Not my own serious illness. The serious illness of someone that I love.
He is one of the nicest men I have ever had the privilege to meet. And a few years ago, he was officially “diagnosed” with dementia. What kind of dementia? Who knows. He’s a relatively young guy. All the doctors know (or perhaps, all I’ve been told) is that his brain isn’t working the way it is supposed to anymore.
And aside from all of the sadness and fear that accompany a serious illness – sadness for what he’s lost, fear for what his future holds, sadness for his family members, his wife, his kids, his parents, his brothers and sisters, and his grand-babies, and even, yes, my own relationship with him that will never be the same – aside from all that, I’ve also felt something else. Something I never expected.
I fear for myself. And I fear for the other people in my life who are around his age.
Every time someone forgets something, I wonder if they are developing dementia as well. Every time I make a stupid, forgetful mistake, I wonder if I myself am sick.
The problem is, stupid mistakes are sort of part of who I am. I’ve always been a bit spaced out and forgetful. I’ve been making silly mistakes my entire life – forgetting my purse, paying the wrong bills, forgetting to pay bills, doing the wrong questions on an assignment, forgetting to put my name on an assignment, leaving my backpack in the cafeteria, buying a meal to-go and then leaving it at the restaurant, losing my gloves and scarf on a cold winter’s day, forgetting what I learned in undergrad, leaving the stove on, forgetting words or names … seriously this list could last forever …
Even though I’ve been doing these sorts of things ever since I can remember (in primary school, for example, I lost five pairs of shoes in one year), I now wonder if I myself am going crazy.
What if there’s been something wrong with me my entire life?
And I feel terribly selfish every time I experience this. After all, I am not the one who is sick. After all, there are so many other things to worry about and deal with.
And yet…. and yet ….
I’m still terribly afraid. Afraid for my other loved ones, afraid for myself.
The kind of fear that stops you in your shoes, gives you a shot of adrenaline, and makes your vision go black … the heart-pounding, deep-breathing kind of fear.
Every single time someone forgets something. Every single time I forget something.
I also know that I am not the only one who is going through this. The children of another friend have started over-reacting whenever he shows anger or confusion (and this guy has always had a bit of a short temper, so this happens quite often!). I know that they are going through the same fears that I am.
Living in fear is really no fun. I want to be present in my life, and present for my loved ones, especially my loved one with dementia. I don’t need this added stress, this selfish fear that takes a hold of me and doesn’t let go.
So, have any of you ever had to deal with something like this? How have you dealt with it (besides begging your doctor to give you unnecessary tests that they refused to do after asking you a few questions)?