Disclosure: in this post I write about my fear of dying. If that’s not something you want to read, feel free to skip this one.
For the last three weeks I’ve been in a funk, unable to write. It’s a significant loss for me, because writing is how I sort out my feelings, unearth my truths, and name my fears.
The reason for my inability to write was a letter I came across three weeks ago, totally by chance. It was a letter I wrote to my then therapist, thanking him for helping me “get better.” I gave him the letter during our last session, and for some reason, I had placed a copy in an out-of-the-way bookshelf.
When I came upon it three weeks ago, I eagerly unfolded the paper. The letter began by thanking my therapist for helping me recover from what I described as my symptoms: forgetting names of people I know well; having trouble finding my way around town; and difficulty expressing myself.
I was shocked as it dawned on me…this letter details the very same symptoms I’m experiencing—now!
I looked at the date of the letter and slowly dropped to the floor. The letter was written five years ago, after two years of weekly sessions. I tried to figure out the time span of the combined dates. I was in therapy for two years… the letter was written five years ago…
“I’ve been dealing with memory loss for SEVEN YEARS!” I heard myself speak the words aloud with total disbelief. I felt weak as I realized I had totally forgotten my previous “bout” with memory and cognitive impairment. Consequently, I’ve been telling myself—and others—my memory loss began three years ago, when I was “officially” diagnosed with MCI at the Mayo Clinic. Here I was, living an example of the insidiousness of this condition. Seeing documented evidence that it’s been the better part of a decade shocked me right to my core. Right to the floor.
For three weeks I’ve been ruminating on this span of seven years and questioning why this time frame has been bothering me so. I’ve been sad and somber, and each time I’ve sat down to write, I couldn’t formulate my thoughts. This looming cloud of seven years kept getting in the way, and writing about that felt out of the question. I didn’t want to write a post about this topic which incited such distress and fear—at least not until I could figure out some meaning behind it.
When I told my editor about my concern, she encouraged me to write. “You are a story teller,” she offered. “This is your story, even though you’re still in the thick of it.”
Still, I hesitated. Still, I couldn’t write. Because I hadn’t put my finger on what was really upsetting me.
Then yesterday, as I was describing my experience and unease to a friend, she quietly and gently asked, “Why does this disclosure feel so significant to you?”
To my surprise, I found myself with a ready answer.
“Because I’m now four years closer to my end stage.”
WOW. That was a huge disclosure!
I believe in the power of naming our fears. Without identifying the fears that live in our psyches, they have power over us and subconsciously influence our choices and our thoughts. But once we name our fears, much of their power over us dissipates.
What a relief it was to name my fear and recover my power!
Now I’m working on accepting and adjusting to what is likely a new time frame for me. This creates a new urgency to spend my time wisely. Intentionally. With as much joy and gratitude as I can muster.
I want to embrace each day fully—and to forgive myself when I forget to do so.