The company completed its reorganization this week. Company management phrased the downsizing as a ‘proactive initiative.’ Downsizing has many different names and acronyms: realignment, restructuring, resource allocation, employee assessment, redundancy reduction, organizational shifting, transformational initiatives, future position, planned efficiency, and workstream synergies. The list is endless. Our CEO (who already makes 25 million a year) secured a couple extra million dollars for his trouble. And those receiving the ‘pink slip’ secured a few additional weeks of pay, a smidge more healthcare coverage, and an escort to the door by company security. I didn’t get kicked to the curb and appeared steadfast through it all. But no one knew I was in ‘brain fog.’

If I had to describe my Parkinson’s ‘Brain Fog,’ it would be slowness of thinking and difficulty concentrating. I was in an extended period of fuzzy thinking. I wasn’t sharp, but I remained ‘aware.’ I knew what was happening, but I could not react quickly enough to the events surrounding me. Whenever I experience even the slightest episode of brain fog, I am reminded of the comedian Robin Williams. 

New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff details the star’s severe decline. By October 2013, Williams started to experience physical ailments that varied in severity and seemingly unconnected to one another. He had stomach cramps, indigestion, and constipation. Williams had trouble sleeping, and the tremors in his left arm had returned, accompanied by the symptoms of cogwheel rigidity. For Williams, it was an endless parade of symptoms. I have experienced similar issues.

I have stomach cramps, constipation, muscle spams, walk perfectly one day, badly the next. Tremors slowly seeping into my right hand and are mostly noticeable upon waking in the early morning hours. Some days, I awake with a slight early morning haze, an on and off brain fog. Mentally clear one day, bad on another. Sounds strange; If I transport myself into a similar mindset like William’s, I wonder if I’m starting to lose my mind. 

Itzkoff wrote that Williams knew he was losing his mind. Essentially, Williams understood he wasn’t feeling well, but he didn’t let on to anyone what was going on. Upon questioning whether I could end up like Williams, my neurologist scoffed. “Ah,” he said, “You’re only in early Stage 2 of Parkinson’s. What you’re experiencing and what Williams experienced are completely different forms of Parkinson’s.” In the end, I know Parkinson’s will rob me of life itself, albeit in incrementally subtle ways. I have to live with that; most likely, my neurologist will not. “Was I losing my mind?” That was the question I continually asked throughout the reorganization.

The Buddhist would say, be the witness. But the past five days flew without critical thought. I could read time, but at times, I felt everything stood still. And even then, even when time stood still, everything moved. People moved. Employees were called to HR, and returned crying. They packed belongings, cried, hugged a few people, wore their masks, cussed, kicked, sighed, somberly walked, and waved goodbye for the last time. “I’ll be in touch,” one employee said to another. “We’ll get together for some drinks,” responded another. I knew such get-togethers would never occur. And I stood in their midst. I saw but could do anything but witness. 

During the waves of movement, I made small innocuous mistakes. A daily report had the correct material but incorrect date. Another document had the proper contents but wrong index. Having no sleep one night, I added a smidge more medication at 2:30 AM and nearly slept past the morning ‘stand-up’ meeting. For two days, I didn’t shave. Not because I intended to grow a beard, but rather, because I could not hold the razor without tremors. I choose not to eat anything at breakfast, not because I wanted to diet, but rather I felt completely constipated. These are times that tired me – not because of fatigue, but because I feared losing my mental capacity to perform. I feared my ability to contribute. I feared some Trump-like demagogue labeling my life ‘worthless.’ 

I am not angry at what my body is doing (more specifically, at what my mind is doing). Wayne Dyer claimed we are spiritual beings having a human existence (or something to that effect), that we chose this existence. I can’t imagine any spiritual being choosing to be Hitler, a Mexican immigrant fighting to get across the border just to survive, or a spiritual being wanting to be just like ‘Trump.’ To ‘choose’ such a life seems to be like going backward. (But that’s my opinion.) On face value, choosing to be a living being whose destined to experience death by Parkinson’s seems an odd choice. I guess that’s the same if I chose death by cancer or death by COVID-19. If I chose this life, my life, I will not (at least at this moment) knowingly denigrate this body. But I do feel envious.

Looking at this week’s events from the tiniest speck of my soul, part of me envies some of the downsized. Of course, none were employed when they left, but many still had their mind. They walked out into the fresh air and could decipher the time; that ten-minutes was, in fact, ten-minutes. Each could move forward, with full knowledge, that they can still insert accurate report dates, type a clear email without hands shaking, look at fluorescent lights without asking, “Does that light look fuzzy, or is it me?” Each can probably cut vegetables without fear of slicing off part of a hand. They can button a shirt, sit on a toilet without constipation, walk without cramps, and don’t have to fear the future. I still have to ‘fake it until I make it.’

When Connolly was diagnosed in 2013, he joked: “I’ve got Parkinson’s disease. I wish he’d f***ing kept it.”