Over Labor Day weekend, my wife and I decided that we would travel from our sleepy little burg in Amish Paradise to head 8 hours north to New Hampshire. Of course, traveling on a Friday means that just under 8 GPS predictable hours is more like over 10 hours in real time. If you don’t live in this part of the country, then you should know that the difference is because of New York City traffic. To describe said congestion and the mass swarms of maniacal drivers in as few words as possible, I would express the term sensory over-stimulation.
That said, in these states, it’s easy to get symptoms of general anxiety disorder. For me, these moments are uncommon, but they do happen. I tend to avoid situations that they are involved in, New York City traffic and putting up with the failures of self-checkout lines come to mind (I don’t work for the grocery store or Wal-Mart, and they don’t give me a discount to do it myself). I know it sounds like I’m joking regarding self-checkout lines, but last night, my wife chose to do them, so I went to the Red Box (DVD rental system, for my non American friends) while she did since I had no desire to hear the computer voice telling her to re-scan or bag her stuff in a certain way. When the process was over, it wouldn’t accept her credit card. Then it wouldn’t accept mine. Then the manager came, and we still couldn’t make it accept her card, so we had to go to a different register to import the ring-up. Finally, after 10 minutes, it worked, but I was in that, “I’m done with people tonight (except for the wife). I’m going home to unwind.” This is what we did so I could zone out.
There are a host of symptoms that go with being knocked out of order, so to speak. In a world that feels out of control, According to Parkinson’s Dot Org, “these feelings include butterflies in the stomach and nausea, trouble breathing or swallowing, racing of the heart, sweating and increased tremors.” Fortunately, I didn't need a barf bag, but I did feel like running out of there pronto.
Whether this feeling is caused by insane NYC traffic or computer voices, this is not something that is fun for me at all. In times like this, I just wanted to be out of the moment, which in the case of driving to New Hampshire seemed to last forever with backed up traffic congestion, but at least it wasn’t as bad as it could be in that I made it through and remained sane because my wife is a good driver.
With all of the sounds of that type of traffic, I think of the word cacophony, which is defined as a mix of sounds going off together and overloading a person’s sense of being. For visuals, I think of a mix of different colors of light blended in with movement on different levels and directions so that it became tough to focus on just one. This includes cars coming and going in all directions on multiple highways above and below where we are driving and other traffic moving around us while passing or slowing down. Mix this with the feeling of the need to provide complete attention to the situation at hand, so I was incredibly happy that I wasn’t driving (smart planning on my behalf, if I don’t say so myself).
Mind you, this wasn’t even driving in central New York (something I will NEVER EVER do again – something that has nothing to do with my PD; instead, it reflects my healthy love of life and sanity). It was just driving into the opposite side of New York City from New Jersey to head up through to Connecticut, Taxachuesetts (as Homer Simpson once referred to it), and then New Hampshire for a White Mountains fun time.
It should be noted that there is a plus to this drive, which is seeing the skyline and the Statue of Liberty lit up beautifully, well as picturesquely neat as a man-made skyline can possibly look (guess that I should reserve the truly expressive adjective for natural wonders, which we can gawk at as long as Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt, and Donald Trump don’t find their way to remove protected designation from our public natural places).
It’s also important as well to know that we were heading up at 9pm, so the need to be a part of the “city that never sleeps” means that other people were out and about in large force to take part in the city’s nightlife. In this endless concrete jungle filled with construction and constriction, time doesn’t diminish the traffic, and my wife drove bravely (i.e. only commenting on aggressive butthole drivers to me rather than flipping them off and risking being shot, though it wasn’t easy to do it in that manner). Personally, I wanted to lean out the window and bark like a dog at some of those drivers – something my one uncle was alleged to have done, but frankly, I didn’t want to get shot (Mer-kuh!). After all, this is Friday night insanity traffic outside of a big American city and its New Jersey and Connecticut over-spill.
Yes, I didn’t have to drive that horror road since we were in my wife’s car and she was at the wheel, and I didn’t want the wheel. However, that didn’t change the fact that while my wife was driving her prized red convertible Mini Cooper (Bradley), I was trying to stabilize my mind by closing my eyes and leaning back to mellow out from the overload I was feeling.
There are things in my Parkinson’s life that overwhelm me. For instance, I have recently been “word fishing” while dealing with the effects of Artane, which is a medicine that I have been on for tremors. In addition to having to wrack my brain to make it express specific 9th grade vocabulary words (that I knew the 4th grade expression / definition for), I would also look for Point C in my arc of discussing concepts A-F. I could clearly tell that I had lost or was losing C, and with it, this cognitive shut down scared the shit out of me (sorry about the profanity, but “poop” just don’t have the same feeling). Fortunately, in my few weeks on the medicine, I didn’t have any major brain farts. I’m currently off the drug and its whole family since it’s been known to have this effect, so with Amantadine causing livedo reticularis, I am without an anti-tremor med (relying solely on Azilect to make my dopamine production A-OK and Escitalopram to level out my moods – they seem to both work well).
In the end, this cognitive nightmare felt like New York City’s blackout in 1977 complete with the Son of Sam and Reggie Jackson + Billy Martin fighting as fires raged and looting broke out across the city. With the fear of actions with and from North Korea, the partisan divide where people can't see what's right in front of their face, continued legislation issues in my big 3 (the environment, education, and healthcare), and those mega hurricanes that just keep coming and coming, it’s as if there is no stop to the ugliness that could be and now I am here with my brain going bonkers on its own share of stuff! And let’s not forget another predication ofthe end of the world and end times hovering over the whole to affect the Hale Bopp types and the Revelations crew who change the details to reflect current events as it goes.
Wondering what the hell was and is going on, I did what most anyone with Parkinson’s would do – look at medicine effects. Many effects were there including cognitive issues, anxiety, and hallucinations. Yep, I think we got our culprit, so I went off the meds thinking about what had happened over the past few weeks.
Yeah, I guess this would explain the “earthquake” I thought we were having one night at 2AM when I woke up to my bed shaking and continued shaking as I went to the bathroom.
Fortunately, it was all the medicine, and now I’m back to normal. Like a student in Jane Elliott’s classroom in Iowa back in 1968, I had a full-blown experiment with being in another person’s shoes and the shoes that I would someday be shown into. Call it being made a bleeding-heart or just being shown the truth of the world, I was being welcomed to the show in a big and bad way, that as I said before, “scared the shit out of me.”
Of course, there will still be people who talk smack on waking others up to the feelings of what if by putting them in the bodies of those who experience things daily. How dare we let our little conservative snowflakes see anything other than the endlessly beautiful possibility of the world (while leveling endless nonsense at liberal snowflakes)? It's like they're saying that teaching people to empathize with others or preparing for what might be is "liberal claptrap" nonsense (instead of creating an understanding so we can better understand others). And not feeling for others allows them to destroy the healthcare system’s provisions (thank you, John McCain, for stopping this crap) to help those who suffer and will suffer from being given a condition (which as all of us know could happen at any time), and minimize the money insurance companies have to pay for lifelong issues. Better to bankrupt the victim, the spouses, and the extended families than taking care of the village, right?
And then there was the most immediate non-Dan situation in all of this things ending stuff: the death of my Yaris, which was coming quickly as parts slowly gave way. Should I buy a new car? If so, how long should I plan on it lasting? Do I buy a 5 figure used car with 40-60,000 miles or a new car for almost $20,000? Can I get by with 80-100,000 miles on it already for $8000ish? Do I buy another “Macho Dude” (it’s the translation of Yaris) or should I get a Juke for when my wife takes over driving it somewhere down the line? Do I go balls to the wall and get a Jeep? The answer isn’t easy, so I keep driving the car until the day I need to trade it in.
In the meantime, I keep getting used to being a passenger.
Over the course of my adult life, I have found that I have not done as well at being a passenger, as I should. I get motion sickness to varying degrees (without the barf bag, fortunately). The front is bad, but backseats tend to be a little worse, so generally I would find that when I had a choice, I would go with driving myself. Nevertheless, I am currently immersing myself to be ready for the time that I won’t be driving at all.
This is something that I find myself thinking about a lot lately. As I said, my beloved Macho Dude (my blue Yaris) is closing in on 250,000 miles, and it’s slowly dying. Over the summer, I put a lot of stuff into my car, which could have been put into a new car. Had I not been so attached to my car (I’ve had it since 2007 when I bought it new), I might have bought a new one, but as I said, #1) I don’t want to pay for a new one for years and years. #2) I’m hoping to be able to be working for years and years so I can pay it off.
It’s true that the imminent death of my Yaris has me upset. It’s a part of me like no other car that I drove. I love its gas mileage, its style, its personality, and the fact its distinctly me. Frankly, I don’t want to say goodbye to it, but goodbye is coming. When this compounds with the feeling that a fuse was blown in my head or the power went out, my life just felt like calling out a “timeout.” Unfortunately, Parkinson’s doesn’t allow for that, so yeah.
Fortunately, I was able to figure out a cause and remedy it. It was mostly easy to get back to my brain being my brain, but now that I am sans tremor meds, I see the shaking again. I see where it's gotten since when I began to hide it in the spring. Thus, I’m adjusting in the moment with a lot of foot shaking in my life. I guess if I play more hip hop, then I can just pass it off as being in the music.
So now, September and autumn are here, and I’m thinking of how other things diminish through the autumn months and into the frozen world of winter (the leafless cold and darkness of January and February). The leaves on the trees changing colors and falling quickly here in southeastern Pennsylvania say that winter is coming sooner than before. The cold is getting ready to set in (though the days are still relatively warm). Pumpkin everything is appearing in the stores, and I am facing more and more Parkinson’s symptoms, which are also coming faster than I expected. Granted, I dig the muffins and pie, and it’s neat to think about inviting my nieces and nephews around to carve a big ass pumpkin, but really, I’d like to have some time to slide into things and the understanding of where I’m at to discuss it knowledgeably on November 15th (my next neurological appointment).
I’ve been doing doctors lately. For instance, I went to an audiologist, who told me my hearing on soft sounds is terrible. I knew this, but yeah. Whether it came from listening to Slayer too much as a kid or the “Brady Bunch” (all the things that we get when we find bradykinesia raging through our lives), I don’t think it matters. Sometimes, people will lose sound, swallowing, smell, taste, and blinking their eyes (to name but a few problems along the way), but no combination is guaranteed. Instead, we deal with what we have and go to the doctors (and dentists) who can help the problem.
In this case, the doc immediately went to BMW level hearing aids (about $4000 after insurance). Uh, no! Not right now? So with that, I think instead about standing close to people or asking them to speak up before I buy a pair that allows me to be able to blue tooth MP3s directly into my head.
But sound, sound… what do we do about where I’m going (as I listen to Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Psychedelic Pill – damn, those senior citizens jam so much it’s like they know they’re putting the young whippersnappers to shame as they crash through 20 minute jams and guitar fury)?
For one, I have noticed lately, that sounds affect me differently. For example, if I am talking one on one to student A (in a sitdown session to edit a paper), I can hear all of the conversations of Students D+E, M+N, S+T, and X+Y+Z on separate tracks at the same time. This tends to be something I’m not exactly happy with since it puts me on a smaller overload, so I find it easier to compensate by going outside the room and giving people in-class work to complete rather than enforce the impossible code of silence while I am speaking. Why create fights we can’t win or upsetting people when the solution can be solved by the self? Frankly, it’s better to find ways to work around it and sit like a cat on a chair, purring at all that is instead of seeing everything as a nail that needs to face the hammer.
The most important thing to know about sound is that unlike certain songs from the late 1960s with their experimental mixing (The Velvet Underground’s “The Gift” comes to mind), I can’t turn these sounds off and only hear the speaking instead of the distorted and fuzzed out instrumentals. I have also found that being in such a high impact environment with all of the qualities described before, plus billboards of static images and electronic changing images, I can easily find myself in a way that says, “Get between some trees” (and yes, we were soon able to do that for 2 full days all through the Presidential Range). This is another reason NYC traffic makes me spazzy.
Trees are generally a safe place, but I’ve had a fair bit going, so it feels like I’m in the need to do more and more of these (though New Hampshire was a welcome respite as is Iceland, which is where my wife and I are going in 2 weeks).
As for narrow escapes and future fears, the key is just to choose to live life and never stop believing that the best times are still to come as we plan out our futures to what we want to do before the lights go out for real.