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#BellLetsTalk: How mental illness affected my family

25/01/2017 Isabelle Racicot

I always called her my “queen of Trininad” because she’s beautiful, strong and proud. I was once intimidated by this woman who had such a strong character. Among her circle, she was the center. A friend, a confidante, a big sister and the pilar of her family.“massage”

When she was 18-years-old, Angela left her home in the Caribbean Islands to start a life in America. She succeeded where many people failed or would fail. Despite a heartbreak that forced her to raise her two sons alone, she never turned her back on her obligations. On the contrary, actually. Even on a modest salary, she opened her home and provided shelter to children in need of love and structure.

Throughout her entire life she worked hard raising her kids and taking care of her parents, and her brothers. Come retirement, it would be peaceful and certainly well deserved. She would finally be able to enjoy life with friends, her grandchildren and share her wisdom with others. But then, things changed.

Today, the moments where I feel like I’m with my “queen” are rare. Slowly, Dementia has taken over her brain. The woman who was known on the block as the “toughest mother”, now needs her own kids to help her get dressed, make phone calls and to remind her to eat.

At times, she reverts back to childhood. Other times, she fabricates a present that only exists in her reality, in her mind, and then sometimes, we finally get a moment of grace! In these moments, we have the impression that we have refound our “queen of Trininad”. But now these moments are fewer and farther between.

Mental illness is so unfair! How does a woman who has given so much of herself to others, end up finding herself more and more isolated from the world she helped build?

I look at her and my heart is heavy. I wish I could find a miracle treatment that would help her find her former memory. I would love to be able to talk again to that woman who still has so much to teach me.

When I look at her, I think about my husband and his brother, who are watching their mom, their superwoman, slowly disappear. I watch them as they take care of her as if she was their own child and I feel their pain. Everything they do, every word they repeat, is imbued with unconditional love

“grandmother”

Yes, life is unfair. One day, my queen will leave this world and I just hope that despite this disease, she will leave knowing that she is loved.

If any of you are wondering if someone in your life might be affected with Alzheimer's or Dementia, you can ask them to take this simple test. I also suggest the work of reputed Dr. Serge Gauthier.

On January 25, Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell will donate 5¢ towards mental health initiatives in Canada, for every text, call, tweet, Instagram post, Facebook video view and Snapchat geofilter. Join the conversation!