A selection from Tracey's Oct. 22 forum at the American Cathedral, Paris
Have you ever had the experience of not being believed? Denial is a fairly common reaction to extraordinary news. Do we believe the child who whispers the pain of abuse, the employee who brings charges of harassment, or the immigrant who pleads for refugee status. We often miss the truth because we can’t or refuse to believe the messenger and/or the message.
When I was a college student, I witnessed a bank robbery, and nobody believed me. When I was a seminarian, I met God in a McDonald’s Restaurant and I’m pretty sure that few people believed me. When I tell people I have early onset dementia, they don’t believe me. In fact, I often don’t believe me either. Some days, I feel like my old self and question the diagnosis. But then something will happen to remind me that yes, I really have early stage dementia.
I’m learning that this is a common challenge for people with early onset. Because it’s such a devastating diagnosis, those around us want to comfort us by denying it and saying, “Oh we all forget things, we all get confused, we all can’t recall our best friend’s name or the day of the week.” Please don’t do that.
Don’t tell someone that their reality seems to be “an idle tale.” It’s not comforting; it’s actually hurtful and harmful, for it makes us prone to an unhealthy denial. Moreover, it all about stereotyping – that a person with dementia is someone who is helpless, unable to think, move and communicate with others. I believe that if we (and those around us) are honest about our situation (whatever it is), the truth will set us free to explore the fullness of life with it.