Parkinson's Disease -
Challenges and Encouragement
Monday, December 6, 2010
"Your organization of this seminar is pathetic,” my co-presenter said with a sneer that only someone from the legal profession could make. "Your premise is wrong. You are not prepared. And the topic you have picked will take 15 minutes to deal with, not the 3 hours you have scheduled." My normally modest Parkinson's tremour shifted into overdrive. It was less than a half hour before I was to give the opening for the seminar. I had left the "planning" meeting too late and I knew I was about to be embarrassed, even scandalized, in front of my peers. I was totally responsible for this debacle. My brain flew into rescue mode, but no amount of improvisation, ad-lib, or 'fly by the seat of your pants' skill could save me from professional suicide. I was frantic. Suddenly, I woke up drenched in perspiration, breathing as if I had been sprinting well beyond my aerobic training. I was relieved the nightmare was over. At least I thought I was.
The waiter, who blamed the kitchen, could not make good on his promise to have us in and out of the restaurant in an hour and a half. There were too many pre-Christmas diners and too few cooks. We were going to be late for the concert, and look like fools when we attempted to find our mid-row balcony seats in the dark. The usher would be standing at the end of the aisle with his small but ever so bright flashlight shining on our empty seats as if to say, "There they are. Next time get your act together and arrive at the proper time". I ate in a frenzy, my tremor-prone right hand finding it difficult to get the large chunks of chicken into my mouth indigestion would certainly follow as I swallowed, barely chewing. I drove to the concert hall too fast, risking the frustration of a totally deserved ticket and parked illegally, hazarding another fine. There seemed no other choice. Unfortunately, this was real, not a bad dream. Fortunately, I did not get what I deserved.
And in other areas of my life add the following accelerators: I had forgotten that I had offered to meet for coffee with a friend the next day to discuss a tough decision he had to make. I was struggling to catch up on a mountain of after returning from vacation. I had committed to return to the gym 5 times a week in the remaining time before Christmas so that I would not retain the rotundity of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. My passport was expiring leaving me fearful that this oversight on my part would prevent me from leaving the country for business or vacation. I had not yet put up the Christmas lights and our house looked like a black hole in our neighborhood brightly lit for the holidays. I had just signed on to assist with an important task force to help develop a long-term plan at my alma mater. I had gifts to buy and deliver. Time was running out. Christmas was less than 3 weeks away and I was already wishing it were over. "Just have to get through this", I panted! How do I get myself into this frenetic pace? Overcommitted, over my head, overtired, overstuffed, overdone and overwrought. How did I not see this coming?
After waking up from the dream described in the first paragraph, and revisiting the embarrassment of the scenario in the second paragraph, I found myself lying wide-eyed and awake this morning. My mental 'to do' list spun rapidly and repeatedly around in my head. I was gagging on guilt and remorse.
I do not think I am alone in this hyperactive, overcharged feeling. But most people do not experience any bodily reaction to that frenetic pressure. I, however, feel the spike in voltage as my Parkinson's disease goes into a power surge with increased tremors, muscle stiffness, exhaustion and insomnia.
Given that this has happened on numerous occasions, I decided to try and do something about it. So far, this is a one-day, 5 item 'just try it once' list that includes the following:
1. Slowdown. Just for once, I will drive under the speed limit and let people pass.
2. Reduce noise. I will turn off the car sound system and get comfortable with silence.
3. Switch off. I will call forward the phone and not answer the Blackberry for an hour.
4. Relax. I will give myself permission to spend an hour a day to accomplish nothing.
5. Breathe. I will breathe big, deep, slow breaths whenever I feel anxious.
In medieval England, the word "frantic" meant "insane". Now it simply means, "characterized by rapid and disordered or nervous activity". Maybe they knew something back in medieval times.
Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2006, I was 53. I currently serve as the President of Trinity Western University, of which I am an alumnus. I remain engaged as a lawyer who practices as general counsel to a wide variety of clients, primarily in the Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada.
Married for 40+ years (to the same loving and long-suffering woman), with 3 grown children, and one grandson. Besides my wife and family, my passion is living the adventure called life as a God-given gift, which includes motorcycle riding, scuba-diving, blogging, Scrabble and looking for the treasure hidden in each day.