Losing one’s identity is a rough deal. The process is subtle, moves like mud on a frosty night, and often happens without the person even realizing it.
It started even before a diagnosis was made. The need for care had started to increase. It was baby steps at first and didn’t seem like a big deal. Then more care was needed. Then driving privileges had to stop and more rides were needed. Appointments, shopping, errands … all became more difficult now that being a driver was off the menu.
Then there’s the confusion about what was even happening … is this just old age? Is it something more insidious? Add to that the sheer frustration of multiple consultations with multiple doctors trying to convince those doctors that something was wrong. The toll it takes on the mind is like someone taking an eggbeater to your brain and then smashing it with a mallet.
After almost a year, a diagnosis was finally made: Alzheimer’s Disease. Ugh.
I say that, and yet, it was such a relief to finally know what was happening. Unfortunately, by this point, I didn’t even realize that my identity was changing. That came much later when I was so overwhelmed by all the things I shouldremember, all the things I was supposed to do, and all the emotions I was feeling that I ended up in deep depression. I cried an ocean of tears. Did someone stab all my unicorns? Where the heck did I go?
Skip forward another year. Having lived through two+ years of this nonsense, I now know that I’d rather have needles stuck in my eyeballs than live through that again. But it’s not over, is it? Of course not! There's so much more ‘fun stuff’ (said sourly) to experience. So much to get wrong, to mis-remember, and to dread. Oh, frickin’ yay. (Stupid Alzheimer’s!)
It wasn’t until I found a brilliant counsellor that I was told ‘Hey, you’ve lost your identity!’ OMG, seriously?!? DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! I’ve just won a prize! I suddenly get my identity - and my sanity - back! The unicorns are alive!
Don’t get me wrong, I still forget stuff, I still mis-remember stuff, and I still walk around with a stupid look on my face, but at least I know who I am again!
I’m a person of value, a person with love to give, a person with integrity. To quote Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live (1991):
“I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”
Oh, I should probably mention that I am not the person living with Alzheimer’s. That’s my mom. I’m the caregiver. Her only caregiver. And that was the problem: my identity became “I’m a caregiver.” But I’m also a daughter, a fiercely independent woman, and sometimes a ding-dong. I have the role of caregiver, but it’s not who I am. This awakening has freed up my mind to have fun again with my mom, to laugh with her, and to make her days less about being my ‘patient’ and more about living her best days until Alzheimer’s takes her fully away.
Okay, Alzheimer’s, I still think you’re stupid, but at least I can tolerate you now. Jerk.