Sometimes, no oftentimes, when I am feeling unsteady in my being when my illness is causing me to feel unsure of myself, who am I know? Who will I be? When the demons try to find there way in to fill me with doubt, to shatter what confidence I have been able to regain, Due to the fact that when diagnosed your confidence in yourself and your abilities are shattered, rebuilding it is challenging and difficult. Especially as we endure loss after loss.
But we can rebuild our confidence and our lives, against all odds, against what the world says we should be doing and how we should look if we have dementia.
The world saw Dementia as an old person disease, so people were generally not diagnosed until their late 60’s to mid-’70s and beyond really. Fast forward 20 or 30 years and here we are its till the image people have, except many of us are diagnosed so much younger, in our 30’s and 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, in the prime of our lives really. We are busy trying to work towards that wonderful world of retirement that we hear about. WAIT .. what was that, retirement for many can be lovely but for a great many, it brings about a lot of health challenges and actually sees a lot of people struggle with the whole aging thing, so what then have we spent the prime of our lives working for if that’s what awaits us, I’ve had many recent conversations with people who say we should actually be living in our lives in reverse, traveling, enjoying life until 40 or 45, and then settling into work and contributing more fully to society as we age.
I believe there is some truth to that, but that we should always be trying to contribute to society to the betterment of all, no matter the stage of life we are at.
For those of us diagnosed with Early-onset Dementia, our plans for retirement all those things we were working towards stops, its a sudden slam on the brakes stop. When you’re told to go home get your affairs in order, your world stops, your confidence disappears.
I think I lived in a sort of fog, not the brain fog of my dementia, but a different fog, I likely didn’t start to emerge from that for 6 months to a year at least if no longer. You go through the days, the motions, but suddenly you have no footing, no one tells you how to continue to live, they only tell you to get ready to die, except you know within yourself you still have living to do, you still have life in you, the two things collide, sending you reeling, no idea what or how you are supposed to move on to the next day, let alone the next month or year. Yes, its true those of us living with dementia are living with a terminal illness and we all know all to well that at any given day, the illness can abruptly decide today’s the day it’s going to send us reeling to the end gate. But what do we do until then, no one helps us with that, a great deal of focus in health care needs to be shifted in that direction.
So eventually I learned, through my DAI family, I learned, how to help myself, I slowly regained my confidence. I was encouraged to keep doing things I liked, both old and new, to keep learning. One of the things I really learned was that I could find Joy, laughter again, maybe not in the ways I had before, and maybe not in ways that most could understand, but I definitely could find a lot of joy in my life. I also became aware of my own power, the power to change my days, my moods, my thoughts, my outlook. I became a Dementia Warrior.
So recently I’ve had many things to celebrate, like my book “For this, I am Grateful” being published by Austin Macauley Publishers, For the opportunity it has created to allow me to meet many incredible people and to do what I have always wanted to do since being diagnosed and that was to make a difference for others.
That doesn’t,t mean I still don’t have the down days the sad days, the days when I question everything, the days when I really feel the losses, the loss of friendships, of a planned life that will never be. But I have taught myself to do self-care, which is so important because it will take me back to the joy, to the gratitude. For me heading out into nature, like I did yesterday, totally unplugged, grabbed a friend who if he’s not busy is always willing to head out there, packed my cooler, and my little dog, 110 Kilometers down dirt roads, finding lakes, streams, rivers, peacefulness, stopping for a picnic, stopping to explore and hike, 110 kilometers, through the dirt and the mud, returning refreshed, regrounded. So even though I am struggling more these days, I am remembering to be grateful, to find the joy, not to let the often dark and scary parts of Dementia overtake me.
I had a good laugh late last night as I was thinking about the grand day ( pictured here), thinking at some point I am likely to be one of those people who has everyone’s alerts going off because I’ve gone out of my established area, I can hear them saying ” oh for heaven’s sake where is she going now,” and “she’s likely headed somewhere she can sit with her feet in the water,” and “no she doesn’t think she’s lost shes just out exploring,” “don’t know what we’re going to do with her”. I can see that I will be that problem, and as I’m getting ready to drift off to sleep I think to myself with a smile on my face “oh how grand that will be”.