Coping with the unexpected
She came with a friend. She was impatient to get into my office, pacing up and down, holding a pen and paper in her hands. Her personal belongings were bulging in a shoulder bag, carried by her friend. Her friend had a concerned, worried look on her face, hovering close to the older woman. When finally they sat down to speak to me, the room was filled with the tension emanating from the woman carrying the pen and paper. She sat on the edge of the seat, focusing her intense blue eyes in a fixed gaze onto my face. She looked reasonably well for her 70 years; hair a little tussled, but soft and curly. Her face was lined, but not weary. The colour tone of her skin looked pink and warm. She wore no make-up. Her dress and shoes were clean and tidy, a home-knit jersey warming her shoulders.
“I just have to sort this out” , she said breathlessly. “I have always been able to take care of myself. I hate feeling like this.” With that her face crumpled into a sob, her blue eyes quickly filling with tears. “I just don’t understand that I could become like this!”
“Slow down; what is wrong?” I asked gently.
“I used to be able to remember so well. Now everything is in a fog. I have to write everything down, and then I forget where I have put the piece of paper with the notes! Oh! It is too terrible! Now I am even becoming scared to be on my own. I want someone with me at all times.” She spoke eloquently; her command of English excellent. Her voice strong and full of emotion. Her eyes intense, darting with panic.
“Sometimes I get palpitations. Is it my heart? Please do something to help me. I have tried the doctor. He said I should use tranquillisers. They just made me so sleepy, and even more confused.” Her hands were moving, opening the fingers around the pen, folding the blank notepaper open and closed.