My Many Moods with Parkinson's
Last updated: May 2023
It had been a long day at work. I finally closed shop on the afternoon. At that moment I walked to the car, I was exhausted from too much conversation. Also, I did not stop to eat or drink anything all afternoon, so I was getting "hangry." I knew we did not have any food in the house. This meant that I was going to be doing fast food again. Somewhere in the dark and rainy drive home, my Parkinson's mind stretched thin and my mood grew more gruff.
Eventually, I pulled up to the drive-through. There, I found myself getting increasingly agitated at how a simple plain order could be so difficult to process. Suddenly, it felt like something inside of me wanted to let the intercom voice know exactly how I felt.
Parkinson's mood swings
Fortunately, I had been in the presence of Parkinson's mood swings before, so I stopped myself from being "that guy." Instead, I went to "Serenity Now!" mode. It's all we can do when our chemicals get out of whack.
Deep breathing and shutting up go a long way to not being "Bad Mood Guy." Knowing my living room was awaiting me helped a lot, too. Realizing that Parkinson's made this situation happen scared me.
Through experience, I can tell when my mind is off. I can tell things that exacerbate the symptoms. Phone trees and self checkout cashiers are high on this list. Sitting too close to anyone talking or making noise around my right ear is another thing that can tip the scales. Mild mannered Dr. Jekyll quickly enters Mr. Hyde mood. It isn't fun.
Thankfully, I've learned to move away from this state on my own. It's really not you or me; it's Parkinson's, but it's still me since I "appear" to be in control most of the time. This is the fate of being in the early stages of a condition. We can do a lot of things, but other things... not so much.
Don't mind me. I'm going to get me out of this and just go mellow out in my room.
Knowing my limits with Parkinson's
When I'm done with socializing, I'm done. I don't push it. If I pass the limit, it's silence in my room or moving away from people for deep breathing exercises until I feel back in control. If I can't, I feel nauseous or I will tear-up. That's not fun. It's not really cathartic either since I often feel worse after the fact.
The key is to slow down now. Fortunately, this pandemic has allowed stressful things like driving in the rain at night to be a non-issue. I have plenty of home-based hobbies, but so often, I have felt like I should be entertained outside of the home.
Instead, by slowing things down, in 9 weeks, I have read over 20 books, which include everything from the story of the TV show The Office to The Great Gatsby. I've watched a lot of old DVDs, and I'm in the third of 7 Harry Potter books.
Spending time outdoors
I've also spent time in the Siesta Zone, which is the patio fire pit area directly in front of our pond. Since my wife is relaxing with her garden, the yard is spectacular. And we're not even at stargazer lily season yet!
I like to watch the leaves move on the trees, gaze upon the birds feeding, listen to the frogs, or just stare into the fire. I guess I got old, but I get the appeal of just being. Like Kevin Costner felt at the end of Bull Durham, sometimes that's the best answer after everything tough we experience.
Watching my diet
Watching what and how much we eat is helping a lot, too. I also am not eating fast food because we're stocked up with relatively real food (e.g. not as much processed food) and generally not ordering food in.
Diet helps manage my Parkinson's a lot. Slowing down and focusing on what needs to be done, versus what we want to, will keep us from running ourselves into the ground. Everything we do is a step in the right direction.
Sleeping issues with Parkinson's
I can get more and better sleep since I get back almost an hour and a half every day I work from home. This definitely improves my mood, at least when it happens. Prior to going to sleep, I've been staying off devices other than my Kindle e-reader. Reading myself to sleep is definitely a good way to sleep more restfully. It's not perfect.
Yes, I need to avoid ghost stories about New Orleans and Delphine LaLaurie to cut down on the nightmares and waking up to the feeling that something or someone is in the room with me. That's definitely not my favorite.
As with many people with Parkinson's, I'm already not a good sleeper, so I need to find a way to move through the sleep startles of REM sleep behavior disorder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
I have to move past exhaustion and the Call of the Nap to get to where my fatigue allows me to sleep a few hours, as opposed to 30 minutes, before I wake up for 2-4 hours after I go to the bathroom. That's not fun - especially when I need to be up at 8am to help people with my phone or Zoom voice.
One of the drawbacks of Parkinson's is never feeling like we get enough sleep. That said, choosing to wake up on my own goes a long way to being able to process the morning news, e-mails, and memes before I "have to do" something. I always find taking my time improves my mood and state of being.
Having a line of things to do can feel overwhelming. In today's environment, people expect an instant response. If they don't get it, then their mood gets worse. To avoid this, many people expect themselves to be able to multitask in proactive response to things.
This already isn't good. However, Parkinson's plays havoc on being able to monitor lists for prioritizing, especially when they're filled up quickly. Here, we need to let the people around us know when we are having trouble prioritizing or when we need to step away from things.
I know it's often easier said than done, but it sure beats having to answer for "Bad Mood Guy" coming out to play. In the end, there are things Parkinson's will and won't let us do, but if we're aware of how we can keep the bad moments in check, we'll be better off.
Do you experience issues with spatial awareness?