Post written by Dr. Bradley Hiner
This is the first of a two-part post on peope with Parkinson's who turn to craft of writing post-diagnosis. The first person I want to write about is Rick Secklin, 57, a former deputy sheriff who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2003.
Rick spent some time after his diagnosis really struggling. I know a number of guys in Rick’s age-range who have lost a lot in the years after their Parkinson’s diagnosis: jobs, insurance, relationships including marriage, self-esteem. Rick fought back and chronicled his journey in a self-published book called Looking Down the Barrel: Deputy Sheriff’s Midlife Memoirs
“Writing this book and then speaking about it is my way of finding a new identity and giving back,” says Rick. Rick is especially interested in the idea that before he manifested the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s like tremor and rigidity, he had some emotional/psychological things going on that he attributes to the Parkinson’s. “I wonder if my wife and I had known that I had Parkinson’s, would we have been able to attribute my depression, isolation, mood swings and more to the disease? We might have been able to save the marriage.”
Rick has started a website: www.pwphelp.com
. It contains links to information about his book and about Parkinson’s disease in general.
There are several “pre-motor” symptoms of Parkinson’s and depression is one of them. Others may include:
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep disorder
- Loss of sense of smell (olfaction)
Not every person diagnosed with PD has had an earlier depression and not everyone with depression is going to be diagnosed with PD, but there is enough evidence for us to know there is a real relationship. There is also a much higher incidence of divorce among younger onset people with Parkinson’s. And yet, Rick has found love and marriage again as have a number of young-onset patients that readily come to mind.
I have also had a number of patients who, unlike Rick, have searched for love and been hurt or even scammed. Sometimes people with PD can manifest an impulsivity that creates behavior that wouldn’t have been normal to them. Like marrying a stranger and moving away with them. The ready availability of the Internet can be a great thing for people with any disability that limits their mobility. Unfortunately this can be a double-edged sword: There is a lot of misinformation about PD, including “miracle cures” for Parkinson’s (like the ridiculous wristbands for “balance”), and there are also individuals looking to prey on the vulnerable relationship-wise. I have had several of my male patients be taken advantage of by scammers who end up emptying their bank accounts in the guise of offering a relationship up to and including marriage. Here’s a tip: The picture posted on the Web is almost never what he or she actually looks like.
It’s not only people with Parkinson’s that can be duped; but when a disease affects judgment the way Parkinson’s can, it’s wise to listen to those closest to you and not rush into relationships or enterprises that can leave you emotionally and financially devastated. As surprising as it might sound, it is important to share the facts of new impulses and either compulsive or impulsive behaviors with your movement disorders neurologist. We may be able to shed some light on the situation and hopefully help.