Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Battle Between Brian and Todd

Brian and Todd lived together but could not have been more different. They were a very “Odd Couple”. Although they knew each other well, each seemed to have lost the ability to understand the other. And it was getting worse.

Brian usually acted every bit the 20-year-old. Appearing to be in sync with others that age was very important to him. Youth was a supple, self-confident goddess to be worshiped. There was nothing that he could not do. At least that is what he thought.

Todd, on the other hand, looked and felt all of his 60 years. Acting his age was not difficult. He was more concerned that he looked older than he really was. Definitely on the downhill side of the curve, he felt overwhelmed by the demands that confronted him daily. The anticipation of aging, wit its increasing disability, was like an eclipse that slowly blocked out the sunniest days. Everything seemed difficult.

Brian was constantly jabbering at Todd. "Get off your butt! No wonder you are looking old and decrepit, you are not taking care of yourself. You have become lazy. Are you just going to give up? Why are you surrendering to the aging process? Fight, man, fight!"

Todd reacted defensively. "You just do not understand. Growing old sucks! I am just not able to do everything that you think I can. I just do not have the energy. I am past my prime. Maybe I should be thinking about an early retirement. Maybe I will just slow down and let the fast-paced living pass me by."

Brian was indignant. "How can you talk like that? You only go round once, you know. Your life is not that bad. Lots of people have it worse. Do something about that attitude, buddy. Be positive. Push yourself! You can do it. Get that flabby body to the gym. You need the endorphins to feel better, to sleep better and to live better."

Feeling guilty and beat up by Brian's remarks, Todd spoke in hushed tones, struggling to find the right words to communicate. "You are just not being realistic. Every man, including you, must understand his limits. Some days even getting out of bed will be a struggle. How can I fit more in my day when I already feel like I am falling down from fatigue?"
Overwhelmed and saddened by the emotional exchange, Todd retreated from Brian’s relentless guilt-producing badgering. He began to tremble. Tears were forming in his eyes. What he felt was partly self-pity. But mostly it was a genuine sense of failure and helplessness. He felt caught in a vice-like grip that made even simple movements difficult. Medication helped a little, but it also left him increasingly apprehensive about his dependence on pills just to function. Was he escaping one master to embrace another? Todd found himself thinking about his younger days. He wanted to believe in Brian’s “you can do it” mantra, but he was afraid to commit to a course of action that would take even more of his depleted reserves of energy. He was caught in a tug-of-war between two opposing forces: the invincible and the inevitable. He felt immobilized by the struggle.

For a person with Parkinson's disease, or someone one on the backside of 60, this is the daily dialogue between Brian the brain and Todd the body.

The Parkinson's body experiences the pain, stiffness and slowness of movement despite the mental messages commanding it to move with ease. No positive mental attitude can restrain the tremors that make simple tasks into monumental feats or, worse, embarrassing episodes. But determination and mental discipline can contribute much to quality living.
Despite the mechanical features of Parkinson's dysfunction, the brain continues to be fast moving, usually too fast, maintaining a very short attention span, sometimes limited to seconds. In failing to recognize reality, the brain is constantly overstating its abilities and makes a habit of "over promising and under-delivering". The word "No" does not seem to exist in the brain's vocabulary, which gets the Parkinson's body into constant trouble. The brain has difficulty letting go of its youthful self-concept. It is as if the brain, ironically the source of the PD problem, is not communicating effectively with the body. Of course, that is the definition of Parkinson's disease.

So the combat rages on. Strangely, the battle represents balancing the deterioration of the body and the determination of the brain. We who face the challenge of PD benefit from the tension that is found in the conflict between brain and body. The healthy response to Parkinson's disease, and perhaps aging, is a byproduct of the dialogue of dispute between Brian and Todd.


  1. So the battle rages on...balancing the the deterioration of the body and the determination of the brain. Great thought for all of us. Loved your short parable about Brian and Todd!

  2. I absolutely LOVE your blog! Reading your profile, we could be twins! I was 'offically' diagnosed in 2004, however it had been misdiagnosed as Lupus for 12 yrs prior. I am now 51. We have family near Vancouver, my husband's family originally from Penticton, where his grandfather had a peach orchard and they went to harvest/help each summer. I have been married 31 yrs (not quite as long) and 3 grown children, and one granddaugther (almost 3). Besides my husband and family, my passion is living the adventure called life as a God-given gift, as you said, which includes gardening, writing and I love Scrabble too, I too, with my little granddaughter in tow, look for the treasure hidden in each day. She's really good at finding several treasures and I am blessed by seeing her find them! Good to 'meet' you -
    a fellow parkie -

  3. Sherri;

    I feel that I know you a little as well. I have been a follower of your "Journey" for some time and appreciate your contribution. Thank you for the encouragement along this sometimes lonely road.


  4. Paul;

    From an oft-quoted wordsmith like you I consider your comment inspiring. Thank you, my friend.


  5. Bob I really love this metaphorical adventure. So much truth! May I PLEASE post an intro and link back to it from dopadoc?

  6. Marshall;

    By all means. I am honoured to have the approval of this post by none othher than Dopadoc. Looking forward to Dopadoc series coming up.


  7. Bob thanks for sharing your journey in such a helpful ways to all of us - parkies or not.