I recently read an article from a fellow Parkinson's blogger, Allison (The Perky Parkie) which had an impact on me. The article spoke of an individual who was in a therapy session with her; he'd experienced a traumatic brain injury due to an auto accident and was trying to 'come to grips' with the consequences of that accident. He had a lot of issues - anger, emotional outbursts, cognitive impairment - stemming from the fact that down inside he was trying to 'get back' to the way he was before his accident - in fact, he referred very often to himself in the third person. It was during this therapy with Allison that he realized that he was never going to be that version of himself ever again - that person was now a part of him in the 'here and now'. Once he accepted this, he said that it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders; that he knew now he didn't - no couldn't - be that 'perfect' unrealistic person that he thought he was before, and he had to just accept himself as he is now.
Old vs. New
After reading her post on this, I, like Allison, began to think about myself - about how I was before I was diagnosed and how I am now. A lot of things flooded my mind.... I looked down deep to see if I had ever thought about myself in the same way - in terms of the 'old' Tom (before my PD diagnosis) vs. the 'new' Tom (after my PD diagnosis) - and I realized that yes, there were times I also tried to be 'like I was before' which, in our case with Parkinson's, is a futile attempt.
So for this blog I thought I would share a little bit of these thoughts that came to mind - if I did compare - between what I was before and what I am now.
The Old Tom
The most obvious difference between the 'old' Tom and myself now are, of course, the physical differences. Before PD the 'old' Tom didn't think twice about running up the stairs; now I am much more slow and cautious - and I use the hand rail most of the time now to help steady me. The 'old' Tom only took a few pills in the morning - vitamins, allergy, etc. - and never thought much about it; now I am stuck taking pills 4-5 times per day - and if I forget my body and brain let me know rather quickly! The only stiffness the 'old' Tom ever felt was a little arthritis in his hands, or some in his body after a strenuous workout; now I feel it pretty much throughout a large part of my body during parts of the day - especially when the meds are wearing out! The 'old' Tom - even though he was 'up there' in age - had a lot of energy; but I no longer sleep all that well and so instead of having a surplus of energy I have a lot of fatigue each day. The 'old' Tom would never have needed to get a handicap parking placard - he could walk from the end of the parking lot to the other if need be; but I do need that handicap placard because it is much easier to get into a store via the closer handicap parking when my meds are not working very well. The 'old' Tom would have laughed and said "No way, man! Never in a million years!!" when someone would have mentioned getting two wires with electrodes surgically implanted deep into his brain (DBS); yet that is exactly that I had done almost 1 year ago - and I have to say I am glad I did it!
And it's probably a good thing I am not working now - you see, the 'old' Tom could type a mile-a-minute; now I have trouble just typing up these blog entries! It's not just stiff fingers, but a lot of the time my brain says one thing and my fingers do another - which results in a lot of backspacing to correct errors!
There are some mental differences as well: The 'old' Tom could multitask without any problems - he could be working on the computer and talking with someone at the same time with no problem. Now, I can't concentrate as good as I used to - I have to stop what I am doing and concentrate on the one task - otherwise I am like the adults in the Charlie Brown Peanuts strip - all I hear is 'Whah Whah Wa Wa Wah Blah Blah Blah'! The 'old' Tom never worried that much about the future - he thought of retirement and all the stuff he was going to do... I now try not to think about the future too much - without that 'cure' that we are hoping for, I pretty much know how things are going to end - and more than likely it isn't going to be pretty.
Even my personality has changed a bit since being diagnosed: The 'old' Tom had a lot more patience with people and things; but I don't have near that amount of patience anymore - especially when I am not feeling well. I am sure that is an effect of the disease itself - PD makes it harder sometimes to do things or even explain things to others - which just makes me even more frustrated than I would be without Parkinson's.
The New Tom
But then I also considered that there are a few good differences between the 'old' me and the 'new' me: The 'old' Tom was always trying to go 'faster and faster' - it's just the way he was; I, on the other hand, have tried to slow down - not just because I have to but because I want to - 'Stop and smell the roses' as they say. The 'old' Tom would never have thought that he could write anything that anyone would read; I, of course, am writing this blog now and hopefully it is helping someone out there to cope a little bit better. The 'old' Tom had to work five days a week; I - now that I am retired due to the Parkinson's - have more time to do some of those things I always wanted to do - while I still can.
The 'old' Tom took a lot of things for granted; I now, however, am thankful for the simple things - for instance, just being able to get up in the morning without having my feet all cramped up due to dystonia - and thankful for the DBS that helped rid me of that issue. I find I notice a lot more of the 'little things' in life now - things the 'old' Tom may never have took much notice of before.
There are more good differences that I can think of... but most importantly, the 'old' Tom rushed through life a mile a minute; now I try to take one day at a time, and enjoy it as much as possible - as the good Lord says, 'Tomorrow will take care of itself'.
Considering It All
This is just a small portion of what came to mind after reading Allison's article; and as I mentioned at the beginning, after I had sat and considered all this, I began to realize that I also had at times wanted to - if not tried - to get back to that 'old' Tom.... maybe not to the extent that Allison's friend did, but in little ways - maybe just as simple as wishing that I was 'normal' again. But I realize now that no matter what, that 'old' Tom is, in a sense, gone forever - he disappeared at 8:30am on that Monday in July 2014 when the phone call came telling him that he had Parkinson's Disease - and he's never coming back. If there is any vestiges of the 'old' Tom around, he has been fully absorbed into my current being. But even if a cure would be found tomorrow, I've been irrevocably changed forever by my Parkinson's diagnosis - in the way I think, in the way I act, in the way I view the past and future. Am I sad about losing the 'old' Tom? Well, sure, sometimes - after all I am human. But you know, I guess I'm happy with the 'new' Tom - which really is not 'new' but rather me, now, here in this time and place. Even with all the bad that came with PD, I am blessed to be only in the early stages of the disease; I have had DBS which helped with my symptoms; I have a beautiful and loving spouse; I'm retired and can take life somewhat easier now - no more rushing here and there in order to earn a paycheck; and I have my faith in God for the future.
So yeah, I guess I'm OK with myself as I am now. Besides, there is nothing else I can do - to try to remake me in a past version of myself is simply impossible. So I, like Allison and her friend, have accepted that and will continue moving forward. It's the only way one can have some peace of mind - and that, my friends, is a good thing!