Where have I been, you ask? Apparently it’s been about 18 months since my last blog post, and I am just now trying to answer that question for myself. A better phrasing of the query might be “WHO have I been?”, and then the one that really punches me in the gizzard, “Why the hell are you back?”. That last one, though it does cut me deep, is the easiest to answer. I’m back to telling my story because of you ladies and gents who have convinced me that, despite a broken and sickly brain constantly poisoning my self-confidence, I still have a story that helps people. That really and truly is all that I have left to do with this cosmic eyeblink of a life. So let this long overdue essay serve as my sincere thanks to all of you who have reached out to say, “We’re rooting for you!” The time between July of 2016 and a few months ago is fractured into tiny islands of memory floating in the River Styx. Is that last bit too dramatic? Yeah, reading it back, it sounds like my writing. Maybe I really am on my way back. All I can do to recall this 18 month fugue state is hop from image to image and try to keep them in order. These are my experiences with PD and, as usual it will get dark, but hopefully, that just makes the other side of the tunnel that much brighter.
Ironborn Summer Smash, July 2016: To say it’s hot the day of the meet is a monumental understatement. The heat is inescapably dense. Looking back at pictures and videos, my dry, unsweating skin is a sure sign that Parkinson’s was definitely having a say on the day’s disastrous outcome. Earlier, I had missed my first squat in competition. A perfect squat record and my first ever attempt at 500+ lbs without knee wraps, gone to two red lights from the side judges. It’s ok though, I’m only here to deadlift, with my eyes on unofficially breaking the world record in my class of 666 lbs. As I try to pull on my deadlifting shoe, my abs cramp so hard on the right side that they stand out like knots the size of walnuts under the skin. Only the three on my right side mind you, and they would be sore for days afterwards. This is another shot to the autonomic nervous system from Parkinson’s called dystonia, and for some, it is absolutely debilitating. I’m lucky it’s only an occasional annoyance.
I step up to the bar for my opening attempt at 617. I’m not concerned at all. Five minutes ago, my last warm-up at 585 felt light even though I haven’t felt right all day. My body is a lava rock in a sauna, and the muscle tissue on my right side has dessicated from prime rib to beef jerky. Even still, I’ve hit this weight for 3 reps without a belt and months ago hit my personal record of 645, so I’m not worried…until it’s too late. A poor starting position leads to a slow pull that leaves no gas for the last few inches of the lockout. Inches that might as well be miles… The second attempt is over before I know it really begins. My head spins. Again, it doesn’t feel heavy, but with no balance, I have to drop it as I fall forward….Final attempt. No more thoughts of unofficial records. Just trying not to bomb out. This place is loud. I have inadvertently given myself one of those moments that any competitor lives for. I have the last lift of the day. I’ve failed it twice. The crowd at Ironborn Strength Gym is so loud that my ears buzz. I yell as I take my grip, but I barely hear it. All fire and no focus leads to the same faults and the same result. No score in the deadlift means my first disqualification. I’m proud of the effort, I like to think that I “failed while daring greatly”, but this one leaves a scar. It is a week before I feel physically right again and truthfully, damage is done.
Mom’s back patio, September 2016: I’m so angry and embarrassed that I am literally shaking (not just tremoring). If there is one thing that every Parky has in common, it’s the fear of becoming a burden to our family. I haven’t been able to work for months. With disability paying next to nothing, I have no choice but to live at my mom’s house. I take a little pride in the fact that I remodelled the kitchen for next to nothing years ago, and that I “have my own place” in a studio separate from the main house, but really, it’s just a foolish bit of pride trying to protect a proud man’s ego. I’ve raised my family, and raised them well, my ex-wife remains a good friend and my kids are all truly beautiful people and now, I have to sit here and be berated by my brother because he has to mow the lawn, as if we’re children. I wish I could still mow my own damned lawn. I wish that the vibration didn’t cause my hands to cramp and tremor. I wish I could still train or exert myself without being absolutely wrecked the next day or risking a heat stroke. My first ever episode of a PD-related impulse control issue is to throw a cup of water in his face. From there, things go downhill with a quickness. I still hate the fact that I lost control. I started the physical fight, but I am very glad, even now, that I never hit him with a closed fist. The right cross is on it’s way and on target, but at the last minute I see my little brother and open my fist into some kind of ridiculous looking open-palm face shove. It’s very hard to fight someone while pulling punches. At one point he throws a lawn chair. I caught it like a boss and set it down. I should have sat in it. Instead, I charge him, he reverses and I pull guard as if I know what I’m doing. (Though I’ve never lost a fight in my life, I don’t) Forgive my irreverence here. It’s how I have to deal with this situation, but it has honestly been the biggest source of pain I’ve had to cope with since my separation from my wife.
There is obviously more to this story, and truthfully, it was never going to be told at all, but it does have a huge lesson for family members and caregivers, so that’s the part that I’m telling here. I’m going to bet that I speak for an overwhelming majority of Parkies, but no one feels worse about the things that we can no longer do than we do. No one can ever hurt us as deeply as the people who are closest to us. It takes guts to keep an open heart, but damn it, we are here to experience all that we can in the time we have and that means living maximum effort, safeties off, and savage.
After trashing six hours worth of pointless and vapid writing yesterday, I got some great advice from two friends and fellow writers that I have a ton of respect for. Just write. Stream of consciousness. Flow state. Be the ball. Nananananananana…. Basically. Thanks Alex and Junior, and of course thank you all for following along. The best therapy for me personally is the thought that in sharing my struggles and my victories, I can pay it forward just a bit. More to come as I get caught up over the next few days, from the threshold of the 700 lb club, to being awake during brain surgery. From feeling cured to the deepest depression I could have imagined and finding my way through to my first competition this coming Saturday. Until then, Live. Your. Life.
Any and all donations to the campaign started by my friends at work are badly needed and greatly appreciated. This is my only source of income until my Social Security case is approved, a process that can take up to a year. If you can’t donate, I invite you to share both the campaign and/or this website.