Let’s not keep secrets any longer.
I'm please to welcome Vicki Tapia as our guest this month, author of Somebody Stole My Iron. By reading about one what daughter's journey was like with Alzheimer's disease, you may find help with the challenges you face.
by Vicki Tapia
An unexplained inner drive compelled me to document a multi-year sojourn that I took with my parents. It was the last journey we took together…a journey down the rabbit hole of dementia. Within months of each other, Dad received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s-related dementia and shortly thereafter, Mom, with Alzheimer’s disease. During the first year, I began a diary to record our odyssey. Journaling every evening helped me unwind and release some of the turbulent emotions involved with the day-to-day challenges we faced. This journal became my confidante to whom I could “say” anything without fear of reprisal and it asked for nothing in return. It simply listened.
As time passed, an idea quietly germinated in my subconscious, leading to a growing awareness that my experience might be helpful to others walking the same road. With that realization, my diary morphed into a manuscript and I began to consider pursuing publication. With a bit of wariness, I shared the manuscript with a few close friends, who offered positive feedback and encouragement. Then something unexpected happened. I developed a severe case of reticence. How could I expose our family to the public’s scrutiny, unveiling all the foibles and missteps? How could I expose the frightful truth about Mom’s precipitous decline? Even worse, if I moved forward with publication, I risked alienating my only sibling and perhaps his family, in my honesty about his lack of involvement and emotional support. When my best friend from childhood intimated that I would be “dishonoring” my parents if I were audacious enough to seek publication, her comment completely knocked the wind out of my sails. That did it. I chastised myself for even considering unmasking our family in such a callous way. The story was simply too private and I certainly did not want to dishonor my parents’ memory in any way, shape or form.
The manuscript languished on my computer hard drive for nearly 3 years. A tiny inner voice, however, refused to leave me alone. Now and then, it spoke to me, in various iterations: This narrative might be able to offer hope to others! Or: You know you learned a lot of lessons along the way that might help others from making the same mistakes. Why won’t you share them? Or: This story has so many ideas for coping, plus you could add information from experts to make it even more useful. Or: What if you lightened another’s load, letting them know that they’re not alone on a difficult road?
Eventually, I could no longer deny that voice, so I listened. I moved forward with editing, found a publisher and shared my story. Nine long years after I began my diary to cope, my diary of hope, Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia was born.
Let’s not keep secrets any longer. Join us during June, Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Speak out.