My mum has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and is expected to deteriorate faster than the average patient. It has really brought out so many emotions, a cocktail of sorrows and fears to be honest. It has made me realise how much I value the identities of other people especially in relation to my own narrative. I realise that I am (selfishly) annoyed to lose somebody’s ability to validate my memories and my existence. Those closest to us share in our collective narrative. The people who have moulded, influenced and shared in our highs and lows, they become imprinted into our own sense of identity. This identity of being a “son”, a “father”, a “husband”, it such a strange state of affairs. The familial and tribal identities to me seem more concrete and complex than say my vocational identity or atheist identity. I see that I am also binding these people to me in some way. I see that nurturing and being nurtured produces so many other emotional ripples.
My gran (my mum’s mum) had Alzheimer’s as well and eventually had no idea who I was, not even an instinctual inkling that I was a relative. My mum also has bipolar and has also had psychotic breakdowns and in such states she has also not recognised who I am. There is a lot of fear regarding such a state happening to my mum or one day to myself. There is a need to be important, remembered and to be known. These states touch on so many insecurities, from my sense of feeling insignificant to the fear or the inherent uncertainty of this universe. I see, that I care so much about this internal narrative, the story of son of bob so to speak. I fear to lose it and all the trials and tribulations and nuance involved. I have had a small experience of memory loss from being involved in a road traffic accident, mostly it seemed to impair my ability to recall less important memories, especially facts about hobbies and interests. It still bothered me, to know that I can be impacted in this way, to know the dependencies of your mind and sense of self, these set of parameters outside of our control determine so much. There is no cloud storage for my memories yet, no chance to repair what is lost.
I realised that in some way I thought that maybe actualism would provide some super human ability to avoid Alzheimer’s or dementia but I realise that is a silly belief. I am wasting energy on “what ifs”, further more taking me away from being happy and harmless now, the actual point of the method. Rather than making things better now, hypothesising over some imagined benefits in a non existent future.
I am always fascinated with how spiritual people reconcile the idea of having a soul with the the physical. If your soul is this sense of who you feel yourself to be, and everybody I speak to from spiritual and religious backgrounds tell me it is a type of energy, then why is our sense of self impacted by mental health, tumours, brain injury etc. If your sense of self was energy then how would the physical alter it. I don’t understand what other people think they are.
Even as an atheist I had a soul belief at first, I see that this belief has formed from those who have nurtured me and the normalisation of the idea in our culture, literature, entertainment etc. It wasn’t a belief that couldn’t be questioned to me though, I had already dented my belief in a soul before being exposed to actualism. It was these sort of questions about the limitations of the physical that began to dent that belief and my better understanding of biology, chemistry and physics.