I had some fear yesterday

Yesterday afternoon was a different type of day for me.

I had a few tremors in my hands. But then my neck began to tremble to the point if felt like it as moving back and forth. I’ve experienced this before when under great stress, but yesterday it was different. I didn’t feel unusually stressed.

Actually I was looking forward to going outside to shovel snow in the front and back of the house. As I was walking out the door, my legs began to tremble. I had some difficulty turning around. It seems as though my body wouldn’t move. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. Then my legs began to tremble so severely that I began to bounce up and down while walking out the door.

Chad offered to shovel for me but he had a cold and a sore shoulder. I told him to stay in the house. I thought maybe the shoveling would help to reduce the ‘nervous’ tremulousness I felt both inside and outside. I was shoveling and actually I began to tear up.

A sense of reality hit me that perhaps I was getting worse. “Maybe the books are right. Maybe I do only have 3-7 years before this disease takes me over completely.”

But I remained optimistic by telling myself that it was a temporary Jeckyll and Hyde phenomena of Lewy Body Dementia.

Of course, I had to pretend that nothing was happening. I didn’t want to upset Pam and Chad. Am I stupid or what? They saw it happening right in front of their eyes!

Why do I bring this up? I’m not sure. That’s why I have this blog. Just to write down some feelings and events. I’ll just accept what happened yesterday and not worry about it.

I still remain hopeful. This disease is no different than another long-term chronic disease. What about those who are in wheelchairs? Those who have rapid declines from terminal cancer? On and on and on. If I think about it, I could get hit by a truck tomorrow. So, I guess what I’ve learned as I’m typing is just to live the rest of today. We can’t worry about what’s going to happen in the future. It never works out the way we thought it would. Just think about vacations. The best part of the vacation is the fantasy of what it will be like. Does it ever turn out like we thought it would? No.


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The Beginning of My Story

I’ve been feeling foggy all day long but have pushed myself to try to learn all about blogging and to get my blog up and running. There was a time I could have learned it real fast but these days it really feels like work. This is good I think. It probably forces some brain cells to make new connections with other ones.

So, the blog site is plain and simple. Guess I can always spruce it up and add new things as time goes on. But I think it’s best to just start writing. I have to give credit to several people who have inspired me to start a blog — and I don’t even know them. In an attempt to reach out to help others and to make some positive contributions to this world, I joined several Yahoo Groups focusing on dementia, the caregivers and the victims of dementia. Voilà! It clicked. They were right. Starting writing everything down while I can. Even though I’m optimistic and plan to live another 70 years with a ‘decent’ mind, writing can only help others as well as me. I sometimes forget that journaling (an account of day-to-day events, a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections) is a strong psychotherapeutic tool. I’ve asked patients to do it. Now it is my turn. Let’s see just what happens. To be truthful, I’ve always seen blogging as a ‘selfish’ sort of thing. Talking about one’s self. Who in the world really cares what people write about? Low and behold now I’m doing it. Maybe I’m more selfish than I thought.

Even though I haven’t felt with it today, I feel exhilarated and excited about learning something new like blogging. It helped me through the day. I now have more of a purpose in life and can get to go to “work” everyday by writing. They say men identify themselves by their job. I had a very solid sense of self when I functioned as a physician. A definite role. A certain expectation. Strong responsibilites. All that is now gone. Who am I? Why am I still alive and here on earth? What good am I? What purpose do I serve? I don’t know the answers right now. Maybe I never will. But there is a reason I’m sure. Time will help. I was always  taught that all things work for good for those who love the Lord. Now I must accept that and move on one day at a time. Am I religious? NO. Spiritual, yes. I grew up in organized religion which has shaped my life, morals, ethics, etc. Oh, yes, I am a sinner, no doubt about that. But still loved by God. I swear sometimes, think bad things about other people and am not the most “Christ-like person.” I expect so much from myself which has carried over into expecting more from others. When it doesn’t happen, I get too judgmental. So God, help me.

Getting back to the summer of 2007. We were living in wine country in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area. I worked in a large forensic psychiatric hospital with job security, benefits, a nice home, adequate finances and felt fairly happy and content in life. But something was wrong. I couldn’t put it into words. I felt work was harder so I just chalked it up to stress on the job and intense responsibilities. At that time, I was temporarily acting as the Medical Director of the hospital. My dear friend and colleague who was the Medical Director had been out on sick leave for a serious medical illness. Jeff, I miss you and love you. You have taught me much. Thank you for that.

So I felt the stress was getting to me. I would have to go to bed between 8 or 9 PM every night in order to get up at 6 the next morning and to function. I just kept telling myself that I needed to relax and to not take the job so seriously. Try to be a little less conscientious. Maybe that would help. I noticed that I began to have some difficulty concentrating during meetings. My typing skills seemed to decline. My fingers and hands would shake and shake while typing. My neck and head would shake. David, you must stop the coffee. But I argued with myself that only 1 cup of coffee in the morning shouldn’t do that. I even considered seeing a neurologist, a physician that deals with the nervous system and disorders affecting it. Gosh, maybe I had the beginning of Parkinson’s Disease and didn’t know it. But I poo pooed that notion and tried to forget about the tremors. Then one morning I was in the Human Resources Department to meet with the Director. I will never forget it. He said, “Doc. You’re shaking. Your head is shaking a lot.” Lord have mercy……..he hit a tender spot. At that moment I knew something was wrong but I maintained my denial. I told him I just had too much coffee for breakfast. I felt embarrassed and ashamed because I didn’t know why I couldn’t control the tremors in my hands, arms, neck and head. But they didn’t last long. Maybe I had them once or twice and day and that was it. They didn’t last. So, David, forget it. It’s just stress.

One morning in June 2007, I said goodbye to Pam and left for work. I felt no different than any other morning. I glanced in the rear view mirror to check on the cars behind me. What I saw scared me. The right side of my face began to droop and to swell up. All of a sudden the wrinkles in my forehead disappeared on the right side. I tried to move my facial muscles only to find that my smile wasn’t even any more. I had to put on my sunglasses. My eyes suddenly felt very sensitive to light. Oh my God. I’m having a stroke. But I didn’t have any other symptoms of a cardiovascular accident (CVA) — a stroke. So I drove to the hospital in no pain and feeling concerned but not enough to take it seriously. Funny how medical professionals tends to rationalize their own physical problems so readily. I walked into my office only to see and to hear the 2 secretaries look at me and say, “What’s wrong with you. You look like you’re having a stroke. You’d better get to the emergency room right away.” I honestly don’t remember what happened then. Somehow I had a memory lapse and the next thing I knew I was in the emergency room. After several days of admission and too many test, I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy.

Enough for tonight. See ya’ll tomorrow.

Dr. David

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