Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fear in the Fruit Room

Down the creaky wooden stairs and across the rough basement floor, past the roaring of the sawdust fed furnace, the fruit room waited in silence for me. It was in the far corner, where my approaching frame made only dim shadows on the door as I walked away from the single stairway light. It was called the fruit room because it stored our annual supply of home-canned peaches, apricots, pears and cherries that were sealed in Mason jars in the summer to stock the shelves for the barren months to come. It also contained all our homemade jams and a bin with potatoes that grew sprouts from their "eyes" during the winter months. It was an unheated and damp 8-foot by 8-foot room, rough 2x4 walls, with a vent leading to the outside. Spiders were the visible denizens of that coffin-like room. But most disturbing to me as a young boy was its deathly darkness. There was a bare light bulb hanging in the middle of the room with a pull-string switch but it could not be pulled without letting go of the spring-hinged door, thus plunging the room into total, if momentary, darkness. In that moment I would be alone in the dank and earthy inkiness. What was there that I could not see? “Some thing or person” my hyperactive imagination shouted inside my head. Then the goose pimples and shivers took over, crawling over me as I approached the room, a precursor of things to come. I regularly prayed when I was assigned by my Dad to make the trip downstairs for a jar of something. But it was the exit that had me most concerned. I would grab the string when leaving and lean towards the door handle, just out of reach. Then, springing through the opening, I would flee the unknown terror to reach the stairs and its welcoming light, the pull-string left snapping and swinging as if to escape the place too. I was afraid of the dark, or more precisely what might be lurking there ready to do me harm.

What am I afraid of now? Truthfully answering this question and admitting that I have fears is one thing.

PD has an insidious strategy of occupying the fruit room of my life. It is a dark and inscrutable guessing place that I do not wish to visit. What is in there? My initial response is, "Nothing good”. Only decreasing mobility, increasing shaking, painful intermittent cramping, and a litany of other strange marauders threatening to creep into my body under cover of darkness.

It is the PD "fruit room" that presents what I expect, based on my experience to date, is the worst part of the disease. Not knowing what is next or how fast my symptoms may eat away at my definition of normal.

How do we deal with our fears; our fruit rooms?

First, as I learned (rather slowly) when I was a boy, I need to find courage. Recently, my oldest son, Jordan, who saw active duty as a US Navy medic serving with the Marines, shared how fear was necessary for courage. A soldier without fear is either totally naive (and unprepared) or out of touch with reality (and dangerous). To be any help in any battle one must fight first their fear, then the enemy. And it is an ongoing battle of facing one's fears.

Second, it may be necessary at times to take someone else along. Two people entering the fruit room usually vastly reduce any paralyzing effect of making the journey there. Sharing fear requires that we first identify it clearly and then admit its powerful hold, its semi-permanent presence in your thoughts.

Lastly, we can shed new light on the darkness and its occupant, THE UNKNOWN. Educating ourselves about our feared disease may not be an encouraging task, and it may illuminate the scariness that really did reside in that windowless room. But we can deal with what we see, or at least acknowledge it.

And let us not forget that there are discoveries and sweet rewards in the fruit room. There are treasures we can share with others as we explore and expose the secrets of that scary place. And we will be the better for facing our fears.

1 comment:

  1. What a great analogy. I am giving a talk to a PD group, mainly about healthy eating, supplements, vitamins, exercise, mental strategies, due to my research because my mom has dementia. Our body is interconnected and when we hurt the liver, or the heart, or the kidneys, we are also damaging the brain. I may not show up for 30 years, but eventually our bad habits catch up with us. I've been concerned since I'm mostly talking dementia to PD people. So Im reading as much on PD and blogs to get better acquainted with it so i can tie in the concerns in diet and lifestyle to both dementia, alzheimers and PD. I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog. You are an awesome writer.