Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Before the diagnosis, but not too far off from it, my senior year of college. Knowing what we know now, there were already signs that something was wrong--depression and mood swings and odd behavior that didn't totally feel like my mom.
There are symptoms to this disease that aren't talked about often--becoming withdrawn, paranoia. My mom didn't want to interact with our family in the same way she had before. She became more sullen, more reserved. I thought maybe she was having a midlife crisis, maybe she wanted out from her marriage (and she said as much a few times). The confusion and tension grew for months until things got bad enough where we knew there was more going on than just not being happy with life.
There were countless assessments. Shots of B-12. Evaluations for menopause and clinical depression and brain tumors. Around the time we were running out of things to test and treat, I started dating someone whose mom had early onset. His sister recounted their experience with their mom's disease and progression and I nodded quietly, already knowing in those moments that this is what was happening to my mother.
It took another couple months before a doctor was finally willing to call it Alzheimer's. As much as I know now that it was a death sentence to my mom as I knew her, at the time I remember it feeling like an incredible relief. Finally there was a name to put to the strange incidents and behaviors that had been wreaking havoc on our family. Finally there was an understanding of just what was happening to my mother.
I was 22 then, and we all were trying to navigate the news through a fog of shock and denial. My mom was adamant she wanted things to remain as normal as possible for as long as it could. We didn't talk about it much, something I regret so much now. I moved home from Texas, and shrugged off the feelings of failure I felt for ending up back in my hometown.
September is #alzheimersawarenessmonth. It also coincides with the time of year we learned my mom's fate. I wanted to share more of our story here in case there are others out there who may be stumbling through this experience too. Sending love and light.
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