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Alzheimer’s Attack

I am alone again tonight.  Dee is still in France doing his Tour de France thing.  As I settle down he isn’t far from my thoughts.  I still think he is crazy.  I mean, who in their right minds cycles 100 kilometers a day for 12 solid days.  It defies understanding.  Well, my understanding anyway.

I’m settled in my usual nightly position – seated on chaise longe part of the lounge suite, remotes close at hand (and what a pleasure it is not to have to fight a certain someone for those!), a bit of chocolate to sustain me and a lovely cup of tea.  It is safe to say I’m pretty well set for the evening.

The Project comes on.  I love The Project and try to watch it every night.  It is an hour long news program that is presented by four thirty-something presenters.  It is clever, witty and vastly entertaining.  Each night is filled with news of the day plus interest stories that generally pull at the heart strings.  What can I say, the program speaks to me.

Tonight it is Alzheimer’s.  My ears prick up.  I have a family member with the disease and I want to know as much as possible how I can support them.  A young man lost his celebrity father to Alzheimer’s and is now doing all he can to educate young people on the modifiable risk factors which researchers are saying play a 70% role in developing the disease (the other 30% being genetic).  The list bursts onto the screen:

  • Physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Social Engagement
  • Cognitive stimulation

Without thinking, I pause to take a closer look at the list.  Without a doubt the list does reflect the family member I know with the disease, but frighteningly, I realise that the list also applies to me.  All, except one – smoking.  I stare at the screen.  I begin to ponder all the things that I have struggled to remember lately – words I could not find, forgetting why I had walked into a room, what day of the week it is.  I’m 45.  I have tried to fob it off as getting on a bit, being a housewife where one day melds into the next, but, staring at the list, I am fearful.  Am I losing my mind?  Has the atrophy of my brain already begun?

I start to wonder how many signals I am going to need before I take the hint that my current lifestyle is just sending me to an early grave.  I have a BMI of 35, dangerously close to the morbidly obese range.  I have recently been for blood tests which have all come back clear, but physically and mentally I am exhausted.  I barely leave the house, definitely do no exercise and, dare I say it, I am really bored.  All of those risk factors apply to me in bucket loads.

I have recently been doing some personal development stuff.  It is my attempt at finding tribe.  Finding a sense of belonging.  The message I keep getting is ACTION.  It is not my buzz word, but it keeps tapping me on the shoulder. 

Find your tribe, do some action

Basically I need to start moving.  Moving to lose weight, moving to exercise, moving to gain social engagement, movement to use my brain. 

I wonder how it got like this.  I know that unless I want to die at the age of 62 like my mother and her mother and her mother before her, drastic changes have to be made.  The thing is, I’m not really one to change.  Yet, I know that nothing changes if nothing changes.  It isn’t enough to have the knowledge, you HAVE to do something with it.  I have to do something with it.

Watch this space.

 

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My long road to Mecca

The phone rings.  I am still in bed, but very much awake. I look at the clock.  10am.  My second lie-in this week.  God, I love school holidays.

Hello?

Hi Sarah, this is Bee, from the Life! Program?

Oh damn, I had forgotten about this.  I meant to phone and cancel.

Oh yes.  How are you?

I’m fine, thank you.  Is now still a good time to go through the questionnaire?

Well, no not really.  I don’t want to do this anymore.  I know I’m a candidate for diabetes.  I don’t need you to tell me that.

Sure, of course it is.

We go through the questions.  A lot of questions.  I know from my answers what I have known for the past 20 years – my salt intake is too high, I don’t make healthy food choices, I don’t exercise enough (read, at all!).  I feel crap.  After an hour, the questions are finished.

Now, Sarah, the first part of this questioning process was actually to gauge your levels of anxiety and depression.  Just adding up the scores, you have, in fact scored quite highly for both.  Are you aware of any issues with these.

Where do I begin, lady, and how long have you got?  I fight back tears.  I am trying not ruminate, I’m trying to move forward.  I give her a very brief story of our family situation – the autism, the teenage pregnancy, my depression, my obesity.  She ums and ahs in sympathy.  No-one understands, they just don’t.  And I am trying to remain upbeat here.

So, what is it that you do for yourself?

Her question catches me off-guard.  She obviously senses my lack of understanding.

I mean, what is that you do on a daily basis that is just for you?

I have no idea what she means. 

Well, I’m a stay at home mum, so I don’t really do anything other than clean, cook and stuff.  I surf the internet a lot, am on facebook a lot, I guess that’s just for me.

Yes, yes, I understand. 

I don’t think she does.

You see, that is not really doing something for yourself.  That is a form of escapism and we know that it doesn’t help with anxiety and depression, it in fact enhances it.  I know it makes you feel connected in some way, but it doesn’t really help you.  So, I’m wondering if there is anything that you enjoy doing, that you could do just for yourself.  Today.

Tears are welling up in my eyes.  I don’t know this woman from a bar of soap.  I enrolled on the course through uni because I knew I was a candidate for diabetes if I didn’t get my weight in check.  I thought I would get a meal plan and that would be it.  Now, I feel like it is a terrible idea.  I stumble on my words. 

Er, I don’t know.  I like scrap booking, but I have to admit that I haven’t the energy for it right now. 

I look at my laptop placed next to me.  My fingers itch to clank away at the keyboard.

I’m going to leave it with you to think about what it is you can do, just for yourself, no-one else, every day.  Something small. 

Inwardly I laugh.  I have no idea what she means.  Anything for myself seems at once ridiculously indulgent.  I am looking, have always looked, into starting a business from home, but something inside of me suspects she will see that as doing something for my family.  She would be right.  As a stay at home mum, I have largely felt inadequate, a drain, on the financial resources of our family.  Scrapbooking just seems selfish.  I agree to think about it.

Now, what is it that you can do to improve the lifestyle areas that we have identified in the questionnaires?

I confidently rattle off the areas – less salt, more fruit and veg, more exercise.  I hope I’m getting brownie points for this.

Hmm, yes, that is a very long list.

No, it isn’t.  It’s a list of three.

Let’s get a lot more focused.  I want you to narrow it down to one thing, that you can do for the next two weeks.

I think about it.  I love salt and I hate exercise. 

I can increase my fruit and vegetable intake.

How?

Bugger it, this lady never gives up.

Well, I already eat at least two serves of fruit a day.  I do love my fruit.

So, we are looking at increasing your vegetable intake.  How can you do that, and be specific.

I know what she is doing.  She is facilitating me to come up with a plan because studies have shown that with the participants’ buy-in, success of any given program is much more likely to succeed.  I play along.  I give various scenarios of how I can improve – preparation, one-pot meals and the like.  She suggests batch-making but my freezer space won’t allow it.  Within five minutes, we have a plan.

How are you going to monitor your progress, Sarah.

Ah, this is the accountability bit.

I can write down what I have written.

Yes, but will you.

She was right.  I’m depressed, there is no way I’m writing down what vegetables I eat.

I could take a photo.  I have my phone on me all the time.

That is an excellent idea.  I feel like I have just got the answer to a really difficult question.

The conversation ends.  My plan is to eat up to five serves of vegetables a day.  A serve, I am told, is a small potato or a half cup of vegetables.  I have to take photos of said vegetables.

I get the feeling that the road to Mecca (sexy and slim for me) is going to be a long one.