Managing speech issues with Parkinson’s — one day at a time
What do skipping rope and Parkinson's speech issues have in common?
Before I knew I had Parkinson’s disease, or even what it was, my family lost their collective mind. They insisted I was whispering and they couldn’t hear what I was saying.
I still remember thinking they were all crazy. Were they gaslighting me? Why would they do that? Was something wrong with their hearing? Because nothing was wrong with me!
Fast forward eight years: “Saaaaa … Saaat … Saaatur … Saaaturrday!”
What I mean to say is “Saturday.” For some strange reason (oh, yes, Parkinson’s), saying the word “Saturday” is especially challenging. I can say any other day of the week, but the “day after Friday,” as my husband now refers to it, challenges me.
Speech issues are pretty common for those of us with Parkinson’s. Before I had deep brain stimulation (DBS) in 2021, speaking softly was the worst of my speech issues. But now? Sometimes I struggle to get the words out. Sometimes I sound a bit drunk. Sometimes I feel like giving up on talking at all.
One of the particularly strange things about my speech is that it’s affected by emotion, just like my tremor used to be. Watch a sad movie? I can hardly talk! Super happy at my daughter’s wedding? I can hardly talk! Tired? I can’t talk at all!
The tremor version of this is that I shake, I shake more, and I shake like nobody is watching. I’m the human mood ring.
Speech therapy seemed to help, but I’m lazy and don’t practice often enough. Why can’t I sound like a normal person? I wonder. Why does everything take so much effort?
The last time I was at an appointment with my neurologist, she adjusted my DBS settings to hopefully help my speech. Now my feet tremor more. It’s a bit of a trade-off, and I’m not sure what the solution is at this point, or even what I want — less tremor or better speech? What a choice.
Figuring it out
As I write this, I’m reminded of skipping. What? What does skipping have to do with speech?
Well, before I had DBS, I skipped as part of my fitness routine. I enjoyed it for a couple of reasons: It was fun, and nothing seemed to prompt more smiles at the gym than when people saw this old gal skipping her heart out. I smile just remembering it.
After DBS, however, I struggled with that skipping rope. Instead of going up and down, my feet wanted to zigzag and crisscross. Nobody was smiling when I skipped. Rather, they’d avert their eyes. It didn’t feel good at all, so I stopped.
I told my husband I’d given up. He, of course, told me I couldn’t give up, and that if it was hard, it meant I just had to try harder. Darn it, his inspirational speeches are annoying.
After several months, I decided to try skipping again. Remarkably, I could — and still can — skip. You see where I’m going with this now? Maybe if I just give myself some time, be kind to myself, and keep on trying, I’ll get this speech thing figured out.
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.