Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Just Do Not Care

Why vote, it does not matter who gets elected. Who cares who wins the Stanley Cup? Why bother working so hard, what difference does it make anyway. War in Libya? What does it matter? I just do not care.
Do you ever get to the place where you find yourself repeating, "I just do not feel like it"? The things that you once enjoyed do not have any "kick". You find yourself just wasting time with mindless and meaningless activity. Life just seems to have had the joy sucked out of it. Not a fun place to be, is it? But most, if not all, of us, at some time or other, find ourselves in those emotional doldrums.

Apathy. Indifference. The absence of excitement, motivation or passion. It is different than depression, boredom or just feeling down. Apathetic folks become lethargic, uncaring and distant. With all that life has to offer, even if there are some problems to be faced, it is hard to believe that apathy is even possible, let alone prevalent in our society. Feeling embarrassed, guilty, even ashamed, the truth is that apathy slips into my thinking more times than I would like to admit.

For people with Parkinson's disease, retreat into an apathetic state is an increasingly significant threat. It seems that as the dopamine drains from our system it takes with it our enthusiasm for almost everything. A recent study shows that a minimum of one-third of high functioning PD patients are apathetic, whereas this number skyrockets to 80% for those on the extreme end of the disease. Maybe it is the loss of dopamine, or maybe there is a loss of control over our bodies.

So what do you do when you "just do not feel like doing anything"? Regardless of the source (chemical or emotional/psychological), I have discovered that this is a battle I must fight with strategy and discipline. Psychologists believe that apathy affects "executive functioning" (which is not sitting behind a big desk with the title of "Chief Executive Officer"). The executive system is thought to be heavily involved in handling situations in which routine thinking or behavior would not be sufficient for optimal performance, including:

1. Planning or decision making
2. Error correction or troubleshooting
3. Unrehearsed or novel sequences of actions
4. Dangerous or technically difficult situations
5. Overcoming strong habitual response or resisting temptation.

These, then, are the battlegrounds upon which apathy can and must be fought. Getting apathetic? Try the following:

1. Plan a trip to a place, near or far, you have not been before, at least for a long time. Make a decision that you have been putting off, like going through your dresser or closet for clothes to give away.
2. Fix something that is broken, such as a dripping tap, a hole in the wall, a light bulb that needs replacing. Figure out how to use that computer program you have avoided.
3. Go to an event that might make you feel uncomfortable, like a "slam poetry" contest, improvisation theatre, or a yoga class.
4. Do something edgy. Sign-up for parachute lessons, a self-defense class or volunteer at a rehab centre.
5. Give up your favorite "comfort" food for a month and replace it with something healthy.

Whether it is Parkinson's disease or something else, apathy is an enemy that slowly steals our initiative, our motivation. Getting in means we go blind, deaf and dumb; we lose the vitality of our senses of smell, taste and feel. To surrender is to sink into a lifeless sleep so that apathy may plunder our soul. We must recognize our opponent for what it is: a slow and senseless death sentence. Prepare for battle!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Bob. I am moved to shake up my assumptions a little bit. But possibly not parachute lessons!