THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK
‘A miracle’ Telegraph
‘A landmark book’ Financial Times
Brave, illuminating and inspiring, Somebody I Used to Know gets to the very heart of what it means to be human.
What do you lose when you lose your memories? What do you value when this loss reframes how you’ve lived, and how you will live in the future? How do you conceive of love when you can no longer recognise those who are supposed to mean the most to you?
When she was diagnosed with dementia at the age of fifty-eight, Wendy Mitchell was confronted with the most profound questions about life and identity. All at once, she had to say goodbye to the woman she used to be. Her demanding career in the NHS, her ability to drive, cook and run – the various shades of her independence – were suddenly gone.
Philosophical, profoundly moving, insightful and ultimately full of hope, Somebody I Used to Know is both a heart-rending tribute to the woman Wendy once was, and a brave affirmation of the woman dementia has seen her become.
I don’t think that prior to reading Somebody I used to know, that I felt so strongly that there was a book everyone should read. But Wendy Mitchell’s story is one I feel we should all take the time to, not just general readers, but importantly medical professionals and employers as well. Because not only does it shed a light on a life lived with Alzheimer’s from the point of view of someone who is living with this disease, it portrays the remarkable courage of Wendy Mitchell as well.
What this extraordinary and insightful book teaches us, is that it is the ignorance of the many, which limits the lives of those who have Alzheimer’s. That they can with support and a change in attitudes by employers and medical professionals and sometimes their families live a positive life full of new experiences. It also shows us that as a wider community we can and should make adaption’s to our attitudes and the way we deal with people, not just assume that the person repeatedly asking the time or standing isolated in a sea of people is a an irritant to our days. Families are often left with a terrible burden financially and emotionally, with little or no support from local authorities and medical professionals. Society in general forges forward with little understanding of the terrible emotional price paid by the families and suffers
Wendy Mitchell gives an expectation that with adaption and support suffers can carry on living a life with dignity and purpose and has worked tirelessly to promote greater understanding of Alzheimer’s. She is an incredible lady who has carved out for herself a life worth living. Alzheimer’s is not who she is, though it continues to rob her of so much, it has also opened up many new opportunities. Not everyone can follow her path, but we owe Wendy Mitchell and others affected by this condition fairer treatment, not isolation and rejection. We also owe their families better support and a solid commitment to finance care, treatment and research.
Somebody I used to know is a book that will help to redefine your understanding of this condition. It is a profoundly moving and a poignant story, which in turns reduced me to tears and anger, but left me with filled with a sense of possibility.
Please give this book a read. Understated and yet powerful, it is a story that will stay with me for a very long time.
About The Author
Wendy Mitchell spent twenty years as a non-clinical team leader in the NHS before being diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia in July 2014 at the age of fifty-eight. Shocked by the lack of awareness about the disease, both in the community and in hospitals, she vowed to spend her time raising awareness about dementia and encouraging others to see there is life after a diagnosis. She is now an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society. She has two daughters and lives in Yorkshire.