Contributions from other Persons Living with Dementia symptoms:
Artist/Photographer with Vascular Dementia.
Begins with context for physical condition then he progresses to personal context, and context as an Artist.
‘Wounds’ – Small Vessel Disease Pons. Acrylic on canvas.
Copyright Michael Woods Bridgeman Images.
Small Vessel Disease – Pontine
The pons is part of the brain stem and is situated above the medulla and below the midbrain.
Through pontine nuclei it transmits messages to the cortex and cerebellum. Horseshoe in shape, it acts as a signal box enabling communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, including aspects of the automatic nervous system (ANS) which control a variety of internal organs, such as the pulmonary action of inhalation and exhalation, the digestive systems, including colon motility, and certain endocrinal secretions and sweat glands.
The pons also regulates sensory aspects of taste and smell, the epithelial sensations of hot, cold and touch, salivation, the reflex to swallow, eye and muscular facial movements, speaking and hearing, and specifically the vestibulocochlear nerve, enabling posture, mobility and coordination. Sleep paralysis and dreams are also associated with the pons, and it plays an interconnecting function in visual memory recall and encoding, and areas of attentional and other cognitive mechanisms, such as perceptual and spatial awareness.
Small vessel disease of the pons, also known as micro-ischemic disease, is a build-up of fatty plaques which clog the small vessels and inhibit blood flow from nourishing and oxygenating the region, thus disrupting inter-cellular transmission of pontine nuclei signals reaching the brain, and correspondingly the central nervous system (CNS).
I was first diagnosed with small vessel disease in the pons following two MRI’s of the brain and brain stem, after a bad fall caused by a convergent spasm in my left eye. In fact, a few months before this fall, I had expressed a concern to my cardiologist and friend, Professor Peter Collins, that I found it difficult to visually recall events or the faces of my close friends, and we both wondered whether I had experienced a cerebral vascular assault, possibly a trans-ischemic attack (TIA).
We were on the right track, as the MRI’s confirmed, but
although medicine was proficient in managing my outward physical symptoms of small vessel disease, such as mobility, coordination and sensory problems, with a variety of drugs, mobility implements, and physiotherapy,
it was blind to the disabling effect of visual memory loss and encoding.
No treatment, so I was told, existed,
yet over time my brain developed the ability to compensate for visual memory loss by sequentially utilising inner descriptive and core narrative experientially.
Now, and in micro-seconds, I can tell myself the story of every day events, the people I meet, conversations we have, and all the descriptive details I need
to recount them to myself and archive them to semantic memory.
Yet I am acutely aware that where once my mind was alive with pictures, my inner eye has become blind to itself,
and no matter how hard I search or grope around the dark crevices of my visual cortex,
I am a man without a pictorial past.
Unable to recall images to picture myself at different ages of my life,
or visually remember all those I have known, loved, disliked,
the total sum of my combined experiences from boyhood to the man I have become,
time and space are as relative to me as time and space itself
For no matter how skilled and developed my core narrative has become,
the inner dialogue going on inside me has no visual back up,
no pictorial proof that what I am telling myself, or anyone I converse with,
is an entirely accurate representation of perceived reality.
Of course, the language with which I speak to myself and other people possesses a whole spectrum of emotional colouring, a vast palette of hues and tints
– I can still visualize colour – but the narrations I create to express myself, to be accepted and understood, even concretise inner abstract thoughts and ideas,
are organized and constructed semantically and in linear form, and with what I feel at times to be an over determined embellishment
to make up for the pictures I can no longer draw-on to spice up the linguistic mix.
To experience me in conversation, so I imagine,
you might be forgiven in thinking that although I am coherent and presumably retain mental faculties,
I have an obsessive need to over explain and repeat myself,
and where it can appear that I am attempting to over validate the accuracy of everything I say.
As there are intermittent gaps in my auditory encoding, where I lose threads of conversation, sublimely from one minute to the next,
keeping my core narrative on track and remaining subjectively honest and accurate to the outer-inner stories I’m telling and hearing, can be extremely frustrating and challenging for me,
and conversely whoever I happen to be in discussion with.
To hold people’s attention, and cling-on to threads of my own, I have become a linguistic acrobat.
Being solely reliant on my core narrative and emotional palette, necessarily has meant that
my depth and range of verbal skills have become greatly enhanced
to make up for visual memory loss,
as if the brain’s plasticity is not only capable of compensating for structural and neural damage on a neuro-psychological level
but can create a sense of equilibrium which keeps and maintains a functioning unity of my overall personality.
Words, the meaning of words, constructing sentences, diction and articulation,
topped with my own unique emotional palette, and how I internalise all these things,
have become my way of seeing and remembering,
a new visual language with which I encode and narrate my interior and exterior world.
I’ve even begun colour coding those I love and close friends,
for although I cannot picture them in my mind, capture their faces in memory,
I’ve discovered that by conjuring up their denoted colour
inculcates an emotional essence of them
in relationship to the essence which is me.
In this way, a sense of continuum and relatedness in love and friendships are maintained, and not only in the context of my relationships, but
with the thread of words stringing together my core narrative from one moment to the next.
This threading together of core narrative with emotionality,
of narrating relationships and experiences in words and colours,
enables me to maintain a consistency of being, a stable environment within which I can navigate and explore,
keeping life purposive and meaningful.
My brain may be organically diminishing due to vascular and neurological damage, but
as other parts of my brain which have never been used, are utilized to compensate for neural loss,
my mind is in fact expanding into new territories I have yet to discover.
As a photographer and artist, in the Surrealist mould,
not having the ability to visualise and construct images from projective imagination drawn from pictorial memory,
is curiously liberating,
for the creative process has been taken outside of my mental control.
I can no longer dream-up ideas and pre-plan them, but
instead I gather-up and resource materials around a selected theme,
then play around until forms, shapes and connections emerge and suggest themselves to me,
often to surprising effect.
In this way, dynamically,
I am no longer at the centre of my work, but the work is at the centre of me,
becoming an external point of reference in my material world,
reinforcing who I am in relationship to everything outside of my-self.
This activity of making and creating daily, enables me, in part, to remain attached to my immediate external reality and re-centre myself from one moment to the next,
an issue with small vessel disease, as disturbances of self-location in time and space leads to intermittent spatial disorientation.
2018-06/19: Truthful Kindness How would you feel about me making a blog page for this, Michael Woods ? Like the one i did 2014 ?? >> https://truthfulkindness.com/…/mich…/michael-woods-2014/
2018-06/19: Michael Woods Of course……
Michael would like copyright date for both painting and text at June 20, 2018.
Michael Woods’ index page on my blogspace is >> https://truthfulkindness.com/index-persons-with-dementia-pwd/michael-woods/ .
Explanatory page for Vascular Dementia at >> https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia/vascular-dementia
* Admin issues: SHARE dementia awareness thru buttons below. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the form of comments, but please filter your comments with truthful loving kindness to all concerned. If interested in receiving notice of future blog postings, subscriptions are available through a “follow” button in the upper left corner (MS Explorer) or lower right (Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Chrome). If there is an advertisement below, I have no control over what is shown. Copyright exclusively by Michael Woods © 2018 Jun 20 but if there are font changes i probably added them to make it easier to find later. This was written with no paragraph breaks, so Truthful Kindness added paragraph breaks. (Final permission 2018 Jun 20). Tags are: art, dementia, Michael Woods, PLwD, vascular.
Winner of “20-Best” Alz Blogs since 2015, including current year >> https://www.healthline.com/health/alzheimers-disease/best-blogs-of-the-year