My Secret: The Real Reason I'm Obsessed With Taking Pictures

by Sheena Amin
Sheena Amin

It’s 8 am and I make myself a cup of hot cocoa. I take a picture, put the best Instagram filter on it and hashtag #hotcocoa. By the time all this is done, my hot cocoa is cold.

Anyone who has met me will probably label me as one of those girls who loves taking pictures, and don’t get me wrong, I do. If you personally know me, it's clear I like to capture every single moment -- from what I eat to where I go and whom I meet.

Though I may say I do it to decorate the wall in my room, post albums on Facebook or have options on which picture to post on Instagram, the real reason is my fear of forgetting.

Think about one person you love whom you cannot live without. Imagine if this person forgot who you were; imagine if you forgot who you were. This was the fear attacking my mind, my thoughts, my experiences and my life.

You might find this strange, but I have this particular fear of getting Alzheimer's. Alzheimer’s runs in my family, and my grandpa is severely suffering from it.

I had this mentality that maybe if I just took as many pictures as I could of everything and everyone, I would somehow remember it all in case my memory decides to fail me, as it has failed my grandpa.

I not only used to take an obsessive amount of photos, I have also been writing in my journal consistently about my daily life for years so I don’t forget anything.

I also hold on to every single little thing I am given, from a postcard to an invitation. But the good news is, I have finally learned to overcome this overwhelming phobia.

I particularly enjoy the days when I go home and spend time with my grandpa. His Alzheimer’s is progressively getting worse, and he has additionally been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and psychosis.

These conditions cause violent and aggressive behaviors, which my grandpa has no control over. I just observe his confusion in the simplest, everyday things. It’s become a routine where he thinks he knows what he said, did, or heard when in all actuality, it never existed.

Everyone gets frustrated at him because he has become extremely hard to take care of, but somehow I have a connection with him that no one else has. He gets angry, throws tantrums, forgets many people and things, but he never has with me … at least not yet.

Every single day, he makes an outburst about not wanting to eat. My parents get irritated and scold him to make sure he eats. The days when I am home, I calmly tell him to eat for me. He just gives me a look of innocence, smiles and finishes his food as I feed him.

I try not to think about the day he will forget me completely, but in reality, the fear I have learned to control creeps up on me from time to time. My fear of getting Alzheimer’s has prevented me from letting go of the past and holding onto things and people that are no longer a part of my life.

I've realized that as our memory fades, photos become anchors to life events. I used photos to help fill in the blanks and to keep memories from evolving into happenings that didn’t really happen. I started to live through the camera lens, and didn’t enjoy the richness of the actual moment.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to spend time with your loved ones. Watching my grandpa taught me that while it’s good to take a lot of pictures, it is just as important to live in the moment and not be consumed by fear.

It’s mind-blowing to consider what that actually means for someone suffering with Alzheimer’s: the departure of worries, grudges, regrets and expectations.

He taught me that sometimes, there is a significant lesson behind forgetting; sometimes, it is our attachment to remembering that prevents us from opening up to the happiness that resides within all of us.

It’s midnight. I make myself a cup of hot cocoa again, but this time, I enjoy sipping on it while it’s still warm. It seems to taste better.