Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thinking Deep

I'm not a deep person.  My emotions and thoughts tend to run close to the surface.  I'm so driven to gather and assimilate data and connect facts that I miss the opportunity to make deeper connections.  Except with math and physics.  But that's a completely different and nerdy tale that would scare real people away.  So I'll let it go... I guess.  Classical literature also escapes me, though I was a fan of "Deep Thoughts with Jack Handey" on Saturday Night Live.  Mr. Handey even had some thoughts about his Grandpa going fishing, but the ending just wasn't the kind of thing I wanted to risk including here.  Google at your leisure.

I even consider myself to be a shallow fisherman.  It's still unbelievably rewarding watching a trout swipe a floating dry fly, even if it misses.  Going under the surface requires a whole new set of skills, which sounds like work.  Do I really want to work when I'm fishing?  Also being male, I'm not exactly predisposed to being a deep thinker.  Scratch, scratch.  Grunt.  Ooo, shiny!

Lately I've been faced with some challenges and choices that have required me to think deep.  Those of you with degrees in English or Journalism might be twitching and barely suppressing the urge to attack with a red pen.  You might be thinking, "You idiot.  You should have written 'required me to think deeply.'"  And you would be correct, yet wrong.  The grammar police might issue a ticket, but I'd convince the judge to dismiss the charges, kinda like that speeding where I play-acted as my own attorney.  Instead of thinking deeply, I've been considering Deep Brain Stimulation, a surgical therapy for Parkinson's Disease.

Here's the ten-thousand foot overview of Deep Brain Stimulation: your head gets locked into a "halo" to make sure you can't move while a neurosurgeon drills a hole in your skull and threads some electrodes down into a targeted region deep in your brain.  These electrodes are then connected to a small device that gets implanted in your chest.   The device applies an electrical signal intended to disrupt a malfunctioning part of the brain that contributes to the muscle rigidity, slowness, and tremors of PD.

Then there's the terrifying bit: most of the surgeries are done with the patient conscious and aware.   The final placement of the electrodes usually involves patient participation, with a test signal being applied as the surgeon moves the leads a fraction of a millimeter at a time.  I have avoided going to the dentist for more than 20 years simply because I can't face the thought of having a tooth drilled.  My skull?  I've cried when discussing this with neurologists.

There are also non-trivial risks associated with the surgery.  Some statistics show a 25% chance of significant "adverse events" during or immediately following surgery.  2% chance of stroke that causes permanent damage or death.  I'll stop the risk analysis here.

Why consider doing this?  As I sit in front of my Macbook, my neck and upper back throb in pain.  Since my meds have worn off for the day, my typing rate is reduced to maybe a quarter of my usual speed.  It would be nice to have some balance again, and not limp around.

Fear has been eating at my energy and self-control.  One of the absolute worst problems that Parkinson's Disease has brought me has nothing to do with movement.  Loss of dopamine has sometimes paralyzed me with anxiety, and that can lead to severe mood problems.  Getting angry with yourself because you see how it affects your family just adds fuel to the fire.  I'm sometimes able to find my way out of this mental maze, but not before accumulating some serious shame baggage.

I arrived at the conclusion that we (Mrs. Fading Angler and I) are going to at least learn whether or not I qualify as a candidate for DBS therapy.  I've had some symptoms that might disqualify me, and if so, I can dismiss the risks, anxiety, and decisions.  For now, I need to go fishing.  I'll be spending the next few mornings and evenings chasing brookies and browns.  Maybe some trout therapy will loosen my knotted psyche.

Safe weekend and tight lines, folks.  I'll be fishing on top.

Epilogue: I have a "no whining" policy for myself here on The Fading Angler, and it looks in retrospect like I came perilously close to violating said policy.  Here's my attempt to make it right without rewriting history: the weekend of fishing helped.


  1. This predicament we find ourselves in is a brutal routine that at times has no rhyme, reason or care for your well-being. And the mood swings, fear and at times outright anger are real. Not to mention the fear of the unknown. DBS is a big step, but big step doesn't necessarily mean a step in the wrong direction. We are all made different and have our own reasons for the choices we make. And I would never choose to influence your decision either in a positive or negative manner. But what I will add is this. Get opinions....3rd and 4th opinions. And if you do decide to go in that direction....face the horizon, smile, and do it with nothing but optimism and confidence. Because the procedure is only half the equation. Owning the decision in a positive manner is the other half. My best in your deliberation Brother....keep me posted.

    1. I like your guidance very, very much. Meantime, I will arm myself information. Meditation and intuition (some may call it prayer and revelation) will come into play later, but not now. A weekend of fishing fiberglass cures man ills...

  2. I certainly can understand the "depth" at which you must consider your issues. Although, different than my issues, we are both headed down that same narrow highway. Ralph's comment is so well put that I just can't find other words to express my well wishes. May you find, "Peace", Chris!

    1. Uncle Mel, I'm going to be in your area this weekend, promoting peace and healing via the power of hope that is fly angling. Check your email, please!

  3. If I were faced with such decisions I think I would be a total mess of nerves and could not make a decision. It's good you have a faithful partner in Mrs. Fading Angler that can help and support you.

    As far as top side fishing I'm with fishing is visual and what go's one below the surface is not.

    Be well buddy.

  4. I will echo what our good friend Ralph said. I am going to thread lightly here. but before I go there, there is no shame in the loss of temper under those circumstances although I am sure those words will serve no useful purpose. Your wife understands and if the kids don't, they will in time. You're a kind soul Chris. When we get together soon, I'll tell you a similar story my brother had to face several years ago. In the meantime be at peace my friend.

  5. I'm fortunate to have company that has found me and walks with me for segments along my journey. Thank you. Earlier in the evening I was blessed with a 4wt fiberglass rod, a small spring creek, and a 10" brown trout that hit my hi-viz caddis hard, then ran. Peace achieved for a moment.

  6. “Yet even in the loneliness of the canyon I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help. We are probably those referred to as "our brother's keepers," possessed of one of the oldest and possible one of the most futile and certainly one of the most haunting instincts. It will not let us go.”
    ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

    Brother, I understand. There is little I can do to help you but be available. PD is the river we both are trying to conquer. DBS is a pool of fear which I have fished twice. How you fish the pool is up to you, and it is not ease. You will emerge from the river's travails, as a changed person, as long as you fish with no fear.

    Natty Bumppo

    1. Your "brothers' keepers" phrase has many levels of meaning with me. I'm stepping outside my problems for a few days to go immerse myself in those of my "brothers and sisters." PD can wait.