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‘Don’t have confidence to explain what I’m thinking’

I am often asked what changes I notice as my Alzheimer’s disease progresses. The overarching symptom is lack of confidence. I was lucky before in that I had an abundance of confidence in almost everything I did. But that has changed drastically and it affects many things.

For example, I talk much less and I’m far less engaged whether with aquaintances or people I am close to. I think this is, at least in part, a result of being aware my brain is working slowly. I don’t have confidence in my ability to explain what I’m thinking. It’s hard to stay engaged with conversations so I am socially withdrawn compared to what I used to be. I am often restless and jittery, and that is embarrassing when I’m around people. My energy level is much lower than it has ever been. For these reasons, I have dropped out of social groups and nonprofit work that I used to enjoy.

I walk more slowly, too. I have to concentrate and be deliberate in my actions. I also drive and ride my bike more slowly and deliberately. My ability to read more than two or three paragraphs is limited because I lose concentration and can’t remember what I read. Even listening to audible books or podcasts takes determined concentration and, however much I enjoy what I’ve just taken in, I often retain little. Because of this, I’m not sure how much longer I can stay in my treasured book group.

I rarely drive anymore except in very familiar places with little traffic. Most often my husband is my chauffeur. To not be a backseat driver is my goal.

Remembering names, even of very familiar people, has been a challenge and is becoming even more difficult. That’s embarrassing.

I don’t enjoy company or social events like I want to. My comfort zone is being alone with my husband or other close friends. I’ve also quit playing all sports because my eye-hand coordination and spatial relations is affected. I don’t trust my balance and feel awkward. This is another blow to my ego and confidence.

My comprehension and ability to problem solve is poor. I still try to do The New York Times crossword and Wordle everyday, though I almost always need help. I do Sudoku and Killer Sudoku but only the easier versions now. My husband does most of the cooking now, and we hire a housekeeper as needed. I had signed up for bridge and art classes at the Senior Center, but dropped out of both of them. They were stressful.

I’ve experienced a great many losses in the past year and eight months since I was diagnosed. Luckily, I’m not fighting deep depression lately, which I’ll write about soon. I have more energy to get on with my new task in this journey. That task is to learn to accept these losses with grace and dignity, to lower my self-expectations and find enjoyment in what I have in spite of what I’ve lost. I need to accept that the old Kim is gone for good, and to learn to love the new Kim who is constantly emerging.

It’s time to draw on my Buddhist teachings. Suffering is caused by clinging to unmet expectations and not being willing to accept what is now.

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