Tag Archives: Husband

Friends: What Makes a Friendship Tick? #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 6 in the #AtoZChallenge of random reflections. Today’s prompt comes from the 397 Journal Writing Prompts and Ideas eBook again. It is “Friendship”. The attached question is: “What makes a friendship tick?”

Now I happen not to have any close friends other than my husband, but I definitely consider my husband my friend in addition to my partner. What both of us appreciate about each other, which I think non-romantic friendships may share, is our sense of humor. We have a lot of “inside jokes” and our own terminology that only the two of us understand. For example, when one of us goes on and on boring the other, we say “banana spider”. This one in particular has been in our vocabulary for many years.

Our friendship isn’t just based on humor though. Over the years, we’ve been through quite the hard times, for example with my institution stay. I met my husband for the first time six weeks before being admitted to the mental hospital and he stuck by me through all the 9 1/2 years of it and the year I’ve been out of it so far. Humor helped us through, but so did a serious discussion every now and again.

I have other people I am close to, but these friendships are usually based on shared experience, such as them having the same disabilities as me. Though my husband and I met on an autism forum, he is neurotypical and otherwise non-disabled. He has seen me through most of my adult life, but he does not share the same experience of being disabled. Like he once said “needing social care is like a different world”. In this sense, I’m glad to have peers, some of which I’m close to online and may meet every once in a while and some of which I only talk to very occasionally. This obviously also depends on geographical location.

The first peer I met was a woman who was on a support list for my eye condition. I first started E-mailing her off-list in 2004 and we’re still online friends. She lives in the United States, so we might never meet in real life. Both our lives have also moved on since 2004. She is now independent and successful, while I’m just sprouting branches in the real world. However, I appreciate being her online friend.

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

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

Autism and Friendship #Write31Days

Welcone to day one of #Write31Days for 2017. This month’s theme on my blog is autism. One of the most characteristic impairments in autism, at least according to diagnostic criteria, is an impairment in social interaction skills. In DSM-IV, the diagnostic manual under which I was originally diagnosed, failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level was one of the impairmetns under the social interaction deficits criterion. “Peer relatioships” refers mostly to friendships, though I reckon it can refer to romantic relationships in adolescents and adults too. Today, I will discuss how autism impaacts my understanding of friendship.

Many years ago, I read an article by famous autism expert Tony Attwood on the topic of development of friendship skills. A typically developing child starts to develop friendship skills at around age three. They realize that friendship requires some level of turn-taking but their approach to this is egocentric, based on for example sharing of material goods or playing together. When someone asks why a person is the child’s friend, the child at this stage would typically respond: “Because they live next door.”

Children between age three and six are typically at this level. Autistic children (and in a way even adults) typically remain at this level longer. When I was nine, for example, I’d consider someone a friend because they gave me candy. Admittedly, I’m still at this level in a way, though I realize this is inappropriate. For example, when my now husband said that he was in love with me, I wasn’t sure whether to reciprocate it, since I didn’t know whether I liked him just because he was the only one who’d visit me in the psychiatric hospital. Also, I still can’t sem to move away from materialistic aspects of friendship like sharing candy.

At around age six, typically developing children move into the next level of friendship skills, which is based on shared interests and games. When asked why someone is a child’s friend, a child at this stage would say: “Because they let me play the games I want to”, “Because they’re nice to me”, etc. I relate to this level of friendship too.

Another criterion of autism in DSM-IV was lack of social reciprocity. This means that an autistic person doesn’t understand age-appropriate rules of give-and-take. Many autistic people can come across rather self-centered. So do I. For exampel, I rarelys hared candy (here we go again!) in the institution, even thoug I did accept it from others when offered. Give-and-take, however, seems not just based on material things and there aren’t many clear-cut rules for it.

I have a rather literal interpretation of reciprocity: when my husband, for example, gives me something, be it material or immaterial, I have to give him the same back. As such I feel extremely bad about being dependent on my husband for many things, like transportation, food, etc. He says that I give him love in return, but I barely understand the concept of love.

List of Things that Make Me Me

During the past week and a half, a lot has happened, and yet so little has. I spoke to the patient advocate regardng the recent diagnonsense. She recommended a second opinion at another hospital. For various reasons, I decided against this. My psychologist did consult a psychiatrist at the brain injury unit, who told her she was right that brain injury and autism shouldn’t really be diagnosed together, but the same goes for borderline personality disorder and brain injury. Now I’m left with a very confusing diagnosis. I think it’s going to be personality change due to a general medical condition (brain injury), but my psychologist also said something about generalized anxiety disorder and attachment disorder possibly going onto my diagnosis. And I thought I was the one who collected labels.

This is all very confusing, because I rely on concrete labels for defining myself. How coincidental that I just opened a journaling eBook to a random prompt and it told me to make a list of my uniqueness, my marvelousness, my talents. These are not psychiatric labels, because, although some people consider autism a gift, I cannot say that autism itself should be one of my talents. With no further ado, here is my great list of things that make me me.


  • I am intelligent. I have a lot of knowledge and I can articulate it well most of the time. I am good at analyzing stuff.

  • I can persever(at)e if I truly want to achieve something.

  • I am sensitive. Sometimes, this sensitivity causes me to experience overwhelm to the point where I appear uncaring, but I truly care about other people.

  • I am creative. I write, I craft, I make soap.

  • I have a pretty cynical sense of humor. I remember on my first day in the psychiatric hospital, telling jokes about how you could tell the patients and staff apart.

  • I am stubborn and I like it. My husband jokes that my parents haven’t made up their minds about anything since the 1980s. I am thankful not to be that extreme, but I can really want to be right sometimes.

  • I am a semi-successful blogger even though I haven’t been blogging as much over the past few months.

  • I am a good wife.


This list should or could probably be longer. It also didn’t really cheer me up. However, it does help me see that I’m more than my confusing set of diagnosense.

Ten Ways in Which I’m Blessed

This week was a tough one. I have been stressed almost constantly over a lot of things. For this reason, I’m extra happy to find out that Finish the Sentence Friday is about blessings this week. It’s supposed to be a joint linky with Tuesday Ten, but I can’t find the Tuesday Ten post on blessings. Maybe it’ll go live next Tuesday. However, let me write a list of ways in which I’m blessed anyway. I hope it’ll cheer me up. Here goes.


  • I have my husband. I’m so glad I met him nine years ago.

  • I have my home in the tiny village.

  • I have my family. My parents are still in good health and my grandma is still alive and relatively well for a 92-year-old too.

  • I have my cat Barry.

  • I don’t have to worry about money most of the time.

  • I am in okay physical health.

  • I have my computer, with which I can connect to the Internet and interact with mostly supportive people.

  • I can write and express myself creatively.

  • I have my faith. Even if no-one else loved me, God does.

  • I am alive. I am not always happy about this, but right now, I try to see it as a blessing.

It was a bit hard to write this list, but I’m so happy I got to do it. I hope you are blessed in many ways too.

Dear Transition

Like I said a few weeks ago, I bought the 22-day life transitions journaling workbook. I didn’t use it consistently, so I only finished the first day’s exercise and read the one for day two. It sounded particularly hard to me, but today, I’m trying to take up the challenge. The assignment is to write a letter to the transition in your life, in my case, the move out of the institution. You should be as honest as possible and can rant all you want. Then, let the transition respond. Here goes.

Dear transition,

Screw you, why do you have to happen? Why can’t things just stay the same. I know that’s not ideal, but that’s all I’ve known for the past 8 1/2 years. This institution life feels safe. Call me dependent all you want, I don’t care. I don’t know what happens when I leave the institutio. I fear I’ll fall flat on my face and not be able to cope.

Besides, I never planned on living independently again. I never learned to cope in a less restrictive environment, because that wasn’t the goal. Even since it’s been the goal that I live with my husband for the past 1 1/2 years, I still never learned to cope. I tried an afternoon at home here and there, but I still feel utterly overwhelmed when I’m at home for longer than a few days.

I don’t know what you expect of me anyway. My husband wants me to live with him, but I don’t even know wha the expects out of me. He probably expects me to take care of some housekeeping, which I haven’t done i years. Evernything else is uncertain too. I haven’t found day activities, haven’t been accepted by the mental health agency. I know you will happen – I will move in with my husband -, but I don’t even know when. So stop bothering me.

Astrid

Dear Astrid,

You sound angry at me. I’m sorry about that, because I never meant to piss you off. I am uncertain, I know, and I know that scares you. I know your control has been taken away by the psychologist, who decided seemingly arbitrarily that this is the point at which you need to stick to your decision. Then again, she’s right. You can’t waste your life away in the institution, and i know you don’t want to either. It may feel safe now, but safety isn’t all you need. You want to develop yourself, too.

Try to be confident that your treatment team will put a safety net in place should you not be able to cope. Try also to focus on the opportunities I will award you. I know you have so many dreams that you sometimes don’t even want to write about. I know that I won’t guarantee you that you’ll be able to make your dreams come true, but sitting on your butt in the institution certainly won’t make them come true. Try to stop dreaming and fearing and start living. Good luck.

Your transition

In Ten Years’ Time

I had the “kitchen table talk” yesterday. This is the official term for the meeting with your local social consultant to determine your need for services funded through the community support act. The meeting went well, though not much is clear. I’ll be eligible for supports, but I first need to go to the mental health agency near the tiny village to discuss my treatment there. After all, if I go into day treatment or assertive community treatment, part of the services from mental health will overlap with supports I’d be eligible for through the community support act. I’ll push my psychologist to get me an appointment with mental health as soon as possible. The consultant officially has to make a decision on community supports within six to eight weeks.

This has me looking ahead to my life with my husband. I hope to move in with my husband this summer. My mother-in-law had somehow gotten the idea that I’ll be leaving the institution in August, because she asked me how I felt about discharge. I have no clue where she got the idea that I’ll be discharged this August from, but I hope she’s right. After the kitchen table talk, I am somewhat more excited about leaving the institution than I was before. It’s still scary, but it’s a little less scary at least.

I was just looking at the 30-day recovery challenge from BelieveInRecovery.com. ONe of the challenges is to describe where you hope to be in ten years. I already wrote a letter to my future self in 2014. Today, I am going to take it a little easier and just fantasize about my life in ten years’ time.

Ten years ago, I resided in an independent living training home for the disabled. I had made the decision to postpone university till 2007, but had not yet found something to study for 2006. The idea that I am autistic had not been picked up by the staff yet. I was still, in other words, “just blind”. And miserable.

Now, ten years later, I’m not as miserable but still not very happy. I hope that in ten years, I’ll be more comfortable in my own skin than I am now. I obviously hope that I’ll have lost the almost 20kg that I’m overweight.

In the past ten years, if you look at the larger scheme of things, not much has changed. My parents at one point came to talk to my doctor at the locked unit and told him that I’d gone from the rehabilitation center for the blind to the training home and from the training home into a psychiatirc hospital. They overlooked the three months that I’d lived independently, but in the larger scheme of things, how much do these matter?

I hope to change more in the ten years to come than in the past ten years. However, I’m afraid to dream big now. I mean, in an ideal world, I’d go back to school and complete a program in counseling or psychology. Not to be an employed counselor, but just for the knowledge of it. I’d be doing volunteer work helping people navigate the social services field. I’ll have written and published my autobiography. Maybe I’ll do some freelance writing – if I can manage to learn to type properly. I had at least five typeos in that sentence.

One thing that changed within the past ten years and that I hope won’t change within the next ten years, is my relationship status. Ten years ago, I was single and clueless about relationships. Now, I’m still clueless but apparently doing an okay job at loving someone. I hope to still love and be loved by my husband ten years from now.

Transitioning: The End of the Tunnel

On May 1, Mari L. McCarthy started the 22-day life transitions journaling challenge. I didn’t sign up, since I had just failed on committing to the whole health challenge in April. However, today I bought the challenge eBook – from KObo, not Mari’s own site, since it’s much cheaper on Kobo. Since I am about to start in what may be the most important transition of my life, I thought I’d try my hand at the challenge. For day one, we’re supposed to meditate on where we are right now and where we want to be headed.

I visualize the point where I’m now as being at the beginning of a tunnel. It’s not necessarily a dark tunnel, but I can’t see the end of it as I look into it. Nonetheless, i know it will end somewhere in the tiny village, in my husband’s and my home. I can only head this way, but since I can’t see what’s inside the tunnel, I cannot see what’s going to come onto my path as I head into the tunnel. I know where this will end, but I don’t know how or when. After all, no definite date has been set for my discharge from the institution. Though I will have the “kitchen table talk” with the social consultant on Monday, right now I have no idea how I will cross this tunnel and what I’ll find at the end of it.

I can however hear my husban calling me from the other end. I can hear him cheer me up that it’d be so great and utterly exciting to be together at last. I can hear my psychologist and social worker on my current end of the tunnel telling me that I wanted to go into it and come out at home. Even as I sit here, more than a year into the process of arranging for my transition out of the institution, I still am not sure that this is really what I want.

Sometimes, I idealize the end of the tunnel, what it’ll be like to be home. I see my husband lovingly embracing me. As he takes me into his arms, I know that I’m happy being with him and this was the best decision I could’ve made. I go to day activities. My psychologist already shot the snoezelen idea I came up with a few months ago, so I’ll go swimming and doing yoga and going for walks instead. I will meet some nice people at day activities or through the community. I’ll be much more independent than I am now, being able to do some cooking and cleaning on my own. I’ll eventually take up some classes again. My husband loves me when he comes home from work and we’re both happy.

At other times, such as right now, I devalue the end of the tunnel. I look at it as one dark pit in which I’ll fall. My husband and I constantly step on each other’s toes. When he’s home, I’m annoyed by him and he’s annoyed by me. When he’s at work, I’m at home alone sleeping the day away or daydreaming of harming myself. I don’t even have my blog anymore, since my husband doesn’t want me to write about my life at home and I can’t think of anything else to write about. I have nothing left except myself.

However, I will get through. I say this so that even if I don’t believe in it now, I won’t leave a bad omen by being all negative. I will make this transition and it may be hard, but it’s also good. No matter what, my husband loves me.

Fear of Demands

I admit it, I have a fear of demands. I originally wrote that I have a fear of independence. In fact, I thought for a while that I may have dependent personality disorder. People with DPD have a pathological need to be taken care of. They can’t make everyday decisions without a lot of counsel, need others to take full responsibility for the bigger decisions in their life, and may even stay in abusive relationships out of fear of losing someone to take care of them. They appear incredibly easy on therapists at first, agreeing with their every counsel. On a deper level though, this is just a way of maintaining the care relationship.

I still believe I have some traits of DPD, but this last bit is where I realized dependence may not be the core of things. I am not easy on a therapist at all. In fact, I remember being seen as very defiant when I was on a locked unit in 2007 and 2008.

I do have a fear of practical independence, I admit. Then again, it’s more a fear of other people taking contorl over what I can and can’t do practically. I’d love in fact to have full control over deciding what I can and can’t do independently. My fear is not of doing things independently myself, but of other people deciding I can do them independently.

This is where pathological demand avoidance enters the picture. PDA is a conditon along the autism spectrum in which people have a persistent anxiety of direct demands placed on them. They often appear defiant, but underneath this is a deep fear. It could be fear of failure in some ways, but it’s more.

There is an interesting aspect to my fear of doing things independently, and that’s that I can do them fine when no-one’s watching me. Also, when I take the initiative to do things independently I can do them much better than when others tell me to do them. I remember E-mailing around for a therapist to treat my dissociation in 2012 and I had no problem doing it. (I stll had anxiety about it, of course, but that’s more fear of the response.) I called the social consultant and client advocacy organization last week and was fine. On the other hand, when someone asks me to make a phone call or E-mal someone, it’s much harder for me. I also took the initiative to go live with my husband. Then, when my staff took away my control over it and demanded I show certain capabilities if I wanted to live with him, I backed away.

Unfortunately, the care system is built on the premise that psychiatric patients just need a little pushing to do things independently. Despite the rehabilitation and recovery models, which I applaud, people are only allowed to take control if they’ve shown their competence first. I cannot do this. It scares the crap out of me. I want recovery without having to prove myself. Hopefully, I’ll be able to accomplish this when I live with my husband.

Linking up with Finish the Sentence Friday. A little late, i know. The prompt sentence was: “One of the biggest fears that I’ve ever had to face…”.