When I went to the bedroom to wake Kate yesterday, I found that she was having another anxiety attack. She was frightened and looking around the room for something that seemed familiar. I recognized the problem without her saying anything. I said, “I’m sorry I didn’t know you were already awake. I’d like to help you if I can.” She said, “Where is my maybee?” I told her I didn’t understand. She realized she wasn’t using the right word and tried again. Then she said, “My mother.” I said, “I can tell you about your mother.” She said, “Do I have a mother? I want my mother.”
We talked a few minutes about her mother. Then she wanted to know where her clothes were. I brought her clothes to her and told her I would help her dress. I suggested that she first go to the bathroom. As we walked to the bathroom, she asked again about her clothes and said, “I see other people, and they all have clothes on. I want my clothes.” I said, “You are right. You’ll want your clothes when we go outside.” She said, “See. I’m smart.”
This was one of the many times I wish that I had recorded or could remember exactly what she said. I can only try to capture the sense of what happened. It is not unusual for her to tell me she is smart. Although sometimes she makes it clear that she wants me to understand that, I believe she is also telling herself that she is smart even though she recognizes her problems. In this particular conversation she commented on understanding a word I had used and also one that she had used herself. I don’t recall either one, but she said, “See, I remembered that.” She was also proud that she put her top on the right way.
When she was dressed, I told her I wanted to take her to lunch. She said, “I want to go home.” She says this occasionally when she wakes in the morning. I usually tell her she is at home, and she accepts that. Sometimes she doesn’t believe me, and I try to redirect her attention to something else. In this case, I told her I would take her home, but I wanted to show her something before we left.
Then I went through the same routine I had done the day before with photos of her family. Once again, she noticed Pepper, the ceramic cat, as well as the flowers on the patio. She asked if we could walk outside to get a better look. We took a few minutes to do that and then left for lunch. She no longer showed any signs of anxiety. She didn’t, however, know who I was. When she was dressing, she asked if I were her daddy. I told her I wasn’t and that I was her husband. She didn’t believe that. I said, “Let’s just say I’m a friend.” She liked that better.
On the way to lunch, I played an album of music by a group that had played the Four Seasons in Jersey Boys. She enjoyed the music and clapped her hands on her legs and also moved her hands around the way she might have done if she were dancing. She had a good time.
She was talkative at lunch. It wasn’t long before we began to talk about our relationship. She specifically said something about our being married. The rest of the lunch and the day went very well. She showed no anxiety or doubt about me and our relationship. I will say, however, she often slips back and forth between knowing our relationship and not. I don’t quiz her all the time to know when she knows and doesn’t know. I almost always make a judgment based on the way she relates to me. During the afternoon and evening, it seemed like she did know me as her husband. Once again, we had moved from a moment of anxiety to feeling at ease. This reinforces my belief that she just needs to be exposed to things with which she has been familiar. Then the anxiety disappears.