Having a loved one with dementia can seriously f*ck with your head (hi, by the way). I woke up bright and early today, I had a fab morning and it really put me in a good mood. At lunchtime, I decided to go and visit mum but from the second I stepped foot in her house, my mood changed instantly. Contrary to me, mum was having a bad day. She didn't recognise me at all, I had to deal with a very unpleasant accident on arrival and I noticed she hadn't taken her medication for the day. We really struggle with getting mum to drink any liquid so I did my usual trick - made her the perfect strength juice and dressed it up with a straw and a mini umbrella (a tip for anyone else in my situation). She took a drink (hooray!) and swallowed her tablet, but it caused absolute mayhem. She drank too quickly which made her cough, her own coughing scared her so she then spent the next 10 minutes screaming, very loudly. I also noticed her nails had grown too long so I gave her a mini pedicure, but she was clearly in a fidgety mood so not only did it take over an hour, I also got kicked in the face about 29 times. When I left (feeling like I'd just had a fight with Rocky Balboa), she wouldn't wave goodbye or blow me a kiss (which she normally does, I always get her to copy me) so I ended up feeling like sh*t. It's crazy how your mood can change in an instant.
Anyway, if one thing is going to cheer me up it's going to be reminiscing about my wedding day on 25th August 2018. I've been excited to write this blog as many brides-to-be have shown interest in this area. At this point, mum had her initial doctors appointment only a few weeks prior, so we were awaiting a referral to be sent for an MRI and a memory test. The GP had concerns and said there was likely something wrong, but we still didn't know what was wrong.
The night before my wedding, my mum and bridesmaids came round for a sleepover. We wanted to have a mini celebration, a pamper and a glass of champagne to toast my last night as a single woman. I've mentioned before that one of the first symptoms I spotted was *how mum turned into a right bitch* and on this night, she did not disappoint. She kept pulling me to one side to let me know what she thought of my bridesmaids. Some of the things she said was outright ridiculous, it ranged from 'I don't like how her eyes are so big' to 'I don't like her, she's too fussy and smiles too much'. I kept reminding myself she wasn't well and she wasn't doing it on purpose, but her negativity seemed really overwhelming on a night I was supposed to be my happiest. It also seemed, at the time, like she was trying to be complicated. For example, one of my bridesmaids is a hairdresser and she prepped our hair the night before, but mum didn't make it easy. She didn't want to wash her hair or put rollers in and it took a lot of persuasion to get her to cooperate. I also had some cards on display and she kept taking them down, another bridesmaid would put them back up but we would just go around in circles. The problems weren't major, more like annoying. It did however make me worry about the day ahead and what it would entail.
The morning of my wedding arrived and I was actually really relaxed, my bridesmaids arranged an amazing breakfast and it was a lovely start to the day. Mum seemed less difficult and she was getting ready nicely with the rest of us. The problems started roughly 1 hour before I was due to leave, the same time my dad arrived.
Disclaimer - I was nervous about my dad arriving. My parents had divorced 8 years prior and hadn't had much contact since then, despite them being on good terms. Dad hadn't seen mum in a long time and I wondered if he would notice the change in her behaviour. Spoiler alert - he did notice, along with the other 130 guests at my wedding.
The first issue all started with a buttonhole (yep, a bloody buttonhole). I still don't know if I got this wrong or not, but I only bought buttonholes for the men in the wedding party; the groom, best man, father of the bride and page boys. When mum found out she didn't have one, this really upset her to the point of being emotional. My dad stepped in and saved the day, thank god. He managed to find some extra gypsophila, wrapped it in string and went knocking on my neighbours doors to find a pin. Eventually, he managed to get mum a buttonhole and the drama stopped... for 10 minutes.
Shortly after, my carriage arrived (it was actually a VW Campervan to fit my 'festival' theme wedding). As tradition goes, I arranged for me and dad to travel together. When mum found out she wasn't in a car with me, the emotion started again. I feel guilty saying this now, but it was so frustrating. Why was she being so needy? Was she jealous? Why had she forgotten tradition? Why the hell is she acting like this on my wedding day? This problem couldn't be fixed and also, I didn't want it to be fixed. I remember being a little girl and dreaming of this day, including the part where it was just me and dad. Anyway, the VW only had 2 seats so she didn't have an option and luckily, my bridesmaids dealt with it.
When I arrived, I felt strange. I had 130 guests waiting for me, all eyes on me... it was then I felt my heart beating. It was beating so fast I felt like I was on the verge of a heart attack (not quite the feeling you want when you're preparing to walk down the aisle). My dad eventually calmed me down and that's when I heard the music... Heartbeats (appropriate) by José González. It was time, my bridesmaids arranged my train, they were just getting into place and... What the f*ck? Why is mum here? I was stood arm in arm with dad, seconds away from the grand reveal and mum popped up like she was in a game of Whack a Mole. Instead of taking her seat, she decided she wanted to walk me down the aisle. Before I even had time to panic, my wedding planner spotted the mishap and guided mum in the right direction. Phew.
The rest of the day seems like a happy blur (and most brides I've spoke to feel the same about their own wedding). I do remember mum following me a lot to begin with, which was obviously difficult given I had to do 'the rounds', but it didn't cause a problem. I also made the decision not to have any group photographs. Although I had a photographer, she was only taking natural shots alongside a very short photoshoot with me and my new hubby. Mum however kept asking over and over if we could get a picture taken and eventually, I gave in (something I am so grateful for now).
Overall, my wedding day really was one of the best days of my life. Mum having dementia made it that little bit harder, but it was manageable. I think back now and I am so grateful that at least mum had capacity, at least she knew what was going on and at least she got to witness my special day (even if she can't remember it now). If I was getting married tomorrow, it would be a complete different story. I count my blessings that she could be there, I know not everyone is that privileged.
On reflection, the hardest thing at the time was not having a diagnosis. I wasn't sure if mum was just being difficult or if something really was wrong. Now I know, it all makes sense. If you're in my situation with an upcoming wedding, I've popped down some tips below;
Get a videographer
Tell people about what's going on and let them help you, it's still your special day so be yourself and not a carer
If some parts are difficult, take 5 minutes (I actually had a short cry a few hours into my wedding, I got it out of my system and felt better for it)
Have a dance with her/him
Tell her/him you love them, always
Below is my wedding video, something which will forever make me cry!
I've also shared my online photo gallery for those who want to see the pics! Click this link and type in the password 'Mcmahon'. Happy viewing!