My turn to give mum a break for the day! I loved Sarah’s thoughtful, reflective post and it inspired me to list 7 things I’ve learned since my mum was diagnosed:
1) Memories might make us who we are, but they’re not the whole picture. Our emotions, our senses, our day to day interactions with people – they’re vital too. So my mum will lose more memories in the future, but can still take in a wonderful view, accept a hug, enjoy a home cooked meal, give Billy a cuddle…and I appreciate these moments more than ever.
2) I’m so full of gratitude. To some this might sound strange (and a bit cheesy) but I really am more grateful than ever for all the wonderful things in my life. For example, my partner Stuart and I recently went to a lovely hotel spa for my birthday. We’ve been there before, but this time we really relished every single moment and took the time to take it all in. Because it’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster recently, with lots of sadness at things lost and how unfair it all is, I appreciate the good things that much more.
3) I said to mum recently that I feel like a curtain to a whole new world has been lifted. I didn’t know much about dementia before and nor do lots of people. I’ve certainly had some ‘interesting’ responses to the news in the form of rather insensitive comments (thankfully this is very rare). But I completely understand. If you’re not touched by dementia, why would you know what to say, or what a diagnosis really means? And of course, it affects everyone differently, so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ response. Through my mum, I have access to a whole world of people living with the condition, carers, researchers, activists…and it’s inspiring! But I wish it wasn’t so hidden away – I want all the negatives and the positives to be out in the open for everyone to see.
4) This is why I’m so proud of my mum. That sentence doesn’t do it justice really. I can’t put into words how proud I am. My sister said recently (sorry to steal this from you Sarah!) that it’s as if having dementia hasn’t changed my mum…it’s just enhanced all the best parts of her personality. I couldn’t have put it better myself!
5) I’m in the latter stages of doing a PhD at the moment. I used to practice in the subject I’m now researching, and to be honest I had started to feel like I was a ‘cop out’ for not remaining on the frontline. But my mum is so passionate about research and how important it is that’s it’s made me feel more comfortable with my decision. Now to actually finish my thesis…
6) I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore – or the big (ish) stuff for that matter. For example, if I lose my keys, or get a date wrong, or get lost – it just doesn’t affect my day. Or if I reverse out of my drive into a parked vehicle…that happens to be my partner’s car…that happens to be a company car…well, no one was hurt and these things happen so I’m not going to waste energy beating myself up about it. (I can’t say Stuart’s reaction was quite the same).
7) I really do appreciate how lucky my sister and I am regarding early decision making. I’ve heard terribly sad stories where people don’t know their loved one’s wishes and they have to make heart-breaking decisions in the later stages of dementia. It was a very emotional, difficult experience to complete the Power of Attorney paperwork with mum but I know now that her wishes will be respected and that means a lot to me.
I could write about many more things I’ve learned but these feel like the most important to share right now. If I could sum up my feelings in one sentence, I’d say my mum is still my mum and always will be.