Tag Archives: Self-Care

New Year, New Word for 2016

Last year, my word for the year was “nurture”. Because it means so many things, I can say that I more or less followed this theme. For example, I bought some new beauty products that I’ve been eagerly using. I also started up yoga, although I haven’t been practising much lately.

In other ways, however, I didn’t really nurture myself. I kept on overeating, maybe even worse than in 2014. The beginning of 2016 isn’t good in this department either.

When it comes to my word for this year, unlike last year, one hasn’t been on my mind for a long time. In fact, I am still not sure that this word is the one I should choose. It sounds a bit vague. The word is “progress”. Related words, like “move” and “forward”, have been going through my mind too, but “progress” seems better.

In some ways, we always make progress. We progress through life, whether we move forward or not. We get older, after all. Progress doesn’t necessarily mean positive change. A progressive disease gets worse, after all.

So am I setting myself up for failure, or for guaranteed success, by being as vague as I am with this choice of words? Possibly. ONly time will tell.

I will, however, share what I think progress means when applied to what’s going to happen in 2016. Firstly, it means moving forward on the road I’ve embarked on. In some respects, I should not wish to do this. LIke, I gained weight in 2015 and should definitely not follow along on this route.

I mostly mean progress in terms of my move out of the psychiatric institution. I need to keep progressing on this route towards independence. Way too often, I'm tempted to just give up and go back into my comfort zone. I need to remind myself that this is the year to take leaps forward, to grow, to progress. They don't need to be huge leaps. Sometimes, they can be tiny steps. But the road has been paved and I'll follow it.

I just realized too that “progress” can mean continuing to follow the path I’ve embarked on in 2015. Like I said, I didn’t nurture myself in every respect, but I did in some. For 2016, I need to continue pursuing self-care, which was my word for 2014. I need to continue nurturing myself, which was my word for 2015. I ned to progress along the road I’ve paved for myself.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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A Letter to My Body

Dear body,

I am sorry. I have not been taking good care of you lately. I have not been exercising regularly, have been binge eating a lot and have slept at all the wrong moments and been awake at night.

Of course, I could blame my eating disorder and see it as something entirely separate from myself. I could blame the holiday season. I could blame the winter blues (or general blues, since I’m not sure if it’s seasonal at all) for my laziness regarding exercise, my increase in binge eating and my poor sleeping habits. Then again, that’d be avoiding my responsibility.

Sometimes, I feel as though you don’t deserve to be taken care of. I feel you’re ugly, fat and unheathy anyway. You’re fat, but at least my husband doesn’t consider you ugly and you could be a lot less healthy than you are.

Besides, right now I don’t have as poor an image of you as I had before. I like my skin feeling softer when I apply shower cream, then scrub it, then apply body butter. I particularly even like my belly, which is the part you seem to be storing most of your fat.

I want you to know there’s nothing you did to deserve me stuffing you with binge food and depriving you of the exercise and sleep you need. I’m stressed, but you didn’t cause me to be stressed. I’m slightly depressed, but you didn’t cause me to be depressed.

So I want to thank you for being relatively healthy while I don’t take as good care of you as I should. All your major functions (except for vision of course) are intact. You keep your vitamin and mineral levels okay. You haven’t developed diseases like diabetes or heart disease in spite of your obesity, caused by my lack of proper care. You are okay.

As I said, I could look at your negative attributes: your not being as fit as I’d like you to be, your causing me acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome and random pains and aches. Then again, whether it’s you causing me these problems or me causing you these problems, could be debated. The thing is, I can’t change your functions without taking better care of you first.

As dialectical behavior therapy also teaches, I can’t change you witout accepting you as you are first. You are okay as you are. Now I can work on improving you.

Yours,
Astrid

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Mom's Small Victories

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

Word for the Year: Nurture

My word for 2014 was “self-care”. Didn’t do too well on that one. I meant to be saying goodbye to my self-destructive tendencies, including eating disorder issues. Didn’t work out. In fact, my binge eating spiraled even more out of control than it already was and I had some bad self-harming episodes. On the up side, however, I did start art therapy, which has been a good experience. Let’s hope for an even better one this year.

This year, I’m choosing a similar but broader theme for the year, which is “nurture”. It refers to both better self-care and nurturing my creativity. I do hope art therapy proves to be a good medium for this. My first art therapy session this year, yesterday, wasn’t too great, but my creative endeavors in recreational therapy have been fruitful. I plan on carrying one of the media I use there, polymer clay, over to art therapy next week. Below I finally show you the polymer clay frog I made a few weeks ago. I’ve made many more things out of polymer clay and hope to keep up the work.

Polymer Clay Frog

In addition, I hope the year will be one where I can nurture my relaltionship with God. I hope my faith will both be strengthened and strengthen me this year. I have made a good start by joining a Bible journaling community on Facebook, and plan on writing more faith-based posts here on the blog. Of course, I know some of my relatives and readers hold different beliefs to mine, and that’s okay.

Besides “nurture”, I have several other words spinning through my head that might be additional themes for the year. “Perspective” comes to mind, as I do hope to finally gain some perspective on where and how I’m going to live after leaving the psychiatric institution. It is, however, also important to keep having a perspective when nurturing myself. I didn’t have one back last year. Now, at least in the eating department, I have the goal of losing weight, and I have a target weight in mind. I am not too good with setting such targets in the creatvity department, but this goal is hope-motivated too.

“Hope” iis another possible theme. Most of my goals for this year are worded in a way to formulate what I want to reach, not what I want to avoid. This is much more positive than last year’s acrostic, which started out by naming all the negatives in which I wasn’t caring for myself. I truly hope to make this year a year with a positive outlook.

Mama’s Losin’ It

The Year in a Word

A prompt I came across asked us to sum up our year in a phrase, but I’m choosing a word. Creative. When choosing a word for 2014, I chose “self-care”. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to follow along with this theme much this year. I gained more weight (I’m obese), had a really hard time sticking to my exercise routine (or non-routine), and any attempts to start adoptig a healthier lifestyle ended in a few days. I also haven’t made much progress in therapy. Having been diagnosed with BPD in 2013, I had hoped 2014 could be the year of finally finding appropriate treatment. It wasn’t. My antipsychotic medicaiton was upped in late 2013, but unfortunately it had to be upped last week again.

But the year was positive in some other ways, and those things are what causes me to choose “creative” as my word for the year. Early in the year, I chose not to invest much in my old hobby of cardmaking anymore. I am still part of a few cardmaking groups, but had to let go of my commitments on all group sometime this year.

However, I did pick up several new hobbies, including jewlry-making and polymer clay. I did recently start up cardmaking again.

Creative day activities also started to take a place in my week this year. I stopped going to one of the crafty day activity places in late 2013 because the stress of having to wait for the car to pick me up and drive me there and the shortage of staffing made it too hard for me. Fortunately, the day activity room attached to the long-term adult units in my institution (on which I reside) opened its doors in late 2013 too and activities took full effect early this year. I have sometimes had a hard time going there, but I have persevered. As a result, I’ve been able to create quite a few nice things. Below is a picture of a necklace I recently made.

Necklace

I’m still thinking, but I might just choose “creative” as my intended theme for 2015 too.

Birthday

My birthday is over. Now I’m 28 and it’s back to normal life I guess. The entire week was really largely about my birthday and the memories it triggers for me. That’s why I’m linking up with Word of the Week with my word for this week being “birthday”.

I wrote already earlier this week that it’s 28 years since I entered the world and the neonatal intensive care unit. When they came to visit today, my parents gave me a CD by Jan Henk de Groot with music on it about the singer’s son, who spent a large part of his first year in hospital because of a birth defect. My mother said it’s appropriate, and I agree. Incidentally, a few days ago I saw there’s a group for PTSD related to NICU experience on Facebook. It’s for parents, of course, and, while I applied, I may’ve been denied.

My sister already visited last week and brought some nice presents: a T-shirt, storage bins and bottles. The bins were intended for herbal tea, but I stored cereal in one of them, then the bin fell from a shelf and my entire floor was covered in cereal. The bottles are for blending massage oils or lotions in. I have a collection of essential oils already and got sweet almond oil, which is a carrier oil, from my sister, too. In addition to the CD, my parents gave me a nice collection of glass beads for my jewelry-making.

My birthday itself was largely a day like any other. At the acitivity room, I made a collage with butterflies, hearts and flowers, which are both things that make me happy and symbolize things I wish for myself for the coming year: love, transformation and bloom. My husband came at 3:30 PM to pick me up and drive us to the city, where we went shoppping for a skirt for me and went to eat out. I can judge from the skirt size that I’ve gained a lot of weight lately. Not good. I really need to look back at my theme for this year, which was self-care, and make sure I start eating more healthfully. Tomorrow.

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The Reading Residence

“You’re an Adult.”

Last Tuesday, I went to the dentist. I have trouble taking care of myself, including brushing my teeth. I can’t remember to do it regularly, and when I do remember, I find it hard to motivate myself because I’m sensitive to the feel of the toothbrush and the taste of the toothpaste. The dentist gave me a mouthwash with a relatively neutral taste and told me to rinse with that after toothbrushing. I am allowed to brush my teeth without toothpaste for now to get used to the feel of the brush and into the habit of brushing first. The dentist instructed the nurse who was with me, a nurse from another ward, to tell the staff they needed to actively remind me to brush my teeth. The nurses on my ward, however, didn’t feel like this, saying I’m an adult so should take responsibility for my own self-care.

The phrase “you’re an adult” is uttered time and time again when I (or other patients, but I’m speaking for myself now) require help or display a problem that is not normal for a healthy adult. Saying we’re not healthy is not an excuse, because what are we in treatmetn for then? A nurse told me yesterday that if I had a low IQ or had been floridly psychotic, this would’ve been an excuse not to be able to remember my self-care. As if people with an intellectual disability or psychotic disorder are not adults.

The thing is, whether you’re physically or mentally capable of taking care of yourself, does not determine whether you’re an adult, and whether you’re an adult, does not determine your respectability. The idea that an adult should be capable of caring for themself, is ableist. The idea that an adult (at least, one who displays adult abilities) is more respectable than a child, is not just ableist but ageist too.

Honestly, I don’t care whether I’m an adult. I don’t care whether my abilities reflect my age. I care that I’m an individual and have individual needs. In some areas, I’m self-reliant. In other areas, I require practical care. In others, I require guidance. None of this makes me deserve less human dignity. Similarly, children and persons of any age with intellectual disabilities deserve as much human dignity and respect as a healthy adult does. We treat them differently, of course, but that is because they have different abilities, difficulties and needs. A child is different from an adult, and an adult with a disability is different from a non-disabled adult, but that doesn’t make them a child. Everyone is an individual who deserves to be treated like an individual with dignity and human rights.

I Am Astrid’s Functioning Label

Back in 2008, Bev over at Square 8 wrote a post entitled I Am Joe’s Functioning Label. The post struck a chord with me right the first time I read it, and, over the years, it has become more relevant. For those who don’t want to hop over to read the post, it’s about what the label “high-functioning” is perceived to say about an autistic person, and how this impacts the way autistics are treated.

For clartiy’s sake: I am not saying that people with an intellectual disability have it easy. The cuts to care and the accompanying independence doctrine affect them too. What I do mean is that it is often easier to understand why a person with an intellectual disability needs care than if you have a high IQ.

It is often presumed that a person who can do a cognitively challenging task like operate a computer, can also do more basic tasks like brush their teeth. In reality, these skills have nothing to do with each other. Another assumption is that people who know how to perform a task and/or why it’s necessary, can also perform that task. I remember even years before Bev’s post reading on Autistics.org about a woman who was getting ulcers beecause social services presumed that if she knew about hygiene, she must be albe to wash herself.

There are many more assumptions about people labeled high-functioning. Here are a few that are affecting my life.


  1. Because of my functioning label, I am presumed to be safe in traffic. Since starting to learn a tiny route around the building, I am not only allowed to leave the ward alone without any purpose, but am expected to leave the ward if I’m angry.

  2. Because of my functioning label, I am presumed to be able to take care of my personal hygiene without reminders or help. This is in a way somehting I don’t want to change, because the reason I’m not able to perform some skills of personal care is because of sensory issues.

  3. Because of my functioning label, I am presumed to know how to solve problems myself even when anxious or overloaded (my fuctioning label dictates that overload is just an excuse to avoid demands). I am presumed to be able to make my needs known in very specific terms.

  4. Because of my functioning label, I am thought to be able to perform practical skills like making a bed or pouring coffee myself. Ironically, the motor deficits which cause me to be unable to perform these tass, were originally thought to be especially common in Asperger’s Syndrome.

  5. Because of my functioning label, I apparently don’t need a lot of structure. This means I am presumed to be able ot schedule activities without help.

  6. If I get overloaded, my functioning label dictates that it was my own choice and I’m depriving other people of the right to make noise.

  7. If I have a meltdown because my routine is interrupted, again, my functioning label dictates that I’m just spoiled and trying to always get my way.

  8. Because of my functioning label, I am presumed not to engage in aggressive or self-injurious behavior. If I do, it’s obviously because of BPD-related attention-seeking.


Yes, I see that a lot of these assumptions are not just based on my functioning label, but also on my co-occurring diagnosis of BPD. Before I had this diagnosis, not only was I not presumed to be unwilling to act normally, but my autism was presumed not to be as mild as it is now. Hence, an additional diagnosis makes it seem as though I’m less severely affected. Isn’t that ironic? By the way, if instead of Asperger’s and BPD, my diagnosis had been multiple complex developmental disorder (McDD), which is characterized by practically the same symptoms, I would likely have been seen as quite severely autistic.

Teaching Your Autistic Teen About Hygiene

Many autistic people have trouble with self-help skills, like clothing and personal hygiene. I hear on many autism parent blogs that their child cannot bruth their teeth independnently, is incontinent at an age where accidents are no longer normal, etc. These are obvious self-help difficulties, but there are many more subtle problems with hygiene that even many more capable adult swith autism deal with.

First, many autistics are unaware of the social rules of hygiene. I remember my sister gave me deodorant for my fourteenth birthday and I still didn’t get the hint. I didn’t have an aversion to grooming as much as I was unaware of the changing rules that came with puberty. Similarly, I remember going to the school doctor at age fifteen and, when being asked to undress, realizing I’d forgotten to put on a bra. It is important, when teaching autistic children and teens about hygiene, to explicitly talk them through the changing norms that come as your child ages. Just because your teen boy knows how to work a shaving tool, doesn’t mean he knows or remembers when to use it.

Another problem in self-care may be an autistic person’s sensory aversion to certain tastes or textures, such as that of certain clothing, shampoo or toothpaste. With regard to clothing, comfort goes before style. It’s okay to tell your child that children aged twelve don’t usually wear sweat pants, but don’t ridicule them or try to force them to wear jeans if they’re uncofmortable. If your child is bullied, that’s not their fault even if you as the parent too see them as an easy target. Don’t make it worse by blaming yoru child.

Whn it comes to hygiene, sometimes comfort has to go. I for one refused to use toothpaste until I was eighteen, because even the kids’ toothpaste had too sharp a taste for me to cope with. I started usign toothpaste only because having the dentist need to fill seven cavities was worse. A few years ago, I again developed a problem with toothbrushing that I still haven’t gotten over.

Lastly, this may seem a bit TMI, but please do teach your autistic preteen girl about menstruation. It can be a very scary experience having your body change in general, and menstruation is overwhelmign to many NT women. Therefore, it’s logical that it causes great distress to many autistic teens. Preparing your teen for what will come can be done using simulation, such as with red wine on a pad. That’s what some kids in my sister’s class did when doing a presentation on puberty. Again, remind your daughter to take pads with her at all times. If menstruation is too overwhelming, your teen girl may consider birth control. Most birth control pills cause lighter, shorter, more regular and less painful periods, while some birth control methods eliminate periods completely.

Acrostic: Self-Care

I usually check out the blogs of people who comment on mine, so today when This Busy Life commented, I went to hop over and read this post. It was written based on a writing prompt from Lemon Drop Pie, anoher blogger I had discovered earlier this week. The theme for this week’s spin cycle (which seems to be a sort of link party) is your word for 2014, and today’s prompt had bloggers write an acrostic poem on it. I had to read both This Busy Life’s acrostic and the example in the prompt to decipher what an acrostic poem is. For those who don’t know and want a straight-out explanation: an acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message (Wikipedia).

I am not sure whether I can add my post to the spin cycle (the Linky tool is inaccessible), but I’m going to try to writ ean acrostic on my word for the year, which as I’ve said previoously is self-care. I’ve not written poetry in years, but we’ll see what comes out of my fingers.

Self-desturction may be an issue
Eating disorders, self-harm
Letting yourself suffer in silennce
Feeling not the least bit of calm

Care for yourself this year though
Allow yourself to let go of the past
Reclaiming your life through self-care
Empowers you to feel free at last