There is a beast inside me. The beast is not my Parkinson's illness. The beast is myself. Parkinson's is just the empty cage. Let me explain, because although this is difficult reading, I believe it is important to share this epiphany.
There is a beast within me which has a dual nature. Both the hunted and the hunter. The predator and the prey.
The first aspect of this beast is a timid, frightened dormouse, threatened by all-comers, whiskers ever twitching, eyes ever alert, heart ever racing. Afraid to sleep. Scuttling from one dark corner to another. Yes, I was ever afraid. I was ever hyper-vigilant, hyper-sensitized. The night terrors as a child. The painful shyness as a teenager. The very bad case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome that plagued me for decades. The sensitivity to noise. The anxious behaviors and thoughts. So full of self-doubt.
The other aspect of the beast is a top-of-the-food-chain alpha-male. A wolverine, who will sink in teeth and claws and never, ever let go unless you play dead. Always sniffing for the smell of fear or blood, ready to strike. My choice of a first career fed this beast. The shark pool of science, the highly competitive viper's nest of academia was a rich hunting ground for the beast's animal intelligence. This avatar of me grew and grew with my arrogance as I dominated the global conversation of my subject areas. I developed the ability to argue anyone in to the ground. The need to have the last word. The need to be the top predator, to be the very best, to excel. To win. The wolverine in me takes no prisoners, has no compassion, is without mercy. Especially for myself. It is without self-recrimination.
And the name of this two-faced beast?
Both aspects became stronger parts of my personality and I let them. I fed them. Because Flight-Or-Fright enabled my detachment. The beast does not need higher emotion, is not self-aware, has no responsibility. Fight-or-Flight is, in a sense, easy, it's just a set of automatic responses. I can now see that in hindsight, I let Gary - my cognitive human nature - get a bit lost between these two extremes.
But something happened, and I don't know yet what that was, perhaps a cumulative effect of physical or mental health issues, or a perfect storm of circumstances which took away my control, or even just the awakening of self-awareness as I matured. Whatever the trigger, i believe this happenstance is when my Parkinson's symptoms started. My best guess is it was the onset of the extreme, permanent pain of thoracic outlet syndrome, because this trapped nerve issue occurred at the very same time as my Parkinson's symptoms also arrived on the scene.
The beast was trapped now by things which were beyond it's control. So it found itself caged. The dormouse no longer could run, had nowhere to hide. The wolverine could only pace back and forth, back and forth, forever hungry. What I now believe to be true is that when my dominant Fight-Or-Flight beast became locked down by circumstance, it was no longer free to roam or express itself. When this occurred a new beast emerged and quickly became the dominant force.
And the name of the new beast?
Only through Out-Thinking Parkinson's could I have ever understood any of this, could I have ever written this. Because this journey, reflecting back now, has been about finding the tools by which I can now start looking myself in the mirror and understanding that the reflection is, actually, myself. This recognition of images of ourselves is something which is unique to us higher thinking animals. The beast would never be able to have seen this. All the interventions we have been pursuing are really about awakening my higher human nature and letting myself out of the cage of Parkinson's. Letting Gary grow and mature.
I sincerely hope in sharing this painful story, it will help others start to thinking about what they will need to address in order to recover fully and also to begin to understand for themselves that Parkinson's is a lot more complex than simply physical brain damage. Because I have grown enough now to share something more with you. The cure for my Parkinson's cannot simply come in the form of a pill or an operation, because there is much more to it. I need to address the parts of the root cause which are to do with mental and emotional wellness first. Without acquiring full self-realization and coming to terms with the beasts, I don't believe that my full recovery will be possible. Just letting the beast out of the Parkinson's cage with a pill could be dangerous.
Seven years in the cage has taught the dormouse all about terror.
Seven years in the cage has made the wolverine mad with ravenous hunger which will never be sated.
What might be unleashed by a chemical cure which does not address the problems in my life, the flaws in my personality, which preceded Parkinson's?
Now we all have these beasts within us of course, but I believe that people who express these aspects more strongly may be more prone to Parkinson's. The problem is that the current treatment paradigms pay no attention whatsoever to any precusor mental/emotional health issues nor do they account for personality type. I now understand that this current approach to Parkinson's needs to change and change quickly.
It really is a little more complex than that, once you start thinking about it from the inside out.