We were driving home from a very frustrating doctors visit, with a doctor who knew little about dementia or how to deal with a dementia patient. I was looking for assistance with home health for bathing and medication for her anxiety. Instead, I came away with paperwork on cooking for a patient with high-blood pressure… sigh. My mother-in-law had already forgotten about the traumatic visit and was distracted by the huge cumulus clouds banking all around the sky. Suddenly, the sky opened up to a huge downpour. The rain was so heavy and strong even the wipers on full blast could not keep up. It was a bit terrifying for me, who loves storms, trying to see and keep on the freeway. She was in quite a panic. Then she asked, “What did I do to deserve this?”
I so wished at that moment to put on my coaching hat, pull into a ditch, get us both dancing in the storm and deal with this question. Unfortunately, I am still unsure about this disease and because so much of what I would do changes the pathways in the brain, I am not sure how it would effect her. Instead, I talked us both through the moment and by the time we were home, everything was calm and the rain had ended as quickly as it had begun.
It is interesting to me to discover what elements leave and which one stay in the progression of this dying brain. In vascular dementia, I know it effects the cortex, which is our thinking, or more advanced brain. We all have a primary question, we ask ourselves in times of stress, that we have used from early on to make sense of life. while I had not heard this stated directly in this manner from her, I know it is prevalent in her brain when it comes out as over apologizing and guilt over simple mistakes. When we ask ourselves a question, our brain will formulate an answer. So, if we ask, “What is wrong with me” or “Why am I so stupid?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” our brain kicks in to give us reasons. We will come up with many reasons, I am stupid because I always mess up or I deserve this because I am a bad person. When I first learned about this, I discovered I would always ask my self, “Am I doing this right?”. It sounds logical to me, since I am always growing and learning and wanting to do my best. In reality, it caused self doubt and lack of confidence in my abilities and really did not help me grow and improve because I would get trapped in this doubt. It was very exciting to reprogram myself to ask a more positive question and experience the freedom to be myself and not doubt every movement and choice. Instead, now I ask, “How can I respond to this and move forward in my purpose?”. This keeps me answering in a positive way and not beating myself up or doubting myself. It took a little work to make replace the old one with this new one and for it to become second nature. However, it is one of the faster coaching techniques in producing amazing changes.
It is good for me to recognize this tendency in my MIL, as living and caring for someone for so many hours, I can easily, subconsciously, pick up some of these beliefs, if I am not careful. While, I can’t work on changing this in her, I can keep myself from going there. And I can encourage you to take a look at your questions and urge you be aware of this and come up with new empowering questions that serve and motivate you!
What question do you habitually ask yourself in times of stress?
What question would serve you better and give you positive answers?
I would love to hear!!