This morning I went for a nice four-mile run. I changed my route a little bit, as I’m still having fun exploring the different areas around my new home. I ran around a large pond that I’ve driven by several times, but had yet to run in that direction. I saw several sand hill cranes and other cool birds and I listened to an episode of a true crime podcast that I’m currently obsessed with. There was nothing spectacular about this run, but when I stopped halfway through to take a selfie in front of the pond, I couldn’t help but feel happy and thankful. I love where I live and the fact that there are an infinite number of routes to take when I’m running. Running is my therapy and being able to run outside year-round has been amazing, even when it’s ungodly hot and humid out. I love our new house and have been having fun decorating and organizing everything. I have an amazing husband, who is also my best friend, and the best two rescue pups in the world. I have my health, my family, a couple of good friends, and yet at times, I am completely, hopelessly depressed.
I began to run back home, feeling happy and light, but it wasn’t long before the large sack of my grief started to weigh me down again. What the hell am I so happy about? My mom is continuing to decline and is probably close to dying for all I know. My dad is still dealing with her care, day in and day out, and his life is becoming increasingly more difficult. I’m losing them both. What in the world is there to feel happy about? By the time I got back home, the endorphins had already worn off and I was back to my miserable, sad self. What’s the point in anything? Why even bother going for a run? Why bother decorating my house or organizing the Christmas decorations? That should be the least of my concerns right now.
This happens to me all the time. Any time I am able to get out of my head long enough to start feeling any amount of happiness, my grief is quick to remind me of my reality. At times, I am able to escape it briefly, but it is always there. It is always on my mind.
I recently went home for a week to visit my family. I stayed at my sister’s house and we had our own little Christmas morning with her two daughters. We shared many meals and made many memories together. It was so fun and heartwarming to see my older niece enjoying all of the Christmas activities and I was amazed at how quickly my younger niece is growing. I also visited my mom every single day that I was home. She can’t walk or stand up on her own. She can’t feed herself and she barely says more than a few words at a time, most of which doesn’t make much sense. She never leaves the house anymore and hasn’t even been upstairs in over a year now. There is no part of me that thinks she will be here this time next year. It is devastating and heartbreaking and soul-crushing to see her like that. How can my heart be so full, and yet so broken?
I feel like I am living two parallel lives. They are the same in many ways, but still so different. One is full of joy and lightness, and the other is full of sadness and despair. My heart is full of life and love, but at the same time, it’s split in two. I am so happy, and yet so depressed. I recently told my husband that I feel like he and I are living parallel lives. He is at a high point in his life, while I am at a low point in mine. He has his dream job, a beautiful new home, a loving and supportive wife (wink, wink). Meanwhile, I am on the brink of losing one of my parents. My mom is dying. I can feel it. And, after almost six years since I quit my full-time job, I still have no fucking idea what I’m doing with my life. It doesn’t get much lower than that.
I am right there by my husband’s side. Celebrating the dream job, moving to Florida, loving our new home. But I have this whole other secret life that no one knows about. Well, if you’re reading this, then you know, but you wouldn’t know just by looking at me. If you met me at a party (which you wouldn’t because I never go to parties) or passed me on the street, you would never know how much I’m suffering. My life looks nice and cozy and relatively happy. In many ways, it is all of those things. But it’s also sad and lonely and empty in other ways. I am broken inside. A huge piece of me is missing. Gone forever. There is no telling what stupid little thing will trigger a memory and make me cry. A picture. A song. An aisle at Target. An old and dusty elliptical machine that is sitting in my garage, unused, because it pains me too much to get rid of it. And yet, I still smile sometimes. I still laugh uncontrollably with my husband while binge-watching The Office. I feel happy and content cuddling on the couch with my pups. I still enjoy going for a nice run and looking at all of the cool birds. I can’t wait to see who my nieces become when they grow up. And I absolutely love living in Florida, even though I am so far away from my family.
I am both happy and sad. My heart is both full and broken. I am thankful, and yet resentful. I look toward the future with both hope and dread, curiosity and fear. At times, I feel joyful and light, but then the dark, heavy clouds roll in, overshadowing my happiness with pain and grief. My two parallel lives. One high and one low. I guess it’s a matter of finding balance between the two, but for now, this is where I’m at.
Lauren Dykovitz is a blogger and author. She lives in Florida with her husband and two black labs. Her mom, Jerie, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010 at age 62. Lauren was only 25 years old at the time. Jerie is still living with advanced Alzheimer’s.
Lauren writes about her experience on her blog, Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s. She has also been a contributing writer for several other Alzheimer’s blogs and websites. Lauren self-published her first book, Learning to Weather the Storm: A Story of Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s. She is also a member of AlzAuthors, a group of over 160 authors who have written books about Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Please visit lifeloveandalzheimers.com to read more about Lauren’s journey.