The experience of seeing someone close suffer and progressively deteriorate mentally and physically is very difficult to say the least.
I am still wrapping my head around the fact that my father will never be the same person I remember growing up, I am in full denial stage. I just feel like grabbing him and shaking him to snap him out of this slow and steady progression to the inevitable state he is in now and will slowly deteriorate over time…
It all started three years ago, when he suffered with lithium overdose because his kidneys could no longer filter the medication properly. I remember that day very vividly, I had been struggling with the new reality of the death of my best friend/sister and in shock of no longer having her in my life.
My mother called me early that morning, it was strange because the day before I remember looking at my dad and knowing something was very wrong. He had been admitted to the hospital and the doctor mentioned to my mother that he was glad she had brought him in when she did, otherwise he may have died from the amount of lithium that was in his system.
I was shocked and scared, I rushed to the hospital and he was in intensive care. Hooked up to several machines and sedated to calm him down, he remained in this state for the next 2 months. Everyday I would make my way to the hospital to visit him, it took a toll on my mental and physical state. He was under constant medical supervision; the nursing station was right beside his room in intensive care. Luckily, I had just began a new position within the Provincial Government and they were very understanding of the situation. Once he was out of the woods, his mania kicked into full gear and they had no choice but to admit him into the mental health ward department for further observation.
The new challenge was to find a medication that would replace lithium, the negative effects on his kidneys were too severe for him to continue this medication. In the past three years, I honestly cannot recollect how many times he has been admitted and readmitted, the psychiatrists keep changing his medication and dosage and it is a trail by error at this point. Unfortunately, I think the combination of medication for his mental health and physical health have caused lasting effects and contributed to his current state. He can no longer walk properly, he is constantly falling, he cannot speak properly. His memory has been affected, he keeps referring to 30 – 40 plus years ago. He has not yet been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other similar degenerating condition yet, but I can feel like there is something like this going on or he may have simply given up on his recovery.
I still refuse to believe he is no longer the same person I remember when I was growing up. I would spend all day following him around when I was a kid, we would fix cars, work with his buddy woodcarving or do airbrushing. He is the reason why I love art; my passion began through our projects we accomplished together. He had confidence in my skills and would even let me help tackle a painting projects he was hired to complete. We painted several highway signs together in our yard, I remember feeling happy. He was always the strong one, he never showed any weakness, he was my rock for so many years, the person I would confide in, and he would always know how to calm my nervous nature.
Now, I am stepping into his role and to be honest it scares me, not to have him right there next to me on the same level. How can I ever measure up to him? Will I be enough? Will my children see amazing qualities in me and think to themselves how lucky they are to have a mother like me? I feel blessed to have been gifted a father like him, I want my children to remember him the way I do, a beautiful strong soul who is loosing daily battles with all the hardships he has endured throughout the years. I want his memory to be dignified, he deserves that after everything he has suffered.
The road ahead is going to be long and painful, coming to the realization that eventually (sooner rather then later) he will need constant medical supervision and I worry how it will make him feel. The last thing I want is for him to feel abandoned, he has mentioned to me several times how he has felt abandoned by his family and this really had become an internal battle I have been faced for the last little while. I wish I could take him in and care for him, but I feel unable to do this at this point and time and it is devastating. I will have to come to terms with the new reality of asking for external help and this will ensure his safety and enable him to live out the remaining time he has left with dignity.
It feels like I have lost that father I remember, I am stricken with grief and have been for the past three years. Unable to move forward because he is still with us, yet I feel like we are losing little bits of his soul day by day.
As he slowly progresses into an empty shell… It feels like loosing him over and over again…