Dear Dopamine, Wherefore Art Thou?
Last updated: April 2023
I classify myself as having a dopamine deficiency. I once read that by the time my first Parkinson’s symptoms had actually appeared, it is estimated that I would only have had 10 percent of my (precious!) dopamine levels left. This means that (for some bamboozling reason), I extinguished or used more than 90 percent of allocated dopamine in a mere 28 years of living.
When this realization first occurred to me, I shared this thought with a friend. She listened attentively, contemplated it, and then replied, "or perhaps you were never born with normal full dopamine levels?"
Ladies and gentlemen ... *mic drop*
Nevertheless, whether I was born with full and so-called "normal" dopamine levels, or whether I recklessly burned up all my resources ... tomayto, tomahto? The result is the same, I am dopamine deficient. No matter which way I slice the proverbial tomato.
My dopamine is sacred
So, it is for this exact reason that I guard my remaining levels of dopamine so, so carefully. It is sacred to me. The leftover morsels of dopamine that I have is the one thing that allows me to have some semblance of independence and helps me have daily drips and drabs of autonomy.
I protect my energy
Therefore (as time has progressed with my diagnosis), I have noticed that I have become increasingly selective about what I do, when I do it, and who I do it for. I have learned to carefully care for and cultivate my energy.
As a result, I am now a lot more purposefully productive. I am very picky and protected about who gets the best of me. I do not shine for everyone, all the time. Simply, because it is not possible or conducive to my condition. It is with a heavy heart, that I have been forced to accept and recognize that I no longer have an endless abundance of energy and capabilities.
Learning from past mistakes
In the past when my medication miraculously began to work, the green lights came on and all the rocket fuel cylinders alighted. I was unbridled with joy and excitement for being able to move so lucidly and fluidly again, that I would push myself relentlessly to be as productive as possible, thus leading to mass fatigue and burnout.
But, as time passed, I sensed an inner resentment brewing inside me. The incessant stop-go, stop-go pace of life that I was operating on was destructive and detrimental. It was not sustainable at that time, and it was an even less successful strategy longer term.
Overcompensating for what I lack
I understand now that my over-zealous approach to completing errands was because in my mind’s eye, I felt a serious inadequacy and lack of self-worth from becoming disabled. I felt that I had to work harder to validate my worth, and so I overcompensated by pushing myself relentlessly when my medication was working.
I never wanted to be seen as limited, lacking, or incapable just because I had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. So, in everyday tasks, I went beyond the call of duty, expending maximum effort for a mediocre result.
The realization of self-worth
With time and experience comes much wisdom. Nowadays, I have realized that nothing is urgent or imminent. I am kinder to myself. I have quiet confidence that the important things will get done. If they don’t get done? Well, they could not have been that important after all.
I no longer insist on doing pirouettes and somersaults, while completing my daily tasks. I am pleased and relieved to say that I now know that my best is enough ... that I am enough. The self-imposed pressure to complete tasks with extra gusto has dissipated.
We are truly worthy
I have chosen to erect an (imaginary, of course!) electric fence around my remaining dopamine reserves. The world may operate with a surplus of dopamine, but I do not have that privilege. This is all I have left (well, that is until science masters the art of dopamine donations) to get me through the rest of my life.
This realization has a sweet joy to it because it means I now do things carefully and consciously. The days of participating in tasks out of politeness or compulsion have gone. If I am sitting with you and giving you my time and attention, then you know it is because you are truly worthy.
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