Is it Dementia, Or Emotional Baggage?
I learned an important lesson this Christmas. While I have been focusing on all my memory loss being attributed to the dementia I am dealing with, I have found that there is an area of memory loss that dementia has nothing to do with.
I will start by relating a problem I had on Christmas which is related to my dementia. This problem occurred at a friend's house where I was introduced to a woman who I have met-and even worked with-during years past. Yet, I had no memory of her. She acted surprised, but I made no excuses. I just laughed and said, "Guess my dementia kicks in sometimes!" She laughed, too, thinking I was joking. Wish I wasn't.
The memory loss which has no relation to my dementia concerns my Christmases past. At this time of year, one reads about memories people have of their former Christmases. Unfortunately, I have very few memories of my own early Christmases. This seems strange because I have five siblings - Christmas must have been a bustling time around our house...
There are some things I remember from years when I was a preteen/teenager, such as:
- Singing at midnight church services with the children's choir and hoping to find that Santa had already come by the time I got home (he never did, to my great disappointment!)
- Lying at the foot of my bed with the window open hoping to hear Santa when he did come. (This was usually a very cold night, so I had to bundle up.)
- Trimming the tree on Christmas Eve.I hated doing this because I had to do it by myself.Being the fifth of six children, my four older siblings were out on their own by this time.My younger sibling usually got out of any work he didn't want to do.So, I got the job.
- Smelling the cookies my mother baked on Christmas Eve.
The only other memories I have about my younger Christmases come from looking at some old pictures. I don't remember the times, but know I must have been there because I see myself in the picture.
I had a revelation last week. I mentioned never wanting to leave the house on Christmas Day and was wondering aloud (in front of an older brother) about why that is. My brother quickly said, "That's because as kids we were dragged from our presents every Christmas to spend the day at our grandparents' house. We hated leaving home." I have absolutely NO recollection of those visits. I suppose I have suppressed these memories all these years. Now, it all makes sense--why I don't have many memories--why I hate to leave my house on Christmas Day! I can't imagine why these visits have affected me in such a way that I have no recollection of them.
Isn't it interesting that such an innocuous tradition such as going to grandma's every Christmas can have such an impact on the child's life much later on?
And so it is, that one cannot blame a lack of memory to dementia alone. Besides other physical problems which could contribute to a problem with memory, voids in memory might be caused by emotional baggage, too. Baggage which one may not even be aware of carrying...