Something new or There’s a Name for That
“Hey, why are you crying?”
“I love you so much. You do not know how much I love you.”
“That’s no reason to cry. I love you too. I am happy because I know you love me, and I love you.” My Bert is still crying, so I give him a hug and say: “I love you more than you love me.” Then the game begins.
The game is a couple tradition begun when we met and fell in love. We would try to outdo each other in professing our love. It was my Bert who first started to use distance measurements in the game. It was: “I love you to the moon and back.” Then I would top that. We would signal the end of the game when my Bert said: “I love you to eternity” and I would counter with: “I love you to infinity”. We would then segue into a debate as to which was the greater, eternity or infinity. That is yet to be decided.
Lately, both ‘eternity’ and ‘infinity’ have lost their meaning to my Bert but he still hangs on to distances. It is not unusual to hear in the middle of having breakfast: “I love you fifteen million times around the world.” Since mornings are busy and I have no desire to go around the mulberry bush a few hundred times I do not respond with distance but with a smile and say: “I love you too, double that.” That is enough to elicit a laugh and immediate satisfaction. This crying was an addition I did not like.
A few days later I go to get my Bert from his ‘club’. I am met by staff who report that he has been crying for maybe an hour or more. It seemed they were having a music programme and somehow a song reminded my Bert of World War II. He became very emotional and started talking about his experiences as a child during the war. He had spoken quite eloquently and very often about this but it was not accompanied by this type of crying.
I was asked to wait a few minutes while they continued to calm him as he had told them: “I do not want my Paula to see me like this.” I waited. The door opened. I smiled at my Bert and he burst into tears.
I was flummoxed. Not only was he getting emotional frequently, he was expressing an emotion that was beyond the dictates of the situation. A happy baby on television could start a crying episode.
Then came enlightenment. It was a scheduled home visit from our Geriatric Mental Health Counsellor. She is wonderful, warm, caring and most of all very knowledgeable. When she asked me if there were any new behaviours to report, I told her about the crying. She immediately said: “Oh that is called emotional lability and is a condition that people with dementia experience.
“Emotional liability?” I exclaimed. You may recall that I am that individual with a syndrome not yet named as evidenced when my doctor first diagnosed a Baker’s cyst and I in confusion asked: “Baker’s Yeast?” Obviously my syndrome is intact as she smiled and said: “Not liability, lability. Let me write it down for you.” Smart woman, I thought.
As soon as the visit was concluded and advice given as to how to deal with the condition I went to the internet and found this:
“Emotional lability refers to rapid, often exaggerated changes in mood, where strong emotions or feelings (uncontrollable laughing or crying, or heightened irritability or temper) occur. These very strong emotions are sometimes expressed in a way that is greater .than the person’s emotions”
“Labile Affect, also known as Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) or Emotional Incontinence, is a disorder where the patient has excessive displays of emotion, or expresses emotions that are not congruent with the situation.”
It is exactly as my Bert demonstrates.
The Meander: Daily, it seems I am made more aware of the incredible organ called the brain. It is simply amazing. Will we be able ever to unravel its intricacies? I wonder if Artificial Intelligence, or those fantastic robots that can do anything and everything and which will replace or conquer us in the end, can experience emotional lability? I dare to think that the operative word is ‘artificial’ and it will ever be thus.