Three, two, one….breakdown.

Our family Christmas Eve, 2009.

Our family Christmas Eve, 2009.

I knew this day was coming. I knew I would have a day that included tears and sobbing and full body blowbacks. It happens now on a semi-regular basis and it has been a few months, so I knew it was on my radar. I was just thinking it would be in the privacy of my room, alone in the house and without an audience.

I am not sure how it started. I have replayed the whole scenario in my mind numerous times and I think I have narrowed down the trigger, but because it includes one of the kids and it is personal for them, I am going to remain silent. I will take full and complete responsibility. It doesn’t really matter the cause, there were numerous triggers, there was just one that was the tipping point when the others were the building blocks.

I took Jim to get his new military i.d. After calling and making an appointment and explaining he only had a passport and no other forms of identification, I was told that was all that was needed. In my mind, I was questioning the authority on the other end of the line, but what could I do?  You see where this story is going, I am sure…..we show up late; after some of the aforementioned troubles at home, after getting lost on the base, after asking for directions numerous times,  to a woman who promptly tells me she can’t help us because he needs two forms of i.d. I promptly explain to her that I had called and yadda yadda yadda. She told me there was nothing she could do. I was teetering on that breaking point. I could feel myself exploding inside;  I was like a volcano, ready to erupt but quietly releasing smoke signals instead. I explained again to her that he has no other i.d., he has lost his wallet and that he has Alzheimer’s Disease. My voice was getting louder and more direct and this could have gotten ugly, really fast. But I sat there, biting my tongue,  (Jim of course said nothing) and she silently typed away. The next thing I know she is taking his photo and asking him to press his left index finger on the scanner. But he doesn’t know his left from his right anymore. And he doesn’t know his index finger. And I have to help him. And his signature is a stark contrast to the beautiful penmanship he once graced legal documents with. It was too much.

We barely made it to the van before I lost it. Just lost it. I wailed. I cried. I moaned. I had tears, snot and drool all over the place. Jim just sat there. Silent and confused. Normally, I reserve this kind of breakdown to a solitary party, but today it was open entertainment for him and anyone else who walked by. In the back alley of my mind I was trying to get myself to stop. I knew I needed to get a grip and put my big girl panties on. But sometimes those panties don’t fit and there is no controlling the emotional outpouring that seeps through my body. I mean, really? He ended up getting his i.d., what was the big deal? How can I learn to let go of all the past manifestations?  Let go of the shattered handmade pottery bowl a friend who moved overseas gave us. Let go of the indoor plant that was knocked on the floor, complete with broken pot, dirt everywhere and now a dead plant? Let go of the constant lost look on Jim’s face. Let go of the misplaced items and the inside out clothes and the lost conversations, the loneliness and emptiness and the bitter sadness that has become at home in my soul. How do I release the frustrations of each reminder of the Jim that is no longer? How do I appreciate the Jim that still is while longing for the Jim that was?

Eventually I started gagging and convulsing enough it snapped me out of my hysterical state. I had mascara down my face. My nose was red. I had used up half a box of tissues. When I finally grew quiet, the silence was deafening. Deafening in the way that makes you realize how terribly loud you were and how awful you sounded.  Jim was still just sitting there, next to me and saying and doing nothing. Nothing. Which makes all of this even more heartbreaking when I stop to think of how he is/was. Not a person to sit by without trying to comfort. Not a person who wouldn’t try to fix whatever was wrong. Not a person who would look utterly confused and uninterested.

Later, I got to a restroom and looked in the mirror. There I saw I had somehow broken a blood vessel between my nose and lip. There was a thin, red streak right in the middle of my philtrum, connecting my nose to my top lip. I have never seen anything like this and have no clue how I did this during my meltdown.

I suppose it could be related to all of the pressure from holiday expectations. Or it could be the fact Jim is slipping more and more which adds more pressure and more sadness and more reality to the situation. Or it could be me having a normal rough day. Whatever the cause, I have come to realize it happens. It happens, move on.  I feel better (usually) and it lets me know I do care. Sometimes it is hard to see I care because I am too busy being a Mom or worrying about money or trying to fix dinner or driving to some practice or event or working or something other than focusing on our crummy situation. These moments of heartbreak and genuine sorrow and anguish let me know I am still human. I am still full of compassion and love and I am hurting. I don’t always allow that to show, but when it does, it does. Big time.

Then you know what happened?  I worked. I had a friend call and say “hi”. I got two e-mails from friends. I watched Frances play in a band concert. I saw Brad smile and show his wonderful personality to me and others around us. I picked Jim up from respite care and they told me while everyone was listing things they are thankful for, Jim said he was thankful for me. For me. The woman he had just watched sob and turn into a ball of mush.

So, I am good. I am muddling through and working through as best I can. I don’t have a manual on how to emotionally handle this and I am doing what I can, when I can, the best I can. Everything else will have to just be.

December 2013

December 2013

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (18)

18 Responses to “Three, two, one….breakdown.”

  1. Phyllis Gallagher says:

    Do you receive respite care or is it out of pocket? My husband has early onset and we were denied services. I just dont know how to keep going.

  2. Jen Shern says:

    You were not alone yesterday. Thank you for sharing your heart so openly and honestly. Thank God for Friends, concerts, and smiles that keep us moving forward. You are in my prayers.

  3. Anne Overbay says:

    Karen, after reading your post I feel very guilty for all the little things I complain about sometimes. I just wanted you to know that you, Jim, Frankie, and Brad are in my prayers. Having said this, I know it must seem so little.

  4. Joann says:

    Gosh I wish we lived near each other. I am at the exact same point with my 53 year old fiancé as you are. Everything you say and write I am going through also. We could have each other to be strong for. A shoulder to cry on. A sounding board to listen to. We must be strong, at least for our children. I will be praying for you and your family. Be strong my friend.

  5. Kristina says:

    Karen, your bravery is beautiful and your family is blessed to have you at the helm as you all face this insanely unfair disease. I wish I lived close enough to give you a long hug. – Kristina

  6. Wendy Sweigert says:

    this time of year is so hard now…a time of year that we both loved has now become sad for me. My husband has declined so much in the past six months. Each day you know it is only going to get harder and that makes getting up every day a chore at times. Thinking of you all.

  7. Pamela Adams says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I didn’t know that it was okay to fall apart. I do it too & figured it was just me, a weak caregiver, because sometimes I just can’t take it anymore. Thank you. I know how you feel.

  8. Lori says:

    Your words reminded me of a poem I wrote earlier this year. We’ve had my mom’s younger onset Alzheimer’s for 9 years now. Yes, we shatter visibly some days. And usually it’s clear that both we, and our world, are better for it. To move from surviving to thriving, we eventually created our own ALZ improv troupe called Team Jinda (caring for mom, Linda, and dad, Jim, and ourselves while we’re at it).

    Here’s the poem…

  9. Tamie says:

    It is indeed normal, expected and even necessary to melt down, especially at this time of year. There are only so many balls that one person can keep in the air. Be kind to yourself. Best wishes from our home to yours for a peaceful Christmas.

  10. In October I went in a dark hole. God tapping my friends that I need help got me back………..almost. I fight the dark everyday, I hold Joe’s hand while he sleeps, I cry, I ask God, “What?” I am muddling through the dark shadows of Alzheimer’s trying to set an example for our kids and grandkids. I know where I’ve been but not what is ahead of us. Cheers and hugs.

  11. bridget says:

    Karen, It is okay to breakdown because if you hold it all in your health will suffer. My husband is almost exactly like Jim! Daily prayers and my faith is the only thing that helps. Hope your Christmas will be a little easier.

  12. Sandy says:

    Well…..why yes I have had a very similar experience. Why yes my husband said he was thankful for me also, and why yes my experience happened in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store. We really need to get together sometime, I can totally relate to this!

  13. Betty Haralson says:

    it’s o.k. to have a breakdown…that’s what got me through the past 2 years as my sweetheart sank deeper and deeper into the effects of Alzheimer’s. Many times I locked myself in another room & cried it out….it upset him if he saw me cry. The last 6 days before he went to be with the Lord, the only sound or movement he made was to kiss me when I leaned over him in his hospital bed & told him how much I loved him. He passed away on Oct. 31, surrounded by his family….as he took his last breath, he opened his eyes & smiled. I treasure that…..believe me, it’s o.k. to cry. God bless you and you travel this journey.

  14. Andrea Spencer says:

    Thank you for being honest about your meltdown. My husband’s doctor mentioned how caregivers “soldier on” and it has been my motto when times get rough. But, like many you and many others who posted, at some point there comes a breakdown and it can be the stupidest, tiniest thing that finally makes us reach our breaking point. Then, we “soldier on” after we recover. What other choice do we have? Like many others have posted, my faith is what comforts me greatly and gives me guidance. I will continue to pray for you and your family.

  15. Janet says:

    My heart goes out to you………the holidays are so stressful in a situation like this and meltdowns relieve some of the stress. I’ve been grateful I could cry sometimes.

  16. Joan says:

    It’s so unfair and sad.Hope all caregivers can have a peaceful Christmas!

  17. Paula Johnson says:

    My prayers are with you and yes I can relate

  18. MollyNH says:

    Your meltdown was a safety valve, you need that release to keep going. It must be so difficult,for you all. Your children are lovely. My God give you a serene Christmas.

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