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Desperately seeking relevance on Alzheimer’s journey

Oct. 12, 2022: Awful. This is what it feels like to have Alzheimer’s. I want to cry. I want to give up in frustration. I’m scared. I don’t know who I am.

I played pickleball with people I’ve played with for three years. I couldn’t recall a single name.

I went to a board meeting that I wasn’t prepared for – that I couldn’t prepare for because I can’t read and understand and retain and compile and make sense of things. I have always prided myself in being responsible and prepared.

For lunch, I made soup using a recipe that guaranteed a delicious and nourishing meal in just one hour, start to finish. It wasn’t speedy at all. I had to read the instructions over and over. Yet, I still left out the salt. It was disheartening.

I made mini-cheese quiches for a party that night. When I arrived, no one was there. Why? Because the party was actually the night before. I’m tired and scared that more of this is coming.

A friend who read my guest column last month in The Durango Herald asked if it’s easier revealing my disease than not. Much easier. I don’t have to hide my symptoms. She asked if I’m glad I received the diagnosis. Yes, I said. I’m very glad. If I didn’t know what was happening, I would be terrified.

And yet, I’m surprised that my capabilities seem to be slipping so quickly.

More and more, I have problems recalling recent events and conversations; misplacing things; forgetting engagements; finding words to express my thoughts; making decisions; solving problems; multitasking; concentrating; becoming easily distracted; keeping track of what I’ve actually done instead of what I thought about doing; and using technology of any kind.

Oct. 25, 2022: My brain wasn’t working well when I wrote the paragraphs above. I was discouraged and overwhelmed. I have copious things I need to accomplish. I want so much to stay relevant. But when my brain doesn’t work well, I want to give it all up.

Fortunately, for reasons unknown, my brain and, thus, my energy and determination returned at full force. I was able to focus, think clearly, carry on complicated conversations and check off to-do list items. I felt almost normal. This lasted about 10 days. Wahoo!

I notice beneficial symptoms as well. On good days, for example, I feel especially heart-connected to people, and often find myself holding back tears of joy and sorrow, when I observe strangers and friends dealing with life situations. I sometimes feel achingly in love with people I care for.

And one other thing. I have become an organizing maniac. Drawers, the car, spices. I can’t walk by anything without the urge to organize it. Things looks pretty when I’m done. Organizing is easy and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

Nov. 3, 2022: My brain was bad again. I felt I could make sense of almost nothing, though I had a table full of things I needed to get done, including correspondence and my end-of-life directives. I just gave up on the whole thing and went to bed. I didn’t care. I felt irrelevant and incapable.

Tomorrow? Who knows what my brain will be. It seems to have a mind of its own – a tiny pun there.

This, I expect, is my future. Good days, bad days. Realistically, probably ever-increasing bad days. Hmmm. Let’s just stay in the now, Kim. Keep organizing those spices. It distracts me, perhaps from my trepidation about the future.

Kim Martin and her husband, Steven Phillips, split their time between Hesperus and Durango. Martin is a former instructor of Asian history, writing and comparative cultures at Fort Lewis College.