This is more personal and sombre than the things I normally post here. It just happens to be what is on my mind at the moment.
We all have episodes in our lives that we are not very proud of (or is it just me??) Anyway, some years ago I went through a period where I was smoking far too much weed and taking all sorts of other things too. Luckily I am the sort of person who has always been able to learn from my mistakes, sometimes however it takes a bit of a crisis to make you realize just how far down the wrong road you have traveled. For me that came one night when I split up with my boyfriend and was generally unhappy with life and lacking direction. I picked that moment to get very drunk, smoke some very strong skunk and pop some pills I assumed to be Ecstasy but in fact had no idea what they were.
And then my mind stopped working.
Thoughts… Got stuck. I could see the thoughts I was having but they didn’t seem…
Some thoughts…. repeated.
Some thoughts repeated.
Some thoughts repeated
Again and again and again and again and again. I thought they would never stop. Echoing… In my empty brain.
And there were dreams. Horrible dreams which I couldn’t escape from. But they were interlaced with things… that might have been real. Dancing somewhere… Kissing somebody… Falling in the snow… Throwing up… Strange faces staring at me. A voice of a distant me saying things which made no sense. What language is she speaking I wondered. And that question repeated, over and over…. And there was this other me in a distant universe who was getting naked, and these two guys she had never met before were taking turns at her. And I wanted to hate them but I couldn’t because that other me had probably said yes at some point while the real me was struggling with these echo thoughts that wouldn’t go away. But I was less afraid of being raped than I was afraid that my mind… might stay… like this… forever…
Well I got better and I got over it. I came round sometime in the next day or so and had enough residue of sense to get myself to a hospital. I confessed everything I had done and felt utterly humiliated. A physical examination confirmed that I had indeed had sex but I had absolutely no recollection of who I had been with or even where I had been, so there was no criminal case to pursue. To my great relief subsequent tests showed that I hadn’t been infected with anything. I was kept in hospital for a couple of days until all the toxins had left my system and then was released back into the world again. The next few weeks were excruciating, all my confidence had gone and I was so embarrassed by the whole thing I felt like I was wearing a badge which told everyone what had happened to me and how stupid I had been. But I did get better, I did learn and I did grow up.
So why do I mention all that now? It’s because when I think back to that time it is still that terrible fear that I had lost my mind forever that hurts and haunts me the most. And today after visiting my Mum in the care home it struck me that that is exactly what is happening to her but she has done nothing to deserve it.
In previous blog entries I have written a little about the fact that my mother is suffering from early onset dementia. Last November as her condition continued to deteriorate I had to put her in a care home. Since then she has got worse and worse both mentally and physically, despite the best care and supervision we can pay for.
I recently returned from my longest working trip abroad since Mum has been in the home. I knew from conversations on the phone with my mum herself and with staff at the home that her condition had declined, but it was still a shock to see it for myself now that I am back for a few weeks.
She used to take great pride in her appearance; that is now gone completely despite the nurse’es efforts to dress her well. She insists on putting layer on over layer or stripping off completely in the middle of the public areas. She still remembers me, which is a blessing, but her conversations make no sense at all and remind me painfully of the episode I have just described. Her mind is totally disjointed. Thoughts came and go at random. She has no sense of order, time or place. The ghosts of her past mix with what is going on around her and strange dreamlike happenings merge with reality.
“What did you have for dinner today Mum?”
“Dinner? I don’t know. I think the children put it in boxes… With the dress I am wearing… We put it all out on the table… I didn’t sleep… The dog kept barking…”
And yet there is still enough of her left inside to know that something isn’t right. She is not in some blissful dream-world, she knows at some level that her mind isn’t working and the thought terrifies her, as it once did me. With me it only lasted a day or two… For her it is all that is left.
And so I leave her and walk out into the sunshine. I do my daily chores. I prepare some lessons, listen to some music, call a few people on the phone, arrange to meet some friends for a drink, write some reports about my last courses, go shopping, basque in normality while knowing that Mum can never do that again. I tell myself that I have done everything I can to help her. But I still feel guilty for every normal thing I enjoy.