Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Trust

After writing my last post, I started thinking about how that year affected me in the long term. The word "trust" came to mind.

I've never been an overly trusting person (my cultural background is known to be a suspicious bunch of people!). But after the year 2000, I became quite distrustful. After the being dumped by my boyfriend of 7 1/2 years (read here), I felt very unsure of myself and other people. When your life partner (or so you thought!) deceives you and you're suddenly on your own, you do a lot of soul searching for moments that you feel you should have "clued in". I found quite a few of these and kicked myself for not seeing them before.

Fast forward to today...I feel like I am overly aware of things. Honnestly, I don't think I really trust anyone in my life absolutely 100%. Even people in my life who I should be able to trust 100%...I don't. So sad, isn't it? But I guess it's a self-preservation tool. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice...

Monday, November 17, 2008

The other turning point

I mentioned in my earlier post that I had another turning point in the year 2000 and I didn't want to leave my readers hanging ;)

The same week that I met my friend P. for the first time is the same week that my boyfriend of 7 1/2 years ("T") broke up with me. It was one of the most devastating moments in my personal life.

We had been together since highschool and we were planning on moving in together in the near future/once I got care for my mom settled. T had started his own business and I was in full support of his dreams, thinking that one day it would be our business that would support us and our future family. I often paid for things, knowing that T was scraping by, trying to get the business up & running. I didn't mind. I figured it was all an investment in our future together.

Then, one day, T broke if off with me, out of the blue. There was no reason or forewarning. It was just out of the blue. I barely functioned for months; it was just more than I could handle in my already emotionally exhausted state. I cried so many tears that I didn't think I had any more. I sat by the phone thinking he'd call and want to come back. I'd call him sometimes and beg & plead to let me know what had gone wrong. He didn't have much to say. His own mother, his family and friends were completely shocked and called me asking what had happened as they weren't getting any answers from him.

My poor mom...she was still somewhat with it somedays and could see that I was not okay. She could sense my heartbreak & sadness and would comfort me and let me bawl to her about T. But then the next day she'd forget about what happened and ask me "when is T coming over? Aren't you seeing him tonight?".

A couple months passed and one of T's associates from his field called me one day. Their annual year-end dinner had taken place that weekend and the associate was shocked to find some "fluzy" as T's date that night instead of me. That's when I started to piece things together. Fluzy? Sounded like a perfect description of his neighbour. But wait, she lives with her long-time boyfriend. It dawned on me that there was a lot more going on than I knew.

I waited outside T's apartment one night and when he got home, I confronted him. I said "after 7 1/2 years, I at least deserve the truth". He told me the painful truth: he had hooked up with his neighbour (yes, the fluzy) and she had broken up with her boyfriend and they were now living together.

Words cannot describe how I felt after hearing that. I was still hurt and in a terrible state but I was also oddly relieved to hear the truth. At last, this mess made some sense. It's very difficult to move on or heal when you're living in the dark, not knowing what happened. At least with the truth (as hard as it is to hear) you have something to work with.

So that was my September in the year 2000. It was a month that I'll probably never forget. I turned 25, confirmed my mom had Alzheimers and got dumped by my highschool/college sweetheart out of the blue.

Now that it's been 8 years, I can look back and know that things happened for a reason and for the best. Eventually, we got my mom assessed and got her in to the care that she needed. And eventually, I saw that T did me a big favour by breaking things off. The following year, after the breakup, I met my DH and began to see how I was just settling for T and he wasn't the best for me. It's amazing how much sense things make in retrospect! So the moral of this story? When you're having a hard time and things just seem to be falling apart, know that years from now, you'll be able to look back and make some sense of all of it and hopefully be in a better place overall.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It was the year 2000...

I went out for dinner last night with someone I met on the internet. It's not what you're thinking. I met this person online 8 years ago (the internet wasn't quite what it is today) on an Alzheimers chatboard. When I think back to how the internet was then, it might as well have been in DOS - it was so primitive!

It was the year 2000 and my mom had been sick for about 8 years already. Her symptoms were showing more frequently and I was starting to get quite worried (and a little bit insane myself!). She showed general paranoia, being uncharacteristically aggressive sometimes, forgetfulness and very poor day-to-day life skills (she didn't shop, cook, clean or care about her personal hygiene anymore). I had been living with my mom on my own for 6 years at that point and knew something was wrong - much more wrong than "she's getting old and forgetful and misses Dad" as my absent siblings used to preach.

I had started researching Alzheimers which didn't seem to be as widely known about back then* and came across my city's Alzheimers Society's website. I read the materials which basically confirmed my fears but I wanted to talk to someone real (and not an operator at a 1-800 number...someone who was actually going through what I was experiencing). That's when I visited the chatboard on the site and found my friend, P.

P. and I chatted back and forth for a while about what we were going through. She was going through exactly what I was experiencing. It was such a relief to talk to someone like this! Eventually, we disclosed to each other where we were located in the city and found that we worked/lived near each other. We made plans to meet for dinner one night in September 2000... what a chance I felt I was taking. But it was a chance I was willing to take because this person was giving me a beacon of light in some of the darkest days that I can remember. This person might turn out to be a homicidal maniac but I figured s/he wouldn't kill me at a public restaurant!

We met and P. turned out to be completely normal and an amazing person. We talked for hours about our moms, Alzheimers and a little bit about our lives in general. We shared stories about what our moms do on a daily basis (classic tales!) and how exhausted and devastated we felt sometimes. It felt so good to find a real person who confirmed all the things that go on in the early phases of Alzheimers. The year 2000 was a turning point: I had confirmed for myself that my mom had Alzheimers. It would be almost another year before my siblings were convinced and we got mom properly assessed by doctors. Another life changing event happened that year (actually that same week!) but I'll save that for another post.

So, 8 years later, here we are. Both our moms have passed on due to Alzheimers/its complications and we're out having dinner. P is still a beacon of light for me. She's been through it all (and much more!) and always listens to me and provides such refreshingly candid (yet kind!) advice. She reassured me last night that I will feel "normal" again but it takes time.

P's mom passed away 6 years ago so P has already been down this path that I'm currently on. I still remember her mom's funeral - it really hit me that Alzheimers eventually takes the patient's life. When you're in the earlier stages, the end seems so far away and doesn't seem like a reality. But it is real. Enjoy the time you have with your patient now; especially when they're having a good day. And try to reach out to supporters - through family, friends, the internet, support groups... the support will help you tremendously and maybe you'll meet a great friend like I did with P.

*afterthought: somedays, I don't think Alzheimers is widely known about even NOW. Even up until this year, some people haven't a clue about Alzheimers...they don't know anything about the disease. This is what some people said to me about my mom/ Alzheimers:

-"I hope your mom feels better soon"
-"How is your mom doing - is she getting better?"
-"Alzheimers...hmm, I've heard they have all sorts of treatment out there. Have you tried them for your mom?"