O ne question I hear a lot from my beloved… usually when I’m seated in my recliner and my 1000-yard stare is focused on the TV and I haven’t moved or blinked in awhile…
“Are you OK?”
I snap to attention and smile. “Sure. Just having a bad face day. Feeling Parky!”
She knows what that means.
To the uninitiated, the blank, expressionless, sometimes pissed-off looking face of a Parkinson’s patient is mistaken for something else… like “The Lights Being On, but Nobody’s Home.”
In truth, it’s more like “The Lights are All Out, but EVERYBODY ’s Home.”
When I sit, staring what the experts call a “reptilian stare,” that doesn’t mean my mind isn’t going a mile a minute or that I’m not in a good mood. A masked expression is usually one of the earliest symptoms of Parkinson ’s. It gets worse as time goes on, as shown by recent pictures of Muhammad Ali and later pictures of Pope John Paul II.
One way that we express emotion is via facial expression. Facial expression of emotion is made possible by the working of complex muscle groups in the face. In some people with Parkinson’s disease, these facial muscles no longer work properly, and so facial expression of emotion is more difficult. The person’s face is not as expressive as it once was and sometimes resembles a mask.
So, when you see me, and I’m just sitting there with that 1000-yard stare and I’m not moving or blinking or smiling or showing any emotion whatsoever… worry not.