The Assumptive Worlds of Psychopathy VIII: Embracing Shame and Guilt—Unraveling the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness
Christy’s Mother, Linda, started to exhibit troubling signs when she was only in her mid-60’s. Christy had what she considered to be a close relationship with her Mom, they talked almost every day and Christy shared everything with her. One day in June 2010 on Christy’s Birthday, she did not receive a phone call from her Mother like she had all her adult life. Linda was always the first person to call Christy in the morning on this very important day. Late that afternoon Christy called her Mom and realized she had forgotten her birthday! When Christy reminded her, she said “Oh, Happy Birthday”, and said it flat with no emotion, completely unlike Linda and what seemingly was the start of a shift in her personality. She acted irritable, anxious, and was easily agitated.
After that, Christy knew something was dreadfully wrong. Looking back, there were many signs of changes in her personality, but that was a day that stood out. Subsequently, Linda started showing increased signs of anxiety, being scared to do things that she normally used to do. Her stories were incredibly inconsistent, and some stories Linda fervently believed happened had never occurred at all. There was a delusional component to Linda’s reality. Christy did not know what was going on. She wondered, “Why is my Mom acting this way? What have I done?” Christy finally talked her mother into getting a full assessment at UT Southwestern Hospital in Dallas in 2012—where she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and mild cognitive impairment.
Christy wondered how long she had it. Linda was unable to work, and her paranoia grew increasingly worse. Christy was heartbroken. The relationship she had with her Mother was forever changed, and the grief engulfed her. She started receiving calls from Linda’s friends, who were expressing concerns about her behavior. The challenging thing with Linda was that she never seemed to realize she had a problem with her memory, or her thinking. Her friends could see it, and her family could now see it, but her verbal skills were so good that the disease was difficult to detect unless one spent time with her.