am linking up this post with Five Minute Friday. The prompt this week is “surrender”.

My Word for 2018

It’s already the second week of 2018 and I haven’t written about my goals or hopes or dreams for the year yet. Last year was a productive year, mostly because I finally moved out of the mental institution after 9 1/2 years. From there on, I’ve been attempting to move forward and live a healthier life in many different respects. Physically, I embarked on a weight loss, healthier eating and fitness journey. I was also referred to an occupational therapist for help with my mobility and fine motor impairments. For my mental health, I started dialectical behavior therapy.

I also started day activities once out of the institution. This is a huge accomplishment, as I could never handle the pressure of going to a day center for any prolonged amount of time. At first, I went to an industrial group, but I was later moved to a sensory-based group. This has been a very positive experience. I also started horseback riding in September and swimming with my husband in November. Lastly, I got an iPhone. All in all, I did a pretty godo job of ticking off the items of my 2017 bucket list.

It doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle. In 2017, I took two overdoses which required a night on the internal medicine ward. As I mentioned last Sunday, on Wednesday, I engaged in pretty bad self-injurious behavior at day activities. I’m still often very much stressed out.

On Writes Like a Girl, Nicole shared an interesting take on the cycle of life: she theorized that one year is for action and the next for maintenance. Her 2017, like mine, was totally about moving forward. She deliberately chooses 2018 to be a year for rest and calm. She will continue to move forward, but at a slower pace than she did in 2017. Same for me.

My word for 2018 is a word that fits in nicely with dialectical behavior therapy. The first skill we work on in DBT is mindfulness. Mindfulness is pretty much hyped up and I’m not too sure I fully understand it. Even so, I think it’s an important skill. Like Nicole, I need to do less and be more. My word for 2018, for this reason, is simply (or not so simply): be.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals for 2018. For example, I do still want to continue my healthy living and weight loss journey and set myself a new goal weight for the end of the year. However, I’m taking this slowly. After all, I’d rather lose the weight slowly and keep it off than lose it rapidly only to gain it all back.

Other than this, I don’t have any goals that require me to reach a certain end result. I mean, I’ve set myself a goal of keeping a jornal, but I’ve not set a requirement of how often or how much I need to write. I also really hope to blog more this year and I think I’m finally ready to ditch my mediocre Dutch blog and move my focus entirely back here.

What is your word for 2018?