sophrosyne. (n.) a healthy state of mind, characterized by self-control, moderation, and a deep awareness of one's true self, and resulting in true happiness.
It's always difficult for me when I leave Bill at the nursing home. "I can't be here," he tells me with tears streaming down his eyes. I kiss his forehead. He looks at his room. "It's dark. I can't be in the dark." I turn on his lights and help him recognize his things in his room. While I know he has owned these things for many years, it is foreign to him. Every time we leave and return, it is a new experience for him. I think to myself that it must be a frightening world for him. And I get to leave and go home. That's a tough thing to deal with. It's the reality I see. It's my sweet, sad, and scared husband. It's the daddy of my baby boy. And it leads to such a loss in my heart.
When it comes to emotions, I am an amateur. If emotions were a computer software program, mine would fall under the category of corrupted. I would simply uninstall and re-install the program. I guess in a sense that is exactly what the brain does, is crash like a computer, go into recovery, and reboot. I think that is why we forget. Forget the truths.
The truth is, the Bill I am experiencing today is most like the Bill I fell in love with. We laugh, we cry, we live by the moment. He is sweet, often scared, and grieving the loss of what he refers to as a "normal" life. That's tough to leave. And it's tough to go home alone and face the loss of finances, the fear of tomorrow, the humility of having to rely on my mother, my brother, to help me in crisis while I try to heal and to find new purpose in my life; to help find a way to make a living. Bill is not the only one living with Alzheimer's. We are, too. I am, as well as Bill, our son Jack, my family, even my extended friends. I like to think I am in control, but I cannot control the reality of life.
A couple of weeks ago, I was searching for paperwork for our attorney. I was given a reality check. I was forced to go back through our history, back through the devastating actions that lead to Bill's placement in the nursing home. For forty-five days I re-read court orders, DA threats, rehashed the attorney fees looking for one simple piece of paper. I cried. I threw things. I cursed. I cried some more. And then, out of the blue, this picture dropped out of my files. Still in denial, I noticed a small piece of plastic ID had fallen.
There he was. It was Bill. It was the Bill that decided he no longer needed his medications. It was the Bill that refused to stop driving, found his hidden keys, and totaled his truck by hitting a couple driving down the highway. It was the Bill that hated his life, hated our home, hated us. He saw himself in a prison while building a prison around our lives. This Bill was the Bill who had to be moved to a nursing home.
Somehow, this gave me peace, . I suddenly realized that my attempt to try to control everything has taken the joy out of my life. Those thoughts, especially the thoughts that blanket me when I leave or those that crowd my mind at night when I'm alone. One should never be left alone at night with their thoughts. Thoughts are like tiny little gremlins who come out and eat you alive until daylight rises the next morning. Those thoughts were only partial memories, and important to keep alive, but only parts of our real life.
Thoughts swirl around as I try to find some commonality to help piece together feelings of grief, sadness, anger, hopelessness, even, yes, even the thought of maybe there would be peace if it would just all end... these thoughts are like a sinking ship.
I realize more and more every day that Bill is not the only one living with Alzheimer's. I am too. And I believe in doing more than surviving. I am not going to give in to this moment of crisis. I will rebuild, heal, and help others to survive. I will share peace, love, truth, and harmony because I believe that life is so much better with these things. I will share self-growth, happiness, beauty, and life because these things are in me and are me. I choose to live. Not just survive.
"Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim." Vicki Harrison.
"One day someone is going to hug you so tight that all of your broken pieces will stick back together." Anonymous.