Apathy. This word meant nothing to me until I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; just letters, no significant meaning. When I look up apathy in my thesaurus, I see a list of synonyms, which share similar meaning. A few examples are:
-Lack of sympathy
-Lack of interest
-Lack of motivation
The best description I found was “emotional emptiness”…sounds so lonely. Now you may ask, what does that mean? With all the many words used to describe the feeling of apathy, I have found it easiest to call it the “blahs”. You lack the motivation or drive to do things that once you found pleasure in. For me it has been the gym. I used to be a gym rat; almost everyday during the week, you could find me at the local 24-hour fitness. But now with Parkinson’s disease (PD), the thought of going to the gym makes me feel “blah”. I don’t get the same excitement that I used to. In fact, the thought of going to workout next to other people makes the voices in my head scream.
Why is this? Well it’s pretty simple when you look at what is actually happening in the brain when it is impacted by a neurological disease, such as PD. We all know that Parkinson’s disease means that our body is not creating Dopamine or our receptors are not functioning properly to process the production and use of Dopamine. But what is Dopamine? It’s the chemical in our brain that makes us feel good, our pleasure center that motivates us to seek out ways to get that sensation. A few examples of things that cause the release of Dopamine are chocolate, sex and exercise…but don’t do them all at the same time, you might hurt yourself!
So as you can see, without Dopamine, it’s difficult to get excited or feel attached to things that you used to love…like my internal battle with the gym! “Blah!” How do I remedy this problem? First I take a look what I’m feeling apathy towards. Maybe your interests have changed and you just need to shake up your normal routine. For me, I stepped out of the gym and into the sun (with proper sunblock of course) and starting taking a boot camp class at a local park. I’ve met lots of new people, get to be outdoors and even bought a new outfit to workout in… hey, just because I sweat doesn’t mean I can’t look cute.
But what happens when changing up my schedule still doesn’t make me feel like lacing up my sneakers? Then I “fake it till I make it!” I fake that I love being at the bootcamp class, amongst the ranks of healthy people and then before I know it, I am happy to be there! I made it! Try this next time you are faced with the vulgar word “apathy”. Commit yourself to faking it for 15 minutes… I mean, come on… you can do anything for 15 minutes! You might surprise yourself… you just might find your motivation.