Living within a World of Alzheimer’s
Have you ever tried spelling Alzheimer’s? Thank goodness for spellcheck otherwise this article would have stumbled at the first hurdle!
Did you know that September is World Alzheimer Month? No nor did I, but I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about this disease from a very personal perspective. My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s and it has been a very challenging journey for me from the initial upset and disbelief on diagnosis to a calm and peaceful acceptance.
We all have challenges in life, sometimes they are on going and sometimes they pop up out of the blue. This is the nature of being human and although we don’t often have control over these external situations, we do have control about how we are going to handle them. This is where our personal power is.
With my mother’s diagnosis the challenge was set. How could I be of most assistance to her while also managing my emotions so I don’t wear myself down in the process. Alzheimer’s is a marathon not a sprint, so looking after myself and working on my emotional and psychological well-being was paramount. There can be this resistance to looking after ourselves, the word selfish comes to mind here, when someone close to us is going through a challenging time, however the inescapable truth is that unless you prioritise yourself first, you are no good to anyone!
This is particularly difficult for most women to accept. We have been brought up to be natural carers and nurturers and it could be argued that this need to care and look after everyone is part of our internal make up. While this trait is very worthy, it is double sided. We can very easily get into the habit of receiving our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem from giving all of ourselves to others. However it’s a bit like drawing constantly from a well that eventually runs dry and can lead to resentment and martyr syndrome. The well needs to be replenished so we can give freely and lovingly and not run the risk of having nothing left to give to ourselves.
So I did battle with what I can only describe as a burning need to put my feelings aside to care and be there for my mother to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. I’m sure that there are those of you who can relate. However although I am a coach and I believe that personal development is an ongoing process, it wasn’t until my son pointed out to me that I was being consumed by the situation, that I paid attention and took a long deep breath.
Being able to take a step back, to become aware of our patterns of behaviour, is the only way that we can make any adjustments and changes to improve not only our lives but the lives of people around us.
The biggest challenge with Alzheimer’s is that it is a degenerative disease, and changes can be either slow and drawn out or sudden and quite dramatic. I have had to learn to shift and adapt my thoughts and feelings as my mother’s symptoms progress. It is this personal work that I’m constantly doing on myself which allows me to weather each storm and rebalance myself enough to make the best decisions for my mother while continuing to love her unconditionally.
My final thought here is that the lessons I am constantly learning, when dealing with everything that having a mother with Alzheimers brings up, are having a really positive effect on the rest of my life as well. I feel I’m better able to navigate life’s challenges and have come to the realisation that I always need to look after myself, to check in with how I’m feeling and ensure that I’m making choices that are good for me. This way I can have the most positive and loving influence on everyone around me and feel wonderful about what I’m always bringing to the table.