Our Deepest, Darkest Fear Is Dementia (What’s Yours?)

Editors Jennifer Wright and Ashley Cardiff have been friends for years. Part of their bond is a deep, abiding terror at the prospect of dementia or, more generally, any kind of madness. Here, they discuss what they find so deeply horrifying about the loss of their mental faculties and invite you to share your deepest fears. You know, in the comment thread.

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    • Sarah!

      I read The Shining in the car during my sister’s piano lessons.

      • Ashley Cardiff

        I also read The Shining while waiting in cars for various things!

      • Ashley Cardiff

        It’s amazing to think back on your childhood and consider how much of it was spent waiting in cars.

      • Jennifer Wright

        I remember waiting in cars very fondly. It was always hot in them, like an oven, or the womb.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Ashley, Blanche Dubois was not demented. She was just sort of slutty.

    • Maggie

      My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and dementia, and she used to steal silverware from restaurants. We would take her back to her assisted living apartment after dinners out and she would find spoons in her bra and curse out loud. The first time I heard the word “fuck” was when my grandmother found a fork in her purse and exclaimed “Jesus fucking Christ, I goddamn did it again!”

    • alexandra

      I fear poverty more than dementia. Not “oh, we live in a suburb and can’t send our kids to space camp; teachers are underpaid, fuck america” poverty, I mean like slum lords and drugged-up kids and our four-person family lives in a single wide in West Texas poverty. Irrational, but true.

    • Lo

      Death, dementia, motor neurone disease, death, bereavement, cancer, death, loss of privacy, anorgasmia, death, parasites, those eerie china dolls, and yet more death. That’s just off the top of my head. Give me another ten minutes and I’ll write a page of them.

      There’s a good bit in Whistle and I’ll Come to You, where Parkin (whose wife has dementia) is asked if he thinks he saw a ghost. He replies that a body without a soul is a helluva lot scarier than a soul without a body, and that one line disturbed me more than than any horror film I’ve ever seen.

      (Except maybe china dolls. Also, the word ‘helluva’ was probably not there).

      • Ashley Cardiff

        Your list of terrors is very similar to mine.

      • Lo

        I think most of us have the same list, give or take a few personal quirks like fear of buttons, wombats etc. (I do expect the creepy china doll thing to be universal).

      • Ashley Cardiff


        (I’m sorry, but this is one of my all time favorite Gloss posts)

      • Lo

        Those are brilliant and should be sent to Regretsy at once.

        Except Nure Onna. I’m going to put her out on the porch at Christmas.

    • Cate

      I also find dementia, Alzheimer’s, and all all those other mind-destroying diseases to be absolutely terrifying. My sister and I have a pact that if one of us starts to lose it in our old age, the other will make sure that death comes quickly.

      I am also frightened of amputees, being an amputee, ebola, those scary cancers like bone cancer, clowns, loneliness (but not being alone), invasion of my privacy, appearing weak in front of others, poverty, maiming, and a lot of other stuff.

      • Lisa

        My sister and I have a similar pact, especially after I started working at an day service program for adults with developmental disabilities and got to see first hand how absolutely shitty those diseases are for everyone in involved.

        I’m scared of the thought of pain. Physical, emotional, whatever–and it’s not the actual pain itself that scares me (although that’s not fun either), but more of the anticipation of it.

        Really strong wind storms/tornadoes also terrify me. To the point that I still call my parents while there’s a tornado warning going on so they can watch the news and tell me that it’s passing/I’m going to be fine while I hide in the closet with a flashlight. I’m 23 and still become visibly upset if there’s wind storms going on.

    • Jennifer Wright
    • Colleen

      I remember last year, one of the Alzheimer charities in my town hosted its annual gala and I’m not even kidding, the event was titled “A Night To Remember.”


      • Jennifer Wright

        Were they joking? Were they making the darkest corny joke you could ever make? Because if so, I want to join that committee.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Wait. We didn’t even talk about lobotomies. I cannot believe I missed my chance to talk about how terrified I am of lobotomies.

      I hate you for not reminding me, and the fact that I forgot makes me worried that this could be the beginning of the end for my little brain.

    • Amy

      My dad has asked me to take him sky diving if he ever loses all his faculties in old age… he will conveniently forget his parashute and end the madness. So he won’t have to spend his remaining years acting a fool, he’ll get to go out with a bang, and he’ll get to do a final fuck you to city workers who are going to have to clean that shit up. I’ll probably create a similar pact with my future children.

      My deepest darkest fear is a zombie apocalypse. For the record, this has been my fear long before zombie apocalypses became trendy.

    • holleeta

      Fire. Being trapped in a building when there’s a fire. 911 did NOT help with this fear. Now I don’t like being in a building more than five floors up. I can do it, I just prefer not to.

      I also do not like cats. I don’t trust them, sneaky fuckers.

    • Brad Stanton

      This is a fantastic post. I really like you being so honest, but i don’t know what my greatest fear is. All the other info is great too.

    • Kristina

      Why is this in slideshow format? It really ruins the article, in my opinion. The images added nothing to the post, but detracted from it. I really hope you change your format. You have a lot of good insight!