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Exploring the Relationship Between Parkinson’s and PTSD

PTSD

I was out gathering flowers, peach tulips, and blue orchids. It was a beautiful sun-kissed day. I wondered where I would discover new blooms in the garden.

Out of nowhere, a chasm opened beneath my feet, and I plummeted into unknown depths. Jagged rocks and outcrops tore at me and bruised every part of me. Mind you, this was a virtual game experience. I wasn’t really falling. But it still took a toll.

Days with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are like this. It’s sunny. I stop to smell the roses, have positive expectations, and then something inflames my PD symptoms. Like falling into that virtual chasm, I have to stop what I’m doing and go in a different direction. I call it “PD forcing,” and it is happening more often these days.

A doctor once told me, “All Vietnam vets have PTSD.” A generalization. However, military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a traumatic brain injury have more than double the risk of rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD), which is a risk factor for PD. RBD can precede classic PD symptoms by years. Researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System and Oregon Health and Science University plan to explore the incidence of PD among veterans with RBD.

Additionally, people with PTSD have an elevated risk of developing PD later in life. Further studies may clarify the relationship between PTSD and PD and the efficacy of prompt intervention for PTSD.

To some extent, I think that PTSD can be brought on or exacerbated by PD symptoms. The symptoms and progression of PTSD and PD are also very similar. For example, symptoms of PTSD include irritability and angry outbursts with little or no provocation, verbal or physical aggression toward people or objects when frustrations or challenges become “up close and personal,” reckless or self-destructive behavior, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, problems with concentration, and sleep disturbances.

Living with the ever-increasing and debilitating progression of PD can be traumatic. Coping through a variety of escape modes and old habits no longer works. Trauma doesn’t just come from military combat. It can come from combat with a chronic disease. The PD thief keeps coming back, stealing another skill or capability — unexpected, unwanted, and unforgettable. I never know where the next chasm will open beneath my feet.

Until now, I didn’t think that PTSD fit my experiences. The PD thief, however, continues to be a source of trauma and is just as powerful as my military experiences in Vietnam.

I could hear my suffering more clearly while I worked on physical healing. I’ve made progress with anger, but every day I’m afraid of being traumatized again. I’ve retreated into a cocoon: a lounge chair and a sedentary life.

A sedentary life is a dangerous one, but I needed time to heal. When I finally ventured into the world, I didn’t feel safe because of PTSD, PD, and vision loss. Interaction with the world results in a regular stream of, “You can’t do this anymore.” It is often overwhelming, and it is happening more often these days.

I know it’s time to leave my cocoon of safety. I know the world is not always painted with the dark palette of the PD thief. The sun still sends her shimmering fairies to dance on the lake ripples. Trees still whisper melodies in harmony with the wind.

Yes, it is hard to motivate myself to move and engage after being sedentary for months. But my gardens will bloom again, and so will I. Like chartreuse bulbs bursting through the soil, signs of wellness are showing up in my life: healed injuries, greater appetite, months spent retraining my eyes to see differently, less pain, and a significant decrease in the duration of vertigo.

I focused on healing while I was sedentary, but now it is time for me to leave the chair.

Moving out of a sedentary life isn’t easy, but the wellness map helps. There is nothing good about a prolonged sedentary life. It is time to get up and show up for the next destination on the map. As we enter the new year, it is time for me to beat back the PD thief and his sidekick, PTSD.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Exploring the Relationship Between Parkinson’s and PTSD appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Laughter as Medicine

laughter, Journeying Through Parkinson's

My 2-year-old grandson runs back toward the fence that shields him from entering a dark, muddy pond. I am sure there are water monsters that live deep in that 3-foot shallow, but ever-so murky, pond. They lie in wait beneath the scum and the sludge and the slime and all the other stuff that starts with “s” and floats on top. They wallow quietly beneath the surface, those monstrous creatures which stare at us from where they hide.

And while the secrets of the pond lie quiet, there are hatches of small flies coming to life above the surface and to the south of that pond. I get caught in a few hatches today. So does my grandson. Unlike me, however, he is ecstatic.

I swat at the flies as I walk through the army of fresh fish bait. I spit out the ones that I miss with my hands and end up in my mouth. 

He is laughing

He lets go a big, deep-hearted, uncontrollable, belly laugh. Before I know it, I am laughing with him, because there are endless things this 2-year-old does to cause you to smile and make you laugh. But this … this is the topper so far.

After batting away a dozen or more flies, I look over at this belly-laughing boy and see him running deliberately, determinedly, purposely, and quite willfully into the multitude of small white creatures whose wings are just learning their purpose a bit too late. Because this boy — my little monkey grandson — has decided to see what makes fish enjoy newly hatched, tiny, cream-colored flies. And so he runs — his little “run on his tippy toes run” — and as he runs, he opens wide his mouth and hopes for success.

I am laughing

If that isn’t entertaining enough, after he runs through the swarm, he stops, closes his eyes and rubs his belly as if to say, “Yum!!!” And then he does it again and I have to chase after him to get him to stop, which can be somewhat difficult for a grammy who has Parkinson’s disease.

And I wonder why a 2-year-old would want to catch flies in his mouth. What prompts him to do it? Perhaps it’s the fact that his daddy is coming home tonight from fighting fires in the forests and he knows it, for he is excited from head to toe. And daddy loves to fly fish. Perhaps there have been conversations about “flies” and how the fishies try to get them as father is teaching son how to tie flies.

Laugh out loud

Who can know what goes on in the mind of a 2-year-old? I don’t. But I do know this: Laughter is one of the greatest gifts and best medicines you can give yourself, either through observing a child playing or listening to them tell a story. Or maybe by listening to a good comedian like Jerry Seinfeld or Jim Gaffigan or bloopers from your favorite TV show. Opportunities for laughter (and the healing that comes through laughter) are all around us. We just have to be open to them and ready to grab hold of them and laugh — laugh out loud!

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Laughter as Medicine appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Shorts or Pants? Learning to Embrace Our Parkinson’s Scars

scars

Last week, I attended my boxing class. Temperatures were in the high 80s, and we knew we’d be sweating profusely by the end of the session. As we prepared for class, one member who wore shorts commented to another wearing pants, “You’re going to be hot with those pants on.”

She wasn’t suggesting that he remove his pants, but rather that he should have worn shorts. His reply, as he pulled up his pant leg to reveal a large Band-Aid, was, “I don’t wear shorts. I’ve got too many scars and bruises on my legs.”

I felt that I should hide behind one of the punching bags so that no one would see my glue gun burn scars, marks on my knees and elbows from falls, bruises from playing with my grandson and running into something, or being bonked by something else — and those were merely the ones I could recall off the top of my head.

Scars can tell a story.

They can tell tales of where you have been, of the things you have done, and of healing. 

Many of us have scars from our past that have healed, but we keep them covered so that we won’t have to explain where we got them. We might have scars from abuse or from battles we were forced to fight. Scars may come from physical injuries or mental or emotional wounds.

Scarring is a part of the natural healing process.

Sores, burns, and wounds leave behind marks of various sizes and shapes. Our scars are evidence of damage that has been repaired either within the skin or the body.

Those of us with Parkinson’s disease have scars inflicted by an illness that is continually attacking our bodies with intense pain and uncontrollable movements. We have struggled with depression, despair, and fear. These wounds run rampant and deep. They may not look as we expect them to appear, but they are still wounds nonetheless. They include signs of damage to our unsuspecting bodies, trauma that causes us to think the worst about our situation, and hurt that needs healing so that we can live well, to allow us to press on amid the fight through hope of better days to come.

Through hope we find healing.

Through hope, we find strength, peace, and contentment within ourselves. We no longer care what our scars look like because they are welcome reminders of the healing we have experienced on the inside. We don’t nurse fear and worry over what the next day may hold. Instead, we get ready in the morning and choose shorts — not because it’s hot, but because we can.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Shorts or Pants? Learning to Embrace Our Parkinson’s Scars appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

The Death of Self: A Casualty of Chronic Disease

death of self

Death, the “D” in the CHRONDI Creed, refers more to the death of our self-identity than it does to physical death. As we endure the long battle with a chronic disease and deal with a gradual progression in symptoms, a loss of function occurs. I touch upon the stealing away of bits and pieces of both physical and mental function in my column about the “disease thief.”

The disease thief robs us of so many of the ways by which we know ourselves. It is a death of the self that is a casualty of chronic disease. The death of self needs to be addressed with as much mindfulness as any other part of the creed for total health to be maintained at the highest level possible.

There is no manual for navigating through the death of self. I was educated in many ways to be prepared for it. And yet when it happened, I was shocked by the severity of its effects. Parkinson’s disease gradually took from me those things I identified as belonging to myself, things I would pull out of my pocket when someone asked, “What do you do?”

Following is a list of things that were stolen from me, roughly in chronological order:

  • Field mineral specimen collecting (since I was a teenager)
  • Professional field geologist
  • Hiking and exploring rugged terrain
  • Clinical counseling work
  • Professor of counseling and geology

The time and money spent on four college degrees are behind all the years of experience expressed in the above list. Now all are casualties of a chronic disease. It is the death of self.

Looking in the mirror, past the gray hair and crevasses of age, deep into multicolored eyes, I found nothing that I remembered as me. The self I once knew was gone — dead! I was sitting in a void in a life without meaning, with nothing of familiarity.

From my clinical work, I knew that people get lost when this happens. It can be quite difficult to find the way back. I also knew something about this journey from mystical teachings, but knowing and living through it personally are two different things. Somehow, I had to find my way out. I had to heal from the death of self.

We can apply stages of grief to healing from the death of self. As I mentioned in the disease thief column, we should use terror management should as needed. And it is important to have a support network through the process, including peers, family, and technology. Additionally, the CHRONDI Creed can be used to help with healing, particularly the “I” in Identity. I will cover that in the next column.

Have you experienced the “death of self” while battling a chronic disease? What progress have you made?

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post The Death of Self: A Casualty of Chronic Disease appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Finding Hope for Today

 

Sherri Journeying Through

Sometimes you can feel as if you’re at the end of your proverbial rope. You’re holding on as tight as you can, hoping the blisters on the palms of your hands won’t become totally unbearable and you let go.

I was thinking about all that’s going on lately in the world: tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and tornadoes.

As if that weren’t enough, the likelihood of people diagnosed today with a terminal disease isn’t just likely, it’s a given. The likelihood of people diagnosed with a chronic illness isn’t just probable, it’s going to happen. There is pain and sorrow eating away at our society day by day, and there is no stopping it. Our hope is being challenged left and right while our faith may feel as if it is rapidly dwindling. Is there hope? Can we hold onto our faith and make it to the end without giving up, without giving in?

It is believed that King David of Israel might have had Parkinson’s disease. If that is true, then couldn’t it be possible that some of the other diseases we live with today could have been around during King David’s time? Diseases and illnesses such as breast cancer, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and so much more likely played a part in history. After all, according to Christopher G. Goetz of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the “shaking palsy” was first diagnosed by physician James Parkinson in 1817, who described it as a neurological syndrome. Earlier texts, including some from India around 1000 B.C. and some ancient Chinese texts, describe symptoms of what might have been Parkinson’s.

If Parkinson’s disease really did play a role in King David’s life, then it is probable that those diseases from long ago still exist to some degree today. Couldn’t it be more than likely that Parkinson’s is one of those diseases referred to when the Apostle Matthew wrote, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages … healing every disease and sickness.”

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Can you imagine what it would have been like as a person with Parkinson’s disease to be healed on that day? The day of healing every disease and sickness? To be walking down the street one minute, mistaken for a drunk with uncontrolled limbs, slurred speech, and constant tripping? You stop near this man who claims he can heal you and you think, “What have I got to lose?” 

You get yourself in line and you wait. 

And you wait. 

And you wait in a line longer than those in high-security status at the airport. 

You consider turning around to go home, but then you see him. The one who everyone’s talking about. 

You remember the other day when Aunt Martha told you she saw him heal a man with sores all over his skin. And her sister, your Aunt Mary, saw him heal a man who was blind, with some spit and some dirt. 

So, you keep waiting, just a little longer, because you feel hopeful.

He sees you. You’re hard to miss due to all the awkward movements you make. You get to where he is, sitting on a rock and he is waiting for you. As you approach, he stands and offers his rock for you to sit upon. Before you can say anything, he stands behind you and gently puts your head between the palms of his hands. You feel a warmth permeate your entire body. Your body relaxes. Your movements calm. You can’t put into words how you feel, you can only say you don’t feel the same. Something inside happened from your head to your toes.

Were you healed? Could it be?

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If people were healed way back then, why not right now? Today? Why not be hopeful? 

Healing today may not look the same as it did back in Matthew’s time, but it happens. Sometimes it is our perspective or our attitude that needs healing. Perhaps it is our faith that is restored and healed after being tested by the trials of a chronic illness. Perhaps hope is healed after despair rips out our joy and leaves a deep dark pit inside. If your faith began dwindling because of your circumstances, isn’t the gift of renewed faith and hope healing in its own way?

Why not be healed? Why not be hopeful? Hope enables us to live through today’s sicknesses and diseases while expecting something better for tomorrow. Hope tells our heart that help is on the way. 

So, why not be hopeful?

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Finding Hope for Today appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.