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Not guilty. Thursday June 29, 2017

Like many Moodscopers, I am no stranger to guilt. I am hard on myself, sometimes with good reason.

I have gathered a pick and mix of spiritual ideas over the years, and pray every night. I don't know or care if anyone listens. Whatever else, I always ask for the strength to do the right thing.

Recently I betrayed the trust of one of my oldest and dearest friends. I did so quite deliberately, weighing up the consequences, and I have not had one moment of guilt.

P and I have been friends for 25 years. We are in many ways quite opposites. There are things about her that get on my nerves, actions that appal me, political views that grate. She has also been a good and loyal friend, and I know she would never do what I have done to her.

I don't drive. My brain is not wired that way, I can't tell left from right, anxiety makes me freeze and lorries terrify me. I would be a danger to others. I do understand how important the ability to drive is to many though.

My friend adores cars and driving. In her younger days she had a canary yellow E-type, customised by her with painting of Elvis on the roof.

P became even more contrary and bloody-minded than usual a few years ago. She was leaving the supermarket when a concerned couple tried to take her keys off her, offered to call a cab or drive her home. She refused, outraged, drove home in a haze and ended up in A&E. She discharged herself and refused to see her GP as instructed. The upshot was a brain scan a year ago, showing vascular dementia in the moderate to severe range.

She refused medications and therapies. She can't make a cup of tea, dress without help, watch T.V, barely read or write. Yet still she drives. Her GP told her to inform DVLA and insurers, but she refused. For months I avoided meeting, she was so vile. All her good qualities have been eroded by this disease. Feeling ashamed, I took some presents and photos from the past. There was the car, still used daily. She barely recalls my name, nor those of her dogs, and can't speak full sentences.

When I asked how she would feel if she caused death or injury to others, she said she was not bothered. If stopped from driving, threatens to take the car and crash into a tree. Her husband just shrugs, says he's past caring.

This is why I wrote to the DVLA, reporting her. The day the form arrived from them she was screaming on the phone, I just acted dumb. I still care for the friend I knew, but this is no time for sentiment. P has already died, this is not about her. She says she will cut her wrists rather than stop driving, and I feel no guilt, I just don't want to hear she has injured another. To me, doing nothing would have added to the list of things I feel ashamed of.

What's your verdict Moodscopers-should my conscience be troubling me?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Molly Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 12:44am

I feel guilty for being the first to respond, far too often, it is just that I am up late at night. Gosh this was a powerful post Valerie. I think you absolutely did the right thing. Your friend is not thinking straight, as she is unable, in which case someone had to intervene. She will hopefully get used to it and accept it. But remember she is still your friend, even if her whole personality has changed, she is still P, and I hope you continue to support her. Molly xx

Wyvern Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 11:59am

Spot on. My mother has dementia and although she doesn't behave how she used to, she is still my mother and that will never change. Someone else has to make all but the simplest decisions for her as she can't make them herself.

the room above the garage Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 6:14am

Being cruel to be kind. You did the right thing, for P and for others. A decision made from love and without malice. What a difficult circumstance, dementia so cruel :-( Put on your oxygen mask first, then others. Take care Valerie, love ratg x.

Isabella Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 6:39am

Absolutely right Valerie. I have friends and acquaintances with elderly relatives who continue to 'let them' drive but I don't know how they live with themselves. One was a man of 94 with dementia - he's ok they said, he always goes the same route!! It's a terrible disease but we have to protect everyone. Take care - don't feel guilty. Xx

Linda Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 7:02am

Please do not feel guilt! You absolutely did the right thing in the current circumstances!
You may have saved lives by doing so! Dementia is such a cruel illness, a member of my family has recently been diagnosed & with all the drugs I see her driving deteriorating, & she knows she will be giving up the driving soon. So sad; but please be proud you did the right thing! Take care.

Anonymous Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 7:06am

Dear Valerie -I agree with the posts above. You had a very difficult choice to make and could have shrugged, like her husband, and felt it wasn't really your call. You will never know, of course, how many lives your action has saved, or injuries, either to others or herself. It was a brave thing to do, demonstrating love and care not only for your friend but for other road users. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You did the right thing.

Marmaladegirl Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 7:21am

Dear Valerie - How painful for you (and all who know & love her) to see P so changed by this illness. Well done for finding the strength to take steps to stop her driving - you have almost certainly saved someone's life. MG xx

Frankie Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 7:49am

How brave of you ... acting as the adult when P no longer can. I wonder whether P as she used to be would have absolutely agreed with you ... would she have done the same for someone else? And if she wouldn't, then maybe you were always the more adult of the two of you. Don't feel guilty; I am not surprised though that you feel troubled and sad. It's ghastly watching those we love deteriorate ... I will light a candle today for P, you and all who miss her. Frankie

Orangeblossom Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 8:02am

Hi Valerie, your former friend P was clearly a danger to herself and others and I reckon that you did the right and responsible thing by writing to the DVLA. You could do no other.

Tutti Frutti Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 8:13am

Valerie I agree you did the right thing. I wonder how many of us are actually as brave as you. I know I have been too timid after reading the odd comment on here where my first thought is "you really shouldn't be driving". Just for info various mental health conditions including bipolar are reportable to DVLA. I did have a 3 month driving ban on medical grounds after first coming out of hospital (right pain on a practical level but I managed) followed by various short term licenses with a medical assessment to renew them. As I am currently quite stable I now have a 5 year license.
Love TF x

Mary Wednesday Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 8:41am

I have often wondered if I should be driving, TF. Fortunately, even in Mania, I have been a responsible driver. But in depression.... I have had to concentrate so hard. Then there has been the temptation to drive very fast into a motorway bridge.... With that behind me now (I hope and pray) I don't have to worry. But it has been a concern for me and my family. My husband has been so good at saying, "I don't think you should be driving right now." I have always agreed and handed over the car keys.

Tutti Frutti Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 10:26am

Mary In whose view are you a responsible driver when manic. If it is just your own view are you sure you have the insight to be able to tell? When I go manic I think I am fine but all my family think I need to go to the doctor, the doctor thinks I need to go to the psychiatrist and the psychiatrist thinks I need to be in hospital. So on balance I reckon I don't know what I am talking about when manic. Sorry if this is a rather uncomfortable thing to say on moodscope. I hope you are in an ok place where you are able to deal with it today and I will stop hectoring you now. Love TF x

Mary Wednesday Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 10:48am

I totally agree with what you say, TF (you are exhibiting straight-talking rather than hectoring - there is a difference and I appreciate it; one of the symptoms of mania is that it feels totally "normal" when you're in it). For most of my history I was classed as hypo-manic, so was still in control. It was the last two sessions - the October one in particular, where I realised it was getting worse and went back to the GP and thence to my wonderful Dr Samar and the Lamotrogine. When I look back I still think I was responsible and safe. I have a couple of friends who refuse to be driven by most people, but are comfortable being driven by me as they feel safe and say I drive very smoothly. I make a point of obeying speed limits (this rule does get bent a little on the motorway - but only a little), and have only ever had one accident - when I was 22. So - on balance, I stick by my assessment.

Jul Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 8:33am

Hello Valerie. Driving seems to be the last bastion of control over their lives for the very elderly and it seems from what you say, some people with Dementia. I can understand this. Driving means independence in what is an increasingly dependant world for such people which must be so soul destroying to give up once and for all. It amazes me that no-one else particularly her husband or close family and GP had not done what you did. Your friend's situation is very sad. She can still talk passionately and articulately about driving but nothing else much it seems! You know in your heart that you acted with the best interests of your friend and the general public in mind. I am just sorry it fell on you to do this. Julxx

Mary Wednesday Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 8:36am

I am writing this without reading the comments above. They say that a friend will help you plan a murder, but a true friend will help you hide the body. I disagree. Murder must always be wrong, and as my husband lost his mother at a young age through the actions of a drunk driver, this is a sensitive point for me. I believe you did the right thing in helping prevent a murder. Let us be quite clear about this: a motor vehicle can be a dangerous weapon and driven while in an unfit state can be a murderous weapon. Knives used safely in the kitchen by competent people are essential culinary tools. Knives held in the hands of thugs are weapons. Your friend, owing to her dementia, has become a thug. For the safety of others you have removed the weapon from her. And - if her dementia has progressed that far, the friend you loved is dead. You may still care for her mortal shell, and for the stranger who inhabits it now, but you can only grieve for the friend you lost long before you had to save her (And others) from herself.

Julie Fri, Jun 30th 2017 @ 10:16am

Thats a bit harsh labelling someone a thug when they have a serious mental illness isn't it? This lady is no longer aware of what she's doing through a disease process not choice. I dread to think what labels people may have thrown at me when I was ill with that attitude.

Eva Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 8:41am

I agree wholeheartedly with all of the comments above, you did the right thing.

LP Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 8:42am

Absolutely not Valerie.
It's shocking that the GP didn't do it! You may have saved lives.
I'm full of admiration for you being there for her with the chaotic disease making life so hard.
Hopefully your blog will give many others the courage to do the right thing too should a similar situation arrive.
I'm hard on myself too. Guilt just comes even if we know it's inappropriate. Maybe we were made to feel guilty early on. Or maybe inapprprpriate guilt comes from wondering what we did wrong. Or maybe it comes from being very sensitive to other's feelings having been hurt ourselves and
maybe it's deep compassion.
Thank you for a great blog Valerie. I hope you after yourself too. Take care to you and all LPxxx

Poppins Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 9:00am

Your friend's doctor should have advised DVLA, making it unnecessary for you to be put in this position. You action was that of a responsible, kind, caring and good friend. P, both the person she was and sadly the person she is now, is fortunate to have you as a friend. Your action may have saved others from suffering. Thank you for for what you did.

Holly Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 9:45am

No, you shouldn't feel guilty. I have a relative that I suspect may be showing the first signs of Alzheimer's and he drives. It's his livelihood; he doesn't have anything else. But he is stubborn and refuses to talk to the doctor because his friend that is diagnosed with Alzheimer's had his driving licence taken away from him.

The disease is horrid, and I can't imagine how it would feel to know that the person would have to give up driving. But it is for the best when so many lives, including your friend's, could be at stake. You are caring and I believe you did the right thing reporting to the DVLA.

Poppy Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 12:16pm

My husband is a retired police officer. He often talked about incidents in which other officers let an elderly driver off the hook for traffic violations that were clearly the cause of cognitive inabilities (they not being able to diagnose dementia or other cause), stating their reluctance to take away that independence. I also think there is a tiny bit of misplaced respect for the elderly regarding telling them what they can and can't do. My husband more than once started the official process for a judge to take away the license of elderly drivers. He was berated by his coworkers, but he stuck to his principles. I deeply respect him.

Several years ago, an officer in a nearby city stopped a driver for erratic driving, an elderly driver who was confused and incapable of responsible driving. Minutes later, the elderly driver entered the highway going the wrong way and hit a van head-on killing 2 children and permanently disabling the mother who was driving the van. The story was national news here in the US. It ruined the lives of so many people. During the police officer's trail—yes, she faced criminal charges—she testified that she told the driver to go straight home, and not to be driving anymore. The officer was reluctant to get more involved. And it ruined the life of the elderly man who killed and maimed the innocent victims—probably a Hell worse than losing his driving independence.

Refusing to stop driving is a completely selfish act–I understand the motivation, but sometimes one must force oneself to do the right thing.

Valerie, you are brave and valiant. Studies have repeated revealed that people with mental health and emotional disorders are often people who are willing to stand up for what's right, to do the hard thing that others refuse to do. V, your actions prove you are a steadfast friend and have superior moral character. The fact is that you don't feel guilty is a sign that you have a healthy view of your position in this situation. God bless you!

waterfall Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 1:13pm

Valerie I think you did a very brave deed, I agree with others that "P" GP should have informed the DVLA, would have saved a lot of heartache and guilt for you.
An elderly neighbour had Alzheimers and he still drove, his wife used to tell him which way to go "left here or right there" I couldn't understand how she still let him, she said he was a good driver. Thank fully for some reason he stopped, he is no longer with us.

Vickie Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 2:04pm

Dear Valerie,
You absolutely did the right thing. Courage in action.
Take care.

The Gardener Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 2:19pm

Valerie, you did the right thing, absolutely - reading above we all know cases, could we do what you did? And, ourselves, will we admit, can we admit, that we must give up. I am 82, just driven a son to the airport, 110 kms round trip (he drove there). I go NOWHERE without a GPS - in this case vital - although a drive I know very well a major new development resulted in chaos - sorted it, traffic quite heavy, I felt no fears, nor, too over confident (the cost of speeding fines are a deterrent). I felt my driving days were over driving in UK, at night, in the rain, with a left-hand drive car - got glasses, avoid night driving in UK (not possible if boat late). Mr G has not been able to drive or read since macular degeneration 8 years ago - there was no chance that he could drive again - but he's been like a bear with a sore head ever since - almost paranoiacally jealous that I can still drive. A male friend had to pay an urgent visit to the eye clinic, feared a detached retina - OK, but he had to have drops to dilate pupils - advice is NOT to drive afterwards. He did. His wife was with him, highly competent - but although he is usually reasonable to suggest that he was not fit to drive was impossible. On and on the cases, usually men, who are in pain, taking drugs which warn that your reactions will be affected. Our 'worst' offender insists in driving long distances, bad weather, in pain, on strong medication, against doctor's orders. He comes into our house, saying what an awful journey its been. I ask why he does not let his wife dry - just for half an hour. Answer? She does not go fast enough. I sincerely hope illness, the law, a doctor, will hound him off the road before he hurts somebody - he was a Formula 3 driver once, still uses the highway in the same manner - there is a strong case for re-taking the test, after serious illness, age, whatever - but who will suggest it? Let alone legislate.

Oli Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 6:03pm

When my mum got the dementia I asked to borrow her car, I said my motorbike wasn't working. Kept that lie up till she forgot about driving.
It's a strange thing, driving. We can be rational about our abilities or otherwise with so many things, but this one can be a blind spot.

Another Sally Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 8:30pm

My father gradually became less well able to drive and it was difficult to tell him to stop. He eventually realised it was time to give up when his companion stopped wanting to go in the car with him. It was so awful for him. He lived in an isolated village with one bus out in the morning and one back n the afternoon. He could afford a taxi, particularly sharing with his friend, but could never quite being himself to do so. His depression and dementia definitely increased after he was more or less confined to home.
I am glad he did not have to suffer for too long. Bless him.
You did the right thing V - I'm not sure if it is breaking a code of confidentiality for a GP to report a patient. Does anyone know the ethics of that?

Dragonfly Thu, Jun 29th 2017 @ 9:32pm

Hi Valerie your conscience should without doubt be clear. You absolutely made the right decision with seemingly no support from P's husband or health care professionals. You should be proud of your brave actions x

Valerie Fri, Jun 30th 2017 @ 10:01am

Thank you so much to everyone who has responded.This is going to be an increasingly common dilemma facing many of us,from both sides of the situation.I got information from the dementia support,who pointed me to a section on the DVLA website, where anyone can report a person who may be unsafe to drive.They never divulge who reported.

Forms are sent out,requesting medical information and permission to access doctors records.It is an offence to refuse to complete the forms,and the DVLA can then contact the doctors directly.

I find it ridiculous that G.P's in the U.K.are given guidelines,strongly advising them to report such cases,but it is then left to their discretion.My friend is known as a "character" even when well,and I suspect her doctor was scared of her reaction.Also,due to Data Protection,she is the only person who can inform the insurers-which she will never do!

I think I am going to write to my M.P.about this.Drunk driving is rightly considered criminally irresponsible,but people like my friend are treated with great tact,allowances made.I am more concerned for the rights of others on the road.

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