S1E5. Testy & Edgy

“Do you remember that I have a ZOOM session with my sisters this afternoon?”

It was a simple question and a fair one that Sally asked. She uses my ZOOM account and I have to start the session before making her the host. I do it all the time. So why did I resent her question?

“Noooo,” I replied with attitude, “I haven’t checked today’s calendar yet.”

She picked up on my tone and shot back, “Aren’t we testy and edgy today!’ 

Why did I snap at her like that? The therapist in me knows that emotions are triggered by underlying beliefs, so I knew I needed to think through what it was about her question that triggered me.

As I explored my thoughts, I realized that I felt as if I was under attack, as if Sally was questioning my ability to remember and not just my memory of this one specific event. Was she keeping an eye on me? testing me for signs of decline?

Sally has volunteered with hospice since her 20s and she truly is a comfort to those with whom she works and their families. She’s familiar with reminiscence therapy and she knows how to help dementia patients stay in touch with their memories, even as they fade.

Is that what she was doing with me? She loves to ask me about my life before we got back together 9 years ago after not seeing each other for 41 years. She is fascinated by the details…most of which I can’t remember. I often get frustrated when I can’t answer her questions.

The more I reflected, the more I came to wonder if her questions were also part of her concern for my mental status…and the more I resented her for it.

So after apologizing for my testy & edgy retort, I told her what was going through my mind. She reassured me that I couldn’t be more wrong and I immediately felt silly for thinking those things of her. But since I knew it was still a trigger, I asked her to try not to start conversations with: “Do you remember…” She was more than happy to do that for me. I felt a lot better.

This conversation unfolded several weeks before I made the decision to start this blog. I was already monitoring myself and thinking about writing it all down, so I was sensitive to the topic of dementia. I hadn’t yet told Sally about it, so she didn’t have a clue when she inadvertently stumbled across it.

So, as usual, there’s good news and bad news here.

The good news is that I was aware of my feelings, was able to think it through, and then talk with Sally about it to allay my fears and work up an accommodation. That was nice work for me as an individual and for us as a couple.

The bad news is that my mind wandered down this dark path. There is a word for when you suspect people of having ill intentions towards you when they, in fact, do not: paranoia.

It pains me to admit that paranoia describes what happened. After all, I’m probably the #1 fan (with Sally a close #2) for #TeamNormalAging. The episode was brief and easily resolved, but an episode nonetheless. I’ll have to keep an eye out going forward.

Sorry to leave you on a down note, but I promised to follow the road wherever it leads…

8 Comments

  1. Suzi says:

    Certain phrases or tone of voice start the “old tapes” . We all have them but you have showed us to think about the validity of them and discuss our thought processes with our loved ones. Thanks( and thanks for starting the Zoom sessions, which has kept me connected with sisters this past year). suzi

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome!

      Like

  2. Carol Catanese says:

    I continue to look forward to your sharing this journey. I can’t even understand it. Perhaps it is the humanness of it all. The pedestrian coming to terms in real time, which in the process, elevates it. It forces the reader to evaluate their own reactions to their relationships, either verbalized or internalized reliving of an episode.
    Helping yourself you help others. And the beauty of Sally continues to unfold.
    I would love to know how to best ask the question that began this thread – “Did you remember…”
    How should one ask this question in a way that will not threaten or irritate?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for following! Here are some work-arounds to “Do you remember…”:
      “I was just thinking about the time we…”
      “Back in the day, did you ever…”
      “We have that meeting on Tuesday. Do you still want to go?”
      “Did I tell you that…”
      Do any of these help?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lbgruber says:

    No matter how hard we try to avoid them, the demons of our past follow us throughout our lives. We don’t even know they’re there. A simple phrase, “Do you remember?“, triggers a deep fear of what we experienced first hand. Dementia.
    We watched our mother go from a woman with a brilliant, quick mind to someone who was no older than a small child. How could that NOT be under the surface of our minds?
    Now paranoia is a whole other story. For me, it traces back to the times my father looked at me with disappointment. It brings back the times I was criticized by people I looked up to.  It brings back the whispering behind my back in school, when I overheard them call me, “Jew girl”. Yes, I get paranoid when I see people whisper in my presence. I get paranoid when someone gives me a certain look which I interpret as disappointment.
    Yes, these knee-jerk reaction‘s pop up when least expected. At least now, with your help, we’re able to recognize them.
    Since we’re being completely honest, I get paranoid if you don’t like something I posted on Facebook. I take it that you didn’t think it was worthy of liking it, so therefore, I feel the post wasn’t good. How’s that for sheer honesty!
    Anyway, Wayne, keep up the great work. As always, you make me proud!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the insights, honesty and openness. BTW: I ‘liked’ this comment! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  4. lbgruber says:

    😂😂😂😂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. fredstrath says:

    Thanks so much for these reflections, Wayne. You are really touching on universal experiences here and it’s so helpful for me to realize that.

    Liked by 1 person

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