In 1993, journalist Michael Kinsley was at the height of his powers. After serving as editor of magazines like the "New Republic" and "Harper's", he was host of CNN's "Crossfire" and would soon found the pioneering online magazine "Slate." Then, Kinsley was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that can involve stiffness, shaking, fatigue and other symptoms that may progress over decades. His response was similar to that of thousands of people confronted with such a diagnosis: He chose denial.
For years, this strategy seemed to work. "If you fool yourself skillfully enough, you can banish thoughts of the disease but retain a liberating sense of urgency," he later wrote in Time. "It's like having a get-out-of-jail-free card from the prison of delayed gratification."
As his symptoms got worse, it became harder for Kinsley to maintain the illusion of normalcy. "Denial requires secrecy, and secrecy pretty much requires deception," he wrote. "Parkinson's disease has [plunged] me into a maze of deception and self-deception." He wrote this in 2001, eight years after his diagnosis, in an article for Time magazine.
Honesty came with its own risks. An offer to run "The New Yorker" was rescinded after the owner learned of his illness. Sharing his diagnosis seemed to push him across an invisible line between mid-life and old age—in what amounted to a sort of "expulsion from the club of the living."
Kinsley does appear to have kept one secret weapon against the disease: his sense of humor. "You must admit it's a pretty good joke on someone who used to like being precocious," he has written about developing Parkinson's. "If life is a race to the finish line, I am years ahead now."