The Examined Life

Have you ever been told, You’re Unique, Just like everyone else? While we all have many things in common, it’s true that no one else is exactly like you. In some ways we’re all like snowflakes; snow is frozen water, but each flake is unique in design. What this means is that we all have abilities, strengths, and weaknesses that are a unique combination. But because we’re all made of the same “stuff” we still have much in common with each other. St. Paul writes, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to human beings.” (1 Cor. 10:13) St. Paul is saying, “Don’t think you’re so special that you are above temptation, or your temptation is so much worse than ANYONE ELSE has ever endured.” In many ways, we really are all in the same boat.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” For Socrates, walking in the truth was vitally important, and he realized how much self-deception we all have. If you don’t know what kind of person you are, where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you will live an unfulfilled, frustrated life.

By now most of us Caregivers realize that our health and lives are being threatened. This job of Caregiving is dangerous, and a high percentage will find their lives cut short.  Each one of us needs to take a good honest look at ourselves to see what are our strengths and weaknesses? What weakness do I have that, linked with years of Caregiving, will cause me to die an early death? What do I need to let go and what strengths do I have that will help me to endure this horrible disease?

I have been thinking a lot about how to survive my wife’s Dementia. I expect to survive no matter what, because it seems quite difficult to kill off a Woodby. I had uncles who drank heavily, smoked since they were children, and loved as many women as possible, who lived into their late 80s or early 90s. I don’t know why their wives, or a jealous husband didn’t murder them. They were fun people to be around; there was always a lot of good food, good beer, laughter, and love.

My mom’s side of the family also has longevity on their side. Her family were Quakers and didn’t drink to excess, smoke, or have multiple affairs, (I’m not saying that they had any affairs, but nothing would surprise me.) Her brothers and sisters also lived into their 80s & 90s. (Mom did have one sister who died in her forties, from breast cancer. Back in 1957 there wasn’t much that could be done for cancer.) Everyone was shocked and amazed when my mom died. She seemed like she was in such good health, loved life, enjoyed every day. Then she had cardiac arrest and couldn’t be revived. None of us could believe it, after all she was only 90 years old.

Even though, I have genetics on my side my brain seems to go into self-destruct mode, with worst case scenarios, depression, and anxiety that causes a lack of sleep. Lack of sleep causes weight gain which can be seen by the fact that I have gained 14 pounds since January first of this year. I cannot think of one aunt or uncle that was overweight, let alone obese, like I am. It is important for me to lower my stress level, get enough sleep each night, and lose forty pounds. I cannot just say, “Long life runs in my family and let it go at that.

Are you doing self-destructive things, to help you cope? Medicating your pain with recreational drugs or alcohol will only hurt you in the long run. (the latest studies indicate that one drink for women and two for men should be our daily limit.) Alcoholism runs through my family, (Actually, they say it no longer runs through the family, but has brought luggage and has settled in.) I enjoy a beer, or glass of wine, with dinner, but since this is a family weakness, I must be careful not to allow it to take over my life.

Have you ever seen someone’s life spin out of control because of something bad that happened to them? As a pastor, I counseled many people who, because of the death of a spouse, or an unwanted divorce, went into a time of self-destructive insanity. These poor people lost jobs, went bankrupt, became addicted to drugs, lost the respect of their children, etc. They look back over that time with deep regret and ask, “What the hell was I thinking?” The truth is, thinking had nothing to do with it, they were running on pure emotions. Often people with FTD are already out of control and have crossed over into insanity. Isn’t one, out of control insane adult, enough for your family to deal with?

If you plan on living after Dementia has taken your Loved One, then you need to take a serious look at yourself. To help you get started, I’m going to list some of the strengths and weakness in my life.

Strengths (Always start with your strengths)

  • I have a good sense of humor and don’t take myself too seriously.
  • My Lord and Savior, Jesus, is with me to strengthen, guide, and equip me.
  • I have friends, support groups, and family to bounce things off.
  • I don’t hold grudges, and can forgive
  • I am loyal, and faithful and will do almost anything to keep my wedding vows.
  • I am very patient with people.
  • I have a deep love for people, regardless of their background.

Weaknesses

  • Depression is an ongoing battle.
  • Stress and anxiety take a toll on my health.
  • I am very impatient with things that don’t work like machines, cars, etc.
  • When I lose my temper I shout, curse, and generally act like a fool.
  • Touch is my number one love language, dangerous for someone whose spouse has FTD, because they no longer want to touch.
  • I talk too fast, and low, making it difficult for Harriet to hear what I have said.
  • I use food and drink to self-medicate my depression and anxiety.

The list tells me that to make it to the other side I will need to see the humor in every situation and laugh often. I will need to rely on the Lord, which is a call to daily prayer and Bible study. I must fight any desire to isolate myself and stay in touch with other people.  l need to strive to be faithful, forgiving, and loving, regardless of how Harriet acts.

On the other hand, I will need to stay on a diet, and use daily exercise as a medication. Proper behavior around women must be maintained. An affair would only make a difficult situation even worse. I need to monitor my depression and get help if it gets worse. Using Teepa Snow’s, three cleansing breaths, five times a day, is essential. Things will go a lot smoother if I curse and yell a lot less and speak slowly and clearly to Harriet.

This self-examination needs to be ongoing. I am in this for the long haul. Which means I need to take care of myself, the best that I can, every day. We need to stand together in order to live a good long time after the death of the one we are caring for. Dementia wants to kill both Harriet and me, and your Loved One and You. I’m going to do everything in my power to defy it and live. Will you join me?

Please continue to pray for us. You can be sure that we pray for you every day

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