Watch Out for Those Good Days!
“Oh my gosh! The presentation was amazing. And I’m not just saying that because I’m your partner.”
It was my first presentation about my experience with Parkinson’s, and it flowed smoothly. It had been a long time since I was in front of an audience, reaching out and connecting. Time was suspended, and I found my bliss again. I was bounding around the house like a young boy who had gotten his first bike for Christmas.
Riding the wave of unbridled enthusiasm, I said, “Now there is nothing stopping Dr. C from becoming famous!” I turned my head slightly and gave my partner a wry smile. My partner gave me “the look.”
The next day, I crashed emotionally and physically because I had let the excitement of the previous day run free without restraint, to the point where the consequences were unhealthy — the opposite of what the bliss experience should provide. I know I’m supposed to watch out for those good days because they will sneak up on me.
Threshold management is the practice of calming emotional input before thinking or reacting to that input. This calming practice helps to prevent a buildup of emotional energy that can toss someone over the threshold.
My previous columns have focused on emotions like irritability and anger. Getting overly excited about good things in life can create just as many problems as getting worked up about bad ones. If I keep threshold management practices in place during a good day, then the crash doesn’t have negative consequences.
Exploring the possibility of discovering new, early Parkinson’s symptoms continues to be of major concern to me. In some Parkinson’s patients, emotional signal input is heightened, or the brain’s normal filtering mechanisms are diminished, causing the emotional signal to appear heightened.
Parkinson’s patients can have one or more of the following: depression, anxiety, and impulse control. With the recent increase in the severity of my symptoms, I now get surges of depression, anxiety, and an annoyingly loud startle response. Absurdly, I was startled the other day by a loud crash from a blob of shampoo falling from soapy hair and hitting the shower floor.
Prior to Parkinson’s, I had no history of these emotional responses. Exaggerated input on good days is my new life. I feel like I’ve gone past the borders of my wellness map. I am taking my explorer’s machete out of the toolkit and blazing a path to new wellness practices.
In addition to practicing threshold management to keep excitement from running rampant, two other practices help me to stay balanced during the good times. The first is, “Don’t chase after the blissful feelings.” The second is, “Accept the good day as it presents itself and channel your energy accordingly.” Part of what fuels my excitement running rampant is chasing after it because I want it to last longer.
An interesting phenomenon occurs during good days: My Parkinson’s symptoms are less severe, sometimes strikingly so. I noticed this with other pleasure-related experiences as well, such as enjoyment from creativity, an excellent movie, or a romantic evening with my partner.
The positive effects of bliss are more powerful and longer lasting. Even so, all of my pursuit of blissful feelings results in negative consequences. Chasing things that feel good is composed of habitual thought and action. It can be changed.
We all have different things that we do to help us feel better. Maybe it’s a hot shower with the warm water massaging sore muscles. Or it might be a good book at night where we can escape into the writer’s world. It becomes a problem when chasing after feeling good replaces constructively changing thought and action to become more open to experiencing well-being moments.
This is not easy. It’s not about perfect abstinence. It’s about paying attention to that big neon sign that says, “Caution! Chasing risk ahead.”
One of my rules regarding human change is that you can’t change something into nothing. If you’re seeking to remove a behavior — chasing after feeling good, for example — it is difficult to be successful if you’re just asking the behavior to be gone. Once the behavior is gone, there is a void, an empty space where a thought or action response used to go. If another thought or action is not put into that void, then the old thought and action will return more quickly than you can snap your fingers.
Fortunately, seeking acceptance offers us just what we need: The good days can be handled in the same way that we handle the bad ones. We calmly accept what the good days bring just like we calmly accept the bad ones. It’s a pathway full of possibilities.
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.