Alzheimer’s and Depression

We’re not in Kansas any more Toto….. Hell, Kansas ain’t even on the map.

Five years ago my mom forgot the Christmas tree in the trunk of her car…I thought that was bad. Now she thinks every day is Sunday. We’re not in Kansas any more Toto….. Hell, Kansas ain’t even on the map.

As mom progresses, my grandmother Helen comes to mind more often, Helen died of Alzheimer’s back in 2005. I was never as close to Helen as I am to my mom, but the symptoms are all to familiar. Some days I just cry for the mother I’ve lost- the confidante, the shoulder to cry on, the unconditional fan of my life. Other days I struggle with patience as we go around and around the same topics endlessly during a single conversation. Daily I thank God for the patience and strength of my father, who is an absolute rock through all of this. Most get-togethers are actually amusing, some can be stressful since she seems to get more angry more often. Yesterday was a good day, we had a late breakfast together at a restaurant and she kept it together most of the time. She talks to everyone now, and I mean everyone! She was best friends with the waitress by the time we left, even though she had no clue as what meal she had just eaten. We watched a huge party of elderly people come in with their walkers and wheelchairs and she commented on their diminished capacities and mental state, thanking God out loud that she still has her wits.. .I bit my tongue. Then we all went to BJ’s food shopping, I only lost her maybe five times. She is always easily found talking to random people, especially people with children. Somehow she feels the need to tell everyone that I’m adopted and all about God providing her with children. It’s cute actually, most people are very friendly and kind. One particular bitch almost got her head handed to her for being mean to my mother. She was so rude! Lord give me patience, because if You give me strength I might kill someone! Fortunately mom forgot in about two minutes, I however stewed over it for quite a while. My mom is obviously old and genteel looking, there was no need to be ignorant. The good news was we got her out of the house, she got some exercise and some socialization.

Christmases are harder now that she is not herself. My mother and my aunt (her sister) were the two that kept traditions and made Christmas spectacular. My aunt died of cancer so those Christmases are over. Mom doesn’t decorate or bake or shop or play old Christmas music anymore. It’s just not the same. My Husband is gone, his birthday was December 30… Christmas is just not right anymore. My daughter turns 18 next week, and she’s missing her dad for the milestone birthday, and she hates Christmas without him.

Depression sucks, it leaves people vulnerable and hurting. It robs you of joy, it impedes communication, it steals motivation, it can give you physical symptoms- headaches, loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness. My daughter and I both suffer from clinical and situational depression. Occasionally communication gets skewed and we both end up feeling attacked and hurt.

That happened this week. She’s been struggling real bad this month (see post Suicide… The elephant in the room), and so have I. I had a bad day, I wasn’t ready for my final exam, I ate at McDonald’s twice that day (after I just lost six pounds, I know, I’m stupid), I was trying to be a good parent and I ended up hurting her feelings trying to be parent, and then she hurt mine with the silent treatment. She had a bad day, she was too depressed to function. We both lost it, I went to my room and had it out with God – “You promised life wouldn’t be more than I can bear”, and my dead husband- one of those “if you can hear me I fucking hate you for leaving me alone” rants. Then I thought of all the million things I have failed at (there are many), and “what a waste of space I am, they’d probably be better off without me” crying jags complete with hyperventilation. She went and drove back roads for hours in the dark with her best friend feeling like she wanted to die, believing I hurt her on purpose,  and that I’d be better off without her…

It’s bad. Depression is dangerous and bad. I get scared for her. I don[t think either one of us would ever actually kill ourselves because we’ve lived through the aftermath of a suicide, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think about it or wish for never-ending sleep. It doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally feel like we are worthless, useless, and broken – because we do, all too often.


There is no magic pill for Alzheimer’s or depression. You have to fight to live through it. Every damn day is a battle. It’s a choice to fight for one more day.

That was two days ago- we still are walking on eggshells around each other. I’m not ready for Christmas, I’m not in the spirit, even the tree holds little joy for me this year. Happiness comes in spurts, one minute I’m happy about my progress- the next I feel lifeless…

I’m just trying to keep it together one day at a time. So is my daughter.

Be kind to each other, be clear when you speak. Remember tomorrow is not promised. Be wary of each other’s feelings and never leave the words “I love you” unspoken.


PS – I told you when I started, if you want a pretty story go read a fairy tale. This is real life. The good, the bad, and the ugly.


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