The Holiday Season means parties, presents, parents, and packing on pounds. It is a special time when family comes together to share the joy and celebration. This time of year can also be difficult and trying for many people due to finances, loss of family members, or just trying to coordinate the added responsibility that comes with this time of year.
The added pressure of trying to produce “the right gift” and to cook “the right meal” on top of dealing with your Parkinson’s disease probably isn’t of benefit to your condition. I know from experience, that when I am overloaded with a laundry list of to-do items and I am facing deadlines, stress and tension builds higher and higher – only to make my PD worsen.
Here are a few suggestions to remind you how to maintain your meds, your mind, and your overall well-being over the holidays:
- Travel can interject a scramble in timing your medications on an irregular schedule and for people with Parkinson’s, timing can be everything. Do your best to sustain as close to your usual schedule as you can to maintain an even stream of your medications. If you need a reminder, use your cell phone or your spouse’s phone to make sure that you don’t miss a dose.
- The Holidays bring on huge changes in our eating habits as we eat and drink more, often of foods that we may not eat at other times of the year. Sweets, pastries, and other rich foods can play a part in reducing your maximum absorption of your medications, so pay attention to what you are eating and how much of it you intake. I find alcohol fiddles with my pills, so I try to not drink at all, but if you do, just pay attention to the impact it may have on what you are taking.
- It can become overwhelming when we have multiple family members from multiple families, kids, animals, music, technology, and food and drink, and loud conversation, all in one room. The energy and space can become overwhelming and feel a little enclosing. We all have different stress triggers that evoke our symptoms to come out more. Be aware what induces certain thoughts and feelings, before the trigger takes hold, if you can. The key is being aware of the situation that you are in at the time.
- Be sure and take time for yourself, when you need it! Everyone at the party and celebration wants you to be at your best and if it means you need to take a little extra time to get ready, ask for a change in food or drink, take a rest, or need to lower the music to be heard better in conversation, I would think that those slight concessions would gladly be made for you.
- Remember to breathe, breathe, breathe! Deep breathing is something very few of us do enough. It feels so good to breath deeply.
- Go into each event expecting to have a good time and to really enjoy yourself. Keep your expectations in check and just be present.
- Stay as active as you normally would on any other day. Keep on your normal health regimen of exercise, sleep, and diet (as best you can) to keep up daily maintenance.
- Address your needs to speak of those you have lost or miss if you can, without interfering with those who may not want to deal with past issues. I like to just light a candle in remembrance of those who are unable t be with us, as this is a way of honoring their memory.
- If stress creeps in and you need something, check out my last blog post on the program, HeadSpace and see if this App does’t help clear some tension and anxiety.
- Lastly, this time of year should be about whatever you want it to be. Placing expectations and conditions on what you hope or think it should be, only weighs you down. If you build up expectations, it can lead to less successful outcomes. Just being as good as you can be at the time of the event, and being yourself, without expectation, may just allow you to find that you enjoy all your events, even more!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I tweeted a story this morning that claimed studies prove that organic foods only real benefit is that they are lower in pesticides. As someone with young-onset Parkinson’s disease (PD) and knowing that studies show that PD results from exposure to pesticides, I would think the article would be far more pro-organic than it appears.
If you can reduce your exposure to any toxin, do it! Do you think organic prices are worth reduced pesticide exposure ?
I’d like to know what you think. Please read the article above and share your thoughts on organic versus conventional farming.
Unless you grow your own food, how much can you account for that plant’s purity? But wait, there’s more–is your plant (GMO) genetically modified? Do you even know? How can you know for certain?
Technical advances and food production have made supposed advances and modifications, but at what cost to the consumer? Food packaging has more information than ever and yet it takes a chemical engineer or an hour on Google to decipher the preservatives, gums, fillers, sugar substitutes, or anything that may be artificially infused. More information is better as long as the data is understandable, pertinent, and accurate.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our food history were posted on our packaging? The package would tell us when the veggies were picked, how long it took them to get to market, and if they were sprayed with any kind of pesticide, i.e. Roundup (which studies since 2003 have been saying may lead to Parkinson’s Disease)? Eating organic is probably the healthiest of our options but unless we grew it ourselves, what assures us that our fruits and veggies are untainted?
Something to ponder, today.
A new Harvard study performed over 20 years with 110,000 participants on red meat consumption, showed strong evidence for drastically reducing or eliminating red meat from one’s diet. The report did not make the major network news that I watched last night nor did I see it in the major newspaper that I read today.
As a longtime vegetarian, I can tell you that I have seen and experienced so many benefits to keeping on a vegetarian diet. My energy level improved, as did my digestion, the absorption of my meds, as well as my overall health. I am passionate about being vegetarian, not fanatical.
Some people reading this with an open mind may want to try this and slowly implement more veggies and less or even no meat into their lives. Some will be less likely to consider a dietary change at all. All I can tell you is that for 20+ years, vegetarianism has treated me well.
If you decide to try Vegetarianism, you should consult your doctor(s).
I paid the price for trying to save some time on the return from my vacation to Seattle. In the hope of maximizing my schedule, I elected to take a red-eye, only to return with a nasty flu bug that has cost me a week of productivity, discomfort, and general health. Even worse, my best friend and bride, Angela, suffered a more severe version of stomach flu, thus disturbing her digestion and resulting in a close call with severe dehydration. The dehydration led us to an urgent care facility. It was not a night to relish.
I avoid emergency rooms, clinics, hospitals, or any place that houses needles or scalpels. Needless to say, when my spouse began experiencing stomach cramps, backache, nausea, vomiting, severe thirst, loss of appetite, and diarrhea, I knew it was time to punt and call on the medical community. Angela no longer could hold fluid down without severe cramping and/or nausea or vomiting. After 2 days of no sustenance and minimal liquids, this was getting more and more worrisome. We both worried about the other’s malaise and colorless face. We tried to take care of one another in our stupors but neither of us barely had the energy to do anything but sleep and even that was a challenge, at times.
It was Friday night at 7PM when we arrived at the emergency care facility. There was a calm before the storm in the waiting room, for screaming children, bleeding noses, and paramedics would be by to join us shortly. There was no wait at the counter, as we explained why we were there. We would explain at least 3 more times later to the doctor, nurses, and staff. Following the paperwork, waiting in the lounge, and watching a news story on an at large serial killer, I was anxious to see my wife experience some relief from her constant stomach and body aches.
After what seemed to be an eternity, we were called in and Angela received a gurney and sheet thinner than a tissue. She was unable to get comfortable and the staff did little to try. The gown was neither flattering nor thermally functional. Following several warnings to anyone who would listen, we explained that Angela’s veins even when hydrated were a challenge to locate, but with 2 days of severe dehydration, connecting with any fresh hemoglobin would take a detective with remarkable talent. After 3 nurses, 1 lab tech, and a doctor, Angela had bruises, needle holes, but no IV fluid bags that she needed so badly. Two hours of tension, frustration, and being in a hostile environment was enough for us.
We elected to scrap the IV, give Angela a dissolving anti-nausea pill so that she might take her own fluids at home, and get her resting comfortably back in her own bed. The pill broke the cycle and she soon was able to retain fluids and mended quickly. She still has the bruises from the needles that did her little good. The bruises are slowly fading–the memory is still quite vivid.
As we end the celebration of the 4th of July and the founding of our great nation, I thought it to be appropriate to discuss, freedom. There is no doubt that Parkinson’s disease or any other illness robs one o f their independence and freedom. Parkinson’s can make you less sure of your balance, endurance, and/or cognitive ability. Part of living with an illness is accepting help, if needed, but to try to remain as independent as you possibly are able.
As someone who has had Parkinson’s disease for over 25 years, I can assure you that the most beneficial action that you can make in your life is to take charge and get as healthy as you can. Here are some suggestions that have worked for me and may work for you:
- Stay active, be it yoga, walking, weights, or swimming–do something.
- If your speech needs help, look into finding a certified LSVT therapist to help you.
- Consider improving your digestion with a probiotic.
- Eat vegetarian or as low on the food chain as you can.
- Reduce your stress level through meditation.
- Keep your mind active and challenged.
- Avoid potent cleaning supplies, processed foods, and artificial odor products like cheap candles with infused odors that may cause headaches or worse.
These are just a few ways to possibly help you to regain some of your freedom and take back your life. You should discuss any changes with your doctor before making any major changes in your daily regimen. I am not a doctor. I’m just a guy telling you what works for me and hope that it might work for you too. What works for you?
Someone that I respect recently wrote an Op/Ed piece that I felt shined a more negative light on people who maintain a positive outlook on people dealing with Parkinson’s disease. My interpretation of the piece inferred that Michael J. Fox calling himself “lucky” or anyone who considers themselves lucky to have Parkinson’s, to be a “Pollyanna”. Pollyanna, (as I have read accounts and in full disclosure not read any of the books) went through extreme suffering but was grateful for what she did have. I see this trait as nothing but admirable. If seeing the glass half full as opposed to half empty, empty, or even dirty and cracked is Pollyannaish then paint me as a “Pollyanna”. Having lived over 25 of my 44 years of life with this challenging illness, I am not naive nor am I uneducated. I am well aware that this illness robs millions of people around the world of their ability to move, to work, or to function as they choose. The mind seems to get a mind all of its own and neither the mind nor the body wants to respond to one another.
Parkinson’s symptoms of tremor and rigidity appeared in my life at the early age of 17. I spent over 6 years without a diagnosis, never knowing what I was dealing with or how fast it might progress. Was I scared? Sure. Did I feel sorry for myself? Only, after I got booted out of Outward Bound for being considered a health risk to the rest of the hiking party did I feel a real loss, because of the bonds that I had made and my failure to complete what I had started. Thankfully though, my dismissal from hiking the rugged mountains of North Carolina led me to my last 3 or 4 doctors who finally diagnosed me with Parkinson’s disease. Not until years later, did I realize that it took my leaving the group to get diagnosed and move on with my life.
The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease for most people, can be sheer shock and devastation, or sometimes provide a sense of relief such as, “I had a feeling that it might be Parkinson’s” is heard from someone newly diagnosed who was looking for the culprit behind the symptoms.
As a support group leader, a frequent speaker, an active advocate for Parkinson’s disease issues, and as an attendee at several conferences a year on issues related to Parkinson’s disease, I can honestly say that those people dealing with Parkinson’s disease who keep a positive outlook, appear to be doing far better than those who are less positive. Staying positive is a choice.
Once I received a diagnosis, I had an idea of what I was up against. Usually, people with early or young-onset Parkinson’s disease symptoms progress slower than older patients. The Disease can impair both mind and body, cognitive function, memory, speech, swallowing, balance, gait, posture, and numerous other challenges. Parkinson’s can unleash an array of physical and mental complications and with side-effects from Parkinson’s medicines almost every patient can have a unique combination of symptoms . Some people with Parkinson’s show little to no obvious physical impairments but may suffer strictly from cognitive issues or vice versa.
The really good news is that as bad as this illness is or may seem, there are numerous therapies, medications, exercises, doctors, and classes, support groups out there that can make a difference in your life and help you change your life for improvement. While I don’t discuss DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) surgery, I have seen it help many friends and for some it has not been as positive.
Parkinson’s has taught me to appreciate every day, to appreciate and to truly be grateful for the good things and the simple pleasures in my life. Whether one has Parkinson’s disease or is in perfect health, the realization that a positive outlook not only makes you feel better but makes those around you feel better as well. I didn’t choose to spend the majority of my life with Parkinson’s disease, but I did. Sure, illness throws roadblocks and detours in the path, but that’s where the ability to adapt and creativity come into play. Any illness can change how you see yourself and may get in the way of your perception of who you really are. This is an opportunity to take a hard look at your life and observe that maybe a change in lifestyle is in order. Reducing stress and altering your life for the better in diet, exercise, and complementary therapies on top of neurological care can have a tremendous impact on mood and well-being .
I hope and wish for a cure for all of us. Until the puzzle of Parkinson’s disease is solved, I believe the best course of action is to stay informed, take the best care of your body and mind as you can, take your meds on time, eat low on the food chain, eat organic, and get your rest.
If every day were sunny and warm could you truly appreciate the loveliness without experiencing those cold gray damp days of winter? The balance of life exposes us to pain because without it, there is no knowing pleasure.
Take stock in the fact that people care about you. Focus on the simple things in your life that you can appreciate, like having a comfortable place to sleep, clean air and water, the beauty of Nature around, and so many more details of life.
I would like to know what you think.
A new release on the benefits of fruits and flavonoids is out and medical researchers are touting the potential benefits. As a long-term vegetarian and proponent of fruits and berries, it comes as no surprise. I am happy to see this news though. I truly believe that the lower you eat on the food chain, the healthier you’ll be. Here is the link to the new report on fruit.
As another Thanksgiving nears and I am forced to realize that this holiday differs from all the others before, because this is my first Thanksgiving without Mom. The one year anniversary of my mother’s death is coming. My mother used to say that Thanksgiving was her holiday. In her heyday, no one could prepare a feast the way she could. From the gravy and cranberry sauce to the pecan pie, Mom’s care in preparing a family smorgasbord was a loving tribute to her family and a memory that I will cherish as long as I live. It’s a memory for which I am thankful.
Though Thanksgiving’s actual historic meaning is not representative of my interpretation of the day, it is my belief that there is no more opportune time than now to express your love, gratitude, and appreciation for those people in your circle who make your life better. Giving thanks can be anything from a hug or handshake of recognition to whatever your conscience feels is a suitable way of expressing your appreciation.
Even with the world in chaos and the economy in the drink, there is much to be thankful for. In the hardest of times some individuals thrive while others merely survive which is still no small accomplishment. Maintaining a realistic yet positive perspective on one’s outlook on the future makes your life and those who you encounter more enriched and loved.
I am thankful for:
1. Living in the United States where freedom, individuality, and independence is more than an ideal but an actual reality.
2.Having a loving wife who loves me in spite of my flaws and imperfections.
3. Going to bed with little fear and waking with the same.
4. Even after having Parkinson’s disease for over 25 years, my meds still work and I am able to function.
5. My senses and the ability to use them.
6. My family, animal companions, and friends who care about me and want to make the world a better place.
7. Reiki, which has brought peace, healing, and clarity to my life.
8. Humor for reminding me that serious is relative.
9. The opportunity to live, learn, and assist.
10. The Mute button on my television remote.
What are you thankful for this year?