My Mother Would Be Recovering If She Were Self-Aware
How self-awareness is key to a healthy life
Dating all the way back in 2004, my mother received her first diagnosis of a physical illness: Parkinson’s. She was barely in her 40s when most people develop such an illness in their 60s. In my family, we all believe this was a grave misdiagnosis that we could not hold anyone accountable for. I was only 8-years-old. My parents didn’t know English. The language barrier existed everywhere she went to the doctors. She blindly accepted the diagnosis and ate the medication for decades.
Though I can’t change the past, I can be responsible for her present reality. I’m officially her paid caregiver, and even if my hours are limited, it doesn’t take that long to recognize what her problems are.
The crux of the issue is a lack of self-awareness. Even if my mother were to be misdiagnosed and didn’t have access to any resource to investigate Parkinson’s, she should’ve been able to tell what was going on in her own body. Is something causing pain? Causing nausea? She can’t do this.
I am calling self-awareness the key to recovery because there are such evident patterns to her behavior, meaning she goes through every day the exact same way. In other words, if she just noticed her issues for one day, she would have critical information for her doctors. It’s all cyclical.
Let me give you an example. Her medication is to be consumed at 3 different times of the day, spaced out in 5-6 hour intervals. So here we are where my mother might be able to move from 6AM to 4PM and then she stops just like a car running out of gas. That’s it. There’s no more energy to this fuel.
All the hours after 4PM, she can’t move. She has gone incontinent many times because she can’t get up, and she can’t even call out for help to get me into her bedroom. Me checking in every 15-30 minutes is useless because it might be too late for me to get her up. I’m also off the clock.
(We have a solution now. I bought her a rubber ducky that she can squeeze to make a noise so I can be alerted.)
(Don’t ask why my shifts aren’t at night. Well then, who takes care of her in the mornings?)
So, what are the patterns?
Her problems at night should be anticipated, absolutely anticipated. It has happened every night for the past 5 weeks in which I have been her caregiver. There are several solutions to avoid incontinence. She could (1) wear a diaper before she hits the bed and tries to sleep. She could (2) place the duck right next to her hand in bed in case she needs to squeeze it and make a loud noise to alert me. She could (3) inform her neurologist right away that this is what Parkinson's medication is doing to her.
She does none of it.
After asking her if she always struggles like this, she tells me she has for over a decade. The lack of self-awareness and the shame of having such illness makes her incapable of confronting reality.
I can’t blame her though. I don’t know what it is that makes someone self-aware. I used to never be self-aware and suddenly became that way due to my mental illnesses. Perhaps her medication strips her self-awareness just as they make her experience psychotic episodes.
At the end of the day, for anyone to recover from an illness and/or live a healthy life, they have got to be self-aware. They need to know what is happening within them, spot the patterns, and adjust. Otherwise, who can know what’s happening in your body? An X-Ray can’t identify everything.