Bless you, Doris Lessing

Thanks to Beyond Meds for bringing to our attention Doris Lessing’s thoughts on schizophrenia. “So, craziness is not as far away as we’d like to think,” and she goes on further in the article to give her thoughts about loneliness bringing on craziness and how what we call Alzheimers and dementia might be linked to the loneliness of old age.

My mother started to develop signs of dementia about the same time that Chris began developing signs of dementia praecox (schizophrenia). I don’t know what really caused this, we tend to think of it as something that just happens in old age, but I do know that it began to develop around the time that my parents decided it was time to move back to Canada from Florida to be closer to my sister. The timing of this has convinced me to avoid making any life-changing decisions involving moving great distances when I am that old. My mother was a very intelligent woman and she was panicked by dementia. But, it was noticeable that she would “rise to the occasion” as my father would say, when they had company. She otherwise would spend many lonely hours in a house and a town she didn’t know or care for, humming to herself. For a while, she could still win at bridge.

My sisters and I wanted my father to get a break from being a twenty-four hour caregiver, so we tried to persuade my mother to check out an activities program at the local hospital. She sensed something was wrong as we drove into the parking lot. She started to curse under her breath that there was no way in hell she was going to go to a “program.” Miraculously, she pulled herself together on the tour on the five pin bowling room and the art therapy class. You would never know she had problems by the way she asked appropriate questions and professed great admiration for the set-up. She thanked the staff very nicely and then went home and refused to go back.

We once left Chris by himself for a week when my husband and I were both on business travel. This was at a time when he seemed to be well enough for us to chance it. When I got home, he was acting really strange He had drawn all the blinds and was talking gibberish and acting “spooked.” This took a few weeks to work its way through. It was enough to convince me that being alone, being abandoned, is the almost worst thing that can happen to someone.

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