AM: For a feeling person as you are it must be heart-breaking to assist a person who doesn't remember anything and to feel her pain that she can't feel. For people who are afraid of their own pain, it might be okay but not for you. You clearly see that you want to live YOUR life and you see what you need to do to "spread your wings and to fly". I wish you can do it soon, it is never too late.
Hi Ms. Miller,
I hope this letter finds you well. I wanted to express a situation to you in which I am being a part of and wanting to look at the deeper, underlying effects that I am allowing myself to participate in.
I care for an elderly woman her name is Kay, she is 86 years old and has Alzheimer's disease. (Do you think this disease is a deep manifestation of repressed feelings? My instincts tell me it is since it is a severe form of memory loss and loss of one's ability to care for themselves as the illness progresses more and more)
Her family has ways of doing things without telling Kay of the goings and doings of her personal belongings and her house. When her husband passed away a year ago, they took a lot of his things from her apartment the very night he died, and they took and have sold most of her belongings from her house and now are selling her house without telling her. Her daughter recently told us of this, and asked each of us (3 personal care providers), if they should tell her mother of her house being sold. But my feeling is that she already knew the answer and how we would respond to this question since they proceeded to do these other "behind the scenes activities" without telling her.
I know it would devastate Kay, she and her husband built their house from the ground up, lived in it for over 50 years, and I would even take her to see her house every week for several months, but we could only look at her house from the side of the street in my car since she was not allowed to go inside her own home. She couldn't understand why she didn't have the key to her own house and why she couldn't go inside it, why we would just sit in my car looking at it as strangers, never going in. I had told her(without telling her children), that her granddaughter had moved in and didn't want to invite her grandmother into her own house, the reason being she thought she would upset Kay to see all her possessions no longer there, and the inside of the house changed so much to what it used to be. I could understand this, however, if they had talked to her about this, the shock would have been understandable and explain to her the reason's and so
forth. Now, we are not to mention of her house being sold, and if she asks about how her house is, or about wanting a key to it, we agreed to say to her that her son was looking after it and that everything is fine and that when she would see him again (which is very rare), we would ask about the key(only if she remembered to ask).
I realize that a lot of what has been happening is very clear of the secrecy and lies that not only I grew up with and that I have personally generated in my own life and how a lot of families operate. I know that we live in a society where adult children put their parents away in nursing homes and take advantage of them due to there mental and physical fragility, by taking their money and whatever else for there own use. I understand where this is coming from the hatred, the anger, the denials, the hurt, the ways we take revenge on one another, unconsciously and consciously, the wanting to just put someone like a child or an elderly person away to not have to see them and remind them of what they represent. I know that Kay's children have a lot of blame and hurt and unexpressed feeling towards Kay and it is being expressed by these current actions.
I have a close relationship with Kay, and I know without a doubt that if she had been communicated with care about her house and belongings she, of course, would get rightly upset, but I also know she would understand...and due to the nature of her disease, she would "forget" allowing some residue of her needs being met even for a brief moment until the memory of that episode fades and the questionings of her house and belongings would arise again, but knowing somewhere in the depth of her being, the memory of being told and seeing allowed in her home would reside within herself even if she were to "forget".
As someone being a close care provider for Kay and using my "judgment" for what seems to be the "best" for her, I don't know where the line is drawn between doing what I feel is innately right in incidents when I have told her outright about her house and why she can't go in, and other things I have told her factually of things that her family had not told her. Along with the present agreement of withholding and lying to her due to her state of being...I have been confused and sad, and angry about how I am part of this and how we overall communicate and relate with each other on a daily basis.
I would sure appreciate your thoughts on this and your perception on the elder population especially the nursing homes and how the adult children take there hurts on the parents by these institutions. I know it is just not the parents, but the whole system of nurses, doctors, care providers- like myself, etc... I have definitely seen how I have neglected myself in going into this profession, for I have asked myself for several, several years why am I doing this line of work, because deep down it does not bring great joy or fulfillment, only something that I know how to do and I am told I am very good...which seems to translate that I am very good at providing other's needs but my own. Do you think that when I can fully come out of the depressions and the deep hurts from my childhood that I can finally discover what and how I truly want to live my life? You discovered this through your paintings, and left psychoanalysis, and wanted to write. I have a
profound sadness on the possibilities that I may never know what it is I really wanted to do with my life other than being a care provider. I feel really, really sad that it may be too late for me, that whatever inclinations or inspirations I might have had as a child will never be discovered...that they have been pushed down so deeply down...that it will never see the light to exist. And I feel really, really sad not knowing if I will truly come to a place of healing, to spread my wings and fly.
AM: For a feeling person as you are it must be heart-breaking to assist a person who doesn't remember anything and to feel her pain that she can't feel. For people who are afraid of their own pain, it might be okay but not for you. You clearly see that you want to live YOUR life and you see what you need to do to "spread your wings and to fly". I wish you-you can do it soon, it is never too late.
Alzheimer, Trauma, Repression
Dear Alice Miller,
On July 15 a reader in your mailbox asked: "Do you think this disease [i.e. Alzheimer] is a deep manifestation of repressed feelings? My instincts tell me it is..."
When I was caring for my father who suffered from Alzheimer's disease in the last few years of his life, I had the same impression as your reader. My father had a severely traumatic childhood, however, he never discussed it in depth with anyone, and when he did mention it, it was only humorous; his real emotions remained deeply repressed. When he retired from his work, he has stripped off his defences that enabled him to ward off his feelings of futility and emptiness generated by this massive repression; his childhood situation came back to haunt him. Gradually losing his memory and regressing to an infantile state of mind, he allowed himself, probably for the first time in his life, to behave like a child: to be unsatisfied, irresponsible, dependent, helpless, and to express his endless need for attention. My mother who could not tolerate his helplessness (as she could not tolerate her children's helplessness before) became the substitute of his mother - a woman devoid of feelings altogether - but this time, he could loudly protest. In his "senility", he allowed himself to say things that sounded delirious, but that were in fact very true; for example, he said that he doesn't recognize me; true: my father had never bothered to find out who I really was.
To care for a person with Alzheimer's disease is a huge emotional burden; the affected person shows you just how helpless he had been as a child, but you can do nothing to save him from his predicament. The "senility" makes it totally impossible to discuss a person's childhood with him. The feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are therefore transferred from the demented person who cannot deal with them, to the caregivers. Personally, this brought me close to psychological collapse. I, therefore, urge anyone who takes care of a demented person to take good care of THEMSELVES. Remember: you are not responsible for this person's miserable childhood. And the helplessness this person makes you feel is difficult to bear: it reminds you of your own helplessness in the first years of your life... It can also reactivate the frustration of a child who desperately tries to save his parents from their pain: the drama of the gifted child. Mission impossible - once again.
The correlation between psychological trauma and dementia has recently been demonstrated in a research presented in the 2009 International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease. This new research demonstrates that people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are twice as likely to suffer from dementia in later life than people without PTSD. This research gives further support to your readers' intuitions.
Please feel free to publish this letter.