Thursday, March 24, 2011

Smiley Crisis

Smiley faces may look innocent, even bland. Don't let the little bastards fool you. That innocuous icon can plunge an unwary soul into startling existential awareness, ripping off the band-aid of denial with a smart sting. One moment you are methodically filling out an online form, the next you are confronted with the unwelcome shock that your relation to reality has significantly shifted without you noticing.

Here's what happened. I have been using the online tool I mentioned a few posts back to track my medications against my on-off cycle. I had run through the process several times and it was becoming familiar. I came to the final step where the program asks you to give a general snapshot of your "wellness" by clicking one of three icons. The choices are a smiley face (feeling good), a non-committal neutral face (feeling average), or a frownie face (feeling bad).

I was about to pick the smiley face when it hit me. Whoa, not so (relatively) fast Parkie boy. You feel good compared to what? The fact is that with PD, I am more likely to aspirate saliva and erupt in a coughing spasm, more apt to have difficulty speaking and being heard, subject to weird involuntary motions if over medicated, and unable to move normally if too far between doses. Yet at that moment, despite whatever symptom I was experiencing, I honestly thought I felt better than average.

That's when I realized how far I had come in incorporating my illness into my self. A different, healthy me who was experiencing the symptoms that I felt would have chosen the frownie face. That is, I would have chosen Mr. Frownie after a quick search for the sheer primordial panic face. But the person that I am, having lived now for more than nine years with various symptoms, has evolved a new scale for quality of life that locates "good" where it's safe to say most healthy people would find the opposite.

Humans are adapters. That's why we're found everywhere on Earth in all seasons, from Point Barrow in January to the Sahara in August. Where adaptation calls for moving we become nomads. Thoreau wrote that he had traveled extensively in Concorde. I've come farther than I ever suspected in Parkinson's Disease.

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