Fatigued man sitting on couch with bubbles of ideas; exercise, stage, mountains, tickets.

Walter Mitty vs. Parkinson's Fatigue

Did I ever tell you about how I managed to lose all that excess weight since dystonia kicked in? How about my walking routine to meet my exercise goals?

What about that hiking trip I took to Greenwood Furnace State Park, so that I could trek up that mountain again and take in the vista I hadn’t seen in a couple years? I didn’t?

Did you hear about how I found all the time to do this?

You didn’t? That’s because, well, I didn’t do any of these things or a whole lot of other things that I had planned to do over the last couple of years. Somehow Parkinson’s fatigue got in the way of all of them and managed to keep me from living my life as I want to.

Walter Mitty's grand dreams

Like Walter Mitty, I have a lot of grandiose ideas. There are things that I want to do, as I am sure there are for all of you. For me, like many of you who are in the early stages of Parkinson’s, I have a sense of racing against the clock to achieve my bucket list.

With November's vacation to Utah, I hope to see the petroglyphs of my dreams in canyons like those at Horseshoe Canyon. It's all about getting ready to get there, though. Can my mind overcome it to let my body do it? Can I find the time to breakthrough? Can I make this more than a dream?

James Thurber’s Walter Mitty had this disconnect between want to and actually being able to live out his dreams. For him, his inability to do these things was based largely on not being as super-heroic as his daydreams. Ben Stiller’s movie version, while entertaining and somewhat similar, was as much about product placement as creating a character who overcomes his faults.

Eleanor Rigby and J. Alfred Prufrock's prisons

Parkinson’s fatigue is a nasty little gremlin running around spoiling the party in so many ways. Many of us already suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness, apathy, and isolation. Parkinson’s does its best to make us all Eleanor Rigbys. It’s our responsibility to come out and play like Prudence and listen to George and John on how we need to come out and play, instead.

This is easier said for some of us than others. Prior to Parkinson’s, we may have been quiet and reserved in our lives. Oftentimes, the dopamine loss takes years and extracts its toll on our lives and our decisions. These decisions and revisions, which may have once been simple careful thoughts, have moved on like those of T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock. We have to wonder if we can dare to disturb any universe if someone is going to conversationally pause when they see us arrive.

Dan's dilemma

I know that I have always found grand decision making hard. When the result is grand failure or going down in flames, it’s hard to take the risk to do more, but should I be feeling these feelings about whether to watch a movie or to go waste time on Kindle video games and Netflix and chilling with myself until I fall asleep? After all, I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Why wouldn’t I want to go see the final movie on its first full day of release? Other than movie ticket prices forcing me to mortgage my house and all, I mean.

Yet sometimes, these hurdles are harder to cross than they seem to be. Right now, the only way to defeat them is to buy tickets well in advance. This keeps me from hesitating since I’m not in the business of losing money on wasted tickets.


Resisting the call of the nap

If only there was a 100% perfect way to not lose out on the possibilities of grand dreams and adventure, or routine socializing and exercise.

With Parkinson’s, I know it’s about more than the overthinking. However, we have to find ways to resist it when we know we’re doing it. We need to run from the Call of the Nap, which sounds eerily similar to that of Cthulhu calling. In fact, it might just be an octopus-headed monster. If I could draw or describe my fatigue as a monster, I might get more sympathy in falling pretty to it. Better to make it seem like a Lisa Frank unicorn or something similar.

The key is to reduce everything to something we can fight back against, even if only for the moment. Not that people want to wage war against 1980s neon-colored fluffy pets, but if we’re choosing our antagonist, better them than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

In the end, our goal is the next day and the best possible results for our enjoyment of today. We can do this by resisting our fatigue as much as we can.


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