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  • Writer's pictureSusan Carr

When you lose half of what you need

A squirrel who hangs out in our backyard has lost half of his tail—poor little guy.

This injury can be devastating for a squirrel because squirrels use their tails for:

  • finding a mate

  • defending their territory

  • deterring predators

  • swimming

  • balance

  • shelter & warmth

And there's no coming back from this loss for the squirrel. Their tails are not regenerative, unlike Dr. Who -- once it's gone, it's gone.

So, when a squirrel loses half its tail, it can be life-threatening. The squirrel goes from a thriving status in his scurry to one of merely trying to survive.

I'm not sure what a squirrel's mental capacity is and if their brain is affected by such an injury in terms of "worry," but I'd bet it doesn't do them any favors.

The resilience of wildlife is inspiring, though. I think this little guy will overcome his challenge in surprising ways. In the meantime, I plan on continuing to support him by providing a safe and accessible food source, trying to build a warm spot for shelter, and watching out for potential predators. All of this may help the well-being of my backyard fellow, whose name is Half-tail Harry.

It's been a much harder time seeing my mom lose more than half of what she needs for survival.

Physically, my mom is challenged with

  • walking

  • standing or getting up without help

  • being able to see well

  • balancing

  • meeting her activities of daily living

And it's not just the reduction in physical symptoms a person with dementia experiences as they are unable to thrive. Their mental well-being is also severely affected, and not just via cognitive decline.

People with dementia suffer from

  • depression

  • isolation

  • loneliness

  • loss of self-esteem and self-confidence

  • social 'demotion' - others treating them differently because of their diagnosis

When I think about my mom's dementia, I believe these factors have had an overwhelming influence on the development of it:

  • years of mental and emotional stress not being addressed in healthy ways

  • not practicing care for her self, truly resting, and healing from her past traumas

  • not dealing with the grief that compounded and pressed down on her when she lost her husband, then her sister, then her oldest son, and then her mother--all in five years

I don't know for a fact if addressing any of these issues during her life would have kept her from a dementia diagnosis and allowed her to keep half of what she needs to thrive, but I'm pretty sure it could have helped, at least this study seems to endorse that thought:

“Understanding the role of the immune system in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is of great importance to researchers. As prolonged stress can cause changes in the immune system...this was linked to progression to dementia from mild cognitive impairment.”

Overall, despite her significant loss, she is genuinely content. My mom has adapted well to her surroundings, has a lot of new friends, and does her best to be kind and caring towards those she encounters. She is busy making her bed and other people's beds daily, and she likes rearranging closets.

When I started freelancing, I lost more than half of my income. Full transparency: I worked in an executive role with a $50k annual potential.

This was a big blow for me, a very independent, self-sufficient woman. I am extremely blessed that The Husband has been 100% supportive of my caring for my mom in whatever way is needed. He also provided substantial financial support for over six months when my business-building took a back seat because of those caregiving responsibilities.

But I refused to let this HUGE, more-than-half-loss setback define my journey, and so I adapted. In the fall of 2023, after my mom settled in her new memory care residence, I explored how to build a business, upgraded my skills, and sought diverse opportunities to increase my income and professional health. Networking, learning from my mistakes, and embracing being a business owner are all part of my strategy to rebound and thrive in my new career.

The shared threads of strength I see in that squirrel, my mom's new season, and my freelancing experience remind me that we all can adapt and grow, even when we may lose half of what we have along the way.

In recognizing January as Mental Well-being Month, I want to encourage all (myself included) to recognize what a precious, cherished human you are and BE KIND TO YOUR SELF - your heart, body, and mind.

Your past self will find healing through your effort.

Your present self will experience the direct benefits of your effort.

Your future self will be grateful for your effort laying the foundation for your well-being.

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