“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks,” -John Muir
Fresh from my diagnosis in October of 2012 for Parkinson’s disease, I began a new life, one filled with the mystery of drugs. I say mystery because, before my diagnosis, aspirin was the most potent drug I had ever taken. Now I was to go on a learning spree of medications, side effects, and biology. And yes I had not favored science while in school so this education was a long time in coming. Everyone says you can’t escape; now it was all coming back to me.
The first drug prescribed to me was Trihexyphenidyl primarily used for movement disorders. It can be used on its’ own or in conjunction with other medication such as levodopa. For me, it was solo and intended to help alleviate the tremor in my right hand. Its’ other uses are for depression, mental apathy, and dyskinesia. It never alleviated or reduced my tremor and until now I have often wondered if it helped at all. Except to say, it was a learning curve and helped me realize the trial and error in drug applications.
My next prescription was for Nortriptyline. This was around January of 2013. My biggest issue for some time was depression wrapped in severe anxiety. I couldn’t sleep for more than 4 or 5 hours a night; waking up at 3 in the morning with a feeling of being overwhelmed by everything. Nortriptyline almost immediately helped me sleep through the night and if I woke up, I was able to fall back asleep almost immediately. I still had cognitive issues and physical symptoms like tremor and balance, but I could see the forest for the trees, I could dissimulate my mental issues from what is just ordinary stress to what is a result of Parkinson’s.
In January of 2014 I was prescribed Carbidopa/Levodopa (Sinemet). Levodopa is the benchmark of drugs for Parkinson’s… the gold standard. I take this drug at prescribed intervals to best maximize its’ effect. This was my first attempt at self-prescribing when and how much I should medicate at any given time, a lifelong challenge for anyone with PD.
Levodopa’s absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestines. From there it travels to the brain and converted to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement. Dopamine is not being produced in the usual fashion by brain cells, hence we have Parkinson’s. The converted levodopa’s stored in the brain’s neurons and released when needed by the body for movement.
Now the first part of its’ name, Carbidopa acts as an enhancer for levodopa… it allows for a lower dose of levodopa to work and helps reduce side effects such as nausea and vomiting.
On levodopa, I could feel a bit of relief from some of my physical barriers such as dexterity and balance. My cognition also improved. I had more concentration, was able to mentally think and to talk in the moment as my understanding and retainment increased, all leading to more self-confidence.
It felt as though all of the parts of me were coming together. But yet something was missing.