Life After Mom

Why not jump into the heavy thoughts? I've always been open and honest when I write, so why not get into it right away? 

Two months ago, my mom passed away.  She battled a tough disease for more than a decade, and ultimately, it took her from this earth, from her family, and from her friends.  

 

I didn't know how to deal with her death since she hadn't been my mom for a while.  The last time I remember her being close to herself was when I started high school.  Even then, she was fading.  She was becoming someone I didn't know.  Slowly at first, and then rapidly, she became a stranger in my mom's body.

It wasn't until 2012 that we finally got an initial diagnosis of Pick's Disease, a form of Frontotemporal Dementia. Even with advanced imaging and specific diagnostic tools, doctors can't know for certain until they fully analyze her brain.  (More on that later)

Most of you reading this already know all of that.  Most of you know how much I struggled with dealing with my emotions about losing my mom over a decade.  Most of you have been with me through this process, praying and helping me survive and process it.  (A massive thank you to all of you.)

Today, though, I want to give you three of my takeaways.  My hope is that somehow, you can take a tiny part of my story, my mistakes or my lessons, and that it will help you grow.  

1. I learned that I was covering up years of depression and anxiety with the more socially acceptable and safer word stress.  And to be fair, I didn't even know that I was depressed or had anxiety.  I genuinely thought that I was oversleeping because of some strange outside force.  I thought that the tightness in my chest and my constant concern was simply because I was worrying too much and not completely giving it to God.  It seemed easy for other people in my life, yet I probably just wasn't a good enough Christian, at least that's what I told myself. (Which other, unhealthy people in my life confirmed that lie.)

Going to therapy has helped me to understand that it's not stress--it's depression and anxiety.  And that it's not that I'm not a bad Christian--it's that I'm doing my best to survive a lot of emotional trauma.  This is the beginning of the journey of therapy, but it's certainly a great start.  

2. I learned that it's important to speak up when something feels wrong.  When my mom started showing signs of something being off, a lot of people asked me if she was doing drugs.  I understood why they asked me that, given how it felt as though some sort of switch had been flipped and she was no longer Mom.  Even as a teenager, I speculated about what would have changed her so quickly.  I imagined that drugs could have been a factor.  

But what I should have done was taken her to a doctor when I knew something was off.  And yes, those of you reading this who were close to me or my family at the time are saying to yourselves, but you were a teenager! I understand that.  But I was old enough to know that something was wrong.  I should have taken her to the doctor the second I felt something wrong.  The lesson here, though, is do not wait.  Don't just sit back and watch someone you love decline.  There are far more treatment options when someone gets an early diagnosis.  Take that person to the doctor. Pay what you have to.  It's worth it.

3. I learned that no one has time to waste while they're alive.  My mom had a rough life.  When she was a little kid, her mom killed herself, she then was raised by an alcoholic, and that's just the beginning.  The end is no better, with dementia taking her away far too soon.  But after reading her journals and trying to see life from her perspective, I now understand that I don't have time to waste.  The time that I do have, I need to intentionally use.  I need to decide what I want to pursue and what I deeply value.  I need to go after those things with all I've got.

I've learned a lot through this, much more than I could ever write.  It has changed me completely and I wouldn't be where I am today if things were different.  However, I'm a firm believer that all of this has happened for many good, mostly unknown, reasons.