January 17, 2011
2. Knowing what I'm dealing with and using the Parkinson's meds and exercises has restored my spirits, energy, and drive.
I now realize that I had Parkinson's for several years before I was diagnosed. I lost my sense of smell (an early indicator of PD) four years ago. My right arm stopped swinging when I walked at least three years ago. For a year or more before diagnosis I was having serious problems with my sense of balance, and I was dealing with the depression, insomnia, and constipation that often accompanies PD. But I didn't have (and still don't) the typical PD tremor, so an earlier diagnosis was missed.
I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was probably age-related deterioration and would just keep on going on. So with this assumption combined with the depression, I made plans to sell my house (which I love), sell my car, and move into a senior residence in downtown DC. And I bought the book Final Exit, which I intended to make use of at the first signs of dementia or Alzheimer's.
Given this mind set, the PD diagnosis was almost a relief. At least my problems had a label. As I've said many times, I can deal with adversity a lot better than with ambiguity. I was given a prescription for Sinemet, the brand name for carbidopa/levadopa, which is the "gold medal" med for PD, and for Azilect. Almost immediately I began to feel better physically. The right arm began to move some when I walked. Maintaining my balance wasn't as much of a problem.
I also was prescribed the old-line antidepressant Elavil to deal with the depression and insomnia. Almost immediately, it took care of the insomnia and much of the depression. But it also left me feeling groggy for most of the morning, and I began gaining weight, putting on over 5 pounds in the few months I was on Elavil.
I got a new neurologist in December 2009 -- Dr. Laxman Bahroo, who is affiliated with the Neurology Department at Georgetown University Hospital. He expressed concern about the possible cognitive side effects of Elavil. Given my concerns about dementia and/or Alzheimer's, I decided to switch from the Elavil to an over-the-counter supplement -- 5-HTP -- that I had tried a few years earlier. 5-HTP warrants a separate billing as one of the reasons 2010 was my best year.