Monday, January 01, 2007

Living in Two Worlds

The lady diagonally opposite the person I visit in hospital lives in a world of her own, pretty much. We all do, to some extent, but most of us share enough of our perception with others to be able to engage in social intercourse on a more or less equal footing. For this particular person, that doesn't seem to be the case.

She spends much of her time having conversations with people who are not there. Because they are not there, they cannot respond to her wishes. For example, a few days ago she was asking the other person to help her on with her shoes. When the other person didn't respond, she became agitated, distressed.

"What have I ever done to you," she wailed, "that you won't even help me on with my shoes?"

Interestingly, she draws other people in to her world in much the same way that I draw events into my dreams. For example, when, in a dream, a bell starts ringing inexplicably, my subconscious invents a fire engine to account for it. I discover, upon waking, that it was my alarm clock. Similarly, this lady "explains" the presence of someone walking past by seeing them as a possible guest ("Would you like a cup of tea?") or a friend or relative ("Hello again. What's it like out?").

Who knows what she was, or what she did, before her dementia set in? And how sharply does it put into perspective the concerns which usually occupy us?

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