Tag Archives: Adolescence

J – #AtoZChallenge on Mental Health

Welcome to the letter J post in my #AtoZChallenge on mental health. This is one of the hardest letters – I mistyped it in the theme reveal. I’ve come up with just two words and they’re not very related.

Jobs

Mentally ill people are particularly likely to be unemployed. Like I said when discussing experience, some institutions create special jobs for people with mental illness to work as recovery or experience workers. These are paid jobs not suited for people in long-term inpatient care, although they are very suitable for people who have overcome a long-term institution life. People still in long-term care can become part of a recovery group. This is often seen as volunteer work and earns you around €10,- for two hours a week of attendance.

People who are long-term institution patients of course have to do something during the day. Some of these activities are simple industrial or administrative duties. At my old institution, these were purely seen as day activities and didn’t earn you any momey. At my current institution, patients doing this work earn like €1,- an hour. That’s still only a small percentage of what people in regular employment earn, of course – minimum wage islike €10,-. People doing this type of work often still call it their “job”. People doing creative day activities usually don’t.

Juvenile

Children can get mentally ill too, of course. I recently read that as many as 30% of children in the UK have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder. Now I assume this includes autism and ADHD, which are not always seen as a mental illness. However, among older children and adolescents is also a significant number of sufferers of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Even among younger children, mental illness can happen. I even heard of psychiatrists specializing in infant and toddler mental health.

Most mental health agencies serve people of all ages, but there are also separate children’s mental health agencies, especially for inpatient treatment. Even those agencies that serve all ages have separate units and treatment teams for children and adolescents. In the Netherlands, after all, child mental health care is regulated by the Youth Act rather than the various laws regulating adult mental health care.

Life Events and My Mental Illness #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 8 in the 31 Days of Mental Health. Today, I have yet another post inspired by the 30-day awareneess challenge. This one is a personal post. Two fo the questions in the chalenge are about when your symptoms started vs. when you were diagnosed and what important life events affected your mental health for the better or worse.

I have in a way always had mental health problems. That is, I was always a socially and emotionally delayed child, but my parents say I was relatively calm and cheerful until I was about seven or eight years of age. At age seven, I started learning Braille. I hated it with a vengeance. It probably was my increased awarneess of my blindness that set off my mental health problems, but it could also have been my becoming aware of my social deficits.

After all, my problems didn’t start to become severe till I moved schools at age nine, and this was precisely the time my peers stopped being protective and started excluding me. At my old school, I’d always gravitated towards older girls, most with mild learning difficulties, who acted like they were my babysitters while I showed them my academic ability. At my new school, I started in a combined fourth/fifth/sixth grade class and I was a fourth-grader. The other girls were all sixth-graders, so they knew more than did I. I did have a friend in third grade, but even with her my social deficits were becoming more pronounced.

Once I entered secondary school, my problems became even more severe. I was twelve when I experienced my first state of depression. That is, the first I can clearly remember. I do vaguely remember being suicidal (or parasuicidal) for a while when i was around eight or nine, but I’m not too sure of this. When I was twelve, I became acutely aware of my social difficulties. I devised my own interventions, but never quite knew how to follow through and, when people tried to help me, I was resistant.

At age thirteen, I went to a mainstream secondary school. I stayed there for six years and was mildly to moderately depressed all along. In fact, I think I may’ve been diagnosable with dysthymia at the time.

In the summer after my eighth grade year, when I was fifteen, I started experiencing dissociation. I felt as though I was in a movie a lot of the time and my alter parts appeard. I had had imaginary friends before, just like most girls, but this was different. I may or may not have been hearing voices at the time. I think it was more an overactive imagination coupled with some dissoication than something akin to psychosis, but my diary entries of the time make me wonder whether I was slightly out of touch with reality.

I spent the last three years of my secondary school experience functioning on autopilot most of the time. I had meltdowns several times a week and started self-injuring at age sixteen. I had been head-banging from a young age on, but had stopped more or less. At age sixteen, I started cutting.

After I graduated high school at age nineteen, I had a few months of relative calm. I went to the blindness rehabilitation center, where we had a lot of structure and one-on-one therapies. I for a bit thought I must be okay. Then when I moved to a training home for the disabled in early 2006, after a few months, the mask fell off and I crashed. I started dissociating more than I’d done before and experienced severe emotional dysregulation. Finally, in early 2007, I was diagnosed with autism.

I moved into independent living that summer and broke down within months. I was hospitalized on the acute unit in November of 2007.

To be honest, I don’t know what led to me being diagnosed with first DID/PTSD and then BPD. I mean, I know when I was diagnosed but I don’t know what got me to share my experiences of dissociation. In hindsight, however, it surprises me that BPD wasn’t diagnosed on the acute unit, because I displayed many classic signs.

Growing Up: Autism and the Teenage Years #AtoZChallenge

Welcoe to another day in the A to Z Challenge in which I focus on autism. Today’s post is all about growing up. After all, autistic children grow up to become autistic teens and eventually autistic adults. Growing up isn’t easy for anyone, but it is harder for autistic young people. Last year, I already wrote a post on what it was like for me growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.

Growing up brings many changes to the lives of autistic young people. For example, social and academic expectations increase rapidly especially in middle and high school. This is why some autistic children don’t get properly diagnosed till they reach puberty and start falling apart. I cannot stress the importance of a proper diagnosis enough, so if your child has difficulty meeting the increased developmental expectations of growing up, it is possible that autism or another neurodevelopmental disorder is the problem and you may want to get them assessed.

Once your child is properly diagnosed, or even if they are not, it is important to support them as they mature. Help them adjust to the changes of puberty. For example, their body will start to change and they will need to be extra aware of their personal hygiene. Since autistics have a hard time handling change, as a parent, you may want to educate them early on about what’s happening to their bodies and how they need to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, due to their delayed social and emotional development, autistic young teens might not feel ready for “grown-up talk”. It is important to seek the balance between overwhelming your child with “mature” information and not preparing them for what will inevitably come.

I cannot begin to give comprehensive advice on parenting teens with autism. There are, however, a few good books available on this subject. For example, Parenting a Teen or Young Adult with Asperger Syndrome (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) by Brenda Boyd is full of tips on parenting higher-functioning autistic teens. Growing Up on the Spectrum by Claire LaZebnik and Lynn Kern Koegel is also a good book.

Diary Entry: September 21, 1999

Mama’s Losin’ It has some great writing prompts this week. One is to share a diary entry from when you were younger. You are allowed to make one up, but I’m going to share a real one. I was orignally intending to share one of my myDiary.nl entries. This was (and I think still is) a diary site in the Netherlands where I kept a diary between age sixteen and eighteen. I however deleted all entries from the site and the document I saved them to is in a format I can’t read now. Then I thought of sharing an entry from my earlier offline diary. It dates fromw hen I was thirteen. It is translated because the original was in Dutch, and I altered some bits for privacy reasons, but it is a real entry. I at the time addressed my entries to a fictional character named Claire. Probably got the idea from reading Anne Frank at the time. This is a short entry, because it is my second attempt at sharing something (computer crashed), and I am too lazy to translate a long entry now.

Tuesday, September 21, 1999

Dear Claire,

I am once again the home bitch. I have a figurine in the shape of a mouse. Its tail broke off and I attempted to make it, but that didn’t work. Logically, since tape doesn’t stick to stone. My sister got involved, and so now I’m in my room. Mom by the way says that my sister never gets attention and I always want attention, but she can decide for herslef whom to give attention. So, it is the day of arguments today.

Yours, Astrid

Don’t ask me what the broken figurine and my sister getting involved had to do with my spending time in my room. I probably had a tantrum over the figurine breaking, but not sure what my sister or “always” wanting attention had to do with it. I now realize my behavior did draw attention to me, but that of course is not the same as wanting attention.

Mama’s Losin’ It

June 16, 2002: Becoming Aware of My Autism

Good Friday has a special place in the mind of Brielle’s Mom, blogger at Brielle and Me, because it was the day she first became aware that something wasn’t normal about Brielle. I do not know when my parents became aware of my blindness, or whether there was a specific event that caused them to worry. I do know they, like Brielle’s parents, knew I was at risk, because they kept warning the NICU nurses not to turn up the oxygen.

With regard to my other disabilities, my parents knew about them for years before I was diagnosed. Like, when I was first diagnosed with autis, my parents told the doctor that they’d suspected it since I was two-years-old. That was eighteen years ago at the time.

I do not remeber becoming aware of my blindness at a specific moment, but with the autism, there is a specific moment which caused me to start to wonder. It was June 16, 2002, 3:50 AM. I was in my rooom, the volume of my CD player turned up, writing in my journal. On June 17, I was expected to disclose a very personal struggle of mine to my high school tutor. I had not been able to speak out of anxiety the previous Friday, and he had me come in on MOnday to write down what was going on, what caused me to fail five subjects in ninth grade because of mostly lack of effort. The reason I struggled was my becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I was never going to be seen as “normal”, and that I had to compensate for my blindness in some way. I also started becoming aware of my alters that year, but I didn’t disclose this to my tutor that Monday, or ever until several years later when he read my online journal.

Back to Sunday June 16. My father came into my room shouting. I don’t know until now, and never knew, what made his angry: the loud music, the fact that I was still awake, or what. “Are you autistic or somehting?!” he shouted. I knew better than I know now why he was saying that I was autistic, believing at the time that antisocial behavior like turning up the music in the middle of the night, is typically autistic. It wasn’t the first tiem or the last that my parents labeled me autistic or any number of other neurodiverse conditions or mental illnesses. It was the one time that the message got through. Not that I shouldn’t be up late or play loud music, but that something wasn’t normal about me. I suspect neurotypical teens sometimes play loud music at night too, so in this sense I do not know what made the comment get through to me this time. There were far more typcal signs that my parents commented on: my stimming, my meltdowns my social withdrawal and bizarre behaviors, etc. But this time, I believed my father.

I was obsessed with autism for the next nearly two years, until again it was my father who pulled me out of it. I didn’t want anything to do with autism for the next two and a half years, until my staff at the independence training home decided I needed an evaluation. I was given the diagnosis of autism on March 16, 2007.

If you have a disability, is there any specific event that made you aware of it? If you have a special needs child, when did you first realize they weren’t developing typically?