Suddenly I had a bunch of time on my hands. I wouldn't be going back to my job due to my disability which oddly started with a bout of Vertigo that lasted for two months. I didn't want to be bored to death and become more of a couch potato than I already had. So at first, I decided to spend time doing things I enjoyed like fly fishing, standup paddle boarding, and prospecting (gold panning in the creek behind my house). I chose these activities purposely to get me outdoors and off the couch. So I upgraded some of my equipment, and for a while, this seemed to distract me from the reality of my situation. But as the disease progresses, you just don’t feel like doing anything. Now I just wanted to sit in my easy-chair.
I realized I was falling into depression. It is okay and normal for this to happen. Who wouldn't get depressed with this significant adverse change in life? It changes your outlook in many areas, especially in regards to the future. Depression often enables other parts of your life to feed into it, like gaining weight from not being active or eating right because you don't feel like doing the disciplined things anymore. It starts to snowball. I could see it happening but didn't know what to do about it. I had no motivation to do anything about it. That bothered me.
THE BEGINNING OF HOPE
Subconsciously I think I was just waiting to slip away and die, like the other 5.4 million with Alzheimer's eventually do. Then one day, a thought came to me from my past that evolved my thinking in a different direction. That idea has made a huge difference in my life. I realized I had lost having a purpose in my life. It hit me hard!
A long time ago I used to work in the counseling profession and remembered that many times if I could help people see their situation from a different or better perspective, that it would change everything for them. Example: If you are lost in the desert, your throat is dry and parched, you can barely walk or even take another step… but then you look up and see an oasis, shade, water, food… do you fall over and die or do you jump up and try and run to the water? Or say you are on a deserted island and starving, on your last leg, about to give up... and you see a ship on the horizon or a plane fly overhead! What happens to your energy? You get a boost! You run, jump, scream... Everything changes!
Perspective is about truth and choice. Sometimes the truth about something is bigger than what you see at first. If you are stuck standing in a room that has a beautiful painting on one wall, but you are facing a wall that has a horrible picture, the direction you face will determine how much you enjoy standing in that room. The reality is that you ARE in the room, but you get to CHOOSE what direction you face and what your experience is while there.
I realized I was facing the wrong direction! I had been put in a room I couldn't leave and was facing an ugly picture. It didn't make me happy. But no one said I had to keep looking at it, and I had a choice!
I used to help others quite effectively, by showing them a different perspective on their situation than what they were seeing. It worked for them, and I decided it would work for me. So I asked myself: what perspective have I been accepting and what perspective could I choose to see?
Alzheimer's is a terminal disease with no treatment or cure. That is the horrible picture and truth. I was accepting that there is nothing I or anyone can do, so I might as well do nothing. I didn’t feel like doing anything, but that was because I accepted that perspective.
Then I looked at my situation to see what my other choices were… Was there more to the truth of my situation that could change my perspective? I knew I could try and choose to be happy. There are many ways to do that... listen to music that lifts you. Hang around people that make you laugh and smile. Read things that inspire you. I decided to ask myself; What has been the biggest thing that makes me truly happy? The answer for me was almost instantaneous. Helping others is what makes me happy. It was something that I discovered in my early adulthood and what led me to pursue the counseling profession. All of a sudden I had a purpose, TO HELP PEOPLE! Wow! I could see the ship on the horizon! I’ve been jumping up and down ever since… waving “Over here, over here!”
Now if I had decided that fly fishing was the one thing that made me truly happy, then this blog would be about fly fishing! Can your purpose be to fly fish? SURE, if that is what rings your bell. A few years ago there was a blockbuster movie called 'Chariots of Fire,' you might remember it. It took me the longest time to think of the title... but in the film, the main character was the runner who was a Christian, and at some point in his life He realized that running was his purpose! Running... a purpose? What made him happy and fulfilled is when he did things for God. He said when he ran, it made God smile.
Some people's purpose in inwardly focused and some it is outwardly focused. There is no right or wrong. So... what fulfills you more than anything? What is your gift? Your love? Make that your focus. Pursue that thing, that focus, let it take over your perspective, let it drive you and give you a purpose. You get to choose, just answer the question. What makes you happy?
Perspective, choice, and purpose go hand in hand if you let them. But many people do not understand the power in this truth. The power for change, for joy, for happiness, and to break depression.