Rescue Call Blues: Help!
There comes a point in every person’s life where he or she realizes that it’s impossible to be tough all the time. It’s at that point that we need someone to rescue us from our predicament. That’s exactly what happened to me in mid-July, as my anxious passenger symptoms got too hard to handle on my own.
Rescue me, someone, anyone!
I’ve written about how stress leads to anxiety. In many of my articles, I’ve looked at staying tough through the bad times as long as possible. This is because it’s hard to get back to feeling positive when we lose it. Thus, I feel that it's good to pump yourself up with encouragement and a fighting spirit before the symptoms hit. Reality will happen, and we'll adjust with perspective when it does. However, sometimes we just need a dose of deus ex machina (a fancy way of saying "divine rescue").
This isn't just a Parkie thing. For instance, I have a non-Parkie friend who is just waiting for the moment when all of their hard work to find a new career is over. It’s not like getting a job will solve every problem instantly, but many issues will vanish. Money and work satisfaction can achieve a lot of things for Maslow’s lower (and upper) levels of need. See! That Psych 101 class really applies!
Least restrictive environment
For this reason, it’s important to be in the “least restrictive environment” that we can be.
In education, this is where we make sure that a child with disabilities is "mainstreamed." In everyday life, this is choosing not to be isolated or apart from non-Parkinson's society. When we're with people, we fully realize our social and mental (also physical) potential. This is a good thing for us! That said, brain boosting applies to ALL people - not just people with extra needs.
As a Parkie in stage 2, I still work. Being social with students, families, and coworkers has improved my mind tremendously. I wish every employer who has a Parkie employee could understand this. Yes, there are things that are difficult or that are risky. However, if possible, by creating an alternative job to stay in a home away from home, we give someone meaning and finance. That’s a lot. It's not always possible, but when it is...
Nevertheless, sometimes our symptoms are a lot to bear for us, and we know we can’t be the same person we once were. That stuff leaves a mark, both inside and out. We can't do it alone, and we need help from our team. There are no two ways about it.
Dealing with depression
To this end, depression is the jerk in the room. It has no respect for anything or anyone. There are a lot of negative stimuli out there to bring out the sadness in people. If left alone, these could lead to the negative condition that is depression. There used to be a way of treating depression that was called something to the effect of “act tough / be a man.” It didn’t work, but people still did and do it. We wouldn’t leave a wound open to infection, yet people still refused and refuse to get help for depression.
Why? If people could be better, why not? People wouldn’t not treat a broken leg, but they don’t treat a broken psyche. Why? The stigma of pills?
Actually... I do know why. It's the same reason I didn't get help sooner. Between the fear of side effects and the myths, there's a lot of reasons why not. That's why we (especially ME - I'm not even close to perfect) need to get the real and talk to professionals about our issues. People respond differently. Some side effects aren't real, while some are.
Really. Take it from a convert to the cause. Your doctor can be a great ally.
Dealing with anxiety
For me, I was dealing with anxiety from my overstimulated, dopamine fluctuating brain, and I couldn’t deal with it anymore. It wasn’t affecting my job, but it was affecting my free time and day to day life at home. So yeah, I needed to do something.
There was no use pretending I wasn’t white-knuckling it or riding in fear as I thought cars were going to hit ours or we were going too fast at the highway speed limit. Note, we weren't speeding. Also, I wasn’t feeling like that when I drove, but other people’s driving was too much. From the passenger perspective, my Parkie mind couldn’t make sense of it.
The final straw was a 1-mile drive to the pool with my sister and her son, I blurted out a warning of oncoming traffic, and I knew I needed to do something. Hence, I got back on the anti-anxiety meds.
One week later, I could feel them kicking in. One month later, I’m purring like a cat. No jumping, no blurting out, just calm Dan. Purr.
Medication to treat depression & anxiety
Specifically, my medication, Escitalopram, is an SSRI – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. In short, serotonin helps us feel balanced, and the medicine creates more of this where once there wasn’t enough. Serotonin affects mood, attitude, and sleep. While adjusting, my sleep is random and haphazard, but my mood is calmer. I’m moving toward house cat status rather quickly. I like that. Besides, I know where my bread is buttered. Purr.
As for my attitude? I’m a ray of sunshine! Well, I don’t know about that, but being around people keeps me positive, even if there are times I still like being by myself or am too eccentric. "I yam what I yam" (so says Popeye).
Remember, any medicine is only part of a psychological treatment. Therapy and/or being able to work through issues with others helps a lot, too. See professionals to get the “skinny” on what might work for you.
Pros & cons to mental health medications
Escitalopram, or its trade name cousin Lexopro, does have trade-offs. For example, there are other issues like dry mouth, nausea, constipation, lack of hunger, dizziness, sexual side effects (lack of interest and “inability to finish”), sweating, and shaking. If you’ve taken the med or are taking it or similar ones, you can probably relate. As with all meds, there are rarer, more serious side effects such as suicidal thoughts, trouble breathing, seizures, manic episodes, weight gain, and low sodium levels. You definitely should consult a professional to see if this or any med is right for you. Don’t just do any "rescue" treatment because a TV commercial (or one person taking it) said so.
To sum it all up, I feel better, but I obviously traded panic in the passenger seat for rescue and purring like a cat. In fact, I now own five side effects to be named later (at least). Is it worth it? When I’m not suddenly screaming about slowing or oncoming traffic or a wall we’re approaching, I’m sure it is. However, it’s not like it’s 100 percent a win. Remember those side effects?
That said, baseball and Parkinson’s are all about bad trades. Remember Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson? Sometimes, though, you have to give up a few things to move ahead with a few more. Rescue has its costs.
Do you participate in a support group for PD?