On September 30th, I experienced the adrenalin rush of speaking to a group of people for the first time in years.* That feeling of being in a zone that I hadn’t had since my working days. On finishing, though, I was quickly reminded of the impact stress has on my Parkinson’s.
I went into a tremor and dystonia fit. I felt strangely stiff and cramped while simultaneously flailing about like a car dealer balloon man.
I tried laying down to relax without success. Exhausted, I walked to the gym and following 30 minutes on the elliptical started to feel relief.
Next time, if I get a similar good cause opportunity, I will undertake some mitigating actions. Instead of staring stressfully at my computer for the hour or two before the start, I will go for a walk. It won’t remove all the stress, but it should help.
Avoiding stress, in managing Parkinson’s, is perhaps the biggest adjustment I have had to make. I used to be able to set a target and do everything possible to hit it. I was motivated by fear. Fear of looking bad, not living up to people’s expectations, and not living up to my own expectations.
Obviously this wasn’t healthy, but it was who I was. I used adrenaline to focus. I became so focused that I would write exams and not remember driving home from them. I would speak in front of large groups of people, and it would seem as if I was outside of myself looking in.
I recently learned that dopamine is used to produce adrenaline. Parkinson’s is the result of a lack of dopamine. Is there a connection? Maybe I used all my dopamine producing adrenaline? Could be, but rather than coming up with my own “horse dewormer” theory, I will leave that with the neurologists.
I may not always like having to “take it easy”, but at least I have a reasonable handle on dealing with stress and adrenaline during the day. The nights, however, are another ball game. I have written previously about my vivid dreams. Almost every night I am introduced to a new problem to solve.
A few nights ago, I was in Powell River — my hometown. I purchased a horse for $3,200. While riding down by Willingdon Beach I noticed I didn’t have a saddle. I only had a blanket, and I didn’t have money for a saddle. I also realized I didn’t have a place to keep the horse, nor did I have money for food. I know nothing about horses. Buying the horse was a bad idea.
I went back to the horse dealer, across the street from the Marine Inn in a building that only exists in my dreams, I explained my error in judgement to the horse salesman and let him know I wanted to return the horse. I was willing to accept $2,800 for him to take it back. This seemed fair since I did ride it that day. He refused and kept referring to a contract. I could see the contract had no signatures on it, so I knew it was invalid, but I didn’t want to get technical. I wanted to be above that. Eventually, he agreed to take it back for the $2,800, so long as I took his dog — a pit bull who wasn’t mean enough for him.
The next night, I was on the golf course helping one of my playing partners look for his ball. We must have taken too long, because the group that started behind us was now in front of us. I didn’t recognize the hole we were on, and wasn’t sure which way to hit, and matters got worse when I couldn’t find my ball. The next group then caught up. I tried to explain the predicament I was in, but couldn’t. I was given a suspension for slow play. Furious, I went back to the clubhouse. It was the old Powell River Golf Club’s clubhouse. A course that hasn’t existed for decades. I was looking for a fight, but my two older brothers showed up and held me back. I ended up getting kicked out of the club for good.
Then last night, I was pulled off the lead role in a major software project by an ex-boss from my earliest days of office work. (I thought back then he was a friend.) The project was handed over to Dave. Dave is a year older than me, and we grew up together. I haven’t thought about him for a long time, but he was a good guy in the story and in real life. The rest of the people seemed to be a cast of people I met in the forest industry over the years. The dream’s setting moved between a BC Ferry and an Office building as if they were one and the same. The main theme: Despite a successful implementation to date, a decision was made to pull me off the project and put Dave in charge. Dave was sympathetic to my cause, and I was ok with him taking over. The early boss was less cooperative, and he told me they would keep me on the payroll so long as I didn’t tell the Board of Directors that I had been moved off the project. Apparently, the Board liked the work I had done. I was conflicted, angry and my ego was bruised. In the end, I was there listening to everyone screwing up the project, but I was mute.
In each case I woke up angry and stressed. It is like my brain thinks I am not using enough adrenaline during the day, so it is making up for it at night.
At least my wife gets some entertainment from hearing about my nightly adventures.
Parkinson’s, and its drug treatment, do mix to make it one strange disease.
* On Truth and Reconciliation Day, I had the pleasure of joining John Gallagher of Tla’Amin First Nation in speaking to a group from PGL Environmental Consulting about the journey we have been on. It was a wonderful opportunity, as a privileged white man, to share the truths I am learning to recognize regarding our mistreatment of First Nations.