Purple Dreams

Scraperboard drawing by Bill Sanderson, 1997.

I would hardly ever dream, at least I very rarely remembered my dreams. Since my Alzheimer’s diagnosis I’ve been dreaming frequently and vividly. I take Donepezil (also known by the brand name Aricept) as a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease. According to my neurologist vivid dreaming is a good side effect of Donepezil. “The dreaming means the medication is working. It’s doing it’s job” my doctor says. That’s all well and good but many of my dreams have been about my disease; about fear and anxiety living with Alzheimer’s. The things that may weigh heavy on my mind from time to time find their way into my subconscious in very surreal ways.

My most recent dream had me navigating my way through a very large condo housing complex. In my dream my family owned a unit and my two brothers were already at the condo calling me on my phone to come to the unit. They were giving me the address and location over the phone as I tried to navigate my way find them. I recall from my dream I was confused and could not find the address and unit. I was wondering through a maze of condos and units looking for them. At one point I could hear them calling me but I still could not locate them. In my dream I was becoming anxious and fearful. I remember screaming out “I’m here, where are you!?” My brothers were saying “we’re right here.” But I still could not find them and I continued to search through the maze of condo units feeling more and more anxious and fearful.

When I eventually woke I remember feeling out of breath and exhausted mentally. I sat on the edge of the bed and had to take a few deep breaths. I took a moment and talked myself down and told myself it was just a dream. I thought about the dream throughout the day many times purposefully so I would not forget it because I knew it meant something.

Later in the evening I told my wife Kim about the dream. Why was it so vivid? What did it mean? I’m not that far along in my diagnosis. I’m very early-stage. I don’t get lost. My navigation and directional skills are still very good. Earlier I said I have dreams of fear and anxiety, this is a bit paradoxical for me because consciously I have no fear and very little anxiety about my condition. We discussed and I think we came to the conclusion that this dream was given to me as a gift. The dream gave me a look not so much into my possible inevitable future but rather into what those of us who are more advanced in the disease may be experiencing; living within the virtual like world where they cannot adequately communicate the experiences of their emotions and consciousness.

First, my hope for caregivers is that I’ve been able to provide some insight into this world of those of us living with Alzheimer’s. Second, for the person living with our disease, I hope this post will be useful to help you communicate what your going through when you can’t find the words.

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