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Nightmares or the Orange Pill

Nightmares or the Orange Pill

I’m tired this morning. The lingering affects of my nightmares stays with me.

One of the characteristics of Frontotemporal dementia is sleep disturbances. In addition to this I have been diagnosed with REM sleep behavioural disorder. This “… is a disorder in which you physically act out vivid, often unpleasant dreams with vocal sounds and sudden, often violent arm and leg movements during REM sleep.”
Normally you don’t move during REM sleep. About 20 % of your sleep is spent in REM sleep, the usual time for dreaming, which occurs primarily during the second half of the night. (Mayo Clinic)

REM sleep behaviour disorder often may be associated with other neurological conditions such as Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease or multiple system atrophy.

I have had this disorder for about four years; that means prior to my diagnosis of Frontemporal dementia (FTD).
The other distinct characteristic of this is that you usually remember the nightmare(s) unlike many dreams.
Although I had a diagnosis, I choose not to take any suggested medications to help the symptoms. About a year ago, that changed as my nightmares were more frequent and frightening.

My doctor put me on 0.5MG of Clonazepam. Yes, medication from the “pam family.” Clonazepam often used to treat anxiety is also the traditional choice for treating REM sleep behaviour disorder.

However, in people with FTD, benzodiazepines have been associated with an increase in behavioural challenges and impair both memory and pschomotor skills. Use can result in reduced inhibition and impaired judgement. Simply put Clonazepam should be avoided.

I’m sure you can see the conundrum. To take or not to take. That is the question!

My daily medication is taken via a blister-pack. The clonazepam is not included in it. Every night as I take my blister-pack medication, I have to also open up the pill bottle for it.

Last night I choose not to take it. This is the second time this week. Why not? I keep hoping to take less medication. I keep thinking maybe I don’t need to take it anymore. But I’m promptly reminded why I do need to take it. Without it comes the nightmares. Terrible nightmares.

Although clonazepam is not suggested for people with dementia, I’ve made a choice to include the orange pill in my daily medication. Without it, the monsters come out and I can be heared yelling “Help me….”

Mary Beth Wighton is a blogger living with Frontotemporal dementia. If you want to subsribe to her blog or get in touch with her for any reason, send her an email (mbwighton@hotmail.ca).

fdd8c873df2214bMary Beth Wighton

Blogger and dementia advocate

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty

The last few weeks I have been “off.” I have been extremely tired, lack motivation, and am moody. Today, I had another example of how my brain is changing.

I was tidying up the bedroom and began to move items in order to dust. I started to pile things on the dresser. I was not being careful but, for some reason, didn’t really care. As I continued, I looked at my South African art ostrich egg that was dangerously positioned underneath the piled up items.I remember looking at it and thinking I should move it or else it will fall.

Well, guess what… it fell. Even though I had the initial thought of moving this precious piece of art, I didn’t. I don’t know why. All that I know is that the fragile Osterich egg fell and shattered.

Dawn came running into the room and after surveying the floor she began to tear up. She knew how important this piece of art was to me. A number of years ago, while working in South Africa, I bought this art Osterich egg. It was the same day I went to Nelson Mandela’s museum. I carefully carried it home and have always handled it with kid gloves. It meant a lot to me on an emotional level.

What is curious is what came to my brain next:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

eggStrange. As I collected the pieces, it made me quite sad. But it was more than just a broken art piece. I felt sad because my brain did not do what it should have. One part of my brain should have said “danger, danger” this could fall and break. Another part of my brain should have then taken that piece of information and move the egg. It didn’t.

As I looked down at the pieces, I thought to myself, this is like my brain. I now have these pieces that are disjointed and not connected anymore. So yes, the brain is still working, but not in the way it should, much like Humpty Dumpty. It is quite a visual analogy for me.

As I lay contemplating this latest episode, I realize that just like Humpty Dumpty, I will not have someone who can fix me. Research and medical solutions are too far off in the future to be able to have the solution to glue those disjointed pieces of my brain back together.

With having dementia, I am very well aware that I can present as looking just fine. But, my brain is sick and struggling. I will just have to continue to do my best and balance on the wall to the best of my ability.

Mary Beth regular sends out her journals. If you would like to receive all her posts or just connect with her, send her an email.

fdd8c873df2214bMary Beth Wighton

Person with dementia

I have what? Frontotemporal dementia?

I have what? Frontotemporal dementia?

As I drove us to the 9:00 a.m. meeting with Dr. Didyk a geriatrician, many thoughts ran through my head. Here we go, another appointment with another doctor. One more stupid test. I hate when they ask me to write down the clock time because I know what time it is. I’m looking forward to my Timmy’s coffee.

Once Dawn and I arrived at the hospital, we grabbed a coffee and headed off to the waiting room of the gerontology area. I asked myself, “How can I only be 45 years old and be sitting here?”

Within minutes we were led into the examination room and the nurse arrived. Same old, same old. It really bothered me that after years of battling serious depression, memory loss and behavioural changes, no one has provided me with a sound medical diagnosis. That was all about to change.

Nurse Julie began the mini–mental state examination (MMSE). Sure enough, there were the questions about time. I uttered to her that I don’t have a problem with time. We continued on. Finally, the last of 30 questions lay in front of me. My mind was tired and it had become hard to stay focused. I didn’t have the brain power to answer any more questions – we were finished. After asking Dawn and I a few more questions about my health, she disappeared to tally the results.

Soon, the door opened and Nurse Julie appeared with Dr.Didyk. Everyone sat down.
The doctor immediately started to discuss the results of the MMSE. Six months ago, I had taken the same test and scored 24. Today, my score was 18 – an obvious, significant decrease. I’m not sure of all the things she discussed, but I do remember this: “You have Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia or FTD.”

Whoa…. no one has ever used those words before. I knew I was cognitively impaired but what was this FTD thing?

The doctor went on to explain more about FTD including that my amount of education will help. More blurred talk. FTD is a rare form of dementia and is incurable. Dawn and I looked at each other. Could this really be happening? More blurred talk. You will not be able to drive anymore effective immediately.

Whaaaattttt? O.K. This is now serious. More blurred talk.

I stopped hearing the rest of the conversation. The only thing I could hear in my head was, “You can’t drive.” You don’t have a driver’s license!” I started to see red. I flew out of my chair and threw some papers in the garbage. I stormed out of the office trying my best to slam the door shut. I tried a few times.

I continued on to the hospital hall and stopped. I began to pace up and down mumbling to myself. How could this be? How can I have dementia? How can my license be removed? How can my license be removed? How can I have dementia? How can my license be removed? How can my license be removed? How can I have dementia? My head was in a swirl.

I continued to pace. My cell phone rang and it was Dawn asking where I was, if I was o.k. And for me to come back into the room. No! I’m not coming back into the room because I don’t want to hear anymore. I continued to pace.

Eventually, Dawn came out of the examination room and approached me in the hall. We said nothing and I handed my car keys to her. We headed out towards the car. Dawn proceeded to take my usual seat at the wheel and I took her usual seat as a passenger.

FTD had changed our lives forever.

This article was previously posted on the Alzheimer Society of London-Middlesex blog. Read more from Mary Beth.

fdd8c873df2214bMary Beth Wighton

Person living with dementia