Welcome to my journal. I have been an avid writer for almost as long as I can remember. I started with fictional stories, and later, around age eleven, first tried my hand at rather stereotypically emo girlish poetry. It was at around the same time that I started my first journal, which was, at the time, a hand-made paper book with braille pages stuck in it. In 1999, I started keeping a journal on the computer. This was much easier, but there was the risk of computer crashes, and each time my computer did crash, I used to be worried about my journal. It however remained intact till May, 2003, when during a major computer crash I lost all my work from December, 2002 onwards, including all my writings in the diary since that date. That marked the end of my three-year-old computer diary. I currently have an offline diary again, which is meant for writings that are too personal, rambly, boring or just plain completely irrelevant to the Internet world.
The Internet started demanding increasing time from me from the summer of 2002 on. As soon as I got a connection, I started surfing around the web, and later, started participating on forums and E-mail lists. My combined passion for the Internet and for writing, of course, eventually led me to the online journal, which I first started in late 2002.
Openness has been an important issue in this respect: do you remain anonymous or not, and how much of yourself do you share on the web, theoretically for the entire world to read? My first online journal, I kept anonymously, and really personal entries used to be password-protected. I however quickly realized that one’s never completely anonymous on the Internet – my relatives found out that “Elfenkind” was me, eventually -, and therefore decided against anonymity or the illusion of security. As I got more online friends, I did do some journaling in password-protected or “friends only” posts, but these journals generally died because I finally chose to write offline instead. Dealing with issues that are too personal to share with either strangers or relatives, depending on your perspective, can also be done by not putting them on the web in the first place or by being cautious in how you share them. I know that my writings can and will be read by both strangers and relatives, and I’ve gotten many reactions to what I wrote on this blog. These, including critical ones, are welcome and valued. Also, I do my best to preserve the anonymity of other people, but if you feel your privacy is violated anyway, let me know which writing(s) you’re referring to, so that I can remove them.
Now, let me introduce myself. My name is Astrid and I was born on June 27, 1986 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Because that is three months premature, I was placed in an incubator and had to be on oxygen. I remained in Sophia Children’s Hospital for 94 days. While there, I suffered several common preemie conditions, including a brain bleed (called IVH in medical jargon) and an eye condition that no-one ever spells correctly, called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). This condition caused me to be severely visually impaired as a child and later to go blind from its complications.
I was initially sent to public school, but a few months before the end of my second year in Kindergarten, I transferred to a school for the visually impaired. I remained in special education until 1999, when I went to a public secondary school (high school) in my hometown of Apeldoorn, from which I graduated in 2005. After that, I went for training to the rehab center for the blind and after that, an independent living training home for people with disabilities. While I was there, staff started noticing my difficult behaviors, which had always been there but had never signaled a serious problem to my family, and we together decided to go to the local mental health center for evaluation. This led to my diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. This diagnosis marked a change in my life on several grounds. For one thing, it meant that I would have to decide whether I felt autism was a bad thing that needed to be cured. I’d already taken a stand against cure before my diagnosis, and decided to stick with this belief after I myself was diagnosed. This, however, does not mean I accept every autistic behavior I or others might exhibit, that I don’t think I have problems cause of my autism, or that I don’t need autism-related services. None of these assumptions are true and all of these could damage the lives of autistic people.
Besides autim, I have other mental health issues, like anxiety, self-injury, and being multiple. In 2010, I was identified as having dissociative identity disorder (DID) and PTSD. I believe in the social model of mental illness, which embraces neurodiversity, too. For clarity’s sake: this does not mean being anti-medication or anti-treatment.
I started college in 2006, majoring in applied psychology at Saxion in Deventer. In 2007, however, I transferred to Radboud University in Nijmegen, majoring in linguistics. I also moved into my own student apartment. I was at university for only two months before I switched to studying psychiatry from within by being institutionalized for what turned out to be way longer than anyone should ever have expected. I finally moved into resocialization (or “reso”) in March of 2009. This is an inpatient placement whose purpose is preparation for a move back into the community. I, however, will remain institutionalized, although at a different facility: sometime in 2011, I will move to something called a workhome for autistics. One positive thing is that I am back in college, albeit with an extremely small courseload at Open University.