– by Maggie La Tourelle
This blog post is the first of a series to explore the issues raised by Maggie La Tourelle‘s book, The Gift of Alzheimer’s. The book documents a heart and soul journey with the author’s mother who had Alzheimer’s. It deals with the vicissitudes of Alzheimer’s, seeks meaning in the language and demonstrates the healing power of love.
Alzheimer’s: a nightmare, a gift or both?
When I tell you that I have written a book called The Gift of Alzheimer’s, I imagine you might be thinking: ‘What! I don’t know quite how to take this.’ And, as I sense you are thinking this, I am feeling challenged. I understand your disbelief as I imagine your experience of Alzheimer’s was, or still is, very negative. Mine was too in the early stages.
But here is the good news! In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, just when I thought Mum had ‘gone’ and I could no longer communicate with her in a meaningful way, I discovered something else, something wonderful that would change her life and mine. I call this, The Gift of Alzheimer’s. This could be your gift too.
Personal Life: Challenges
In order to appreciate the transformation that took place in Mum when she had late stage Alzheimer’s, I first need to give you some background to her life up to that point. After I was born she suffered what she called a nervous breakdown for which she received no treatment, as none was available then. Today she would have been diagnosed as having postnatal depression and would have received treatment. Her nervous breakdowns continued and throughout her life she experienced anxiety and depression. She had severe mood swings, outbursts of uncontrollable anger and threatened to commit suicide on many occasions. Today she would probably have been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and would have received treatment.
It is possible that many women of her era suffered from undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. I wonder to what extent this might have contributed to them developing Alzheimer’s later in life?
Social Mores: Challenges
Mum was a teacher and a highly creative person whose passion was dance – movement was the language of her soul. However this passion was thwarted by the social mores in provincial Scotland that did not permit the wives of professional men to go out to work. Male dominated institutions dictated the rules for society and, being an independent thinker, Mum found this intolerable. These limitations, combined with the lack of opportunity for her to express her creativity, left her feeling helpless and fuelled her resentment towards her husband, my Dad. Not surprisingly this resulted in an unhappy marriage from which there was no escape as divorce was not an option then.
I wonder to what extent the damage caused by these unjust social mores, that were imposed on Mum and other women at this time, might have contributed to them developing Alzheimer’s later in life?
Mum and Me: Challenges
I hesitate to say it but we were a dysfunctional family. Mum’s behaviour was challenging to all the family members and it is not surprising that I felt anger and resentment towards her and disassociated myself from her at an early age. These feelings of separation continued and were exacerbated in my teenage years when she tried, unsuccessfully, to impose her authority over me. The battles that ensued were not only psychological but physical too at times. Again Mum felt helpless, this time in the face of her omnipotent teenage daughter.
I wonder to what extent our damaged relationship caused her to feel stressed and worthless and contributed to her developing Alzheimer’s later in life?
Stress and Alzheimer’s
Some Swedish researchers have found a link between stress and Alzheimer’s. Might this have been the cause in my Mum’s case? Might this have some meaning for you? If it does, is there something you can do about it now?
Looking forward to starting the Alzheimer’s journey with you.
About the Author: Maggie La Tourelle is a writer, holistic therapist and teacher, based in London, UK. She has worked in the field of holistic healthcare for thirty years as a practitioner, teacher and writer integrating psychotherapy, NLP, kinesiology, and healing. She also has ten years hands-on experience helping to care for both her parents at the end of their lives. She has written and contributed to a number of books and articles and has lectured at some of the UK’s leading universities. Her book Principles of Kinesiology continues to be a worldwide classic. Although living in London, Maggie remains close to her Scottish roots and, having originally trained as an art teacher, enjoys designing and making things in her spare time.
Maggie La Tourelle
The Gift of Alzheimer’s
Available from Watkins Publishing