In the opening pages of Lucky Man, I described a morning in Florida 19 years ago when I woke up with a hangover and a twitching left pinky finger. In the intervening years, my life has seen many changes. Most mornings, for example, I awake to find my left pinky finger perfectly still—it's the rest of my body that's shaking uncontrollably. Technically, my body is only fully at peace when my mind is completely at rest—that is, asleep. Low brain activity means fewer neurons firing, or in my case, misfiring. As I awaken, before my conscious mind really knows what's happening, my body has already gotten the news in the form of insistent neural instructions to twist, twitch, and contort. Any chance of slipping back into sleep is lost.
This morning Tracy is already up, dealing out breakfasts and readying the kids for school. I blindly fumble a plastic vial from the nightstand, dry-swallow a couple of pills, and then fall immediately into the first series of actions that, while largely automatic, demand a practiced determination. I swing my legs around to the side of the bed, and the instant my feet hit the floor, the two of them are in an argument. A condition called "dystonia," a regular complement to Parkinson's, cramps my feet severely and curls them inward, pressing my ankles toward the floor and the soles of my feet toward each other as though they were about to close together in prayer. I snake my right foot out toward the edge of the rug and toe-hook one of my hard leather loafers. I force my foot into the shoe, repeat the process with the left, and then cautiously stand up. Chastened by the unyielding confines of the leather, my feet begin to behave themselves. The spasms have stopped, but the aching will persist for the next twenty minutes or so.