Have I explained this yet? Forgive me if I have, my brain's on a little bit crooked these days.
Pseudobulbar affect is this thing that happens to people after strokes and certain brain injuries, wherein you rather lose the ability to modulate how you express your emotions. So whatever you feel, it just comes right out. My friend and local neurologist, the Pocket Narcissist, once described this quite aptly as "emotional incontinence." You feel it, out it comes - splat.
My mom has always been a tenderhearted soul, but now bursts into tears at least five times a day. It doesn't last long, and it's very sincere, which is sort of sweet. It tends to happen when people are nice to her more than when she's upset about something. When she's sad, or frustrated, she just looks really, really sad (enough that it frequently makes me want to cry).
But then, there's the other side of it, which is completely delightful. When she's happy, at times she gets downright giddy. A great example of this happened today, when my mom and I were working with the PT on skills to get her in and out of the car, which involves standing very close, facing each other. The physical therapist is this very tall, lanky, skinny girl, which is a notable contrast to my frame. My mother, of course, is short, and so when the PT and I switched places, I made the offhand comment to her that there may be a pretty big difference in how my mom fit together than they did, and the therapist (I heart her) is like, well, right, the boobs. I commented that, after all, it was my mom's fault that I had them, but regardless, I would try not to suffocate my mother.
This culminated, of course, in me trying to lift my mother out of the wheelchair and her not being able to help at all because she had suddenly collapsed into a fit of giggles when I bent over to help her.
It was hysterical.
It's also nice to be able to see my mom excited about things, stuff as simple as watching her play the Wii today (yep. As part of her rehab. Frickin' awesome) and being all smiles when she did a kickass job even though she was bowling with her right (weak) hand.
She's making a lot of progress. I was telling her this evening that, even though she was totally exhausted and felt like shit, I could see noticeable improvement in her function in her right hand and in her gait and balance since even this morning. She gave me this wide-eyed, exhausted but incredulous look and said, "really??" I was like, totally. Absolutely. And then she nodded and smiled and said, "Wow. I hope so."
It's been so hard on her, this whole endeavor. Not that it hasn't been hard on me, or my dad, or any of the three hundred family members and friends who've called, sent cards, or dropped in (you guys rick, by the way). But it's changed her whole self-identity. It's activated a lot of her issues and poked hard at a lot of sore spots. And tired, frustrated, and sad though she may at times be, she's met the challenge.
The silver lining of all of this is, of course, that it's been really nice to have this time with my folks. My mom and I make a really good team, but we've had a lot of experiences together I think she'd hoped we'd never have to deal with. It's afforded us a certain bond and intimacy, though, that's irreplaceable and completely worth it. Likewise, it's been nice to have breakfasts and dinners with my dad, time to problem solve and plot and plan together, to work on forging forward. And the support and kindness of my friends both local and distant is totally priceless.
There's a long road still ahead of us, of course. But we're starting out strong and we have a good network. You can't ask for much more than that.