No lighthearted Blogpost this time. A lot of seriousnes. Reading this might even make you think for a bit. Or not, your call. Run while you can.
I've been around for 40 years now. Raised as a churchgoing catholic, always taught to study hard and find a steady job, and have respect and compassion your elders and less fortunate. Nothing wrong with that. Drilled into me at a young age. Did leave me pretty naive though when I left my parents at 17 to study. I wasn't a difficult kid, in hindsight I was a bit too easygoing and trustful and quite the silent type. 18+ and a whole world opens up to me. Girls, wargaming, computers (well, the 1994 ones anyway) and a ton of freedom and no real rules. Well, just study hard and it would all work out. Right?
But it didn't. I studied as hard as I could but kept failing. As at that level you were supposed to be smart enough to figure it out, no help was offered, and I was afraid to ask for any help lest I'd be seen as a failure (drilled into me from a young age, don't show weakness and don't talk about your problems). Then Dad get's cancer and that just blew me away emotionally and I have no reccolection of most of 1997. Then, one day, I finally have the courage to ask for help, and request time with the schools psychiatrist. Who then scolds me for not coming sooner so we could have interrupted the year and not lost 12 months (and that was about all the "help" I got). By then my dad had recovererd after Chemo and he scolded me for going to see a psychiatrist, as that wasn't done in our family.
FFW to the year 2000, I'm in a gaming club and dad has cancer yet again. Every single person in the gaming club had been or was in therapy at some point in their lives. And they called me the Normal one.... :D But they did not judge me like many others (including my own family) did. Talking and gaming and becoming friends with many people from that club made me appreciate myself more.
Come 2002 I decided , after a good long (6 months or so) think to throw in the towel with my study. Working 40 hours a week to pay for a tuition that wanted you to show up year afyer year for the same tests (and that I failed year after year cause not being a fulltime student I was not offered any help, even when asked - well, they did answer. Just start over as a part time student. Oh, and the curriculum has changed so everything you learned sofar, all the points scored, are worthless. Talk about motivation to press on).
I think my dad did not speak to me for 9-12 months I believe? He was so angry (and he still is quite a bit) for me dropping out. Kept comparing me to my brother who did finish his degree, and his masters in Virology (though to this day he still belittles the effort of my brothers then-wife who pushed him on and on and took care of the kids and everything so he could focus on getting his degree). Am I jealous of my brother? Nope, immensely proud. He is living proof to me that people with problems (he's an Aspie just like me) can overcome their problems if they are willing to ask for help and accept that help.
Anything after the decision to quit school has been nothing but being willing to admit defeat when something does not work, get over it, and try something new. Of course, don't give up too easily, not at the first sign of trouble, but solve the problems till you find one you can't solve alone, and then try to find people who can help you solve that problem with you. Don't let them solve the problem for you but do it together, put some back into it.
Ever since I got the previous job it was pretty obvious I wasn't happy in it. Hobbytime was spent dreaming of different things, but moneywise and with Kims issues we weren't getting ahead and started to bog down. So, we asked for help. It took a while to find the right people, but with every contact we made we heard about other possibilities, help and support in raising our kids, clearing our heads, being able to get to know ourselves better.
Let's face it. For some people I'm a basketcase. But all I really do is smile all day (or at least try to), somethimes sing, whistle or hum loudly in public just cause I feel like it, I'm polite to everyone to a point were some people look at me stunned cause I have just treated them as a human being (mostly a cashier thing) and I'm a firm believer of doing good whenever I can. I don't expect anything in return for that, well, maybe a smile. And I happen to play with small toy soldiers :)
Lateley, I've been getting many questions and receiving many comments from people who I have spoken to face to face for all sorts of reasons. One of the most common ones (3 times this week sofar) is people asking me how I can keep up a smile even when I'm limping, coughing and am completely stressed out from everything. Or they praise me (and Kim) for asking for help with our problems, really accepting all the help we can get and putting our back into to get through this, together as a family, with support.
The smiling part is easy. I've been depressed 3 times now (the last one is still lingering a bit though) and if I have learned one thing it is to be happy with the little things in life. No cash, big car or big house can replace the joy I feel when a little Robin or Wren darts out from the bushes in the morning when I drop off my girls at the daycare, and I can point it out to them, and they actually see it and smile and point before it darts off again. When I'm alone I can smile cause I'm driving on my bike, just enjoying the cold air hitting my face, my ear catching the sound of a far off woodpecker and just doing my rounds, from shop to shop, bargainhunting to get food on the table. It doesn't mean I'm never sad, far from it, but I try to savour the moments when I'm happy.
The praise is something I feel a queezy about. I don't like being praised for doing what I'm supposed to be doing, but our social services worker put it very aptly during todays family meeting. In her eyes we are the perfect family that she (all of them actually) can help (don't let that go to your head kid) And for one simple reason. First, we are not shy to ask for help to prevent a future problem with ourselves, our children or our finances. When Kim had a melt down, our main concern was, what will the effect be on the children. Again when my depression popped up, what will be the effect on the children. According to child services, my parents and the daycare centre the kids show no signs (yet) of anything having affected them from our incidents. When I got run over, we asked someone to check over all of our finances to see if we could continue paying out mortgage and other bills for a possible prolonged period where I could not be at work, and our reserve funds weren't very big. Everything was checked, we passed the test with flying colours and got praised for asking help before we got into trouble. Then we sold the car, gave up some more expensive things just to have less expenses anyway and see our bankbalance rise ever so slightly from month to month.
The main recurring thing with everyone who has been helping us sofar, is praise for daring to ask for help, not just for me or Kim, but for us as a family, and putting our back into it to make things work, and make sacrifices in doing so.
Which comes naturally for use because we don't take anything for granted. The more shocking was the comment social services made today during the meeting (but to be honest, it is not that shocking)
"You are so unlike most families who ask for our help. We guide you in the right way and you go right at it, with all the energy you can muster. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but always in the right direction. So many other families just sit there waiting for us to solve their problems for them"
In the same geste are the almost identical comments I got in the last few days during interviews. "So you have accepted that you have limitations, and using your strenghts you have chosen a new career for yourself that fits with your knowledge, and you are studying hard for it, as well as making time for your family and job- and internship hunting? I'm impressed."
It impressed my psychologist, who said she was very happy to see the huge leap in progress in 6 months time. It impressed the job agency lady yesterday, who wasn't taken aback when I mentioned I have Aspergers and a bad knee, and was candid enough to tell me that she didn't see a disabled man, but one with a clear goal and that she would reccomend me for the job. And it impressed the lady at the UWV today, who initially just told me what my tasks are now that I was getting WW benefits, and when she asked if I had any questions I just said no, I have read the site, I understand the rules, and here is what I've been doing lately go get back to work. She just sait there for a bit, doing a silent wow, and then asked if I would like an exemption from the "Must apply for 4 jobs each month" rule (else your benefits can and will be cancelled). I said I would like to continue to apply for jobs if that is ok? Even if they won't take me yet as I have not finished my degree yet, it should be good practice for when the time comes, yes? She agreed with that, then said I'm exempted till mid November so I could focus on my study and she would like to see me back in October.
All hard work and effort cause I really, really want to get back to work.
Did it all end with that then? Nah, I'm still sick and sore so this will be another early tuck in. To top that off I received the invoice for the schooling today (2350 euros) due next week. Same with the First Aid training (175 euros) due next week. After a good 5 minutes of panic, and emailing the insurance company, I've got a shortlist of things to do tomorrow, because problems are there to be solved:
-1 letter of reccomendation to the job agency before noon
- Call the training academy and ask for payment in installments (and why I'm getting the invoice anyway as as far as I know the insurance compnay would be vouching for the payment?)
- Pay the First Aid training invoice
- Continue with a rather radical decision - sell all the stuff you will not be building or painting within the next year or 2. Boardgames you don't play? Out. CD's you don't listen to? Out. Books you no longer read? Out. Sell that shit to create a financial buffer.
- List the baby room contents. It's time the girls get proper beds that will keep them happy till they are 10-12.
- Help Kim by clearing the mess on the left of the attic so she can drag out more stuff to sell to create a bigger fiancial buffer and put more money in the kids piggy banks.
So there, you made it to the end. Since starting my study things are now slowly falling into their place, in a new order, that should stay like that till the summer holiday. Kim and I got new matching agenda apps so no more confusions about what must be done when, now I just have to get used to my new routine. This leaves less room for the hobby, but that's ok. It should make what time I do have for it more enjoyable.
Best of luck to all of you and I'll ba back next time with something more hobby related :)
Edit: my new case manager for the Insurance company has sent cc'd me all the emails plus the latest email to the new HR manager at my former company. They have been trying to get a reply from them for 6 months and still nothing. So, what do they don't want to tell? :D