Tuesday, July 14, 2009

mind or matter

I confess...I'm not loving my new book but it has sparked an old line of thought.

The book tells a story of early onset Alzheimer's from the viewpoint of the patient. The protagonist notes she'd rather have cancer than Alzheimer's, noting the dignity lost with a mental decline and just the different way people treat different patients.

I've often wondered whether I'd prefer to have my body go (not in a vanity sense, true and severe functional loss) or my mind. I think it depends on how thorough the loss is and the degree to which I have to prepare to face it. If it were sudden and pretty complete, I might prefer to give up my mind...if I didn't have to KNOW it was gone, it might not be that bad. It would be MUCH harder though if it included moments of lucidity or just an awareness that I'm not functioning. And it might also be an extra challenge to have it be progressive, to know what is coming and to take every little error as a sign.

But, if it were total and sudden....I think I might pick giving up my mind. I face pain with my body now but it generally functions. I think it must be horribly hard to be stuck in a body that you can't control (again, talking more than even just loss of a limb) and to be aware of related indignities. Or to have your mind but lose your communication abilities so you are "stuck" inside yourself. When my step-father's mom was losing mental capacity, she often thought she was decades in the past. Someone noted that it might not have been a bad thing...she was really happy in that time. She didn't seem to know what she'd lost. She felt good....though it was hard for those around her.

Which sparks another thought...I imagine it is harder to care for one who has lost mental capabilities than one whose loss is physical. When the mind goes, they often need help on the body side too. Does that make my "preference" (that's a terrible sounding word to use here but I can't do better) selfish?


Lauren Starks said...

James and I had a similar conversation on Saturday at the pool. A man brought his wife to the pool. She was a complete physical invalid, but from the 'light' in her eyes - appeared to have a good bit of her mental faculties about her.

In my mind, having my mental capability in a completely physically incapacitated body would be similar to be buried alive.

If I had to pick one over the other (as opposed to losing neither/both), I'd have to go with losing my mind.

I'm not sure how I'd feel if it were James, though. I know how I feel about the buried alive thing, but I'm not sure I could withstand the heartache of him not knowing who I was (or worse, 'going back' to when he was married to 1st wife - with no recollection of our life.)
Although not an 'overall' happier time for him, still had 'moments.'

And sometimes it's the 'little moments' Alzheimer's patients get lost in.

The Rambling Blogger said...

losing the mind in little moments, like alzheimers, is very scary...you KNOW you are losing it. i think a sudden loss would be "easier" on me.... this is such a morbid train of thought...