One complicated concept for outsiders to grasp about Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is that of “on” and “off” times, the indications of whether medications are in balance with the disorder. If one has been dealing with PD for any significant amount of time, say seven or eight years, disease symptoms—both physical and psychological—abruptly reverse course several times throughout the day while cycling through medication balance.

Matching medication to symptoms becomes an increasingly impossible task, as a greater dosage must be taken for the same effect over time, narrowing the window of “on” time until it disappears altogether.

There is a saving grace to this downward arc, however: when I’m so severely “off” that it becomes impossible to hide symptoms, then Parkinson’s evolves into a liberation of the soul, as if I had been living a lie, but am now free to relax a bit and let the limbs flail where they may.

When I let Parkinson’s flow through me without resistance, it becomes easier to ignore the looks of those who think I am drunk or high or just weird (the last observation is accurate, as it turns out, but that has little to do with Parkinson’s).

Uncontrollable symptoms demand that I be my genuine physical self, a not-so-gentle reminder of the free-wheeling joy that comes from living authentically, not subject to society’s pressured superficialities.

So, if you run into the “off” me, please know that life is good, whatever the look on my face. I’m just being my authentic self.

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