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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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I am so selfish

22 June 2020

Today's column is something of a personal diary entry.

This Parkinson's thing is a real challenge.

Last week I had tremors that were so bad (just for a day) that I almost couldn't type out your regular daily dose. Fingers were going in all the wrong directions and hitting all the wrong keys. As I mentioned the day after that happened... I managed to get there by resorting to hunt-and-peck using one hand to steady the other.

I don't really want to have to do that again, it was incredibly tedious.

My wife has also been complaining about personality changes and, if the medical experts are to be believed, this is par for the course, as the disease progresses.

The reality is that my brain is crumbling and that not only affects its ability to control my body but every other aspect of my life, right down to the minutiae that makes me "who I am".

I increasingly find myself having to consciously stop and think about things that were previously automatic and from time to time I have to fight an automatic response with a more considered, reasoned one that reflects who I really am rather than who I might eventually become.

Yeah... it sucks.

As dopamine levels in the brain fall, so does the level of joy one gets from life.

Dopamine is the chemical that gives you a natural high when you're enjoying life and is the body's response to pleasure. A lack of it has obvious effects on your outlook, your behaviour and your response to things.

Apparently depression can be a huge problem with Parkinson's sufferers, mainly due to the lack of dopamine causing the same effect as coming down from a drug-induced high such as one might get from cocaine or similar stimulants.

So I get to live in a "crash" without the high.

Hey ho... that's life :-)

Fortunately I've never been one to wallow in the "woe is me" and "please feel sorry for me" kind of mindset. As someone who still has a reasonably well functioning brain, I try to turn hurdles into challenges because if you succeed in a challenge you get the reward that such accomplishment brings... aka dopamine... and I need as much of that as my tiny brain can produce right now.

With this in mind I have chosen to take on a number of challenges that are hopefully going to keep my mind as active and busy as it can be. I've always enjoyed going "head to head" with those who abuse their positions of power or influence and rallying for causes that need to be supported. This gives me the motivation and drive I need to keep going, even on the darkest of days.

I refuse to be bested by some bureaucrat in a sharp suit or by a bunch of politicians who disingenuously claim to be working for the greater good, whilst simply looking out for number-one.

Of course I also have to remember that I'm now in my 68th year and that, despite my best efforts to mitigate the ravages of time and decay on this mortal coil, I do not have the physical stamina or resources of a young man. But hey... balancing the power of the spirit with the weakness of the flesh is just another of those challenges I was talking about. The importance of picking the right fight is also something I'm constantly aware of and this means constant re-evaluation of what I'm doing and why.

Unfortunately, although mentally stimulating and sustaining, cerebral battles with dim-bulbs is also ultimately quite draining. Yes, that sounds contradictory but it is true. Strategizing, researching, colating and presenting evidence and facts as part of a serious argument against some of the excesses of bureaucrats and politicians does keep me "abuzz" for quite extended periods but ultimately there has to be a point where things are set aside for a while to allow some recovery and reflection.

It is this reflective time where I am so thankful for my other coping mechanism.

When I'm becoming mentally exhausted and in need of escape from the daily grind and self-imposed pressure to perform, I grab a drone or an RC model plane, put on my video goggles and go fly.

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you can fly? Where all you need to do is think about leaving the ground and you instantly find yourself soaring effortlessly through the sky -- swooping low and zooming up towards the clouds whilst soaking up a fantastic view of the world around you?

Well I get to experience that for real and I have to say that it is the most enjoyable experience you can have whilst still wearing your clothes. No, I haven't tried it naked, that would be a step too far me thinks! :-)

Being able to effectively escape the world below and experience the bliss that is unfettered movement in all three dimensions is both calming and exciting at the same time. It truly is a drug that, at least for me and tens of thousands of other FPV fliers, is far more effective than any antidepressants or stimulants the best pharmaceutical labs can come up with.

Sadly, and hence one of the reasons for my crusades against stupidity in the halls of power, our very freedom to enjoy this "out of body" experience is under challenge. All over the world we have huge corporate entities making a grab for the 0-400ft airspace that is the place where this "mental health flying" takes place. These corporations want us gone, replaced with their ill-conceived notions of a sky filled with delivery drones and urban transport craft that they mistakenly believe will boost their wealth enormously.

I now have a huge amount of backing from around the world for this crusade and that strengthens my resolve to rally against this airspace-grab.

Will I succeed or fail?

Only time will tell but the odds are stacked heavily against me.

Does that mean I should give up?

Hell no. It is far better to have fought and lost than to have simply surrendered without firing a shot.

So long as the battle continues, I have the fuel I need to keep my rusty old brain churning away and if I win, I (and the rest of the world) will still have the freedom to enjoy escaping the tedium of reality through my video glasses, albeit just for a few minutes at a time.

So there you go... I said this would be something of a diary entry and that's it.

And, as the title of today's column clearly states... I'm a selfish bugger. I'm doing this for my on mental wellbeing as much as anything... although I still think future generations should have the right to enjoy a harmless, educational, rewarding hobby if they choose to.

What is YOUR mental-health activity? What do you do when you want to escape from the reality of the world and just "bliss-out"?

Music? Exercise? Online gaming?

Please share... in the forums.

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