Disarray

Disarray (drawing for blog post)

Disarray (July 2020)

The disease has progressed a lot. That is what has happened and is why I haven’t been writing. This drawing is a visual representation of what it feels like now. I call it Disarray. Everything in the drawing is up in the air, and the connections between things are tenuous. I want people to know that for me Alzheimer’s has nothing to with forgetting who your children are, or the names of your grandchildren. You can be in the later stages and still remember their names. It is forgetting who you’ve been all your life. What makes you “you”. It is rapid aging and disintegration. It is the brain telling you that you are not here anymore. And yet you are here. It is confusion. It is panic when alone and not able to just get up, get dressed and start the day. It is an inability to start, and once I do, not know how to continue and the need to get up and pace around. It is everything as an obstacle – the cacophony of being outside and walking with my husband and not being able to filter sound, walking under the viaduct where a restaurant has set up tables with social distancing for dining outside during Co-vid, and the voices of the people dining, sounding like a din of loud noise that is so mixed and loud it becomes unbearable to hear. It is memories intruding on consciousness. Old memories, fragments. It is incomplete thoughts. A fragmentation of the self.

I’ll try and explain how this drawing is representative of my now. I started it with the images of the bananas. When I was an undergraduate art student, I was known as an excellent printmaker, and an artist and professor, Bruce Parsons, hired me to be the master printer for a series of etchings (intaglio prints) for an idea he had. He had returned from a sabbatical where he traveled to Africa, and learned about a tribe that did not refer to people by gender, but instead thought of people as ripe and raw. The series was called that – Ripe and Raw. The bananas were photographed on a cutting board. In the middle were the yellow ones. The time in life when you’re living your life as an adult. The green banana was placed to left of the yellow ones. It represented the beginning of life. The baby. The time when you’re not ready, when you need to be nurtured to become who you are meant to be. But life is short and before you know it you are old. After you are ripe, you become over ripe. Old age is that black banana. No longer ripe. Dare I say rotten.

The drawing contains a baby bottle with green liquid inside. I made a drawing of a baby bottle sitting on a chair when my son was a baby that I called radioactive baby bottle. In that drawing I placed it inside my bedroom and drew the rest of the room in perspective. Here it’s up in the air, and placed between a self portrait that is in pencil – not colored. The self portrait has lines on my forehead that represent bricks. I am a ghost in this drawing. A phantom presence experiencing the disarray of a luridly colored place where nothing makes sense. There are light bulbs hanging down on cords illuminating this catastrophe. A big head with an eye looks directly into a light bulb. The eye is blood shot but doesn’t really see. It is looking, an eye above a big swollen cheek. There is an anatomical heart, that has a truncated pulmonary artery and an aorta that branches out, weaving through books. Books that are floating in space. Closed books that are silent. Emblems of all the information and stories I no longer can read. There is a cactus, a forbidding plant with spikes. I included a drawing of the blue shoes I wear when I walk outside with my husband. The shoes with laces that I tie, narrating each step as I tie them. “Pull the laces tight, tie, loop the lace around and tie the bow, and double knot”. The shoes that allow me to keep walking, to take the walks with my husband on the route we take.

The couch sits under a light bulb. This is a drawing of the couch I sit in everyday, with a dent because I sit so much. The couch from which I watch television. Episodic series after episodic series, ad nauseum. The couch where I fall asleep with the ear buds still in my ears, waking to see that the television is still on.

20 thoughts on “Disarray

  1. Dear Suddenly Mad,
    I have followed you for several years, since I was diagnosed, and discovered your link. I am very impressed with your insight, intelligence, and ability to
    express your feelings, that I can totally identify with. I am a retired rocket scientist, 79 years old, and thank you for your ‘suddenly mad’ articles. – Phil Hong, mearf@aol.com

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Phil for your comment. We have seen each other on Dementia Alliance International zoom support groups. You don’t look 79! And you usually seem fairly content. I am only 66 and Alzheimer’s has impacted me in less than 4 years since the diagnosis. I started the blog (you call them articles) in June 2017, eight months after my diagnosis. Can I ask what you identify with? What is it really like for you?

      Minna

      Like

    • Hello Jaya, I needed a good deal of encouragement to post again. Glad that you feel it is beneficial and makes a difference to the world. Glad to be able to connect at least in the virtual world for now and continue to tell my story. The drawing is just a drawing, a conduit to be able to communicate. Proves I can still draw and think and frame this life experience, or journey (as it’s called), in a way that can be shared. Thank you for making me still feel that I have value. This illness makes me forget that.
      -Minna

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations. You did it! I’m so proud of you for overcoming the dreaded inertia that you’ve felt so that you could produce this wonderful, insightful interpretation of your latest drawing. What an accomplishment. As always, your intelligence shines through this piece. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • With your encouragement and a few other friends, I pushed through the “wall” that blocks me from communicating. People have written and expressed their appreciation for this last post. It was succinct and honest which I intended it to be. Thank you for believing I could still share my story.
      -Minna

      Like

    • Dear Razel, Thank you for your encouragement and compliment. I guess you’re right it’s the inertia, but it’s also the physical act of writing, and looking for/ thinking of the right words. Once I get going language flows and I did feel I captured and communicated well.

      Like

  3. Minna, I’m so happy to see a post from you! I’ve missed you.

    Thank you for continuing to shed light on the effects of this dreadful disease. I believe you’re helping so many people through your blog.

    As always, you give the most amazing interpretation through your art and your words. Your blog could be made into a book.

    You are an amazing woman, Minna! I consider you my virtual blogger friend. 🙂 I have a feeling I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    Sending you Light and Love ~

    Like

    • Hello Linda,
      I always appreciate seeing your comments. It makes me happy to read that you missed me. It tells me that my presence still has an impact and that I can be understood. It is with a lot of effort that each post comes forth now. Months between posts. Birthing each one is hard now but comes from the heart of the matter, the need to be born and tell people what this is like. A man named Joseph Pratt tried to interest publishers back in 2018 to make my blog into a book. Alas, no takers. But your continued support and those who read my words and understand me know that I have not disappeared.
      Wishing for the ability to stay in the light. Not fade away. Go out with love in my heart.
      -Minna

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Minna, You are still writing so expressively and coherently. Your Disarray is what I am currently feeling, too. No need to tell you that life is hard. I am learning how to navigate better through the tools you use, words and painting. I am grieving my dog, Sheba of 14 years. She went to heaven in May. Meanwhile, my crazy neighbour has been harassing me – again over the nothingness of my weeds and ugly yard. Life is very strange but you make sense to me. You are still a teacher. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

    Lily

    Like

    • Hi Lily,
      Yes life is hard, even without a chronic illness. We are always walking each other home. Now you grieve the loss of Sheba. A neighbor who owned a business around the corner from me (Ritchie), has died. He used to harass me, and we did not get along. His son was a drug addict who lived in the building he owned that housed his business. The son used to urinate on my roof. Crazy and sad, and then overdosed. Now learning of Richie’s death, I see that he was also suffering. I think he was close to my age. He left a successful business and five children and a wife to carry on. I used to dread seeing him, and would avoid walking past his building. Now he leaves a void. He is gone. I no longer have bad feelings about him, Makes me see that most people are doing the best they can while they are here.
      -Minna

      Liked by 1 person

      • Minna:
        I like that we are always walking each other home. It is true that we are all doing the best we can. In a way my neighbour is helping me see the various aspects of ‘mental’. I do feel sorry for her. I wonder what kind of torture she is in, that any little thing I do in my yard along our boundary makes her crazy enough to retaliate in some way. That is a mental sickness that is not good. I cannot talk or reason with her. Whereas there’s the ‘mentally handicapped’. You can talk and reason with them. And then there’s you with your early Alzheimer. You are engaging so intelligently and rationally with empathy. We, humans are very puzzling and amazing. I feel fortunate that we have met.

        I have not been functioning at a high level these months. I have prioritized but lagging on many fronts. I’m off to sort and do some brain healthy stuff.

        Lily

        Like

    • Thank you Beth for your comment. In Co-vid isolation, I have thought about Bill. and how he might be fairing in isolation too. Do you have any word from Ayesha (was that her name?) about him.
      -Minna

      Like

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