I AM NOT ALONE or Am I? Did you notice that last Monday, I Am Not Alone, wasn’t posted? This was because last week, Dr. Martha did not receive any forms from any of our readers. I’m not sure why more people won’t share their stories. When you do you’re helping people from all around the world. Last week over 125 people from 12 countries read the blog. One person commented that it is so good to see that they are not alone. If you are, or have been, a caregiver, encourage your fellow caregivers by filling out the form and sending it to Dr. Martha. I thank you in advance. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Have you ever watched professional boxers before a fight? They will insult their opponent and make every attempt to cause them to become angry. We used to do the same thing in Little League Base ball. Someone would start to chant, HEY, Batter, batter, batter! This batter can’t hit! Pretty soon the entire infield was insulting the batter. Our coach used to say, “Don’t forget, the better you hit, the louder they get.” (Which is why it was really quiet when I got up to bat.) The reason things like this are done, is to try to make the opponent so angry that they would lose the edge and make stupid mistakes. Get angry, get stupid, then you will say and do things you’ll regret.
If your Loved One has bvFTD, you might feel like the batter who is constantly being insulted. We all know they do this because their brain is damaged. We’ve all been told, “It’s not your LO speaking, it’s the dementia.” Both of those statements are absolutely true. However, no human being runs on intellect alone, emotions play a huge part in our life. This means that, even though I understand that brain damage is causing these behaviors, it still hurts my feelings and makes me angry and depressed.
There are a number of ways you can respond to this constant onslaught of insults, putdowns, and threats; some good and helpful and some which will make things much worse.
You could fight fire with fire: if he says nasty things I will respond with even better insults, if he slaps me, I will punch him out. If she is spending your retirement funds you could file for divorce, during which you attempt to get everything the two of you own. In other words, you do one-up-man-ship: a insult gets a larger insult, a slap gets a punch, an affair gets a divorce, wasting money gets everything possible out of his name. This first way treats your LO like he doesn’t really have dementia. However, it will probably destroy you with guilt and depression, because deep down inside you know that the misbehavior is caused by the dementia.
Well, how about the opposite approach? If you’re not the kind to give as good as you get, you could withdraw and speak to your LO as little as possible. You walk on eggs, let him do whatever and live a separate life as possible. We all know people who are married to an abusive husband or wife, who live most of their lives this way. The problem with living like this is, you lose your self-respect, causing even deeper problems with depression. Teepa Snow says, “Your LO may have brain damage, but they’re not stupid.” The more I allow them to manipulate me with insults, threats, and abuse, the more they will behave that way. After all, if they’re not stupid, they can still do things to get what they want. If they don’t get the response they’re looking for they will stop dishing the crap out.
So, what can you do to keep your cool during stressful times? First, you need to destress yourself on a regular basis. Dr. Natalie writes, “Think Calmly: Just breathe. Nice and Easy breaths, I know that I will get through this moment.” Teepa Snow recommends that we take 3 deep cleansing breaths, 5 times a day. Other things that help me destress are: singing, whistling, exercise, walking, and talking with close friends.
Secondly, I find that praying for Harriet, including forgiving, and asking the Lord to bless her, are great therapy for me. Since I really do understand that the things I don’t like, are caused by brain damage, it helps to forgive her. Plus, I believe, that when I try to follow the teachings and examples of Jesus and other saints, the Holy Spirit will empower me to be successful.
Do you remember the story of Corrie ten Boom, and her family, who were sent to Nazi concentration camps for hiding Jews in their house? Her Father died in the camp and her sister was treated so badly by one of the guards that she also died. After the war Corrie traveled all around Europe, sharing the Gospel and telling the stories of how the Lord brought her through that horrible time. One evening, she had finished her talk and was answering questions and greeting people. Who should come forward, but the guard that treated her sister so horribly. He didn’t recognize Corrie, but spoke about his time serving as a guard, and the guilt he felt because of the times when he was too harsh with the prisoners. He wondered if the Lord could forgive him and, because of Corrie’s talk, came to see that he too could be forgiven. He held out his hand to shake Corrie’s. She had a terrible struggle within her. She didn’t want this man to be forgiven, she wanted him to suffer. She didn’t want to shake his hand as a way of saying, ‘Yes, dear brother, you are forgiven.” But the words of Jesus came to mind, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing” and she knew that to not forgive and welcome this man into God’s kingdom, would to be to deny everything she believed. She said it was terribly difficult, but as soon as she started to move her hand, to shake his, the Holy Spirit filled her heart with forgiveness and love for the man who was responsible for her sister’s death. How much more will the Holy Spirit help me to forgive and bless Harriet when her hurtful behavior is caused by brain damage?
Finally, when angry, sad, and hurtful feelings overwhelm me, I go off, by myself and cry, curse, swear, and then remind myself, it’s not my wife, it’s the dementia that makes her behave this way. I don’t respond in kind, I do not withdraw, I don’t allow my emotions to rule my behavior towards her. Which takes me back to prayer, we can all do things that feel impossible, when the Lord empowers us.
I doubt that I will ever get to the place where I will feel nothing at all when FTD causes her to act badly. After all, we’ve been together for 50 years. However, by destressing, praying, forgiving, and blessing her, I will overcome this horrible disease. Remember, I plan to attend her funeral. Not overcoming could make it so that she will attend mine first. Standing together, and doing the right thing, we can survive.