Last week a good friend of mine commented on how rarely I write about being discouraged, depressed, sad, or even angry about the fact that I have memory and cognitive loss. She added, “You have many positives going for you: a very supportive family; you’ve lived in the same small town for thirty years and developed many friends; you’re surrounded by natural beauty and nature, and you have great medical care. Likely these positives have contributed greatly to your attitude. But what about the people who don’t have such support? Aren’t they likely to feel your positive posts aren’t real for them?”
I’ve been noodling on this comment for over a week now, and if this is the case, it was never my intention. I don’t ever want to give the impression that I’m a Pollyanna, just floating along with little concern, carefree and happy. I agree my environment, friends, and family, contribute to how I cope with Mild Cognitive Impairment. But under further introspection, to say my ability to cope positively rests on external factors alone feels wrong to me; rather, it is my own approach and perspective that has had the most powerful impact.
I haven’t always felt whole and positive about my situation, to be sure. Living with MCI has been a journey for me of twists, turns, detours, unfamiliar landscapes, and always, a looming cloud of uncertainty.
When I was diagnosed with MCI, I was angry, afraid, confused, and, for a time, in denial. I had never heard of the diagnosis Mild Cognitive Impairment, and immediately after getting home from my doctor’s appointment, I searched the internet. I remember well reading the definition of MCI and trying my best to take refuge in the word “mild;” seeking reassurance I wasn’t crazy.
When I told my family of my condition, I tried to reassure them through my tears, but was unable to believe the words I uttered. Fear was a constant during those early months, and I was haunted by projections of a rapid decline. I ruminated on my losses. I felt sad, very sorry for myself and questioned “why me?”
Three years have now passed and much of how I felt during years one and two has morphed, altered, and changed. My memory continues to decline—somewhat erratically, with some days better than others, and always worse if I feel stressed. I no longer drive or travel alone. I limit my socialization and avoid crowds.
Most significant for me, however, is experiencing my own internal calming. I no longer dwell or stew or attempt tasks, chores, or activities that I envision to be potentially stressful or emotionally challenging. Where I once might have hung on with white knuckles to the way I used to be or the things I used to do, now I’m instead more inclined to just release those things completely. I don’t see this as giving up, rather as redirecting; letting go of what was in favor of what is. Yes, that is exactly what I do—I let go! Without remorse, or blame, or shame.
Again, I am no Pollyanna. Rather, I like to think of myself as accepting reality. And my reality is I have memory loss as well as cognitive decline. My reality is I am still capable of choosing what I can do versus what I can’t. My reality is I can choose to look down or look up. To make kind decisions and attend to my mental health.
Certainly my family, friends and environment are important assets to my well-being, but the way I choose to approach my condition and my life is equally important. Because at least at the present time, I still have choices…and I choose to look up rather than down.