My life before I had Parkinson’s. Sometimes it is hard to think about that time because when you have a Neurological condition, you learn to adapt, to accept and move forward knowing that you will never be the same person again. Not worse, or better, just different. Many people know of Parkinson’s disease as a movement disorder, but there is a whole bag full of symptoms that you can experience. So I thought I would make a list of the things that I didn’t even notice before I had Parkinson’s.
1. I could rise with the sun and not feel like I just woke from a coma. I used to be able to get up in the morning and the moment I opened my peepers, I was smiling. I could never sleep past 8am, even if I had been up late the night before. But then I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and then even opening up my eyes in the morning became a challenge. Now, I hide in my apartment until my medication has kicked in. Almost like those Ocean creatures that have never been discovered before. You know the ones that live miles under the water and never come to the surface to be seen by human eyes… that’s me with no Sinemet.
2. I could make it through the day without taking a nap. Really? I am a thirty-something struggling with fatigue? My life Pre-PD didn’t include a catnap. In fact, I was so busy getting into something, that I had no time to rest. Ughhh…I feel old.
3. Heels, Heels, and more Heels. I could wear stiletto’s to work and walk like I was born with them strapped to my feet. Grrrrrr! Now with Parkinson’s, I look like the ladies you see late coming out of the local bars, drunk, stumbling, with no business even walking let alone adding a few inches to them from the ground. I can pretty much make anything look good… but I can’t make dystonia look cool, especially when I’m walking on the side of my foot from the massive cramp in my nicely manicured toes. Groan!
4. I could multitask like nobody’s business. In my previous life, with my previous career, I could be sitting at my computer reading an email, while talking on my phone, as a fax is coming through behind me, all while I am having a client at my desk signing paperwork. I know… I was the bomb! “Was” being the operative word here people… now I can only handle one task at a time. I get overwhelmed too easily to where I am forced to slow down and focus at one thing at a time. Time to do my hair. Now my make-up… you get the point.
5. Hurry up and wait! If you peeked at my Calendar Pre-PD, you would notice every minute had an appointment booked, an event to attend or scheduled social time to enjoy. I was hustling and I loved it. Being productive, effective and efficient. Now I can’t assure that I will be present and available at any scheduled time. Fighting on/off medication fluctuations, struggling with fatigue and top that combo with apathy, my day is filled with Hurry-it-ups, when my medications are on and then waiting patiently when I am off for the magical moment my Sinemet kicks in. Trying to maintain a regular schedule can be humorous. Hey, laughing keeps the angry tears away.
6. Depression and anxiety were conditions that other people wrestled with. By the time that I was 27 years old, I had already survived 14 surgeries from complications from Ulcerative Colitis turned Colon Cancer, almost dying twice and a divorce. If anyone could handle emotional pain, it was me! If you want to read more about my adventures, read my book “I Am Not Contagious”… (Shameless plug) But after getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I found that a gray cloud kept following me and I just couldn’t shake it! Then one night, alone, feeling sorry for myself, I started to think about just how long it would take someone to notice if I were gone. It was such a shock that I was thinking this way. Until I found out that I had an actual chemical imbalance from the lack of Dopamine my body was not creating. I went on mood stabilizing medication and then I was back to my slightly awkward self. So let this be a lesson that if you have emotional distress, go see your Neurologist, there is help.
7. My self-proclaimed addiction to Fro Yo! The first step is admitting you have a problem. Yes, I have always loved tasty treats, but since my diagnosis, I have no self-control. Impulsive behavior led me to eating frozen yogurt multiple times a week… ok, maybe daily… Hey, I am still in denial. Let’s put it this way, I rotate the Frozen yogurt shops I go to in fear that I will be judged by the staff working there if they really knew the truth.
8. I run until I hit a wall. It is like you have an energy meter that tells you when you need to take a break or get something to eat. You can judge when you have to slow down. But now with Parkinson’s, I can be feeling fine and then… BOOM!.. I hit a wall. There are even times when I have done too much, I can still feel off and overcooked for days after I hit my wall.
Now readers, there are many other idiosyncrasies I could add to this list, but I really don’t want to scare any of you. The biggest challenge comes from trying to decide if some of the symptoms we have are just from getting older or other medical issues. We can’t blame Parkinson’s for everything, but it doesn’t get off the hook that easy!