Sunday, January 2, 2022

Frontotemporal Dementia (semantic Variant) and me

In December 2020 I was diagnosed with a form of dementia called Frontotemporal Dementia (semantic variant). It’s very rare, and I’m among the youngest to get it. Please note it is NOT Alzheimer's.

This isn’t a call for sympathy by the way. Nor am I trying to show how sickeningly super-positive I am, because I’m not, at least not all the time. Some things in life are just shit and you just have to be stoical about them. What else can you do?

Dementia is weird as despite the neurological functions it affects, everyone is different and everyone is affected uniquely. It seems to exacerbate or amplify your traits and idiosyncrasies, so I’m even more me at times! 

FTD (sv) concerns shrinkage of the temporal lobe which sits just by the left ear. It’s responsible for language, insofar as I forget or confuse mainly nouns, proper nouns and sometimes numbers. I can still speak but trip over certain words, but I have to check everything I write as my syntax is sometimes very erratic and I’ve made expensive mistakes ordering stone for work!

My cognitive abilities are impaired, and I won’t be able to work for ever. In fact, I can see I have about a year left. I can’t juggle lots of things in my mind - multi-tasking is nigh impossible. I get names and numbers confused and get very flustered in doing so. Don’t ask me to make a decision quickly!

Also, what they call executive functions such as even starting a job are incredibly difficult. Sitting around doing nothing has never been easier!

Oddly enough the working or carving of stone along with driving are unaffected as these are motor functions which reside in other parts of the brain.

I find social situations and noise tough to deal with. At a party I’ll often go outside for some quiet rather than be in the middle of a loud conversation which I almost can no longer bear.

My frontal lobe is also affected, and this affects my behaviour. Sometimes called Pick’s Disease, it is concerned with the loss of social mores (I know, me of all people!) and I can lose my temper in a second then be back to calm in a second. It always used to take me hours to calm down in the past when that happened, now my temper subsides in seconds. 

I make even more inappropriate comments than I ever used to. I think I’m being funny but I end up just sounding rude. And you thought the old me was bad enough!

Another thing is how emotional I am, yet one of the first things Jacqui noticed was my lack of empathy - a classic FTD sign. Empathy and emotion are controlled by 2 different parts of the brain. Who’d a thunk it?

I have a sunflower lanyard ready to show people when I really can’t cope anymore, but this is for further down the line!

I’m still playing Dungeons and Dragons and Dungeon Mastering is the equivalent to me of sudokus and crossword puzzles - a mental workout. I live for this.

Jacqui and the family as well as close friends have known about this for months and have been incredibly supportive. I thought it was time to spread the word as the effects of this dementia are  becoming increasingly visible.

Life expectancy from diagnosis is between 2 and 20 years.

Just so you know.

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