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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.

Out to Lunch

Terri Reinhart

My brain went on holiday today.  It actually started yesterday when I mailed two packages of books to schools in Canada.  I packed them well and made sure to include the invoice.  I made it to the Post Office just in time, filled out the proper paperwork and sent them on their way. When I came home, Chris looked at me and asked if I had included our address on the invoice so they would know where to send the check. 

Of course I didn’t. 

Probably just a minor slip, I thought to myself.  Today started well.  We went to our yoga class and I know my brain came along because it was there when I needed it.  Our yoga teachers, Paul and Carolyn Zeiger, push us to do as much as we can…and then they push just a wee bit more.  I’m fairly flexible so it works okay, most of the time.  Once in the proper pose, we remain there for a minute or so, or until our muscles threaten to spontaneously combust.

Today we were doing the “CAT/COW” pose, where we get down on all fours and alternately arch our back like a cat and then do the opposite, looking like an old swayed back cow.  Carolyn felt sure I could arch my back even further than what I was doing.  It didn’t matter that my body was telling me it was impossible.  If Carolyn decided I could go further, I was going further.  I arched my back higher than ever.  Carolyn was impressed.

My bladder was not.  Fortunately for me, my brain did engage and I could hear it yelling frantically, “KEGELS!  DO YOUR KEGELS!”  Kegel exercises, for those of you who don’t know, meaning women who haven’t had children yet and men who haven’t lived with women who have had children, are exercises where one tightens up everything between the waist and the knees in a desperate attempt to keep the muscles in shape, the bladder where it is supposed to be, and make sure there are no bodily fluids leaking.  The kegel exercises worked.  It was a close call.  The effect of the kegels made an additional push in my arched back.  Carolyn was really impressed now!  “Hold it as long as you can,” she says. 

Believe me, that was my goal. 

Then we came to the last part of the class.  This is the part where you lie down on your mat, let everything relax, close your eyes, and try not to go to sleep.  I don’t know whether it has something to do with menopause, or with my Parkinson’s, my meds, or if it’s just me.  As soon as we reach this point and I close my eyes to relax, I get teary.  Everyone else is quiet except me.  I am sniveling.  I tried hard to find some way to prevent a full blown snivel attack.  What could I think about?  My first thoughts were disastrous.  Do not try to stop the tears by thinking about a friend who is dying.  It doesn’t work. 

I whirled through about a dozen more possibilities before I finally settled on mentally sewing books.  This did it.  Bookbinding is a wonderful meditative activity.  It doesn’t require academic skills and it doesn’t even require creativity.  It is mechanical and repetitive.  The sniveling stopped.

After class was over, I said goodbye to Chris, and left for the bookbinding class that I am teaching at our high school.  What better after yoga then to teach this wonderful meditative work?  And how incredibly meditative can it be with a classroom filled with high school seniors, all needing help at once?  I’m afraid the beneficial effects of the yoga had some competition. 

I arrived at the school, just in time for class to start.  Unpacking my box of supplies, I realized I had left several key tools at home.  We managed to make do.  I turned it into this lovely lesson of “this is why I try not to depend on tools”.  The students, however, know that the tools make the work much easier and they didn’t particularly appreciate my philosophizing. 

After class, my cell phone alarm went off to remind me that it was time to take my meds.  I looked through my purse to find my pill container.  It was gone.  I figured maybe I had filled it at home and then left it on our kitchen counter.  I didn’t worry though and I finished out my day with only a moderate amount of symptoms, despite missing the dose.

My son rode with us part of the way home and filled my daughter and me in on their latest baby news.  Their baby is due right around Christmas day.  The big question is, “will the baby turn over or will the baby insist on being feet first?”  We don’t have the answer to that one yet.  I dropped him off at the light rail station and we continued home. 

Once we got home, I looked for my meds on the counter.  I couldn’t find them anywhere.  I still didn’t panic and thought I’d just continue with my daily routine.  I sent Chris to the store to pick up my new prescriptions and then I worked on dinner.  I figured I could get dinner made and the dishes done.   I filled the dishwasher with the dirty dishes only to have Chris come home a few minutes later and inform me that I had put the dirty dishes in with clean dishes and now they were all mixed up. 

The brain is definitely on holiday and in the big empty space where it used to be, there's now a sign that says, "Out to lunch".   If you see my brain anywhere, please let me know.  It’s pink and spongy and is carrying a small pill container filled with dopamine pills.