Thursday Thoughts: Alzheimer’s, Death and a Whine

10487283_10203395028384143_5237883498684633183_nMy mum had Alzheimer’s for many years. She was diagnosed on December 10th, 2011, but it had shown its ugly face earlier and was obvious by June of 2010. Which is when my Dad died. My stepfather died in 2014. It’s been a rough few years.

And I don’t know how I got onto that. Huh. Guess that’s part of the whine?

At any rate, I had to finally give up on her walking in July of last year. It wasn’t for lack of strength. She had that. It was because the disease, after eating away so much of her brain, had finally reached the part that could instruct her legs to move. It would take 5 minutes of “Mom, just move this leg forward. Yup. Lift it. Just move it forward” and her saying “Okay. Like this?” and trying but failing before I could get her to move that leg. Because of this, I had to try using a wheelchair to get her to an appointment. That didn’t work either. I almost dropped her twice. By the end of July I was no longer taking her to appointments and she was wheelchair bound.

In a long line of losses, the loss of her mobility was the hardest for her emotionally. I, to this day (to this minute as I fight back tears) feel guilty for giving up on her. It was the right thing to do. I know that intellectually. But I want that back. I want to have her walking again and talking. In my heart, I still struggle with whether or not that decision led to her death.

That last phase started the Thursday before Mother’s day. She had bruises on her hands–from what I don’t know–that became swelling in first one arm, then the other. She was hospitalized, where they lanced her arms to let the fluid out. And then told me, on Mother’s day, that she was bleeding internally somewhere. That trying to find it meant trying to fix it, and fixing it meant putting her under. My mother’s brain, at that point, was barely functioning. I was down to “thank you” from her, and hand holding. She couldn’t afford to lose any more brain cells, which would have happened under anesthesia, if she would even have made it through surgery. She had written up legal documents that requested no blood products, antibiotics, surgeries etc be used when she became unable to interact. Since losing any more cognition (which would happen from surgery) would put her in that place, I had to agree with the doc to do nothing. The fact that I’m writing this out, that I’ve gone through it several times with different people, tells you how difficult that decision was. I know it was right. But it’s a struggle to agree to ending your mother’s life.

So we put her on hospice and thought maybe we had a few months. I mean, other than the bleeding into her arms (the swelling kept coming back–she wasn’t clotting) she seemed pretty physically healthy. At least that’s what I saw. But a week into her hospice care she was back in the hospital, and this time when they released her they sent her to a short-term hospice facility. She had, the hospital said, lost more blood and was definitely bleeding internally somewhere from something. A doctor told me that she didn’t think Mom had more than a couple weeks. I was tired. I didn’t believe her. Not really.

I’m still tired.

It was less than a week before she passed. And then I was blanketed in grief and exhausted from 3 weeks of extroversion. Every day, people and not fun people. People telling me my mother is dying people. After that it was planning a service. My siblings and I don’t talk. I won’t even text with one of them. So the planning was, again, exhausting, as was the service. People, people, some painful drama, and a lot of resentment.

By the time it was over I’d extroverted through 4 weeks. Since then, since June 5th, I’ve been trying to recover. To just breathe again. To want to see people at all. I haven’t given a lot of thought to writing and I certainly haven’t written. I’d planned so much. And I should do it. But I feel guilty over the free time I have after my mom passed, and I’m guilty that I didn’t stop it, and I’d be guilty if I tried. So the time I haven’t spent cleaning up my mother’s things, I’ve spent on facebook. I’ve read a little, too, but even that makes me feel guilty. I should be writing. I should aways be writing. I should always be taking care of my mother. Should is a new swear in my life.

Just writing this creates a huge wave of grief. It sits in my throat. I guess most people feel it in their heart, but it’s in my throat. I think from holding back sobs. I miss my Mom. In the end, we didn’t have much left, my mother and me, but we did have hand-holding. We did have listening to music in her facility. We did have me reading to her (Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter because I could get pictures for her of the characters and places.) We did have an occasional smile. I miss that.

So–deep breath–it’s another week without writing. It’s another week of trying to care about writing and failing. But I can’t stay “here” stuck in my grief and introverted exhaustion forever. It’s not a good place. So right now, before I call this post done, I am calling up a file. . .and I paged down to where I left off. I have some minor changes to make in Children of Liberty. And a few minor ones to make in The Liars as well, for purposes of consistency. Such are the issues with world-building. Somewhere there’s a notebook with those changes written out. But I’m not going looking for it today. Today, I opened a file. I have critiquing to do but in between I will look at that file and maybe find places to tweak. It’s the best I can do today.

6 Things to Know about Introverts

introverts unite t shirtSo in my dystopian series (The PostPlague Series), the government uses a Meyers-Briggs type of test to place kids in appropriate schooling and later in appropriate jobs. The protagonist, Neri, is very much an introvert, while many of the people she deals with are extroverts. In my dystopian world, Extroverts tend to rule, and if you want money, that’s the game you have to play. Needless to say, Neri is not a fan of this, but she has always played by the rules.

To some extent, I write about this through experience. I am very much an introvert.

For years, that has been a rather unpleasant word, synonymous with “nerd” or “awkward” or “shy”. Because of this, introversion is misunderstood, even to introverts. Many people won’t label themselves introverts because of the negative connotations. I think this is a mistake. Understanding what makes you tick, why you feel and behave in certain ways, makes life much easier to manage. You can look up introversion and find all sorts of things on the internet, but for those interested, here are six things about introverts that I want people to know, because I think it is often misunderstood.

6 (yeah, I’m doing that backwards countdown thing). Introverts are not necessarily shy. I certainly am not, and I am only rarely socially anxious. Granted, these were traits of my childhood and early adulthood, but it’s not true anymore. I actually enjoy social functions. A lot. Many introverts do. Just go to a writers’ conference (most writers, but not all, are introverts) and walk into the nearest bar. You’ll find lots and lots of writers gathered together drinking, laughing and having a very good time. We introduce ourselves to each other and we do enjoy each other’s company. On the other hand, I also know some shy, socially anxious extroverts; that’s got to be a whole ‘nother hell.

5) When you ask me a question, and I don’t answer immediately, I am not being rude. Generally I’m not confused. I like to take my time because

a)I am thinking hard about what you said. Many extroverts process out loud. I suspect that most introverts do not (but I do know exceptions to that rule, too). I’m not sure about other peoples’ reasons, but I don’t process out loud because I don’t think in a straight, linear way. My brain jumps all over the place and grabs all sorts of little bits of learning to process with. If I were to say what I’m thinking out loud, you’d be beyond confused. You’d think I was certifiably crazy. So for both our sakes, I keep my thinking to myself.

b) Once I’ve come up with an answer, I want to put it in terms that are easiest for you to understand in order to get my point across and move the conversation along. It’s not that you can’t understand my thoughts because I am oh-so-intelligent–that has nothing to do with it–but coming up with a metaphor about the desert, for example, for a person who has lived his/her whole life in a rainforest and has never even heard of a desert, will do nothing but confuse. Also, I absolutely, 100 percent, do not want to hurt or irritate you. Certainly not on purpose, and not accidentally either, so I try to measure my words.

And I’m not only talking about deep conversations. Introverts can all-too-easily turn a light conversation into something deep. If you ask something as simple as “Do you want to get some coffee?” I might hesitate because I’m considering some article I read just that morning on coffee and how it has some kind of new beneficial properties for some illness that you are currently dealing with. And I might wonder if I should tell you about it, or if that would sound pushy. Maybe you don’t want to talk about your illness today, but maybe I think it’s very useful information and I really would love to see you get better. I sit there considering a good way to tell you about how coffee is good for your illness without upsetting you. While I do this I am sifting through information: everything I know about your illness, everything I remember about your responses in the past, what I remember about other people’s responses in similar situations, and everything I know about your life as it is right now. It’s a lot quicker than you’d think but, still, three minutes later you’re staring at me like I’m the densest person you’ve ever known and I’m thinking, “Man being an introvert is a lot of work!”

So the truth is I (we) can answer more quickly. Truly. But sometimes if you give an introvert the time he/she wants to process, you’ll get a much more interesting and satisfactory answer. It’s worth it! (Sometimes. Other times, we are just way overthinking, and your interruption is necessary. Kind of like electro shock therapy.)

4) I love extroverts. Truly, honestly, deeply. Some of my favorite people in the world are extroverts. Without the extroverts in my life, I might never leave the house. Extroverts are exciting and fun and know all sorts of cool stuff that they, more often than not, have learned through experience. Most of my knowledge comes through reading. Honestly, I could and maybe I will, write an entire post about how I love extroverts. But for now, suffice it to say there is no introvert/extrovert war. When we work together, we compliment each other and are at our best.

3) I can get just as jazzed by social functions as ambiverts and extroverts. Yes, even large functions and I know many introverts who feel that same way. I like people and I like meeting new people as long as I have had plenty of warning and rest beforehand. I will hold my hand out to random people at large events and introduce myself and start conversations. If I’m with a lot of people who I am pre-disposed to like, like other writers, I will have a blast. I can easily bounce from group to group, laugh and joke and all of that. When it’s over, I could still be bouncing and very excited and you might even convince me to go to an “after party.”  The crash will happen however, and once it comes, I need QUIET. Seriously. Don’t talk to me. I will snap or blubber. And the larger the event, the more time I need in my cave. Extroverts, on the other hand, (I believe) will want to do it again the next day. Or the next week. Me, I’m thinking maybe next year.

2) There is a scale of introversion to extroversion. Ambiverts are in the middle. Some extroverts are happiest when they’re with people almost all of the time. Others, most of the time. Some introverts need time by themselves a few hours a day. Some a couple days a week. Some, like me, function best with three or four day long swaths of comparative silence (sometimes that “silence” though, includes family members who don’t interrupt my thinking much) between days of interaction (and interaction could me a couple of doctor’s appointments).

Also, that scale changes. If I’ve been out a lot for a few weeks–for me that would be 3-4 times a week–I want a week or more alone (or with my husband, who I’m so comfortable with, it’s sometimes better than being alone). If I’m stressed because of something going on in my life, I need more time. Extroverts, I believe, but are the opposite. If there’s too much activity for several weeks they might want a night or two home. But most often they’re fighting loneliness and boredom, not information overload. It seems to me that the first reaction an extrovert has to stress is “I need time with my friends to unwind.”  For me, the idea of going out when I’m stressed will make me ten times more stressed.

And finally, the number one most important thing I wish people would understand is

1) My gut reaction to any invitation out is almost always “no”. It is not you. I like you. I like being with you. That’s why you’re my friend. However, introverts can become easily overwhelmed through social interaction and when I am overwhelmed, I do not like myself. I get flustered or grumpy, or I just plain shut down. You do not like me when I’m like that, either, trust me. So an introvert’s gut reaction is always “no.” Even when we say yes, in our heads we are still saying “no.”  And if we don’t respond to you right away, it’s still not you. It’s us, being introverted. This is the number one thing I want people to understand about introverts, because we don’t want people to stop inviting us out–we do like people, remember? But mostly because we don’t want to hurt a friend’s feelings. We just cope differently.

So please, please understand if that introvert friend of yours says “No” or hesitates, it’s not an insult. Most likely you are loved. And you can be especially sure they like you if they say “yes” more often than “no” (or, gasp, initiate an outing or party!). Most of all, if you care, you might try asking again, gently. Sometimes we can be coaxed out of our little caves with a “Just come along. You don’t have to talk.” or “Come and take your own car. You can leave early.” To an extrovert, that sounds like disinterest. To an introvert, it’s the language of love.