I found a letter dated July 28, 1883, written by Henry James to his friend Grace Norton, in a reference book. He wrote a letter of encouragement to her as she was desolate, depressed, and determined not to live. I post portions of it here should anyone out there feel as Grace did, in need of life-saving encouragement.
You are not isolated, verily, in such states of feeling as this – that is, in the sense that you appear to make all the misery of all mankind your own; only I have a terrible sense that you give all and receive nothing – that there is no reciprocity in your sympathy – that you have all the affliction of it and none of the returns.
I don’t know why we live, but I believe we can go on living for the reason that life is the most valuable thing we know anything about and it is therefore presumptively a great mistake to surrender it while there is any yet left in the cup.
Sorrow comes in great waves, but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot and we know that if it (sorrow) is strong, we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes, and we remain.
My dear friend, you are passing through a darkness in which I myself in my ignorance see nothing but that you have been made wretchedly ill by it; but it is only a darkness, it is not an end, or the end.
Don’t think, don’t feel, any more than you can help, don’t conclude or decide – don’t do anything but wait. Everything will pass … and the tenderness of a few good people, and new opportunities, and ever so much of life, in a word, will remain.
You are marked out for success, and you must not fail. You have my tenderest affection and all my confidence.
Living one day at a time is a good philosophy to uphold regardless of what’s going on in one’s life. I would extend that sentiment to say, “Live each day one moment at a time.” It’s good to plan, set goals, even write a bucket list, but doing so addresses the future, not the present.
When I was admitted to a local hospital for hip replacement surgery, I knew that would be one step toward many that I would accomplish to attain complete recovery. I had no idea what accomplishments I would be able to celebrate or in what order they would appear, I simply knew I would eventually be able to move beyond my physical restrictions.
I was right.
Walker. Yep, I held onto this piece of durable medical equipment (DME) like it was my lifeline…because it was. I learned how to use it while still in the hospital and once I got home I outfitted my own walker with a multi-pocketed pouch wherein I stored necessary items: water bottle, iPhone, iPad, tissues, snacks, so that wherever I landed, I was set. Two weeks post surgery I was able to retire the walker. What a lovely step in the right direction.
Cane. Using my Hurrycane is liberating – I say is, not was, because it’s still attached to my person as a means of transportation. Today, November 6th, marks one month since my surgery and I am still nowhere near ready to retire this piece of equipment because I still need the support it provides. I’ve even learned how to use it as a pick-up-something-I-dropped-aid, as long as the dropped item is thicker than a piece of paper or bigger than the Vitamin D3 capsules I take every day but sometimes end up on the floor. I drop things often enough that my husband simply follows my trail of items to discern where I’ve been lately.
Raised toilet seat. I know, there’s a visual all of you would prefer not to have, but early on in my recovery, it was a requirement that meant the difference between responding successfully to my most base urges, or…not, and that visual would have been far worse to contemplate. Fortunately, it served me well and I retired it three weeks post-surgery.
Medications. Okay, this is a tricky one. I abhor having to take medications, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, but when your leg is sliced into, requiring major manipulations by the surgeon and his jolly helpers – not to mention sawing off sections of a bone that I would no longer need – a person is going to have lingering pain issues that need to be addressed, and this person sure does. I am a very slow healer; an 80-year old can have the same surgery as me and return to yoga or square dancing classes a mere two weeks after receiving their bionic hip. Not so, I.
So here I am, wishing I was further along in my rehabilitation but refusing to compare myself to others who appear to be better off post-surgery than I am. I can smile throughout my day and sleep well at night knowing I have one of the most effective rehabilitation tools a person could hope for: my husband. Jerry supports me physically and he supports me emotionally, the latter of which has been almost more important than the former. He recently held me in his arms on the couch while I bawled into his neck, saturating it and his t-shirt with my tears. On that particular day, I was tired of hurting. To be sure, pain is very taxing on one’s body and emotions – there is no separation between the two – so if my body is having a hard time, so is my psyche.
Is that a lose/lose situation? It can be, but if I remember to live one day or one moment at a time, I’ll be less inclined to allow fear and frustration to take root. Fear is based on the future: what if I never get better? what if the surgery didn’t work? what if I am never able to be as active as I want to be? what if I never stop hurting? All future-based.
When living in the moment I can celebrate my ability to:
- climb the stairs in my house two at a time instead of one;
- walk to the end of my driveway to retrieve the mail;
- get in and out of bed without assistance;
- bathe with very little assistance;
- dress myself;
- do more tasks in the kitchen than I was able to do four weeks ago; and
- hold my grandson and give him a multitude of smooches while he sits on my lap.
Regardless of how long it takes for me to get back to “normal” that time will come and when it does it’ll be right on time. In the interim, I’m going to acknowledge each moment as precious and not concern myself with that which has yet to occur.
Treatable Conditions that Mimic Dementia – AARP. I am so pleased that AARP published this article about false positives for Alzheimer’s disease. Because of the high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, we have all become very sensitive to any abnormal cognitive challenges in our lives. A few people have said to me, “I keep losing my keys. I forget where I place them. Do I have Alzheimer’s?” I’m not a medical professional but I have been trained by several in the profession. Teepa Snow, one of America’s leading educators on dementia, had this response to that type of question, and I paraphrase:
If you forget where you’ve put down your keys, you may not have dementia. If you forget what they are or what they’re used for, you could very well have dementia.
The attached AARP article provides possible reasons for cognitive abnormalities that are not Alzheimer’s disease: medication, urinary tract infection (UTI), diabetes, thyroid, and depression to name a few. That being the case, even if you forget what the car keys are for, you still may not have Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
In my attached article, Medications: harbinger of cognitive decline? I address just one of the causes for a false positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Please read that article, to be sure, but also read the attached piece by AARP. You deserve to have peace of mind by finding out if your symptoms, or those of a loved one, are reversible. And by all means, be bold enough to demand that your treating physician rule out all other possible conditions before putting you through the grueling neurological testing that many physicians prescribe as first steps, rather than the last resort when determining the cause of a patient’s cognitive decline.
Why can’t I remember how to use this can opener?
How in the world did I get lost driving to the supermarket – a route I drive at least once a week!
My words are getting all jumbled up and my sentences aren’t making sense.
What’s happening to me?
Are you one of the many people who started to take a medication to resolve a condition, or at least to make it better, only to end up with distressing – and life-changing – mild cognitive impairment?
How long did it take for you and your doctor to realize that this horrific change of condition was caused by a medication that was added to your health regimen?
What types of expensive, and grueling, tests did you go through prior to coming to that conclusion? Did any of you go through neurological testing?
And how long did it take for you to feel “normal” again once you took your doctor’s advice to either go off the medication or replace it with a medication that did not cause cognitive decline?
I am personally aware of several people who experienced cognitive decline after taking the Pfizer drug, Lyrica (pregabalin). This drug was originally intended for treatment of neuropathic pain and as an anti-seizure medication, but was approved for treatment of fibromyalgia in 2007. Additionally, cholesterol-lowering statin medications oftentimes cause the same cognitive outcomes. And with the Pfizer drug Lyrica, increased depression – even suicide or newly diagnosed depression – were directly linked to this drug.
As Baby Boomers, we’re entering a phase where, depending upon what ails us, we start adding prescription medications to our health regimen in an attempt to have a high degree of health and well-being.
We need to be completely aware of how a medication may affect us, but it’s unfortunate that most of our awareness is dependent upon the Patient Information Sheet provided by the pharmaceutical companies. These information sheets are sketchy, at best, and carry only half-truths, at worse.
Do you have similar experiences you can share? We’d like to hear from you because awareness, and education, will help us all.