I'd just left my mother's apartment (this happened while she was still living at home). The plan was to drive 600 miles to attend a natural health convention. I was still super-connected to her. As her ability to clearly communicate her desires declined, I'd amped up my well-honed intuitive abilities to discern what it was she needed.
When I consciously did that, I was either right or close enough to right to help her get what she needed. Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, the downside is that I'd become so connected to her that I became her. She and I were one.
I was still in my hometown, a place I knew well. I remembered all the major roads. I have a good sense of direction and have learned to trust it. I made a brief stop on my way out of town, looking forward to an easy drive and an interesting convention.
But then something happened.
When I got back in my car, I recognized where I was but had no idea how to get to the road that would get me out of town.
I saw a map in my mind. It showed the place where I now was. Other than that, the map was completely blank.
It was one of the scariest moments I'd ever had. I'd become my mother. I'd entered into Dementia World.
I looked around for someone to ask for help. I'm not good at asking for directions, but I realized it was time to conquer my pride and get some assistance.
The streets were deserted. There were no other cars around. And there were no people at the place I'd stopped.
I was completely alone and had no idea how to move forward.
What did I do?
I realized I needed a restroom, and I needed it now. That was great. My body had become uncomfortable enough for the part of the brain that knew where local restrooms were located to help me, and I suddenly remembered how to get to the main road.
When I got to that road, I saw a landmark that assured me I was on the way to a secondary road that would take me to a Holiday Inn at which I'd frequently stayed. I could see a photograph of the Holiday Inn in my mind. I was suddenly excited. I felt certain that someone there would be able to help me find my way out of town.
I got to the Holiday Inn, which the outside sign now identified as a Ramada Inn. Was I remembering the right place? I kept looking at the road sign. Yep, Holiday Drive. But Ramada Inn? That didn't add up. I was confused. I was even more scared. What if my memory never came back and I was unable to find my way anywhere?
I parked the car and felt myself on familiar territory once I entered the lobby. Holiday Inn or Ramada Inn, the lobby looked just like the one I remembered, so the layout of the hotel was something I understood. I breathed a big sigh of relief, knowing how to find the rest room. I was glad I remembered how to use it. I suddenly wasn't sure about that, either.
After I finished up, I went to the front desk to ask the manager for directions. As soon as I asked the question, I again saw the map in my mind, but this time, it showed the road leading from the Ramada Inn that would get me out of town. As the manager gave me directions, I not only saw them in my mind, I felt them in my body. I was certain I'd be able to easily find my way out of town, and I did.
I cancelled out on attending the convention. I can take a hint. I didn't need education, I needed emergency care. I cut several hundred miles off my trip and drove to a place that offered mineral spring baths. Spending time in or near water is hugely restorative for me. I spent a couple of days enjoying the waters before taking a leisurely drive home on low stress, low speed limit back roads.
My mother may have dementia, but that doesn't mean I have to have it, too. I needed to find the I in We. There is no I in We. So I found the I all by myself and let the We go for a few days.
I've never again had the overwhelming memory loss, but I got quite an education about how it might feel to have dementia. It helped me become a better caregiver. And I'm consciously stopping myself from over-connecting with my mother. It may be good for her, but it's not good for me. If I don't score 100% on mind reading ever again, that's how it goes. All I can do is all I can do.
I am a Master-Instructor in Integrated Energy Therapy. IET teaches something called "Spiritual Selfishness." The idea is to take care of ourselves before taking care of anyone else. How can we be useful to anyone else if we're run down from caring for others? It's not easy to carve out I time in a We life, but I've learned how necessary it is.
Don't have time? Can you spare five minutes to do some deep breathing, eyes closed, slowly breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth? Or can you sneak a moment or two to inhale a few drops of your favorite essential oil you've sprinkled onto a cotton ball and placed in a sandwich bag for moment like this? Instant pick-me-up!
Why not practice a little Spiritual Selfishness today?
Sheryl Lynn is the author of the upcoming book "The Light Is A Thank You," which chronicles the spiritual journey through dementia she has taken with her mother, Eleanor. She is the host of "Glow With The Flow Radio Show," currently on hiatus.