Last year, I began seeing a psychologist. She helped me work through many of my fears, anxieties and a harsh reality that began changing my family dynamic. When she asked me what word could describe how I felt when the stressful events would happen, I could only think of one word. Frozen. I felt frozen. I was frozen when I comforted my mom. Hearing her fraught with stress and belittled to tears, because my dad had had another episode. When my brothers didn’t believe me, when I told them that our dad was changing. Every difficult conversation I had with my father. Every fight we had when I didn’t understand what he was going through.
It was an emotionally draining year, but finally we got my dad to a doctor and found out that he was in the early stages of dementia. The paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, irrational fears and forgetfulness all fit under one explanatory umbrella. As I learned more about the disease, it started to make sense to me.
Now that he’s on medication, things are better. But they aren’t perfect. He still has episodes, just not as often. When they do happen, I feel the same way. I feel numb to the chaos. It takes me a while to thaw out my emotions and be productive.
Writing has been my savior. Writing has helped me cope when things got tough. As I am writing this now, I feel anxious. I worry about all of the worst possible outcomes. What if someone in my family sees this? What if I am saying more than I should? But another part of me wants to share, because I am not so naive as to believe that I am the only child of a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is more than just forgetting. It is the decline of cognitive functioning. It is the loss of reason, critical thinking skills and, for my dad, it created a paranoid and irrational personality he struggles to work through.
As a society, I don’t think we talk about mental illness enough. I wish I had understood more before this happened. I wish my father’s generation was taught more too. Maybe then he wouldn’t think of mental illness as a taboo subject. Maybe then he would be open to talking about his anxieties or even willing to admit he has them.
As for me, I know that the first step in working through mental obstacles, is admitting you have them. I wrote this poem to express how I feel when it seems as though the world is closing in on me. I wrote it to admit my weaknesses and help myself work through them. I hope that this means something to someone else too. I hope it helps someone see that although, yes, this poem is dark, it isn’t meant to be negative. It is meant to be expressive. It is meant to be the beginning of getting better.
Hands of ice.
My frail body draws blood to its core.
My eyes, they see nothing
My ears, they hear no more.
My mind is but a captive,
To a cold, creeping icy lure.
Feet dug in snow,
Icicles in my joints, solidified from fear
Locking in my knees,
Liquid blood conversion,
Throughout my veins to my arteries.
I move no more,
Slowly, I feel no more.
My body a still, floating boat,
Without an oar.
Heart of ice.
I am trapped in this blizzard ensuing.
With no escape in sight.
Without the warmth of the golden sun,
To feed my soul and arm my fight
Against the cold, cruel war
Within me brewing.
I once lived in peace,
With careless ease.
But I now lie frozen.
A prisoner of anxiety.