Tag Archives: Life Events

The Five Most Significant Events

Oh my, why can’t I seem to write when I truly want to? I mean, I feel uninspired, but then again I have a lot of collections of writing prompts. I have at least three eBooks full of writing prompts, a few collections downloaded from the Internet and even an app on my phone. From this app, Paperblanks, comes the prompt I’m going to journal on today. The prompt asks me to name the five most significant events of the first 25 years of my life.

This is going to be really hard, as I’m supposed to name just five. The last nearly seven years do not count, so I cannot mention the day I finally left the psychiatric institution or even the day I got married. I am however more tempted to write on more recent events, whereas my childhood was important too. I just don’t remember it that well.

1. The day I came home from the NICU, September 29, 1986. The first one, hence, is going to be one I have zero memory of but that shaped me for the rest of my life. After all, if I’d not made it home from the hospital at three months of age, I may not have been alive or able to share my story today. I came home on my due date.

2. The day I started in special education, May 11, 1992. I had to leave Kindergarten at a mainstream school before the year was over. Till this day, I don’t know why. My parents claim that the reason I had to transfer to the school for the visually impaired is my need to learn Braille, which I didn’t get to learn until more than a year later. They also say my Kindergarten teacher wouldn’t be able to move to first grade with me and no other teacher could teach me. However, then why did I have to leave so suddenly? In my memory, I was ill shortly before leaving the mainstream school, but I don’t know what that has to do with it, if anything.

3. The day I started back in mainstream secondary education, August 25, 1999. This day is significant because it shows my ability to be determined. A lot of people say I’m not determined at all and give up way too easily, but I did complete the full six years of my level of secondary education even though I hated it. I don’t think my parents deserve all the credits for this.

4. The day I started in rehabilitation for my blindness, August 22, 2005. This day is significant because it symbolizes my self-direction. It was the first time I decided I wanted to work on my own goals rather than those set forth for me by my parents.

5. The day of my admission to the mental hospital, November 3, 2007. Do I really need to explain? This day symbolizes my ultimate break-away from my parents’ power over me. Even though those 9 1/2 years in the institution weren’t too productive, I don’t regret having agreed to be admitted at all.

DIY Daddy

By This Time in Life…

Last week, the Finish the Sentence Friday prompt was: “I thought that by this time in life, I’d…” I discovered it on Thursday already but was busy all week-end traveling to my parents, being at their house and attending a concert and then traveling back. I can’t link up my post anymore, but that doesn’t keep me from writing about the topic.

I have written many posts about my dreams for my adult life. When I was a young teen, I dreamt that by the time I turned thirty, I’d have completed my Master’s degree, gotten a steady job as a high school teacher and become a Mom of three (technically four, because in my dreams one pregnancy would always be with twins). Obviously, this was before the economic meltdown, because I dreamt of being a teacher within a year of earning my Master’s degree. Interestingly, though obviously these three or four children had a Dad, I never imagined meeting the man of my dreams.

Obviously, these dreams were unrealistic, though I held onto some version of them till I landed in a psychiatric crisis and had to be hospitalized. It is once again strange that, even though I met my now husband before being hospitalized, I just thought I’d meet someone “someday” and was busier with thinking up my career than thinking up relationships.

Later on, I adjusted to the idea that I would never be a high school teacher, speech-language pathologist, or anything earning me money. I did enter a relationship and get married. Still, I had and to some degree still have a hard time fitting in that one success into my life story. I love my husband and am hopefully going to live with him this summer. Still, once I landed in a psychiatric crisis, I abandoned all my dreams and replaced them with the idea that I’d be in residential care for the rest of my life.

I seriously need to let go of this idea that, if my dreams of a college degree, a job and a child or four can’t come true, I can’t get any sort of meaningful life. Maybe I can’t have the life I imagined for myself. Maybe I won’t ever live in the United States – because that was another dream of mine. I can however have a life with my husband and our two cats in our nice home in the tiny village here in the Netherlands. I really need to work towards that goal.

The Best Decision of My Life

Today I heard about a type of journal where you get a question for every day of the year and answer it each year for five consecutive years. It unfortunately is a paper journal and there is no eBook version or website for the questions. I however heard that one of the questions the person writing about this found the most inspiring was: “What was the best decision you ever made?” I find this question inspiring too so am going to answer it on my blog.

I’m going to be pretty selfish here. I mean, I should of course say the best decision I ever made was to marry my husband. Maybe I’ll answer that next year, when I’ve lived with him for a while. I hope so. This year, however, I’m going to choose a decision that was hardly a conscious decision. I mean the decision, in 2007, to allow the crisis service psychiatrist to hospitalize me.

I wonder what it says about me that this came to mind first, rather than the decision to marry my husband or to enter in a romantic relationship with him. I’m a bit afraid it means I’m not fully ready to see myself as a wife first and a psych patient only after that. I have to be honest, after all, that when my staff push me regarding going to live with my husband, I still say I have no other options and only then say that I of course want to be with my husband. I for clarity’s sake don’t mean this to say that I don’t want to be with my husband most of the time. Instead, I use these phrases to counter the staff’s assertion that I choose to enter independent living. I never chose independent living, I chose to be with my husband, and part of the reason I’m going to live with my husband in our new house in the tiny village is no other options have come up.

My relationship with my husband obviously means a lot to me, and I don’t think I’d be remotely as happy as I am now without him. But without being hospitalized, I’d be off a lot worse. Never mind the fact that my husband most likely wouldn’t have pursued a relationship with me had I not been hospitalized.

My hospitalization, frankly, allowed me a chance to live. I know, I most likely wouldn’t have died by suicide had I not been hospitalized. Even though back then was the darkest time of my life and I seriously contemplated suicide, I know in hindsight that I didn’t have the means to take my own life. I also would most likely not have died by any other means if I hadn’t been hospitalized. In this sense, was my hospitalization maybe not necessary? I don’t know, but it certainly gave me a chance to live rather than merely survive. This is why consenting to psychiatric hospitalization was the best decision of my life.

Then and Now: A Timeline of My Mental Health

It is often hard to see how far we’ve come on our journeys in life until we look back at where we came from. I am no exception to this. I tend to feel that I’m not improving in my coping with my mental health issues. There’s still this hurricane in my mind, after all. It is also hard because, whenever I seem to improve in my behavior, people’s expectations rise even higher. To shed light on the positive changes I’ve made on my journey through life with mental illness, today I will write a timeline of events related to my mental health.

2007: I was hospitalized on the acute ward on November 3 of this year. I was not allowed to leave the ward without someone accompanying me. For the first few days, I even had to have a nurse accompany me. After those first few days, any adult could accompany me, but they had to sometimes assure the nurses I was safe with them.

2008: I started out the year with a setback: I was given a seclusion plan, which meant I could be secluded if I was a burden to other patients or staff. By early February, however, my privileges were finally extended so that I could go off the ward unaccompanied for fifteen minutes. By early March, my privileges were quite suddenly extended to four hours of unaccompanied time off the ward, which is the maximum you could get at that unit. If you had this privilege, you could ask for extended leave if you had a reason for it. My seclusion plan was also lifted, only to be reintroduced again by June. Fortunately, I never had to actually be secluded, but the nurses frequently used it as a threat. The plan was lifted again in September, but only so that I could be moved to the resocialization unit.

2009: I transferred to the resocialization unit in March of 2009. I did mostly okay until September, when I had a major meltdown which elicited another patient’s aggression. The possibility of moving me to the locked ward for a few hours if I acted out was introduced into my treatment plan.

2010: I was sent to the locked unit for the first time. This did lead the staff to consider medication, and I agreed. I started on a low dose of Abilify, an antipsychotic, in late February. It had to be increased to a moderate dose by the summer and by September, Celexa, an antidepressant, was added. Both helped calm my anxiety and irritability. In November of this year, I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and PTSD.

2011: I was on the waiting list for an autism-specialized group home and went there to stay over for a week-end in October of 2011. Unfortunately, the group home had changed its target population and there was too little support by the time I stayed over there. I didn’t end up going.

2012: I started planning to live with my husband by this time, originally pretty much solely because I didn’t have any suitable alterantive. I don’t mean this to insult my husband, but I didn’t feel I should be burdening him with care duties if at all possible. We moved into our aparetmetn by December. Meanwhile, I was trying to get treatment for my DID/PTSD.

2013: I had an intake interview with a psychiatrist who thought she could treat my DID/PTSD. She ultimately ended up turning me down. It had nothing to do with me, but she was too busy with her physician duties. I moved to my current institution, where i was soon diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I started schema-focused therapy, but this had little effect. My Abilify also got increased some more.

2014: I continued to struggle, but for the most part was quite stable. My Abilify had to be increased one last time in late 2014 (I am now at the highest dose). I did improve in my behavior and got a more cooperative relationship with my staff. I spent a few times in seclusion, but always voluntarily.

2015: I decided I wanted to live with my husband for real this time. We have been making arrangements, though it’s been slow-going. We will be moving to the tiny village sometime in December, so concrete arrangements cannot be made till then. I have been trying to get a med review for a few months now. Though my mind is still very unquiet, particulalry as my discharge out of the institution draws closer, I don’t tend to act out as much as I used to. I was in seclusion for a while last Monday, but before then it’d been over six months.

As I look back, I see that sometimes I take steps back and sometimes I take leaps forward, but in general, I’m moving up. I’ve never had to be moved back to a more restrictive unit, though I’ve sometimes wanted it. My medication did have to be increased a lot, but I don’t see that as entirely negative.

I am linking up with the 1-word blog challenge hosted by Lisa and Janine. The word choices for today are THEN and BREAK.

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.

A Can of Choices?

There is a Dutch TV show where a high school class meets so many years after graduation. At the beginning of the show, a survey is discussed which the former students have been sent in preparation of the show. One of the regularly returning questions is whether life just happens or it’s a can of choices. Most people say it’s a can of choices, and at least cognitively I have to agree.

With the idea that life is a can of choices comes the possibility of looking back at life and wondering “What if”. If life just happens, this is meaningless. I mean, you can wonder what if life hadn’t dealt you the cards it dealt you, but it isn’t like you’d have any influence on it. This is easier sometimes. At least there’s no need for regrets or guilt. You could be angry with God, fate or whatever you believe in, but at least you’d know that you couldn’t have done anything different to make life not as it is now.

Then again, seeing life as a can of choices has the advantage of you being able to do something about your life. In this sense, the “What if”‘s can drive you to make different choices for the future.

I often wallow in wondering what if. What if I’d gone to university straight out of high school instead of to blindness rehab and independence training? What if I had not gone to my university city at all, or had gone into supported housing out of independence training. What if I hadn’t agreed to be hospitalized when I was in a crisis. What if I’d gone to any of the numerous supported housing options that have come up over the years instead of staying in the psychiatric institution. What if I hadn’t moved to my current institution and had stayed in the one in my university city? What if I’d moved into living with my husband when we rented our apartment? What if I’d actually finished the two Open University courses I didn’t complete? What if I hadn’t stopped blogging in 2011?

The thing is, I can look back to the past and regret the choices I’ve made, but at the time, I couldn’t look to the future to see what life would be like in 2014 if I made the choices I did or didn’t make. I can only try to make better choices now. Like, I did start up blogging again last year and continue to try Open University courses. This however will not be a guarantee for a better life. In this sense, life just happens to some extent.

He Is Trustworthy

Yesterday, I talked to Shannon from Chosen Families. Shannon is the mother of a disabled child and her site aims to be a ministry to special needs families. Her most recent post is titled He Is Reliable. In this post, Shannon reflects on John 8:26, which in the Bible version she uses reads in part “he is reliable”. In the NIV, it reads “he is trustworthy”, which speaks to me in a similar way.

He is trustworthy. Why do I struggle with this idea? Shannon names just a few circumstances which special needs families can be faced with, and I have faced many of them myself. Yet He is trustworthy. I have a hard time trusting God, because, after all, why did He put me through what I’ve been throguh if He is trustworthy?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

This. I searched for “trust” on Bible Gateway and this was the first suggested result. “Lean not on your own understanding.” This. Why would I be able to judge God’s reliability if I do not understand His ways? Skeptics could say that God exists to serve man, but according to the Bible, this isn’t so. Would He, therefore, serve me by putting me through what I’ve been through? Maybe, indirectly, but maybe not. Maybe my experiences serve some entirely different purpose, which I may not be able t understand.

It is tempting to think that as humans, we can control our own life experiences. If we do good, Karma or some Christian variation of it will give us happiness. This isn’t so. Of course, we have free will too and therefore have some level of control over our lives, but ultimately, part of what we will endure is in God’s hands. “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” He is trustworthy, after all.

The Twisted Twenties

Second Blooming

When the topic for this week’s spin cycle was announced, I was immediately interested. The topic is “aging”. Ginny Marie over at Lemon Drop Pie came up with the topic when she learned about the average age mothers gave birth to their first child. It is 29 here in the Netherlands, so Ginny Marie and her co-host Gretchen were significantly older than that. As I’ve written before, I’d always thought I’d have my first child at 27. This obviously didn’t come true. Now rest assured, I’m not going to write about childlessness again, if for no other reason, then only because my family is going to think I’m pregnant.

Instead, I want to write about the looming idea of aging when you’re relatively young. I’m going to be 28 next month. However, I feel much older at times.

I’ve always had this feeling. When I was nine, I worried about needing to leave the parental house when I’d turn eighteen. This feeling of doom continued to haunt me until I was in my early twenties. In 2008, it was at its worst. I was convinced that I wouldn’t make it to the end of the year. I had my reasons for this, but most were completely outrageous and irrational.

Being in your twenties is interesting. It may be that most people in the online world are in their twenties, as I see no communities specifically for those my age. I’m too old for the teen communities or even the college communities, but I am still so significantly under 30 that I can’t get myself into communities catering even loosely to the over-30.

I remember when I was around fourteen reading an artilce in a youth magazine about college students and their identity crises: they’re too old to be protected by their parents, but too young for buying a house, marriage or children. I am older than all young adults quoted in the article that I remember, but I still feel this way at times, even though I got married at the rather young age of 25.

Now that I’m approaching age 30 (or at least, am close to my late twenties), I can feel the ticking of time again. I don’t have the feeling that I’ll die young anymore, but I do realize that it’s about time I get a life. And there, sadness sets in, as I may never have the life I planned for myself when I was young.