Yesterday my grandmother called early in the morning. She said she was upset about something. I told her we should speak about it in person, and that I'd be at her residence as soon as possible.
When I arrived she was cold and distant. "Was anyone at the apartment last night?", she asked. No. "Are you sure?". Yes, grandma. I came back after visiting you and chatted with the family on the phone and this and that. Why?
I more or less expected what came after: dementia is often associated with delusions, the affected person connects dots in peculiar ways, coming to strange and often hurtful conclusions. The dream had become a nightmare.
My reaction to her questioning seemed to put her mind at ease about my role in the conspiracy, but many of the people who are closest to her were still involved. I plead for them on their behalf, but she was having none of it, I feel this is the truth, she said.
My grandmother is has a strong character and is not easily persuaded. After a while I noticed I wasn't getting anywhere with reason. I gathered courage because I rarely impose my reality over the reality of my fellow human being: "Grandma, they love you. There is no way they are doing what you say they are doing. We are all on your side", which I had already said before, but this time with a conviction and a strength which I didn't know I possess.
And she looked to me in the eye a couple of seconds. "You might be right, I hope", and I was able to steer the conversation because I know all too well even without mental illness we come back to the same issues time and time again, like picking at a wound which needs some rest in order to heal.
In my personal relationships I always accept the reality of the other. I offer sympathy and understanding, but through these experiences I observe that this shouldn't always be the case. As I look back to my own nightmarish experiences, a slap in the face has often been more useful than empathy.