Ice Cream and Anhedonia

Sorry I have been offline for several weeks. It’s not that I’ve been medically indisposed. And while the pain did follow me, I remained upright and above ground. Instead, I travel to Tucson to collect my father’s remains, spend time with my mother, and worked remotely as though I were in the Central Time zone. 

Working under Central Time while in Tucson presents challenges. No matter what you do, you must plan two hours ahead. For instance, for an 8:00 AM meeting, you must be prepared at 6:00 AM. For me, the alarm rang early – like really, really early. Some days, I found myself sliding out of bed at 4:00 AM, calling it a night by 8:00 – 8:30 PM. The schedule was extraordinary.

The irregular schedule left some freedom in the afternoon, for at 3:00 Tucson, AZ time, it was 5:00 PM Central Standard time and 6:00 PM Eastern Standard time. The afternoons allowed me time to gather my father’s remains (cremation), perform house repairs, file necessary insurance documents, house title changes, and spend early evenings’ jaw-jacking‘ (down-home conversations) with mom. Hours were mixed with laughter, pain, sadness, tears, and resolve. 

Driving home with my father’s remains, we flew past every stop-light (meaning every light was green). My mother called that a miracle that only my father could arrange. She touched the box urn and whispered, “You did good, dad.” Claiming to have seen spirits (Kanako, God, Christ, etc.), I must admit, I have yet to hear from my father. He could be anywhere, maybe playing baseball, searching the galaxy, or building a new home by a lake. Perhaps he’s hanging with his dogs, Mutt (no, not a typo), Deek, and whatever other animal I am unaware of. Then again, I sometimes think he is reviewing my life, saying, “What the f*** did you do that for?

One strange thing experience occurred on the next to the last day. Spontaneously, my mother hugged me. She held tight for several minutes. The strangeness came from the hole in my heart. Yeah, sure, my mom felt love. I felt empty, as though the ‘human love tank’ was empty. I have read others claiming to have a similar experience. But this was new to me.

I read of a Parkinson’s condition called ‘apathy,’ or the state of indifference. Users have written their experience as a feeling, “I don’t care.” Common feelings during this life-changing experience include anxiety, distress, and depression. Could this have been me? I am not sure, but I sure as hell enjoyed the ice cream a half-hour later. I loved that, but I was emotionally empty for the hug. 

Since being diagnosed, I never felt the need to be hugged just to feel safe or supported. That being said, I do have a long-standing bucket list item to make love all day while a gentle rain falls outside. But I don’t equate that with a need to either feel safe or supported. Maybe I have Anhedonia?

Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure. All of us expect certain things in life to make them happy. Maybe I have ‘Physical Anhedonia:’ A condition where one does not enjoy physical sensations. Therefore, a hug leaves one feeling empty rather than nurtured. Yet, I still like spending time with family and friends. Maybe the condition is not all black and white. I still enjoy listening to jazz. However, I wouldn’t say I like liver and onions nearly as much as I once did for reasons that remain unexplained. (Ok. I never ‘liked’ liver and onions. My father loved liver and onions. I hated it.) 

Research scientists believe Anhedonia may be tied to brain activity. Therefore, as a Parkinson’s patient, I have a problem with the way my brain produces and responds to dopamine, the “feel-good” mood chemical. Early research suggests that the dopamine neurons in the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, might be overactive in people with Anhedonia. There’s no cure for Anhedonia, and it is tricky to treat. All that means is that I am screwed.

So, the only treatment I can do is to grab an ice cream drumstick. God, I love it. 



Categories: Parkinson's

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