From Here to There…and back again.

In light of my recent extensive conversation on another blog regarding the perils and benefits of good and evil, I have decided to keep my comment and thoughts about Mikey’s recent topic in my own space. This is not to avoid another conversation, but rather to avoid making the original post once again, all about me.

You see, Mikey’s recent topic hits a rather tender nerve. Especially at this point in time, when I’m having difficulty dividing my thoughts on other issues, because they, as they tend to do, have become over lapped and tangled, and I easily grow tired and weary and look for ways to shut my brain off, instead of sorting things out.

Mikey works at a Dementia care facility. And since I read Mikey’s blog faithfully, I’m faced with the idea of Dementia on more occasions than I’m truly comfortable with. Perhaps I’m just cosmically being set up for an epiphany, but at the moment I just see it as a head-on collision with my greatest fear in life. Losing my mind.

Mikey assures me, that if and when it happens, I will be blissfully unaware. To lose one’s mind in such a way is to be free of the knowledge that it has happened. His charges don’t realize they speak in “word salads” so neither will I. The patients under his compassionate care do not mind so much that they cannot recall what time the bus pulls in, so it won’t hurt me so much to forget my son’s name.

I already have clinically diagnosed mental issues, which I won’t elaborate on here, because I have spent a lifetime coming to grips and no longer consider them a topic for concern. They are not a burden, having developed ways to adapt, they are more of a tool for success.

Aside from that, it is not exactly the “loss” of my mind that I fear, but rather the impact on my reputation that makes me uneasy.

Let me explain

My whole life, I have been the person with all of the answers. I’ve been the solver of problems unseen. The go-to girl.  In my world, I am the one with the logic, the one with the rational, yet fantastical mind. Drawing on brain function is my greatest talent, it’s the thing I’m most aware of, the thing I’m most thankful for, it’s my greatest tool, my state of mind is who I am. Using my brain, I have analysed events in my life, I have determined their value and purpose, and have brought on a state of complacency that makes me 100% happy with who I am. I am boxing clever. That is who I am. I no longer question my “purpose” in life, nor my worth, nor my value. I am who I am.

Losing my mind means I will no longer be this person. And that is what I fear. It’s not the difficulty I might have with forgetting my birthday. It’s the difficulty others might have, because I no longer have my wits about me. I will no longer be the person they know. The great Oz will be revealed as an aged woman behind a curtain. And that means I will no longer be myself. And that scares me. Mostly, because I put such great effort into figuring it all out in the first place.

While it’s true that I will not realize that I am no longer “myself”, others will. Chances are, they will look at me with sadness, or sympathy or compassion. They will say things like “Wow, that’s really too bad, she used to be smart as a whip, now she can’t even say her ABCs”
I know this because I already see it in the eyes of those around me. The eyes that scream alarm because I cannot remember what I made for dinner today, nevermind the fact that I no longer can recall important major events, from time to time. The look of shock on the souls who love me, when my answer is “I don’t know”. The red-faced embarrassment they feel when I’m introducing them and can’t recall who they are.

Am I making any sense?

Clinically, losing my mind in one capacity or another is almost an inevitability, some of those around me are already cracking the jokes to relieve the nervous tension of it all. But losing who I am?

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16 Comments

  1. Lisa said,

    May 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    That guy made me cross, he just seemed like he wanted to start something and be a knittpicker, but he usually seems like a decent guy.

    I bet your memory issue has to do with everything going on and maybe your mind is blocking out various things b/c you’re upset and re-living various past things. I’m sure it will calm down. Could be the seasons changing (for many people May is far more depressing than any other month).

    • May 28, 2010 at 8:14 pm

      Thank you for the support Lisa, I chuckled whole heartedly when I read your comment about over-analyzing. I think it’s possible that he is just embarking on a journey of self-discovery, and is trying to sort himself out. I wish him all the best.
      I think you’re right about my recent funk, I will pop out of it soon, even if I don’t remember it in the end!

  2. willowbatel said,

    May 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    You will always be who you are. My great grandmother had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t remember who her son (my grandfather) was. She knew who he was, his personality, their life together, but she couldn’t identify him even when they were sitting together. You may not be able to connect with others around you like you used to, but you will always have some sort of memory of them somewhere in your mind. You just might not be able to find it all the time.
    Enjoy what you have now, and throw away your concern for the future. Worrying about loosing your mind won’t help you keep it.

    • May 28, 2010 at 8:21 pm

      “Worrying about losing your mind won’t help you keep it”

      My dearest Willow, you just may be the most clever young man I know. I believe I will be painting that on a sign for myself, someday soon. You have left me speechless.

      • Lisa said,

        May 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm

        Hi,
        Yes was a bit irked at him, but he does seem like such a nice person (and wrote about azaleas on his latest blog) and wrote such a nice reply to my comment on azaleas, I probably got my feathers ruffled too easily. Feel a bit guilty about getting mad, but I still think it was you who was in the right. Besides saying “I thought I overanalyzed words” probably wouldn’t upset him too bad I hope or that I was cross. (It delights me you liked it though, hee)

  3. May 28, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    I do not believe you will (or can) lose who you truly are, J. At “worst” you just become a simpler version of same, or perhaps a more essential version. The extra intellectual and emotional baggage sloughs off like dead skin cells. That’s why it’s sometimes characterized as a second childhood. It isn’t like the first one, but the behaviors are direct and child-like, without all the mind-games and insincerity.

    One resident spent her career as a social worker. She speaks word-salad now, but she also helps push others’ wheelchairs when they get stuck, hugs them when they look sad, and is always presenting a physical posture of concern and compassion which residents and care-givers alike find charming. She is herself, just simplified.

    • June 1, 2010 at 9:24 am

      An interesting thought to consider, since I often wish for a “simpler” existence. Perhaps I should look forward to it as a “reward” for all the hard work I’ve put into life, spending my waning days without a problem to solve. Do you know that I even spend time determining the most efficient way of flipping on a lightswitch? Only a nano-second here and there, mind you, but still enough time to make a conscious discovery. I don’t think I’d mind so much being simplified.

      • willowbatel said,

        June 1, 2010 at 7:13 pm

        I’m interested to hear how to turn on a light switch. That actually sounds like an interesting discussion topic. Maybe I’ll bring that up in class tomorrow. I’ve never even thought about it really.

        • June 1, 2010 at 7:58 pm

          HA!
          My best suggestion is to be perfectly aware of the mechanics of the lightswitch before flipping. Then get a good visual, and using thumb and forefinger, click the switch in the appropriate direction for light. This ensures connection, to avoid missing the switch in passing, and having to reach for it again. In the case of flat pad/bar type switches, I’ve found it’s best to swipe it (after having made a good visual) with the length of finger (middle finger since it has the longest surface area) between the second knuckle and the tip. This of course really only applies to my own home, which is never in complete darkness due to my blindness at night. There’s always a dim “nightlight” type since when it’s dark, it’s REALLY dark and impossible to see. In complete darkness, I recommend flailing around like a maniac until someone turns on a bedside lamp. I’m always aware of the lightswitches in other people’s homes too…and at the grocery store…and the coffee shop. At the library, they’re in the centre of the room on the wall beside the bathroom door, go figure.

          • willowbatel said,

            June 1, 2010 at 10:38 pm

            I’d have to disagree and say you’re doing too much work for the regular light switch. I’d advise treating it the same as the bar light, except you should use your index finger in a hooked shape (turned sideways so your arm is perpendicular to the wall if you’re facing it head on). This allows for a faster flick of the switch and saves you a lot of calculating time when trying to target the small switch with your hand.
            The funny part is, half the light switches in my house are sideways, so I have to actually grab them before flicking.

            • June 1, 2010 at 11:13 pm

              Ah, but see, using the hook method you run the risk of having your knuckle slide off the switch, thereby having to start all over. Ultimately, I’d like to go back to the old push-button type, you’re too young to remember those, but you could just slap your hand over the switch and on it would go! What really sucks, and are the bane of my existence are light switches that do double duty…there are three switches in my kitchen that all control the same light, as well as the ceiling fan and the main hall to the bedrooms has three lights, three switches and all three switches control all three lights. Figure THAT one out.

              • willowbatel said,

                June 2, 2010 at 1:35 am

                Yes but doesn’t that depend on the force of the flick? If done correctly it’s quite efficient. Ooo. Those sound like fun light switches. I wonder why they got rid of them. They sound much more interesting and exciting than the noisy switches of today. My dad has the bar switches at his house, and I have to say I don’t really care for them. They don’t have the same feel to them as flicking a light on and off. And they are annoying to hit when you’re walking past. You have to hit the wall, instead of sliding your hand up it.
                I’ve heard of two switches controlling the same thing, but three? So they all turn on all of the lights at the same time? As well as the fan? What an interesting design feature…

  4. Sarah Baram said,

    June 1, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    At the risk of being repetitive, you will always be who you are now. As long as that is the true you, it will always stay with you. So, why waste your time worrying about whether or not your mind will spiral in to a state of dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is the lose of your mind, not the lose of your soul, or the memories you have impressed on those around you, or even the accomplishments you have made in the world. Focus on now, do not worry about the future and what it may mean for your physical brain.

    P.S. It’s nice to have you back after that month long absence!

    • June 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      Thank you Sarah, some things are worth hearing more than once. It’s become a good topic for me, receiving everyone’s thoughts makes it much easier to think about.

  5. Count Sneaky said,

    July 12, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    The fear of dementia is like the fear of death: an open invitation to know who and what you really are. There are no guides you can rely on… except your own reason. It can be a long, long journey, but a rewarding one. I have been on this journey for three-quarters of a century, yet it never grows tiresome; it never grows unfulfilling. My best.

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:45 am

      Thank you ever so much for your reply. I have come to realize since posting this, that I am looking at things in the wrong light. Like you, I have enjoyed the journey thus far and I have learned, for the most part, not to fear what comes next. Really, I should be thinking of it as just the “next big adventure”. It’s been a pleasure having you here, in this space.


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