Saturday, December 19, 2009


I have to get this off my chest. Some things are harder to express or even explain. Sometimes our thinking processes are clouded by illusions that at some point, some moment the illusion is unmasked. It's the moment of epiphany when we realize what's been happening.
Let me try and explain. For those of you who have been with me on this blog, you will be familiar with the drama that occurred over twelve months ago when my wife a sudden brain infection left her demented, drained of all personality, without memory, unable to perform ordinary daily tasks, unable to look after herself. Dementia that is associated with old age comes on gradually over time. What K experience was as sudden as it was shocking for me and all of us that know her. In hindsight, we now know it was a brain infection that resulted from a gum infection.
In looking back at her miraculous recovery, I was so overjoyed that I blinded myself to the fact she wasn't quite the complete person she had been before. Her cognition was slower, she had huge chunks of memory missing from the period of the illness and her speech/verbal expression is stilted, slow and vague. In fact, many times over the past year I've mistaken her condition for drunkenness. That wasn't so difficult to do because she has a history of alcohol abuse. Using alcohol to deal with pain has been one of her faults. I've never been tolerant of drunken behavior and every instance of her slow speech was taken to be a sign that she was drunk again.I would accuse her of being drunk and that was unfair and hurtful to her. Believing she was drunk often made me irritable and angry with her. That's not to say she didn't have episodes of alcohol abuse.
During these last twelve months, she began attending group sessions for people with mental disabilities and alcohol addiction. This was a way for her to get back into normal life of socializing with people- something that had been missing from her life since she became homebound with a back injury that left her physically disabled, that is incapable of many normal activities like bending, lifting or sitting/standing for lengthy periods coupled with constant and intense pain. She is also medicated for bi-polar disorder and depression.
The picture of her health is obviously very grim but we did manage to resume a normal life albeit very different from the one before her injury and different from the one before her episode of dementia.
In fact things were looking promising in that her attendance at the support group was an indication that she was improving.
Last Thursday, I attended the support group with her for a Christmas dinner.
Here she was, happy to be around people she knew. The problem was that seeing my wife with this group made me realize what I had been blind to, call it denial or whatever you want. I saw here amongst a group of  disabled people, disabled for different reasons but clearly they were struggling to live a normal life.Yes, my wife is disabled, I thought to myself.
She had told me about them many times but seeing them somehow hit home something that I have been reluctant to accept. I've been behaving very badly towards her. Not in the sense of neglect or abuse but badly in that I've not made concessions to her disability. I've been short tempered, irritable and maybe too aggressive with her slow responses to my conversation.I kept thinking of her as she was when I first met her instead of the person she is now. In fact, I was in denial of how different person she is now than she was before. That is the epiphany. In fact I felt so ashamed of myself, I could barely contain my tears. Somehow, seeing K with others similar to her drove home the fact that she is in fact mental disease does change people. K has frontal lobe damage even though the dementia has passed.  Ever so slightly,  but enough to signal that whilst she was sharp and quick on the uptake she now is slow. The intelligence is still there but it does take much longer to grasp concepts.I have to be more patient, I have to be more tolerant.
I've been with her through sessions of rehab for drug/alcohol addiction. I've been with her through episodes of bi-polar disorder until medication finally brought her wild mood swings under control. I've been with her through the crippling back injury and operation and subsequent recovery over many years. I've save her from probable death on two occasions, once when she went into paroxysms as a reaction to medication and another time  when she  nearly died of hypothermia as she lay unconscious in the toilet.
I feel so ashamed that I wasn't capable of understanding the long term effects of frontal lobe damage to the brain.
There, now I've got it off my chest.

Merry Christmas everybody.

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Anonymous said...

Welcome to the human race... seldom are the things we wish to be true coincident with what is...

but we are always changing and evolving. As Heraclitus said, "you can't step into the same river twice."

Alice in Wonderland said...

Wise words from a wise man. It must have taken a lot of courage to write so openly as you have done on this post. Statistics show that 1 in 3 people will suffer from some sort of mental illness in their lives, so you are not the only one going through this. There is support for you out there, but patience with your wife is very important. Imagine what she must be going through every day of her life.
All my thoughts are with you both at this time, and I hope that with proper care, she will become at least part of the woman that you loved so much.
Big hugs, and best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Lex, my heart is full of respect for you and your wife.

I so admire the way you've shared a part of yourself here. So often I want to do this very thing, but end up hitting the delete button.

You've both been through so much, and infarcts are deceptive in that the person looks to be perfectly healed...but there is always residual disability. Nobody but family can understand how very difficult this must be.

Stucco said...

So, what you are saying is that you are merely mortal, right? Mistakes are made by we mortals. Don't get too down on yourself. Kudos for the introspection.

Lexcen said...

Opinions are a dime a dozen but it's not often I feel the need to express my feelings. Stucco, I thought you never read this blog?