Tag Archives: Writing

Ways to Cope with Anxiety

A fellow patient was screaming a lot today. It made me feel anxious, yet I was too sleepy to get out of bed until it really got on my nerves. Situations like these are hard to cope with, since the fear is not just “in my head”. Yet I get anxiety that is actually “in my head” a lot too. Some of it takes the form of worry, while other times, the anxiety takes the form of panic.

i was inspired today to write about things that help me cope with anxiety. Of course, different forms of anxiety require different coping strategies. For example, my PRN medication doesn’t help with worry, but it does help some with panic. Meds aside though, here are the activities I can think of now to cope with anxiety.

1. Breathing techniques. I learned some in movement therapy a few years ago, but they usually made me dissociate. Now that I’m generally more grounded, in that I don’t dissociate as often anymore, I’ve found breathing techniques can help me calm my mind. I need to make sure I actually concentrate on my breathing or I’ll go hyperventilate just when I’m trying to relax.

2. Mindfulness. I particularly like the “body scan”. With this, I go from toe to head, concentrating on each part of my body and how it is in relation to other parts of my body or my surroundings (like the chair I sit on). I learned this in yoga a few years back and, like breathing techniques, it could set off some dissociation when done the wrong way. The key seems to be not judging my mind when it wanders off, yet getting my focus back to my body as soon as I notice. Not judging my body is also important. I shouldn’t be overthinking that pain in my tummy or how my feet are wobbly, but just register my body and how it feels and then move on.

3. Reading. Last year, I rediscovered my love of juvenile fiction when I first started buying eBooks on Kobo. I make sure I always have some teen fiction in my Adobe Digital Editions. Teen fiction usually is just involved enough that it requires some concentration and just light enough that it doesn't get boring or triggering.

4. Music. when I’m worrying, I like to pick out music that has strong or funny lyrics, so that I will be listening to them. I have some great German country music on my computer (I understand a little German). Again, it is just hard enough that I will want to concentrate on the lyrics but not so hard that I give up.

When I’m more in a jittery state, it helps to pick music that has a soothing melody, or more often actually music that I can dance to. When I choose music to dance to, I don’t listen to the lyrics, so I might as well pick one of my Latino music albums that I bought when I was into world music.

5. Exercise. Dancing, as I said, can help, but so can a work-out. We have some exercise machines on the unit, so I can go on the stationary bike or elleptical trainer. I don’t usually last long on either as I’m in terrible shape, but even a ten-minute work-out can greatly reduce my anxiety.

6. Writing. Usually writing helps me not to lessen anxiety, but to express it in a safe way. I am still looking for the right journaling program (and no, Notepad still doesn’t feel right). Blogging (as opposed to freeform journaling) however can also greatly help me structure my thoughts.

The List
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Goals for 2015

Yesterday on my Dutch blog, I wrote a list of goals and resolutions for the year 2015. Then today, I came across a wrting prompt on The SITS Girls which asked pretty much the same question – what are your goals for 2015? The prompt however suggested several categories, and I’m going to go along with this model for this blog’s post on goals for 2015. That is, I don’t have goals in every category they list and I do have other categories.

1. Blogging. I would like to write more this year. I challenged myself to write every single day on my Dutch blog this year. This is already proving hard today, so no such a strict goal for this blog. I hope to write at least two posts each week though. I also hope to grow my blog interaction by participating in more link-ups, discovering new blogs, and hopefully more people will discover my blog too.

2. Writing. I would like to journal more often, possibly offline. I also saw a couple of good writing courses, at least one of which I hope to enroll in this year. I don’t plan on professionalizing my writing, but just for the fun of it I’d like some guidance in my writing process.

3. Crafting. I would like to improve my polymer clay modeling skills. I would also like to invest in an art journal or something similar. I’ve got a mixed media workshop day in June which I’m planning on going to.

4. Reading. I want to finish some books I started reading in 2014 but didn’t finish. I also hope to discover lots of new books. I hope to focus my reading primarily on (juvenile) fiction and autobiographies rather than non-fiction.

5. Fitness. I hope to lose five to ten kilograms during the year. I hope to lessen my binge eating and exercise more. I asked my named nurse to inquire about me going swimming at the institution pool. I also am thinking about starting yoga lessons again.

6. Mental health. I hope to find a way to cope with my severe mood swings, anxiety and paranoid thoughts. I hope to discover a PRN medication or other method of averting any crisis states that will undoubtedly continue to arise.

7. Housing. I hope to finally get a clear idea of where I’ll be going to live out of the psychiatric institution: at my husband’s, in supported housing and if so where, in a workhome, etc. Ideally, I’d move out of the institution this year, but I’ve almost given up on this hope with the lack of idea of where I’m going at this point.

8. Relationships. Don’t really have any goals other than cotinuing to love and stay married to my husband.

The List
Personal Goals 2015

Blogging #WotW

It may seem strange that I choose “blogging” as my word of the week, since I’ve only posted once this week other than this post. The reason however for both my lack of posting here and my choice of words, is the fact that I’ve set up a Dutch blog. Don’t worry, I won’t stop posting here!

What I love about the Dutch blogosphere is that, to my knowledge, it’s not as dominated by Mom bloggers as the English-language blogosphere is. It may be that I go for other bloggers to read to sites that are usually frequented by younger women. Then again, in the general blogging groups on Facebook, most bloggers are more personal or lifestyle bloggers even if they’re Mommies.

I also like it that, if a person writes about a product, I can actually be sure that, should I want it, it’s available where I live. It’s not that I’m too interested in beauty or fashion products, but lifestyle (and some beauty) does appeal to me at least as a reader. I’ve not yet taken part in a giveaway, but want to someday.

Related to the above pro of Dutch blogging is that I myself can blog about products or services I like and be sure my readers won’t say that it’s not available in the U.S./UK. Some of you may remember my post on the game of Pim-Pam-Pet (no, not going to link as I’m too embarrassed). I got only one comment saying the game most likely isn’t available in the reader’s country and besides, it would most definitely not be called Pim-Pam-Pet. (Yes, I had researched what it might be called and did think I’d stumbled on an English-language website where it was called that.)

Besides, on many other topics, the content I (intend to) write is more suited to a Dutch-reading audience. For example, I did a whole series on my old blog in 2009 on the Dutch care system. It was very hard to write about this with enough detail that it’d still be interesting to me to write about but also with enough explanation that it’d be understandable by my readers. At least Dutch readers will have some idea of wha tI’m talking about, and if they don’t, I can link to information they will understand.

Other content, of course, is more suited to an English-language audience. I participate in a lot of linkies and writing challenges, and I have no intention of abandoning them. So as I said, don’t worry, I’m not going to abandon ship.

I’ve been excited to find out that I got quite a few comments on my first “real” post (after the intro). I so far didn’t get any comments on my second and most recent post, but I don’t expect my blog to rank top of the blogs soon (or ever) anyway. I’ve also been loving to connect to some nice bloggers in the Netherlands. Overall, I really hope to continue blogging for a long time to come. That’s been the challenge usually.

The Reading Residence

Books #theprompt #WotW

This week, the prompt over at Mumturnedmom is “books”. I’ve also been doing a relatively great amount of reading this week, so thought I’d choose it as my word for the week too.

Books were a significant part of my life growing up. Both my parents used to read to me and my sister from an early age on. My father would read us comic and picture books such as Winnie the Pooh. He’d use these weird voices for the characters, which I always hated. As I got older, he read me a children’s book of Greek mythology. My mother read us the likes of Annie M.G. Schmidt, a very famous Dutch poet and children’s book writer.

I learned to read at around age four or five. My mother made little books for me with one or two words on each page. She used rub-on letters so that the print was clear and large enough for me, being partially sighted, to read it. There were books themed “house”, “school” and many others but these are the ones I remember. Later, I’d borrow large print books from the library children’s section, but many had too small print and yet were too easy for me in terms of vocabulary.

As my vision got worse and I had to learn to read braille, my interest in reading books decreased. I’d still read the odd children’s book, but most of the time, I’d stick to the library for the blind’s audio magazine for children age five to nine. I don’t think I read many audio books at the time, and as I said, I didn’t like reading braille.

As I got older, the gap between my potential and my reading ability widened. From fourth or fifth grade on, my parents began insisting I read books even if the school hadn’t assigned it. They probably felt the school underestimated my abilities and cut me too much slack. I remember at one point in fifth or sixth grade being up till what in my memory seems like the middle of the night because I still craved my goodnight kiss and my parents refused to give me one until I’d read a certain number of pages. My parents also tried to positively stimulate me to read. For example, I at one point had the Dutch translation of Alice in Wonderland in braille and, to show me he was taking on a challenge too, my father decided to read the book in English at the same time that I read it in Dutch.

I never became an advanced or avid fiction reader. In high school, I hated having to read adult literature. In reality, I didn’t start enjoying middle grade fiction until I was at least fourteen. By then, while all my classmates were reading young adult or even adult literature, I enjoyed every book written by an author named Caja Cazemier I could get my hands on. I still enjoy reading her books.

In high school, I read exactly the amount of Dutch and foreign-language literature I was required. I got many literary novels from my parents, but still have only started on a small percentage and finished only the humorous ones. One of the main reasons I didn’t end up majoring in English at university was the vast amount of fiction reading required. I was in fact scared when, having singed up for linguistics, I was sent an at the time quite popular literary novel to read in prep for freshman introduction. It was also said that humanities department students would frequently hear this book mentioned during lectures. Fortunately, the linguistics majors didn’t have to read this book after all. Either that, or I dropped out soon enough for the book never to be mentioned in lectures when I was in attendance.

Perhaps paradoxically, as a teen, I had the ambition of writing books when I grew up. I wrote a few, very autobiographical attempts at children’s novels. My most successful attempt is a half-finished novel called The Black Queen about a high school student whose mother suffers from multiple sclerosis. It was one of the less (though still somewhat) autobiographical novels I wrote, and for once it was never my intention of having people “get me” through it. I still someday want to finish this book. Unfortunately, as I started writing mainly in English, I lost my ability to write fiction due to my relatively poor vocabulary and sense of style.

I still don’t particularly enjoy fiction. I do have a few children’s and teen fiction books on my to-be-read list, but the majority of what I still want to read, are autobiographies or non-fiction. This week, I have been reading Angels at Our Table by Ann Breen, a book of stories from families with children with Williams Syndrome. I also started reading Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival by Wendy K. Williamson and Honora Rose. It’s a very humorous guide to living with bipolar disorder, in my opinion also relevant for people with other mental illnesses.

mumturnedmom
The Reading Residence

Week Starting September 22, 2014 #Thelist

I’m feeling a little tense and wanting to write, but at the same time lacking inspiration. I thought therefore that I’d participate in #Thelist (formerly #Mumslist) again and wrap up my week.

Therapy


  • Had my last meeting with my now former psychologist. Haven’t yet gotten an appointment with the new one. At this last meeting, we discussed the paperwork to be sent to Leo Kanner House, a national autism agency, for a consultation. My psychologist read me the referral letter and sent me my current treatment plan for review.

  • The treatment plan was okay, though I felt a little awkward about all the things I “can’t” or need help with. The one thing I disagreed with was the seclusion policy. It said that I could be asked to go into seclusion if I am a significant nuisance to others (eg. screaming, slamming doors, etc.). In reality, I usually ask for seclusion for my own safety when I’m having suicidal thoughts or self-harm issues. I asked my psychologist to bring policy in line with reality. Was at first stressed out because my named nurse said she’d asked my psychologist the same and then she’d refused. Thankfully, the psychologist sent me a nice E-mail saying more or less “sure, will do”.

  • Had art therapy yesterday and finished making an art doll for a mixed media swap. It’s made out of mostly “useless” materials. I have to send it out one of these days as the deadline for getting it in my partner’s hands is October 1. No picture yet as my art therapist can’t access her E-mail.


Healthy Living

I saw the dietician for the last time today. I’ve been trying to lose weight for months, but unsuccessfully so. Our agreement was that I’d stop going if I’d gained weight since the last appointment. Though I’d lost 1.2kg (not much for a three-week period), we decided to call it quits anyway. Our agreements are:


  • Focus more on exercise rather than mostly on eating, since I can’t seem to control my overeating.

  • Ask the nurses for help more when I’m stressed instead of going on a food haul. Someone need to accompany me to the store anyway so I may be able to switch my request to go to the store and buy candy over to a request for help regulating my stress.

  • Get weighed by the nurses once a month to make sure I’m keeping my weight stable. I’ll be weighed every first of the month so we have a base weight on Wednesday.

Reading, Writing, Blogging


  • Haven’t been blogging much and haven’t been content with my posts.

  • Did read and write a review of Working the Double Shift by Christine Motokane. Am somewhat content with my review and as I said then, loved the book.

  • Found out about the Typed Words, Loud Voices book project today and submitted a contribution. I’ve been asked either directly or indirectly to write for anthologies two other times, but this is the first time I actually submitted something. Fingers crossed that it’ll be accepted

The List

“Follow Your Heart!”

While looking at link-ups recommended by the women of the SITS Girls Facebook group, I came across the Pour your Heart Out linky by Shell from Things I Can’t Say. Shell has a great blog. Last week, she wrote a post for the linky entitled Do Your “It”. The message in her post was clear: follow your dreams. Don’t let yourself be held back by people who say that you can’t.

I immediately thought about my post about crafting. I have often been told that I shouldn’t try my hand at crafting, but I did, and, though I’m not particulalry successful, I enjoy it.

On the other hand, I’ve also often been told what I can do. People have told me that I can go to university and become a successful scientist if I stick to the right field. Yet I don’t want to become a scientist. I want to write and craft.

I have been overburdened at least as much as I’ve been underestimated. This is equally discouraging. When you fail time and time again despite being told that you “can”, you feel like a failure. At least I did. It often makes me eager to listen to the people who say that I “can’t”. At least I don’t disappoint them if I don’t try. Yet I disappoint myself.

One of Shell’s commandments is to follow your heart. I do this, or at least I try. I still have dreams that I feel kept from following because of the people who say that I can’t. Following a writing course, for example. I still have dreams that I do not follow because I’ve been pushed too hard in the past and failed, and now I believe I can’t. Finishing my intro to psychology course, for example. Yet this is not as strong a dream as it is an expectation. Really, I’m not too sure what following my heart entails, given all the “cans” and “can’ts” from the outside.

Ways to Unwind #TuesdayTen

Yesterday, my psychologist, the staff and I had a meeting to discuss how we could better cooperate. It was a good meeting, but still I was a bit anxious beforehand. We discussed ways in which we could keep the lines of communication open instead of getting stuck on negativity, and how the staff could help me prevent piling up stress. I do have a crisis prevention plan, but it is pretty useless once I’m already in the dark orange or red state. So preventing me from getting this stressed is key.

Today’s Tuesday Ten theme comes in a timely manner. It is Nationnal Hammock Day (in the U.S.). Having lay in a hammock a handful times on vacation, I can totally attest to its relaxing effects. Then again, we don’t have one ready here to lie in when I’m stressed, so I have to come up with other ways to relax. Here are ten:


  1. Writing. Writing has always been an activity I used to unwind. I was an avid storywriter in my teens, but unfortunately lost that skill. Since I got an Internet connection, I started writing for a wider audience. It can be stressful when I “have to” write a blog post, but it can be deeply relaxing when I write from my muse. I also continued writing for just me until I few years back, and really need to start the offline journal again.

  2. Some crafts. Like with writing, crafting can be frustrating. However, crafts that I find easy such as stringing beads on a wire or basic looming are quite a good way to focus my attention on something else while not needing so much concentration that it becomes frustrating.

  3. Fidgeting. I used to be reprimanded a lot for playing with my hair or fidgeting in other ways. I’ve basically stopped caring and my parents are not here to dictate that I cannot fidget anyway. I love playing with my handmde jewelry.

  4. Coffee. Okay, I know that caffeine isn’t supposed to be good when you want to relax, but I consider drinking a nice cuppa quite relaxing.

  5. Herbal tea. For a bit of balance when I’ve drunk too much coffee. Particularly chamomile tea has relaxing properties, but I usually blend different herbs because the act of brewing my own tea is relaxing in itself.

  6. Music. I don’t tend to listen to music while doing other things, such as writing. When I do listen to music, I usually “dance” to it as I listen to the lyrics. I find this quite a help in thinking without getting stressed.

  7. Talking it out. I find that talking about what makes me stressed helps when I worry a lot. I also find that a chat about something that interests me also helps me refocus my attention.

  8. Taking a shower or bath. I love bathing, and can’t fathom that I’ve never used the bathtub on my ward in over a year of being here. A hot shower (except when it’s hot outside like now) usually does the trick too.

  9. The Internet. I love to unwind online. I’m not sure whether it’s a blessing or a curse that most online games are not accessible to my screen reader. I however like playing mindless word games on Internet forums, too.

  10. Spending time outside. I practically cannot take walks outside on my own, but the nurses sometimes take me on walks. We also have a nice garden that I like to sit in when the weather is nice.


The Golden Spoons

Expressing Myself

Today the Daily Post’s prompt is Express Yourself. I find this a fascinating prompt, and could write on and on about expressiveness and the way I express myself. I write, mostly. Writing has been a hobby of mine since elementary school. Back then, I wrote mostly fiction. I have a few kind of weird tales and a lot of autobiographical fiction. Unfortunatley, as I got older, my skill didn’t get better, so by age eighteen or so, I quit fiction writing.

I trid poetry for a while. Last Thursday during art therapy, the therapist asked whether I wrote poetry and whether she could read one of my poems. They’re not great. In fact, with the exception of a few recent ones, my poems lack metre or rhyme. My older poems are so bad that I’m actually sort of proud of the acrostic I wrote a few months ago.

In addition to writing, I craft. I have tried my hand at art journaling, but have not succeeded. My cards and jewelry are pretty down-to-earth in their design I’d say. In fact, I’m not sure I’m all that imaginative in any of my expressive modalities. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a rich imagination. I’m just finding it hard to express it.

One thing that holds me back is the fact that the more imaginative works aren’t necessaarily the more beautiful ones for me. As I said, my poems, which usually express my authentic feelings, lack metre or rhyme and are little more than emotional diarrhea jotted on paper. Not something I’d like to post on my blog. And something I’ve noticed lately, is that I have a very hard time not sharing something I create. I even have a hard time keeping a private journal and, not havng found a suitable desktop application for it, I ended up with a protected WordPress blog which I ended up giving a few people access to anyway. Maybe I need to relearn that some things belong to me and are not to be expressed to anyone outside of me.

Always Greener on the Other Side

Another jouranling prompt. This one was meant for kids, and it asks what we mean when we say “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. This saying speaks to me and makes me feel quite uncomfortable, because I can definitely relate.

I remember that, when I go to a new place, like anew ward or institution or supported housing or whatever, I’m always optimistic that this will be suitable for me, but I’m very soon disappointed. For example, when I first got to this institution, I felt truly like I’d landed in a cozy place, or as close to it as an institution can get. Within days, however, I heard the staff reprimand the clients for not doing their chores and I was upset at the phrasing: “You guys are the most independent group, the more independent one on this unit.” A few days later, I was further disappointed when my staff insisted I do chores I cannot do. Pretty soon, I wished I’d stayed in the big city institution, and I still wish for that at times.

I have always felt like this. When I came into blindness rheabilitation in 2005, I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to learn sklls and aadjust to my blindness. By the middle of the four-month rehabilitation program, I felt I was lagging horribly behind and hadn’t learned most of the skills I’d wanted to. Same when I came into independence training, the psychiatric institution and every ward I’ve been at since except this one, where I was quickly realizing that it wouldn’t be helping me much.

I read in a paper a few months ago that this thing where “the honeymoon is over” and people start out okay but end up worse after a while, is common in people with borderline personality disorder. I remember in 2007, when I’d only been in the hospital for a few weeks, being told by another patient, who happens to have BPD too, that I need to work on myself, not on changing my environment every so often. I realize this at some level, but at another level, I think: “What do you think I was in training and treatment for all these years? To change the environment? No!” Yet maybe I still look to others to change me, not to myself.

Letter to My Twelve-Year-Old Self

When reading journaling prompts, some ask the journaler to go back into the past or spring forward to the future. There is in fact FutureMe, a site that has you write letters to yourself that will be E-mailed to you on a set date in the future. This is an interesting experiment, because it allows the future self to see what the past self was like without bias. Then again, writing to your past self is a good way to reflect on how your life has changed. This is a letter to my twelve-year-old self.

Dear twelve-year-old Astrid,

This is you speaking, fifteen years on. I am 27-years-old now and looking back on your life. I see your struggles. You are becoming aware of your social and emotional problems, yet needing to hide the their true extent because showing would mean you’re stupid. Let me assure you, you’re not stupid. You are autistic, and many people who have the cognitive abilities you do, are.

You’ve just received the report from Dr. M, the educational psychologist who evaluated you in what would become the final and successful attempt at getting you a recommendation for mainstream schooling. As you are aware, he recommended you use the remainder of the school year to sit in with a mainstream class to see if it’d work. Last month, you also went to the open house at the academic magnet secondary school/grammar school your sister’s friend’s big sister is attending. You are excited about going there. I appreciate that. I admire your optimism, giving each new start a new chance for success. At 27, I’m quite disillusioned. Grammar school was pretty bad, but I know you persevered. I wish I had that capacity now.

At the same time that you are preparing to go to mainstream grammar school, you fantsize about getting help for your social and emotional problems. I admire you for having devised your own tretment goals and thinking of ways to reach them. Sadly, you didn’t get help with this. I would’ve liked to tell you that I do, but let me say, psychiatric institutions are not great. Back in your day, there was a documentary about a young woman who was too intelligent for the system for people with intellectual disabilities but didn’t fit in with the mental health system either. You feared, or maybe you hoped, that you’d one day be her, because in the end she was accepted into a suitable treatment facility. I identify strongly with her, although I’m no longer locked up.

I know life isn’t easy for you being twelve. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that it’ll get better. You hope to be a mathematician or linguist when you are my age. While I did study linguistics briefly, I had to dorp out due to mental health problems. I ended up in a psychiatric institution, and I’ve still not found the right treatment or care.

I know you struggle with losing your vision. I still do. I haven’t become completely, totally blind yet, but I can only see a little bit of light now. A few months ago, I went to have surgery to hopefully restore some sight, but it failed. The good news is, accepting blindness will become easier. I still struggle, but not nearly as much as you do.

Oh, and friendships will also get easier. I know you don’t have any friends. Guess what? I’m married now. While I don’t have any friends besides my husband either, I do have some connection to other people. You know, the Internet will come into your life, and this is great. Through the Internet, I’ve been able to connect with other people and find out tht I’m not alone on this journey. There are other children like you, and there are adults like me. This is sad, but it may help you feel less alone.

Keep on fighting, Astrid. I know life ahead will be hard for you, and even now I find it hard to appreciate the accoplishments you were so badly looking forward to, but as I said, I admire your perseverance. Without that, I would not have been where I am now.

With love,/P>

Your 27-year-old self