Monday, June 30, 2008

Carping Tunnel-Vision Syndrome

ABOVE: Shipwrecked by Parkinson's Disease

As a cartoonist, I carp for a living. One of the hazards of my job is that the first thing I do each day (after the ritual swallowing of pills and a trip to the bathroom) is look to see what the worst news is in our paper. From the Supreme Court to the lowliest local pol, I begin my day with the malefactor who did the most damage since the last time I checked. (By the way, did you notice that I'm ALREADY carping here? I'm a natural!)

This is like startin' your mornin' with a steamin' hearty bowl o' hot, nutritious worms. After a while it colors your attitude toward humanity. God only knows how the reporters who cover the courts and child welfare avoid becoming misanthropes, and I suppose many do.

Paradoxically, Parkinson's Disease has been the antidote for my case of mild misanthropy. While I loathe having this disorder, it has provided a mirror image alternate to the viewpoint brought on by watching the bozo parade.

Instead of dwelling amid the latest creative disasters of the inept and the evil, I'm a Gulliver in reverse. Being shipwrecked by Parkinson's Disease has fetched me up gasping and coughing on the Island of the Caring and the Competent.

It is another world. The inhabitants there are the likes of our friend Betty. Betty lost her husband to Parkinson's Disease. As far as I am concerned enduring that earned her a free pass on ever having to face PD again. Betty disagrees. She has volunteered for years as the voice of experience to care partners who need light on their lonely road. She often leads separate sessions for them during our monthly support group meetings. It is one of the most important services our little Parkinson's club offers.

It is the world of Dr. Dave Heydrick, a neurologist with Parkinson's who has put his intelligence, humor, charm and discipline into the mission of uncovering all he can about coping with PD and passing his learning along to the rest of us. Dave is a man who provides those of us drafted into this battle with the precious and indispensable commodity of credible hope.

It is the world of Bill Bell. When Bill's mother got diagnosed, Bill became her advocate. On finding so little support for area people with Parkinson's and their families, he went on to become an advocate for everyone in the Pacific Northwest. Smart, and an unusual combination of the good-natured and the hard-nosed, Bill put his talent and energy into running the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation. His newsletter now goes around the world, but he still seems to know and take an interest in every person with Parkinson's in the Northwest.

It is the wider world of researchers and doctors who devote amazing creativity, skill and discipline to taking care of patients and taking this disease down. To read about deep brain stimulation or gene therapy is to glimpse what seems like science fiction come alive.

I can't say I'm happy about the circumstances that brought me to this place where the people are busy trying to make the world better, and succeeding at it. But I'm amazed and grateful that it exists.


Anonymous said...

Oh, how well I understand what you mean...

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Just call me the PD Pollyanna :)

Anonymous said...

(this is off the point, but)

PDS said: "God only knows how the reporters who cover the courts and child welfare avoid becoming misanthropes"

Misanthropy would seem to be an occupational hazard/disease for lawyers and mental heath professional ("shrinks").

Lawyers become cynical since they are hired to fix things when they go wrong - when partners cheat, when criminals injure, etc.

Shrinks seem to see behavior in terms of illness - even behavior we would see as normal.

Not so bad in the former case, since attorneys are hired to fix things (sue, litigate, settle, negotiate) and then withdraw.

MPH's are presumed to aid healing - but if this means changing the "normal" - or failing to recognize the normal - then "healing" becomes striving to change the normal.

And, unlike the legal client, the mental health client has no clear event to signal the separation.