Living in Excellent Health #27 — Advocating a Different Approach Through a Better Understanding of Dopamine and Meds!

NO DRUGS

In my last post, I mentioned that I had put aside a post that I had been working on for two weeks. It’s an important post and I offer it to you now.

I started taking Sinemet in December of 2019 after being medication-free for 16 years. Up until that point, I was a staunch opponent to the use of meds. Still am, actually.

I agreed to go on meds after finding myself in a state of immobility following six weeks of daily panic attacks and an adverse reaction to Lorazepam, an anti-anxiety medication. I worried myself into the panic attacks, in part because of what was going on in my life and in part because I didn’t understand how Bowen Therapy was affecting me [it was overloading my system with cortisol].

When I agreed to go on Sinemet, I was unaware of the wear-off rebound effect that comes with meds, nor did I understand how Sinemet works or how dopamine works. None of of these things were explained to me and I lacked the awareness necessary to know to ask the pertinent questions.

But when you understand how dopamine works and when you understand how Sinemet works you have to ask the question, is this the best approach for treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the substantia nigra, which is located in the mid-portion of the brain. Dopamine is involved in movement, motivation, excitement, reward and celebration. Whenever you have any of these experiences, there is a release of dopamine.

A lack of dopamine leads to movement disorders, including the symptoms of PD. It is thought that a die-off of dopamine producing neurons leads to this lack of dopamine, but it has not been proven conclusively, nor does medical science know why. Based on my own personal experience, I believe this deficiency of dopamine results mainly from being in a continuous state of fear, stress and worry, resulting in the body being in a constant state of fight-flight-freeze, where the brain and body stop producing feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones, including dopamine. Instead, it is producing the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. I mention this now, because I think understanding this influences how we proceed to correct this chemical imbalance.

According to Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University in California, the brain produces a continuous baseline level of dopamine in order to manage ongoing muscle activity, including that involved in breathing, digestion and blood circulation. Huberman says everyone’s baseline is different. He says our baseline level of dopamine is determined mainly by genetics and our personality. Some people are more enthusiastic and excitable, whereas others are more calm or nervous. I suspect that our experience in the first few formative years also play a role. If we are raised in an atmosphere of love, enthusiasm, praise and encouragement, we will likely have a higher baseline.

When you decide to initiate a movement or when you are feeling motivated to undertake an activity or when you are feeling excited about something, the brain releases a short burst of dopamine, causing it to rise above baseline. When the movement or activity is complete, or when the excitement is over, dopamine release falls below baseline levels in order to restore homeostasis [otherwise, there would be too much dopamine in our system which could lead to other complications, such as, schizophrenia].

Essentially, through this process, you get a short-term dopamine spike followed by a short-term fall off. It is like being on a teeter-totter. If one side of the teeter-totter rises above level then it must fall below level in order to balance out.

Also, according to Huberman, the dopamine boost related to specific experiences wears off over time as you become less excited about that experience.

These short-term spikes in dopamine levels associated with life experiences isn’t the way the meds work.

With PD meds, such as, Sinemet [carbidopa/levodopa], you get an extended flood of dopamine for two to four hours, followed by the equivalent duration and level of fall-off.

Initially [I suspect] you get an additional boost of dopamine from the anticipation and excitement of knowing you’re about to feel better. But this too wears off over time.

When you understand this, you must then ask yourself, is this really the best way to address the symptoms of PD; a rollercoaster of extended peaks and valleys, where you feel great and can move normally for a period of time while the meds are in effect, followed by an equivalent period of feeling really lousy, severe shaking and having great difficulty moving after the meds wear off?

Of course the medical community has found a way to deal with this conundrum. They do it by doling out more medications, such as extended release levodopa, or dopamine agonists … which are meant to increase the number of available dopamine receptors … or in-between meds that are taken during the down time.

This is a real dilemma. Ideally, we want to increase baseline dopamine levels and we want to do it naturally, because whether we take meds or focus on goal setting and reward/celebration exercises, we are essentially going against nature. We are constantly going through this peaks and valleys process, without raising baseline. What do we do?

In earlier podcasts, Huberman has talked about the neuroplasticity of the brain … the ability of the brain to heal itself … but he also says that neuroplasticity diminishes with age. This too creates a dilemma. Whatever we do may take awhile to produce results, if it produces any change at all. On this issue, I prefer to remain optimistic. Simply put, it is more beneficial.

Huberman says one of the best ways to increase dopamine, naturally, is through cold water therapy. He explains that when you immerse yourself in cold water for up to two minutes you get an immediate release of adrenalin, followed by a longer duration release of dopamine. He suggests immersing ourselves in cold water by taking a shower or bath, or by jumping in a cold body of water, for up to two minutes. I’ve tried it and it works. If you’re going to try this, I would suggest taking it slow. Also, be aware, that like all other dopamine release protocols, it diminishes over time.

It strikes me that if the reason we ended up in this Parkinson’s state is due to being in an extended period of fight-flight-freeze, perhaps we also need to focus on calming the mind through meditation and breathing exercises, including, Physiological Sigh breathing, in order to activate our parasympathetic nervous system. This could raise baseline dopamine levels by activating dormant neurons and neural pathways.

Because of the body’s natural tendancy to return to homeostasis, it may be advantageous to expose ourselves to a little bit of stress before meditating or doing breathwork.

If medication is not the long-term solution and if short-term dopamine spikes through goal setting and achievement or cold water immersion is not the ideal approach for longterm healing, then, I think, the solution to increasing our baseline dopamine levels lies in changing our personality. Remember, Huberman says baseline dopamine levels are largely determined by genetics. Also, as American chiropractor and neuroscientist, Joe Dispenza advocates, if you want to recover from disease, you can’t be the same person who developed the condition. You have to change your personality. See my recent post on this topic.

If my personality and experience got me into this condition, that is to say, if worry, living-scared, regret, anger, impatience, people-pleasing and unresolved emotional pain, are at the root of the symptoms I’m experiencing, it stands to reason that changing my personality and approach to life should help correct it. If I can live in a state of forgiveness, acceptance, trust, faith, self-assurance, optimism, cheerfulness, patience, poise and calm, it is possible that this could activate my parasympathetic nervous system and stimulate the creation of new dopamine producing neurons. If I can live in divine love, I believe I can be healthy.

How to accomplish this may appear daunting [I covered this in detail in my previous post], but it is less so when you consider that all we have to do is be mindful of the present moment. If we can confine our focus to the present moment we have a much better chance for success. We can do so by making each present moment as joyful, peaceful and loving as possible. We can also express gratitude and appreciation. We can send loving compassion. We can focus on our breath or our surroundings. We can repeat mantras. These exercises are made more effective when we do them in conjunction with exercise, meditation and spending time in nature.

I like to repeat mantras. One I recently started repeating [several times a day], goes like so: I am divine love. Love is within me. Love moves throughout me. Love surrounds me. Love protects me. Love embraces me. Love inspires me. Love eminates from every aspect of my being. I am divine love.

To live without fear, regret, shame and anger are far more meaningful goals for me than living without the symptoms of PD. Wouldn’t be so wonderful to live in a state of contentment, I ask myself? Isn’t it more joyful to live in a state of gratitude and appreciation?

The dilemma I am facing at present, is how do I get from where I am, to where I want to go. That is to say, how do I go from being on meds [300 mg of levadopa per day], to being meds-free, recovered and producing dopamine naturally, while still being able to move and function to a certain degree. I’m already having some difficulty. When I’m on meds, I’m fine. But when the meds are off, I am very unsteady on my feet and I experience significant freezing and trembling. Quite frankly, I’m not sure that I can do it.

Having said that, I am certain that before I can stimulate the natural creation of new dopamine producing neurons and neural pathways, I have to be off meds. Otherwise, I’m going to be impeded by unnatural flooding and crashing affects of the synthetic levadopa.

So, when I’m ready, I’m going to start slowly weaning off the meds while attempting to stimulate the natural production of dopamine through cold water immersion, goal-setting-and-celebration, meditation, breathwork and present-moment-awareness, while working on transforming my personality through mantras, practicing the laws of attraction and emotional healing.

My first priority is to map out a plan and a process. I’ve actually already started doing everything, but it is somewhat haphazard. I will create a well-defined process and routine which I will communicate in a future post, once I have tested it.

I have learned so much through this process and I am very excited about this new undertaking based on my new understanding!

As I said in my previous post, I incarnated into a certain family, in a certain culture, with certain genetics and had specific early childhood experiences in order to develop a certain personality with certain beliefs that would eventually lead me on a certain path where I would develop this condition the medical community calls Parkinson’s Disease. While certain beliefs and personality traits have worked against me [so to speak], others [namely, optimism, perserverence, compassion, kindness, generosity, gratitude and the belief that anything is possible] have the potential to see me through this challenge.

Wishing you contentment!

Living in Excellent Health #26 — The Ultimate Objective!

victory

I just put aside a post I had been working on for two weeks. The post was going to be titled, “Advocating a Natural Approach.” It was going to be about the benefits of taking a natural approach to overcoming the symptoms of PD, rather than using prescription medications.

After I finished writing the post I realized that I have been so wrapped up in finding a solution to overcome the symptoms I’m experiencing, I lost sight again of the most important objective/question, which is: if we don’t become a different person, aka, a better person, what’s the point?

In other words, the primary goal here is not about physical health. The primary goal is spiritual awakening and dissolving all of our detrimental beliefs, fears and emotional pain. It is to free ourselves of the shackles from living a non-spiritual life. It is to become a different person … a free person … a happy, content person.

I am already a considerably different person than I used to be. I live in kindness, compassion, gratitude and generosity.

For the most part, I understand and live by my values. I’m optimistic, creative, simplistic, enthusiastic and stoic, and I perservere.

I have a spiritual outlook. I understand our spiritual nature. I do my best to live in the present moment and I understand impermanence. I have learned to let go of identification with form; that is to say, I no longer have the need to own and accumulate things.

I used to tease people mercilessly. I don’t do that anymore. I also used to be impulsive and careless. Now I am more thoughtful.

In the past, I drank too much. … long after I knew I had an intolerance to alcohol. I no longer drink.

I am still very easily triggered when other people are unkind, especially when they are unkind to me. I still worry far too much. I don’t fully live in acceptance and trust. I am not always forgiving, especially when it comes to certain people.

I understand the benefits of forgiveness and that when you are unable to, or when you refuse to, forgive someone, it truly is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I also understand the process of forgiveness, yet with certain people, I am challenged in this area.

I fear rejection, humiliation and death. I would like to be free of fear. When you live in fear, your world closes in on you. I desire to live an expansive life. I believe that if I [or anyone] could stand naked on a stage, I would have nothing to fear. I’m not ready to do that.

I would love to be more self-assured, patient, poised, decisive, unintimidated and more direct. I would also no longer like to be addicted to accomplishments, victimhood, people-pleasing and the need to be liked.

I also strive to be a beacon of divine love.

Mostly, I would like to be content.

In one of the final chapters of the book, Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, the author, Richard Bach, wrote two lines. The first asks a question: How do you know when you have no more work to do? The second provides the answer: When you are no longer here.

So I have some work to do … which is why, I believe, I am still experiencing the symptoms of PD.

The way I look at it, I incarnated into a certain family, in a certain culture, with certain genetics and had specific early childhood experiences in order to develop a certain personality with certain beliefs that would eventually lead me on a certain path where I would develop this condition the medical community calls Parkinson’s Disease. While certain beliefs, personality traits and unresolved emotional trauma have worked against me [so to speak], others [namely, optimism, perserverence, compassion, kindness, generosity, gratitude and the belief that anything is possible] have the potential to see me through this challenge. As has embracing a spiritual outlook.

So it appears I have more work to do … and that is to become a different person … a content person … a ‘spiritually’ trusting person.

To accomplish this I have developed a five part process:

  1. Live in the present moment
  2. Recite mantras
  3. Repeat manifesting statements
  4. Emotional healing
  5. Practice and live in gratitude

Living in the Present Moment:

I have been aware of the concept of present moment living since first reading, The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, but I would say that it has not yet become a way of life. The fact that I worry so much is evidence of that. Time to change that. My challenge in living in the now is that my neurotransmitters are all messed up and consequently, I have a difficult timing focusing. So, it requires me to be diligent.

I live in the present moment by focusing on my breath, looking around and observing and placing my attention on what I am doing. I also meditate.

Mantras:

I repeat the following Divine Love mantra several times a day:

I am divine love. Love is within me. Love moves throughout me. Love surrounds me. Love protects me. Love eminates from all aspects of my being. I am divine love.

I also repeat a spiritual version of the 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my shephard, I shall not want. Spirit makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. Spirit restores my soul and leads me down a path of spiritual awakening for my highest good. Spirit helps me feel good about myself. Yea though I walk through the valley of impermanence, I shall fear no darkness, for thou art with me. Thy love and compassion comfort me. You help me to understand accept and be at peace with my past, and in so doing, you help me to forgive. You also help me to live in the present moment. My life is filled with abundance. Surely, peace,love, joy, abundance and bliss will be with me all the rest of my days. And I will dwell in spiritual conciousness and contentment forever.

I also repeat a second Divine Love mantra that I developed:

The universal-energetic-intelligence, which is pure divine love, wishes to expand itself. It wishes to expand love in the universe through experience. Through my experience and the experience of every other entity in the universe. We are the vessels for the expression and expansion of divine love. And the best thing I can do to contribute to this expansion of love is to fully surrender to the will and wisdom of the universal-energetic intelligence. Acknowledge my true essence, which is divine love. Live in love by being kind, compassionate, generous, forgiving and grateful. And live in the present moment. And I can do all this because I live in spiritual consciousness and I choose to celebrate life. I choose to live my life with enthusiasm and awe. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have been given to participate in the flow-of-life, serve humankind and the planet and contribute to the expansion of divine love. Hallelujah!

Manifesting statements:

I repeat several manifesting statements based on the Law of Attraction:

Wouldn’t it be so nice to live in complete trust that everything in my life is unfolding the way it was intended.

Wouldn’t it be so nice to be self-assured, unintimidated, poised, patient, decisive and outspoken.

Wouldn’t it be so nice to live in self-love … free of shame, guilt, regret and self-loathing.

Emotional healing:

I have been doing emotional and detrimental self-belief healing for many years. It has been a long, cyclical process. Presently, I do all of my emotional healing through a healing mantra:

Thank you inner-self, Raphael, Michael, Gabriel and Urael [the four archangels], for giving over to the healing energy of the universal-energetic-intelligence, all of the low frequency vibrational energy from my body and energy field, so that it can transmutted into love, particularly that connected to the thoughts, beliefs, emotions and fears that are not in vibrational harmony and alignment with my intention to eminate love from all aspects of my being. And I thank you for this healing.

Living in Gratitude:

Living in gratitude goes well beyond simply saying thank you. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, says that one of the keys to being happy, is being grateful. For me it has become an outlook … a way of living … a genuine attitude of appreciation for everything in my life.

I plan to post the blog I put aside in the next couple of days because it is educational and I believe it does have merit. In the meantime, I hope you found this post helpful. I hope it inspires you and eases your mind.

May you be content!

Living in Excellent Health #25 — Vaccination Dilemma!

I first contemplated writing this post a few weeks ago but I was concerned that I might be stirring up a hornet’s nest. It’s a highly charged, emotional subject. Then a Facebook friend posted on Facebook about her quandry relating to vaccinating and judging by the response, I concluded that this is a dilemma facing a great many people and needs to be addressed.

Let me state right up front, that I have not been vaccinated for the covid-19 virus. I have several reasons for this which I will explain shortly.

While I am generally not in favor of vaccinations as the most effective way to deal with viruses, I consider myself more of a pro-immune-system-builder than an anti-vaccer. I believe, as a whole, we need to do more to strengthen our immune systems through lifestyle, exercise, healthy diets and supplements, so that our immune system can protect us the way it is meant to, rather than us relying on vaccinations to preempt viruses.

I understand the claim that widespread vaccination programs throughout the world have virtually eliminated many contagious diseases, including polio, measles. chicken pox, menningitis, Hepatitis A/B, mumps, whooping cough [the last two of which I experienced in childhood], etc, but at what longterm cost? Are we setting ourselves up for a major calamity?

Viruses, like all other life forms on this planet, adapt and evolve. We’ve seen this with the flu virus. Every winter, we face a different and more virulent form of flu. We are always playing catch-up, and we’re already seeing the same thing happen with the coronavirus.

Because the flu virus is constantly mutating, I have never been vaccinated for the seasonal flu. Also, I know too many people who have been vaccinated, yet still contracted the flu.

I am fundamentally opposed to the covid-19 vaccine for several personal, philosophical and PD-related reasons:

  1. I am concerned about how I might respond to the vaccine, given that I am prone to allergic reactions and blood clots.
  2. As a person living with the symptoms of PD, I am very concerned that some people living with the same symptoms have reported extreme reactions, including loss of mobility and hyper-intense trembling.
  3. I am suspicious of the unlisted vaccine ingredients. This is technically an experimental drug and I, a layperson, have no idea what all is in it or how safe the ingredients are.
  4. Tens of thousands of people have died after being vaccinated. People will say that it is a very small percentage compared to the total number vaccinated and that these were mostly people who were older and were going to die anyway, but I’m not so sure about this claim. What is more, certain European countries have banned the Moderna vaccine over concerns about it’s safety.
  5. I choose to make strengthening my immune system my priority. I truly believe that this should be the longterm strategy for all of humanity.
  6. I am concerned about the longterm effects on our health of the vaccine and the ongoing booster shots. There are those who believe that the real pandemic will be the result of the vaccine, not the virus.
  7. I am highly suspicious of the origin of this outbreak. I believe as many others do, that it is highly possible that this outbreak was staged intentionally for profit and control.
  8. I am concerned that we have been globally ‘communized’ and conned into following directives such as wearing masks and vaccinating, without questioning the true motives of those directing us.
  9. Quite frankly, I don’t think we can trust anything we’re being told right now. There are too many agendas, too much misinformation and too much misguided speculation.

I am quite aware that I am potentially playing with fire. I understand that this is a lethal virus, but then I consider that young children are not required to be vaccinated because it is believed that their immune systems are sufficient to protect them. Yes, I have one of the comorbidities … I am over 60 … but I am not overweight, I don’t have diabetes and I exercise everyday. I also take Vit C, Vit D, zinc, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acid. What is more, I live on Manitoulin Island, a remote and sparsely populated island in northern Ontario, Canada. We have never had more than a handful of active covid cases and I feel safe here.

Ultimately, I believe the most powerful tool we have to neutralize this and all future viruses, is love. Since the outbreak of the virus, we have been immersed in fear and the motivation for being immunized, is rooted in fear. All of the protocols that have been introduced have been done so in fear. We can change this experience by embracing and expressing love. We need to respect everyone’s point of view and choice, and lean towards kindness, tolerance and love.

Wishing you love and contentment!

Living in Excellent Health #24 — Breath Technique to Still the Body!

A few months ago I discovered a very simple breathing technique advocated by neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman, as a way to dissolve anxiety. It’s called the Physiological Sigh.

The Physiological Sigh involves taking two deep, rapid inhales [it’s actually a big deep inhale followed by a second shorter deep inhale], followed by a long, slow exhale.

This past weekend I discovered that this breathing technique is an effective way to still my body.

I have actually been practicing the technique daily since I first learned about it but I thought it wasn’t working for me.

Turns out, it wasn’t working for me because I wasn’t giving it enough time to set in. I thought because I didn’t feel relaxed right away, that it wasn’t working. What I discovered, is that it takes thirty seconds to a minute for my body to begin to calm. I just needed to give it some time. Huberman confirms this in the video.

According to Huberman, the physiological sigh was first discovered in the 1930s and has since been studied at a neuro-biological level at UCLA and Stanford universities. What they have learned, is that this breathing technique is very calming and it occurs naturally. It happens during sleep, when we cry and when we’re in claustrophobic environments. They also discovered that we can control it ourselves by controlling the expansion and contraction of our diaphragm through intentional breathing.

I will attempt to explain this as best I can, but if you are unsure about anything, please check out the video below.

When you take two deep, rapid inhales, the aveoli [tiny sacs] in your lungs expand with oxygen, which in turn, allows your lungs to expel more carbon dioxide, sending a message to your brain that you are in a relaxed state.

If I understand, correctly, what is happening physiologically, this breathing technique causes the nervous system to switch from the sympathetic [alert … fight-flight-freeze] state, into the parasympathetic [calm] state, where the brain is producing GABA, acetylcholine, serotonin, dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones, instead of the stress hormones, cortisol, etc., thus causing the trembling to subside.

Neuroscientists now believe that the physiological sigh is the quickest and most effective way to switch the mind and body from the stressed state to the calm state.

Since I made this discovery, I have been using the breathing technique to still my body and it has been working very effectively. I repeat the physiological sigh three times, then focus on my breath, breathing normally, and in about 30 to 45 seconds seconds, the trembling begins to subside. Depending on how anxious I’m feeling and how much I’m trembling, I may have to repeat this cycle of three physiological sighs, two or three times.

While writing this post, my morning meds began to wear-off, triggering intense trembling and mental fog, among other symptoms. As I understand it, this happens because when the meds wear off, dopamine levels fall below baseline, causing symptoms to be more intense than normal. I did three cycles of the physiological sigh breathing and repeated it four times before my body became completely still.

The stillness lasted for about five minutes. When the trembling started again, I repeated the breathing process and enjoyed another five minutes of stillness. After that, I went about my day.

Even though the stillness didn’t last, this exercise showed me that stillness is possible, which means, it is possible for my nervous system to be in the parasympathetic state.

Having the ability to calm my body is very empowering. Now I can be like a Buddhist monk, meditating throughout the day. Sure beats tremoring all day long.

Living in Excellent Health #23 — I’m Doing Great!

Mindset is critical to improving my experience and helping me achieve my goal of living in excellent health. I have experienced this firsthand. In those moments and during those days when I am in the mindset of, ‘I’m doing great!’, my symptoms improve and my mood is elevated. I walk better, I am steadier on my feet and I am happier.

According to Eckhart Tolle, author of, The Power of Now, all we ever have is the present moment. What puts us in a state of stress, is when we fret about the past, worry about the future or refuse to accept the circumstances of the present moment. When I place my attention on making the most of the present moment, I am more at ease and content.

There are times when I genuinely feel like I’m doing great. I don’t have to say it or think it. I literally feel it. I experienced this recently when I decided to tackle a project in our yard during a time of the day when I was off-meds. Normally, I wouldn’t do this because such efforts can be stressing. But on this occasion, I did it, I felt great, and afterwards when I went for my daily walk, my gait was much more fluid.

There are other occasions when I have to encourage myself to feel great. Fake it until I make it, as the saying goes. I smile and say to myself, ‘I’m doing great!,’ and I raise my arms up in the air like Rocky Balboa at the top of the steps. I keep repeating this. It definitely helps.

My goal is to activate my parasympathetic nervous system in order to stimulate the creation of neural pathways that will lead to the release of dopamine [movement and excitement], serotonin [happiness], acetylcholine [focus], GABA [calm] and other feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones.

We are presently living in very challenging times and we may feel like we have no control over our circumstances, but this is simply not true. We are always in charge of our attitude, and because of this, I know, I’m doing great!

If you’re feeling stressed, I recently came across this video which you might find helpful.

Living in Excellent Health #22 — My Recent Trip!

confusion

In June, I decided to take a trip in late-July to southern Ontario to visit my children and grandchildren. I hadn’t seen them since before Christmas and I was really missing everyone. What is more, my middle daughter and her husband had just bought their ‘forever’ home and I wanted to help with the move.

I decided that I was going to drive myself. I enthusiastically figured this would be the ultimate dopamine release. Since moving to Manitoulin, I have mostly been driving to town and back … a 15 minute drive each way. I have done some of the driving on longer trips, but only when my meds were on. So this was definitely going to be a meaningful and significant challenge.

My thinking was that I would drive to Bala on the first day. Bala is where I grew up and I still have friends there. It’s a four and a half hour drive. Then the next day, I would complete the hour and a half trip from Bala to my daughter’s.

I figured I could do most of the drive to Bala on my morning meds … so long as they kicked in and lasted the typical three hours. When the meds ran out, I would take my afternoon meds early in order to complete the trip. The next day I would drive to my daughter’s while on my morning meds.

I reasoned that as long as the meds were on, I would have no problem.

Despite all this logic, and even though I kept reminding myself that I didn’t have to make the trip, every time I thought about it, I felt anxiety, especially when I was off-meds, . I had several concerns. Would the meds kick in and what if they didn’t? [I would abort the trip.] What if I got half way to Bala and decided I couldn’t do it? [I would call for help.] What if I had to stop for gas or a washroom break and had difficulty walking? [I would use my walking pole.]

There are three sections of the trip between home and Bala that were also causing me angst. They are two-lane stretches that can be quite busy. But I felt that if I broke the entire trip, including these three stretches, into 15 minute sections I could do it. I would drive for 15 minutes, and if I felt okay, I would keep going. If I didn’t, I would stop and take a break … go for a short walk or practice qigong. Again, though, I reasoned that as long as the meds kicked I would be fine.

So I had solutions for any and all possible complications.

The day after deciding to make the trip, I did a test drive. I drove to Mindemoya … a thirty-five minute drive … while on meds, and the return trip, off-meds. No problem.

Despite having solutions to all forseen obstacles, despite the test drive and despite my contention that this was going to be the ultimate dopamine release challenge, every time I thought about the trip I would go into a state of anxiety, and the closer I got to the departure date the worse it got … especially during those periods of the day when I was off-meds.

Anxiety is a perplexing condition that is challenging to explain. It is really unpleasant and can leave you feeling completely powerless … like you are losing your mind. To truly understand it, you have to experience it.

In the end, I didn’t do the drive. I did the trip, but not the driving. Instead, my friend decided to accompany me and he did all the driving. Which was great, because it rained heavily for the entire trip south and half the trip back home. I would not have been able to do the drive under those conditions.

What has been most disconcerting is that the symptoms I experience worsened over the six-week period leading up to the trip and they haven’t improved since I returned home. I reminded myself last night that if I am experiencing more extreme symptoms it’s because my body is full of cortisol, which means I must be worrying about something. At first, I couldn’t think of what I might be worrying about, and then like a left-jab from Muhamad Ali, it hit me. I have actually been concerned about a bunch of things. I have been thinking [worrying] about people close to me who are experiencing difficulties. They’ve been in the back of my mind but nonetheless, they’ve been troubling me, and most problematically, they’ve been keeping me out of the excited, dopamine-producing state. In fact, I realized that I’m not completely and genuinely excited about anything right now. This is definitely disconcerting.

What all this amounts to, is a reminder of what I talked about in my last post, which is this … the single most important thing for me to focus on, is to make the present moment as loving, joyful, peaceful and content as possible. There may not be anything in my life right now that genuinely excites me, but I can still be grateful and I can still be optimistic. I can still give myself goals to achieve, no matter how big or small and I can still cheer myself on with everything I’m doing. Also, I can focus on living life to the fullest with all of its potentials … good and bad … and being excited for those around living their lives to the fullest.

For the time being, it also means that I will avoid … where I can … undertaking anything that might I might not be ready for and that might cause undo stress … like taking a long driving trip.

Living in Excellent Health #21 — Present Moment Gratitude!

The universe has been sending me reminders of the only thing that really matters … making the present moment as joyful, peaceful, loving and content as possible. Well, it’s not the only thing but it is really important.

For example, in a recent conversation with my son, Chris, he asked, “Why do you care so much? Why are you trying so hard to get better? Why don’t you just relax?” I responded by saying, “That’s the way I’ve been all my life.”

I realized after I thought about it that the universe knows what I want … it knows I want to be healthy … so all I need to do is make each moment as fun as possible, because by thinking about it all the time and by trying so hard … mostly out of focusing on what I don’t want [I don’t want to experience symptoms] … I am creating resistance.

Then, while playing golf a few days ago, the question popped into my mind, “Why do I care so much about making good shots and playing well.”

I realized, I would be far better served to just be really grateful that I have the ability and opportunity to play golf, and that by wanting so much to hit the ball well, I am creating resistance, and consequently, not hitting the ball well. The moment I had this realization, I actually started to hit the ball much better.

Then, yesterday, while editing my newest book, I thought about how much time I spend lamenting not living nearer to my kids. The universe knows I want to live closer to them, but by focusing so much on this rather than placing my attention on making my present circumstances as joyful as possible and being grateful for what I do have, I am creating more resistance for what I want.

It is a subtle, but powerful, differentation.

And why do I want to make each moment as joyful, peaceful, loving and content as possible? Because it is in this state that my parasympathetic [calm] nervous system [PNS] becomes activated and when this happens, my brain begins producing dopamine, serotonin, GABA, acetylcholine and other feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones.

As Eckhart Tolle says, the only thing we have is the now, but for those of us living with the symptoms of PD, finding joy and contentment in the now can be challenging. Trembling, loss of balance, freezing or one of the many other symptoms we have to constantly contend with can make this daunting indeed.

So, how do we do it? Well, we can start by heeding another piece of wisdom from Eckhart Tolle. Accept the present circumstances and trust that no matter what happens we will be okay. I also remind myself that the more time I spend worrying, the further I distance myself from what I want … excellent health.

So I have a choice … worry or do my best to make each moment as joyful, peaceful, loving and content as possible, regardless of what I am doing. And the simplest way for me to accomplish this is to focus on gratitude. When I am grateful for what I have, I am in a good place.

We all do it. We decide we want something, but then we get in the way of manifesting it by worrying and trying too hard to make it happen … at least I do.

I am grateful for these reminders. I am grateful for my son, golf and the literary gods.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post! I really appreciate it!

Living in Excellent Health #20 — A Missed Dopamine Release Opportunity!

Last night, I decided to have an organic bagel while watching a movie. I was off meds at the time and I had a great deal of difficulty slicing the bagel. My hands were shaking and I was having difficulty operating the knife. The longer it took, the more frustrated, angry and upset I got.

I was almost finished and on the verge of a complete meltdown, when it suddenly occured to me that I could have made this a challenge for myself that could have given me a dopamine release … rather than stressing myself and causing a cortisol release. I could have been cheering myself on, celebrating my progress and really celebrating my accomplishment.

It was a lesson learned.

The challenge for those of us experiencing the symptoms of PD is to reestablish our brain’s ability to release dopamine. According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, the best way to do this is to give ourselves a goal to achieve, then move towards that goal and celebrate its achievement. Every task we perform, off-meds, is an opportunity to put this into practice.

I used to put off certain tasks when I was off-meds … like writing this post. Now, I view them as an opportunity to train my brain to release dopamine … when I remember!

May you be healthy and content!

Living in Excellent Health #19 — Newly Diagnosed with PD, What Do I Do!

overwhelmed

People newly diagnosed with the symptoms of Parkinson’s invariably ask, what do I do? Do I take meds or not? If I do take meds, which one[s] do I take? If I don’t take meds, what can I do to slow the progression of the disease?

If you know anything about PD, the diagnosis can frankly be quite frightening. But it’s not a death sentence and there is much you can do.

Even though I take meds, I am not an advocate. I found myself in a situation in late 2018, where I felt I had no choice but to start on meds, but if I had been better informed, and if I had known then what I know now, I would have taken a different approach.

This post applies to those who have chosen not to take medication, as well as, those who have, because even if you are on meds, in order to recover, you will eventually need to get off them.

The question, what do I do, was recently posted on one of the PD Facebook groups, and it received a lot of helpful responses. Clearly there is a lot of experience and learnings people are happy to share.

For me, the single most important thing to do, is minimize stress/worry/anxiety/fear, because this is what causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s and it’s what causes the symptoms to progress. As such, my focus is on minimizing dietary stress, physical stress and mental stress.

In the twenty years I have been living with the symptoms of PD … the first 16 years, medication-free … I’ve learned a lot about how to live effectively with this condition, and I think it boils down to three things:

  1. Eat healthy
  2. Be active
  3. Have fun [be cheerful]

Eat Healthy

In order to slow the progression of the symptoms of PD and recover my health, I learned that I need to restore my body to homeostasis. This means, restoring gut health, srengthening my immune system, unclogging my lymphatic system, eliminating inflammation and alkalining my body. [For more information on this, check this blog post.]

Restoring homeostasis requires a healthy diet. This means, eliminating junk food, fast food, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, while minimizing dairy, processed foods and alcohol. Depending on your preference, you may choose a ketogenic diet, caveman diet, paleo diet, Mediterranean diet, vegetarian or vegan diet. My preference is the high-fat, ketogenic diet mainly because I can’t tolerate sugar of any kind, including natural fruit sugar.

There is a direct connection between the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve and medical science has demonstrated … although, it is still learning … that gut health directly affects the production and health of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Be Active

I have learned, through direct experience, that exercise is absolutely critical for both my physical and mental well-being. I have developed an extensive exercise program that keeps me active throughout the day, but doesn’t overdo it. I walk, cycle, do jumping-jacks, skipping, foot work, push-ups, stomach crunches, stretching and weight-lifting. I power-walk every day, quite often, twice a day, for a total of 4 to 6 kilometers. I also play golf, kayak, shovel snow and split and stack firewood.

To be living with the symptoms of PD is to be in a continual state of stress, where the body is in a constant state of fight-flight. It is to have a body coursing with cortisol, the fight-flight hormone. One of the purposes of cortisol, is to stimulate us to get moving, so exercise is essential to help us transition from the fight-flight, sympathetic nervous system, cortisol-producing state, to the parasympathetic/calm nervous system state where our bodies are producing dopamine, serotonin and other feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones.

For me, exercise has to be joyful. It has to be fun. I have to be diligent in making sure that while I am exercising, I am doing so joyfully, and that I am not lost in worry or negative thought.

Have Fun

Now you might think I’ve lost my marbles. This would be a legitimate thought. How can we have fun living with the symptoms of Parkinson’s? After all, they’re are in-our-face every moment of the day, including while we sleep … and they’re not pleasant.

And yet, having fun is absolutely critical. As I mentioned above, we need to get the brain/body of the sympathetic nervous system state, into the parasympathetic nervous system state, and there is no better way to do that, than to have fun.

I believe I developed the symptoms of PD after a lifetime of living in fear, stress and worry. Yes, there were other factors … excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, emotional trauma and head injuries … but living in a constant state of fear was the primary factor. I wasn’t living joyfully.

PD in my view is a fascinating condition. It is caused primarily by fear/worry and it feeds off itself by causing fear/worry. The best way to break this cycle is to have fun. It is to be joyful, optimistic, calm, excited and euphoric as much as possible. For me, this has sometimes meant, faking it until I make it. It is not always easy, as I’m sure you know, to be joyful. This condition can be very trying. It has helped me immensely, that I believe wholeheartedly, that I can and will recover my health. It has also helped me to immerse myself in spiritual practice: to live in the present moment and to know that everything has a purpose. And it has helped me to be a student of this condition … to let PD be my teacher … and one of the things it has taught me, is to have fun!

May you live in harmony with the flow of life!

Living in Excellent Health #18 — Amplify Excitement and Gratitude!

homer

When we are experiencing the symptoms of PD, our bodies are in a continuous state of fight-flight-freeze. This occurs because our minds have been in a state of stress/fear for so long that our brains are no longer producing dopamine at normal levels. Instead, our kidneys are continually producing cortisol … the stress hormone.

In order to overcome this, we need to convince our bodies that we are not in any danger by replacing worriful thoughts with thoughts and actions of excitement, joy and gratitude.

Dr Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University, advocates stimulating the release of dopamine through setting and achieving goals. He says that dopamine is released when we move towards, achieve and celebrate the achievement of goals.

Our challenge is, that because our bodies are continually flooded with cortisol, our minds believe we’re in danger, so we continue to have fearful thoughts which, in turn, keeps us in a state of fear, perpetuating the symptoms we experience.

I noticed that even though I was doing a lot of goal-setting exercises, I was still spending a lot of time worrying, which has been keeping me mired in PD symptoms. I’ve even caught myself worrying while practicing qigong.

To break this cycle, I realized recently that I need to do more than just give myself challenges/goals to achieve. I need to be a 24-hour-a-day cheerleader. I need to convince my body every single moment of the day that it is not in danger. I need to continuously cheer myself on, clap my hands, hoot-and-holler, smile, express gratitude and have fun. So I constantly yell woo-hoo and alright and fantastic and yipee and so on.

I’m sure I’m driving Mari nuts, but I look at it this way, I would rather look like I’ve lost my marbles than live in a continuous state of fear and PD symptoms.

And I’ve begun to notice a difference. I’m walking more fluidly with less freezing.

Neuoscience has shown that the brain is neuroplastic, which means it can heal itself. It can create new neurons, synapses and neural pathways, including those that are involved in the production of dopamine. I am determined to make this happen … joyfully, of course!

WOO HOO!