Friday, November 16, 2012

Freedom of the Mind

I was browsing around on Facebook and saw this quote from French writer and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "I know but one freedom, and that is the freedom of the mind." I think this quote is from his story The Little Prince, which is a well loved classic.

This quote caught my eye and immediatly made me think of my Mom and other people with dementia. Actually it even made me think of those of us with mental illness. It is a reality for some of us that we do not have "freedom of the mind." 
Photo by cmartian on Flickr Creative Commons

We don't even know what really happens to the mind with dementia except that plaques build up in the brain and stop it from working- sometimes all of it, sometimes just part of it. One could argue that this is not freedom of the mind because you have lost the ability to use much of your mind. One could also argue that this is almost imprisonment of the mind becuase one of the things we are not sure of is if the person can think and inside, their brain functions just fine but it does not work well enough to send all the correct signals to get the infomation they want out of their brain.

This sounds like a scary idea, but I have to admit that sometimes I see this with Mom. I can see her brow furrow as she is thinking of something she wants to say or she is trying to move her legs and her brain just won't let her do it. If I look into her eyes, I still see her in there and I do wonder if she is experiencing some sort of imprisonment in her brain. I hate that this could be happening to her, and I actually know how it feels. Some of the medications I have taken for bipolar disorder disrupt cognitive functioning and I would know exactly what I wanted to say and be unable to, or I would try and control my arm and it would not do what I asked of it. It is a terrible experience.

While I think Antoine de Saint-Exupery's quote is prophetic in a way by saying that we always have that freedom, freedom of mind, and the idea is that no one can take that freedom away from you. I also think it is problematic because there are illnesses that can take that freedom away. And if this is the ultimate of all freedoms, what does that mean for those of us who do not have it? For me, I wonder if the one freedom I can think of is freedom of the spirit. I always see Mom's spirit even in the midst of dementia.




  1. This is interesting to me, as I took care of my parents through their last year and final illnesses. My mother had dementia (vascular, not Alzheimers) and one of the things I noticed as it progressed was that she seemed more free - less consumed by the brooding and fretting that she used to do. It was almost as if she forgot to worry about things that she once would have fussed over! She became less crabby and "softer". Not that there weren't downsides to it, but her dementia had its silver lining. I wrote about it on my blog:

    1. Thanks for sharing your blog Meg. I wonder if the different kinds of dementia create different amounts of freedom of the mind. Some people do seem completely free and then others seem to be almost trapped by their mind. It would be interesting to research that. My mom has Lewy Body Dementia. Also, she has always had anxiety so that may add to her agitation and feeling less free.

  2. Freedom of the mind is like the fresh air that you get in outside which u always don’t get it.