Tag Archives: Relationships

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.

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.

Success

One of last year’s NaBlPoMo prompts for January challenges us to write about a time we were particularly successful at achieving your goals. Since I always made long lists of new yer’s and birthday goals each year, far too long to keep up with, I never succeeded at keeping my resolutions. That doesn’t mean I’ve never been successful. Today, I’m sharing some ways in which I’ve been successful in life.

1. Education. It may’ve been over ten years ago, but I am still proud of the fact that I earned a hig level high school diploma from a mainstream school. I am prouder now that I know most people don’t attach expectations of my current functioning to it. I mean, when I had just fallen apart in 2007, at every phone call to my family, if I wasn’t moaning about my crisis state, or even if I was, I’d be asked when I was going to find myself a job. Now that it’s pretty much known that I won’t find myself a job anytime soon, or most likely anytime, I can celebrate my successful education as the achievement it was. It shows that, deep down, I have some perseverance. Sometimes I credit my parents for this, but it was I who wrote in my journal, a month into high school, that I hated it but regardless I wanted to complete this level of education.

2. Blogging. I still have a blog post in the works about why blindness sucks sometimes, and one of the reasons is I can’t seem to compete on equal footing with sighted people in the visually-driven world of social media. The thing is, I am still a pretty successful blogger, because I’ve been able to keep up a blog for nearly 2 1/2 years now (and four years with my old one). I also get a fair bit of interaction from my blog. Most of all, I do what I love and I love what I do with regards to blogging. I don’t get more joy (or traffic) from posts that have pictures in them than from those that don’t. I think, in a sense, of course I am not a great blogger in the bigger scheme of things, but I’m much more successful now than I was with my old blog.

3. Relationships. I often credit my husband for our successful marriage, but of course, it comes from both direcitons. I can say that one of only a few borderline personality disorder traits I don’t have is disloyalty in relationships. It feels a bit narcissistic to chalk this up as a success, because ideally no-one is unfaithful. I could go on to chalk up the whole fact of my marriage as a success, but that sounds even worse. Then again, this whole post could be seen as a bit self-centered. Let me just say my husband is hugely successful at keeping me as his wife, too. Oh crap, that sounds horrible.

4. Little things in life. I remember once getting an assignment for reading comprehension in like fourth grade about a kid who was in regular education and his brother, a special ed kid with intellectual disabilities. It was said that this brother was successful if he tore a piece of paper. This is of course ahuge stereotype of people with intellectual disabilities, but I mean it to illustrate that success can be found in little things. Like my blogging success, my success in many other areas is relative. I can make coffee with some help. I can put my dry laundry into the closet. I can clean my desk if reminded of it. These could be seen as just as useless to a non-disabled person as tearing a piece of paper. So what?

In this category also fall the daily successes that people without disabilities should also be celebrating. For example, I spent fifteen minutes on the elliptical today and have been exercising four out of six days this year so far. Celebrating this daily success can help us stay focused on the positive and reach our long-term goals. What have you been successful at today?

Practising Self-Love

Today, I have been reading up on self-love, in a continued effort to learn about self-improvement and therby improve myself. Self-love still sounds a bit weird to me. It sounds arrogant, bordering on narcissistic even. There is this concept of radical self-love. It says goodbye to “I am okay, you are okay”, because we are all more than just “okay”. We are great! However, though the aim is radical self-love, this self-love also extends into high esteem for others.

How do you practise self-love? There are many ways. Some people see it as spoiling themselves, but it is much more. We don’t just spoil the other people we love either, after all. We also take good care of them and we tell them we love them. In addition, we encourage them to go out of their comfort zone. We should do the same to ourselves. I am the most important person in my life. You are the most important person in your life. Treat yourself like you are.

The first step towards self-love is realizing that you are the most important person in your life. Practise positive self-talk everyday. You could do this by:


  1. Starting the day with an affirmation. You can choose standard affirmations, but it also helps to say something that makes you happy about yourself specifically, such as a positive thing about the previous day or the day to come.

  2. Challenging your inner critic. Don’t believe everything your mind tells you. You cannot always control your every thought, but practise thinking positive thoughts about yourself and challenging negative ones.

  3. Stopping to compare yourself to others. You are unique, so there is no-one who will be exactly like you. Therefore, there is no need to compare yourself to others, who might be better at some things than you are. Only compare yourself to yourself.

  4. Celebrating your wins, no matter how big or small. Be proud of what you have achieved. Reward yourself in a caring way if it helps.

  5. Forgiving yourself for mishaps in your life. We cannot always be cheery, positive people. Beating yourself up over a negative attitude, however, makes that attitude worse.

Another step is self-care. Self-care means giving your body the nutriiton, exercise, rest and comfort it needs. For exaple, eat healthfully, sleep well, avoid cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, and exercise regularly. You need to take extra care of your body when physically ill.

Mental self-care involves taking good care of your mind. For example, practise mindfulness, meditation or relaxation techniques everyday. I do yoga a lot to take good care of both my body and my mind. You can also take good care of yur mind by challenging yourself cognitively and emotionally. Cognitive challenges include brain gym, but also lifelong learning. For example, take up a distance learning course in a subject that interests you or go on a site like Busuu to learn a new language. You can emotionally challenge yourself by challenging negative self-talk and by going out of your comfort zone with your goals and aspirations. Emotional self-care also involves following your passion.

Self-love is also reflected in the relationships you have with others. Eliminate toxic relationships and surround yourself with people who appreciate and care about you. In turn, you will need to practise being appreciative of and caring towards othes. For example, express gratitude when someone is kind to you. Treating others with love and respect will make you feel better, too.

Everyday Gyaan

Memorable Date

My husband was my first partner. I never dated before meeting him. Our first date, of course, was the most memorable, though not for the reason you might think.

We met on September 19, 2007 at 3:00 PM at the bus stop near the dentistry department of my city’s university hospital. This was the only bus stop near the university that the bus that drove by my neighborhood did stop at. Since my now husband had decided to meet at the univeristy, this was the easiest.

I arrived at 2:55. He was already there. We walked to the coffee bar in one of the universisty buildings. I ordered a coffee and he ordered tea. As we walked outside, I tripped over a step and spilled my coffee. I panicked and almost went into meltdown.

After I drank the remaining coffee, we sat on a nearby bench. We talked music. If you know me, you know that I have zero knowledge of and hardly any interest in music. I mumbled that I liked world music. My now husband had no clue what it was. When, much later, I played him a CD with Latino music I liked, he joked that if he’d known that this was world music, he might never have asked me on a second date.

He obviously did ask me on that second date. Later, he told me that he’d felt uncomfortable about our first date, but had envisioned us meeting many more times if he asked me on a second date. He was totally right. Here we are 7 1/2 years later, married for 3 1/2 years. We got married on September 19, 2011 at 3:00 PM, so exactly four years after we first met.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Valentine’s Day

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I didn’t get to write as I spent the afternoon and evening at my husband’s and the night rediscovering IRC chats. I didn’t know they are still active, or at least some of them, and I certainly didn’t know how to access them. Last time I tried, some years ago, I got some malware on my computer. Now I just went with a web client.

I honestly hadn’t expected my husband to come pick me up at all, since I thought he’d go visit a friend. I knew it was Valentine’s, but I didn’t think that was a big deal. But when I called on Friday because i’d badly screwed up my computer, he said he’d come and fix it.

We don’t really have Valentine’s Day traditions, or not that I know. I know in 2008, when my now husband had already told me he was in love but I hadn’t answered him yet, he sent me a card. It was really not a card, but a piece of paper brailled with some kind of sharp object in place of a slate and stylus. I couldn’t read it, but kept it on my nightstand for a few months at least anyway. Not really because I intended to, but it just happened.

Ironically, on the same day, I wrote this really embarrassing (for my husband, and probably it should be for me too) post on my old blog about my ideas about having a relationship. I’m not going to link to it, but it laid the foundation for the decisions we made early in our relationship, and possibly without that post, I wouldn’t have had the courage to enter a relationship. I just can’t express myself that well in direct contact, as the fact that I waited over a month to answer his E-mail about the post illustrates.

Each year for Valentine’s, I resolve to give my husband some special treat. Each year, I forget or get overwhelmed in the process. I remember probably in 2009 looking for somethign special and finding pepper-spiced dark chocolate online, but somehow not being able to order it. My husband on the other hand has given me chocolate probably actually every single Valentine’s. This year, they were chocolate flowers. Yummy! Maybe my husband being the romantic kind and me thanking him (on my blog!) has to be the tradition.

This year, in addition to my husband picking me up and giving me chocolate, we went to Domino’s to take out pizza. I didn’t even remember I’d told him I wanted to get pizza there someday, as we used to do sometimes when he still lived in the college dorm. It’d been on my mind recently too. I got one of my favorite pizzas, but no, not pepperoni this time.

One thing I hope won’t be a Valentine’s tradition is my husband having to fix my comptuer. He did, for which I’m hugely grateful. I just don’t want to make a tradition out of burdening him with my computer ignorance. Then again, I guess he’d be happy if I made a Valentine’s tradition out of it, if I just left it at that.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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Friendship and Borderline Personality Disorder

The second question in the “31 days of BPD” challenge asks why your last friendship ended. Now I don’t have any friends (unless you count my husband) and haven’t had any in a long time.

Friendships for me were usually short-lived. I had one friend in elementary school who stayed friends with me for the three years that I attended that school, but we didn’t have much contact after I left the school. I’d call her a few times, but she’d never call me and I eventually gave up.

With my seventh grade school for the blind friend, the same happened. We were good friends for the entirety of the year I spent in that school. I’d say we were best friends, but in all honesty she was my only real frined even though I got along quite well with my other classmates and some older girls too. Anyway, after I left the school to be mainstreamed, I spoke to her a few times on the phone, but I’d always ask her to call me and she never would.

I think I must’ve burdneed her with my problems, being bullied and isolated in mainstream school, but I don’t remember. This was in any case what caused my few mainstream school friendships to end. Right when a girl started hanging out with me, I’d open up and tell her my problems. While that wasn’t the actual reason my friendship with four girls in seventh grade mainstream education ended, it probably did contribute.

This was the only friendship that truly was broken. I reemember it was at the beginning of eighth grade. We’d had to do a graded music performance, which I apparently screwed up. I don’t remember how, but somehow I screwed it up, giving the other girls a bare pass. They ignored me for a week, one girl in particular but she was supported by her three friends. Then, when I apologized for whatever I did wrong, they said they forgave me but never quite grew the friendship back.

This all happened when I was a teen, and I’m not sure it’s truly BPD that caused me to be overly open. It could have been my autistic social cluelessness combined with the fact that, well, everyone needs someone to support them and I didn’t have any adults who did. However, rapidly growing attached to people is a common BPD trait. I am not really sure I have this trait, as it’s not really that I overestimate how close I am to people.

With my now husband, I saw him as an acquaintance when he was visiting me on the psych unit on a weekly basis. I didn’t grow a true attachment to him till we started dating. However, I did open up to him too soon, sharing my suicidal ideation at his first visit to the hospital.

This could be related to BPD in a way, in that I particularly open up a lot when I experience strong emotions. Another thing, however, is that I open up more to people I barely know than to those who should be close to me, like my family. I don’t have a clue whether this is a BPD or an autism thing or not.

Linking up with Saturday Sharefest at the Recovery Bloggers Network. The Recovery Bloggers Network is a new project, where I and another blogger hope to connect bloggers who write about mental health, addiction, recovery, or healing from trauma or abuse.

Moving On: Moving in With My Husband, Maybe

As regular readers will know, I reside in a psychiatric institution and have since 2007. Originally, the psychiatrist who admitted me did foresee that it would not just be crisis intervention – getting me to sleep better and pop out of my suicidal thoughts. In addition, we’d need to find a suited supported housing placement to move me to from the psychiatric hospital, because I’d ended up in a crisis from having to live on my own. It just didn’t happen. No suitable supported housing place could be found and, more than seven years on, I’m still residing on a psychiatric unit.

When my now husband became my boyfriend and then my husband, several times the thought of us living together crossed our minds. He usually was the one asking me whether I’d consider living with him. I had my reservations, because I didn’t know I’d be able to cope when he’d be at college or later at work. Also, I didn’t want him to take on a carer role, as we’re supposed to be husband and wife not carer and patient.

I still believe my husband isn’t my carer, but he keeps telling me that even though he does more for me practically than I do for him, what I give him in love amounts to the same. Since I moved to the small town institution in 2013 and my husband had moved to the next town in late 2012, we’ve been closer together than ever before.

There have been a few reasons why I started considering moving in with my husband again late last year. First is my difficult relationship with the nursing staff at my current unit, so that I ended up calling my husband when in a crisis situation rather than enlisting the staff’s help anyway. The staff have on at least one occasion refused to come out to help me when I had run off the ward in a crisis state, and my husband had to come to collect me and get me back to the ward. Of course, this isn’t his job, but when the staff don’t do theirs, someone’s got to do it.

Secondly, it’s become increasingly hard for me to function in a group setting with increasingly little staff support and more severely ill fellow patients. I do know I cause trouble to the other patients too, so this is in no way meant to insult them. I just didn’t choose to live with them, and I do choose my husband to be my husband and hopefully can choose to live with him. Of course, after all, amidst all the practicalities, I love my husband and would very much like to be with him most of the time.

So I called my social worker in December to schedule an appointment to discuss the possibilities of me getting home support while living with my husband. The laws changed significantly at the start of this year, so I had some worries. The appointment was yesterday.

First, one of the main things that absolutely need to be in place for me to live with my husband is an out-of-hours support service that I can call when in an emergency when my husband is at work. They will need to be able to send a support worker to my home should I need in-home support. The area supported housing organization for the mentally ill provides these services, but probably not in my husband’s town. My social worker will look into this.

Additional needs are some day activities for me and possibly a bit of scheduled home support for establishing a daily structure. Thankfully, we won’t need housekeeping, as most local governments have cut out funding for that unless you’re extremely poor.

I told my husband about the social worker’s answers to my questions, which weren’t particularly concrete yet as she’s got to ask the government about what they’ll fund and search around for a suitable support agency. My husband was totally cool, as he said he’s willing to relocate should the right services not be available in his current town. He doesn’t particularly like his town anyway, but I suggested moving to this area because of what I thought were good services. Maybe I was wrong on that.

I am trying to be optimistic that I will be able to live with my husband sometime in the not too distant future. I’ll keep hoping for a positive outcome!

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Secrets

This week, the spin cycle prompt is about secrets. I was one to easily spill secrets as a child. My sister always knew what she’d get for her birthday at least a week in advance, and this was not just due to the fact that there were noticeable patterns in my gift-giving – from a few years where I’d give her pavement chalk to a few years of colored markers to at last the inevitable cheap tween fiction when she was about ten to twelve. I think I didn’t quite understand the concept of secret-keeping if someone was going to find out about the “secret” soon enough anyway.

I also didn’t keep my own secrets. As a teen, I kept a journal faithfully and hoped my parents wouldn’t read it, but I spilled bits of it to anyone who remotely resembled my concept of a friend. I know that deep down, I wanted people to know the darkness of my experiences. I was extremely naive, yet also mistrusting of people like my own parents.

This discrepancy grew when the Internet came into my life when I was sixteen. I spilled my deepest secrets to my online diary, but when my parents asked me how I was, I responded with the usual “fine” or a grunt. My parents had a proxy server through which we accessed the Internet, and I now know they at least had the opportunity to log my Internet activity. I think they actually may’ve done so, as one day when I’d had an Internet connection for about six months, my father offhandly remarked that all I looked at were disability sites or storytelling sites (the story site being about disability, too, but he couldn’t tell that by its name).

With regard to other people’s secrets, I don’t “just know” when I shouldn’t say something. This has led to a number of awkward situations, from my spilling personal details about my relationship (and hence, my husban’ds life) to the Internet, to my telling my parents my husband’s jokes that mock my parents’ political persuasion. I truly have to be explicitly told that something is private or that I need to keep it to myself.

There are several factors that contribute to my inability to keep secrets. First, there is the idea, which I’ve read is common in autistics, that other people know anyway. I don’t literally think that, as Stephen M. Edelson pointed it, other people can read my thoughts, but the idea is at the back of my mind nonetheless. Related to this idea is the inability to see that, what I know, not everyone else should necessarily know too. Lastly, there is a reason why I particularly spill secrets to the Internet. I think I may not fully realize that those on the other end of the Interwebs, are actually real people. That doesn’t mean I don’t develop online relationships or that I’m not affected by what other people put online. However, it is still hard for me to grasp that screen names (or even real names on Facebook) correspond to actual, real people, even those I may encounter in real life.

Deriving Quality of Life from Success

Everyone defines success differently, as a post on Single Mother Ahoy! illustrates. The author starts out by measuring her success through her child’s achievements. As a childless woman, I will not measure my success by parenthood – even though I do esteem successful mothers higher than myself. That may be because they dominate the blogosphere, and my blog is one of a few things I use to measure my success by.

Success is not necessarily the same as quality of life, though it is related. For non-disabled people, it often is the same. At least, all the research I read defining quality of life for disabled people – and I assume the research is written from a non-disabled perspective -, determines quality of life through success. More so, it defines quality of life by success in areas important to non-disabled people. Common examples of measures of quality of life are employment, independent living and a long-term relationship. By these standards, my quality of life is fair, having achieved one of these three.

I understand people derive their quality of life from societal success. After all, we compare ourselves to others, and others are mostly non-disabled, middle- to upper-class people.

Then again, quality of life does not need to be derived from success in the workforce or on the relationship market. That doesn’t mean that quality of life and success are not related, as I said. I derive quality of life from writing for my blog, and I’m pretty sure I’d feel a lot worse about myself if I got no views or comments and a lot better if I got more than I get now. I actually believe that even the most severely disabled people derive quality of life from success. Only they and I measure success differently than non-disabled people do.

That being said, even non-disabled people probably derive part of their quality of life from relatively small successes. I refuse to believe I’m the only blogger who feels their writing contributes to their quality of life even though they don’t earn anything through it and even though they’re not receiving tons of views. I refuse to believe I’m the only crafter who crafts only for the joy of it and the community that interacting with fellow crafters brings. Honestly, these small joys are much more important to me than my high-level high school diploma ever was or a job ever will be.