Sometimes, we despair. Sometimes we lose hope and feel we are withering away. Sometimes we feel like grieving over things we have lost to a disease that can ravage our body until it seems nothing that is ‘us’ remains any longer.
Sometimes, all we need is a little encouragement. Sometimes hope will and does remedy what is ailing us at the moment. Sometimes hope and encouragement can only come through the truth of God’s word.
And. So, may His truth encourage you this day as you remember that it is He, and only He, that can fill us with joy as we face trials in life that attempt to bring us down and strip us from the heavenly joy which is promised to those who believe.
Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kids, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. …Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests before God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Yesterday was the most beautiful day in southern Oregon since the winter weather set in nearly four months ago. It was one of those magical days of crystal clear skies and unusually warm weather. However, no matter how many crystal clear, blue sky days God sends our way, no matter if it’s summer or winter, no matter if we’ve not a care in the world – life can seem like a dark hole we’ll never find a way out of. And if you have Parkinson’s, this can be especially true, given depression is a very real symptom of this disease.
I’ve written on this subject before, but when I walked out to the big windows in my living room and smiled as the sun’s rays filtered through the glass, I thought about my comrades in arms who battle this disease alongside me and those who don’t but who battle depression regularly and often find themselves frequenting (if not living in) that dark hole. They live in a place where they fear there is no escape and feel trapped in a life doomed to darkness. And it’s a very real place, whether brought on by disease, grief, stress, seasonal change, or the like.
Before diagnosing yourself and thinking you’ve got this depression thing whipped and soon you’ll be experiencing spring, remember that whether you’ve got PD or not, depression is a disease. If it’s due to more than a change in seasons or grief over the loss of a loved one, you may very well need some help to do more than just cope with life and actually begin to live again.
Susan Polis Shultz said, “Getting better from depression demands a lifelong commitment. I’ve made that commitment for my life’s sake and for the sake of those who love me.” Depression usually isn’t a once in a lifetime occurrence nor is it like a 24 hour flu bug, where it’s here today and gone tomorrow. It is usually a lifelong battle that will require a lifelong commitment, as Shultz said, to get better.
There are, however, several things we have in our armory of weapons to fight against this monster.
* Keep moving. When we sit around and do literally close to nothing all day long because of our depression, not only is our dopamine production off balance but our outlook becomes skewed by sitting and focusing on how awful things are. We need to (sometimes literally) force ourselves up out of that permanently molded spot on the couch, turn off the TV and quit listening to the news for a week and go for a walk each day. At a park. At the mall. Around the block. Get out and do something. Anything. Clean out your shed. Shovel snow. Plant some flowers for the spring. Wash your car. Get out and do something. Anything. * Eat healthy. When I was pregnant with my second child, I determined to be as healthy as I could physically in order to prepare for her birth. Having my first child entailed a very difficult birth – an experience I hoped to avoid the second go around. I asked the doctor what was the best thing I could do to (hopefully) keep that from happening again. He said to walk every day. So I did. There were days I had to FORCE myself to do it. But I did. Then something began to happen. I began to WANT to eat better. I began to think that if I’m doing all this ‘work’ to get in ‘shape’ for the birth of my baby, why would I want to counteract that work with filling my body with junk? I began replacing Milky Ways with oranges and nectarines and the like. Eating healthy doesn’t just mean nixing the junk food for healthy alternatives but cutting back on portions and also finding out what foods help in fighting depression (fresh berries, sweet potatoes, etc). Eating healthy is a battle for me but I know when I do, I notice a big difference.
* Do something. And I would add – for someone else. Part of our struggle in depression – whether diseased induced or otherwise – is we tend to focus on ourselves. How bad we feel. How bad life is for us. If we are actively, physically involved doing something – anything – we will find ourselves in a much better place emotionally and mentally and doing something – anything – for someone else will only add to the improvements in our mood. Pick some of those flowers you planted and take them to a neighbor. That snow you shoveled? How about the neighbors sidewalk/driveway? Fix an extra dinner or dessert plate and take it to a lonely neighbor or ask them in to eat with you (even better). Volunteer at a local charity/food bank center. Do something you keep putting off like that woodworking project you keep promising to do with your son. * Get your Vitamin D levels checked. Most of us with PD are extremely low with Vitamin D. This plays a big role in energy and mood. Make sure to be tested to see if you (and most likely you will) need a supplement. You will notice a huge difference, if so. * Talk to your doctor. Talk to somebody. Many times when you’re down or depressed, just talking to someone makes all the difference in the world. I once attended a conference where the woman speaking said if everyone who needed a listening ear had one good friend they trusted and could talk to over a cup of coffee, 95% of psychiatrists and counsellors would be out of business. Sometimes, though, it takes more than a friend. And sometimes when you’re depressed you don’t feel like you have a friend. Talk to your doctor. That’s what they’re there for.
Muhammad Ali said: ‘When a man says “I cannot”, he has made a suggestion to himself. He has weakened his power of accomplishing that which otherwise could have been accomplished.’
You can beat this monster. But you have to get up and not give up. Get moving, even if it’s a trip to the doctor to ask for help. Do something. Do anything.
As a child, I was taught not to question my parents. Growing up, I decided since I believed that God was sovereign and had a reason for everything that He did, there was no reason to question Him, either.
A few years ago, I finally got angry. I really hadn’t gotten angry yet over this thing called Parkinson’s disease, but I figured it was about time.
I had gone through some first stages of dealing with my Parkinson’s – sadness, grief. But never anger. It had been two years and it hit me. I was only 47, my doctor confident that I’d been struggling with this Little Monster since before the age of 32 (when it had been misdiagnosed as systemic lupus). But for me, on that day, it had been two definite years of knowing that I’d been labeled with Parkinson’s disease.
And that day I was angry.
Because I was only 47.
Because my right arm and my right hand shake.
Because my legs shake and my feet as well.
Because my jaw and face shake.
Because I can’t smell roses anymore.
Because sometimes it’s hard to swallow and do other things that I used to not think about like button my pants or put on my watch.
Because I get tired more easily and it’s hard to make it through the day without a nap.
Because I am not as strong as I used to be.
Because my foot drags and I’ve been known to trip on occasion and then fall.
Because I have fallen down stairs twice. Ungracefully, I might add.
Because my mind always seems scattered. (Hey, it’s my disease – I can blame anything on it!)
Because I don’t sleep well.
Because I can get nauseaus from the medicine.
Because I have Parkinson’s.
Those are all pretty good reasons to be angry, right? I wasn’t angry at God, but perhaps it would be better said, I was angry with Him. He allowed this to be, but He didn’t cause it. So, we got angry together. And in my anger, I wanted to ask, “Why?”
But I didn’t.
Instead, I sat there as He dried my tears and He whispered, “Jesus wept and He also asked why.” I stopped crying and thought about what He had just said to me.
“My God, my God,” Christ cried out on the cross, “why have you forsaken me?”
He was not condemned for asking His heavenly Father “Why?” and there doesn’t seem to be an answer there that we are aware of to the question He asks of his Father. But I am quite confident the answer was there even if we are unaware of it. And I am quite confident that Jesus already knew what the answer was, just as I usually know the answer to my why’s, making it useless to even ask ‘Why?‘.
Why do I have Parkinson’s?
Why not me??
Why does my friend have kidney disease?
Why do those we love struggle with hard things?
Why did my aunt have to die from medical neglect?
Why does a friend of mine have to care for children whose biological parents don’t care enough about their own children to get off of drugs?
Why, why, why?
As little children harassing our parents, the quick-witted response was usually, “Because, because, because!!!” As God’s children, the wise response is often also… “Because.” We can ask why until our list of questions is exhausted and the answer may still come back as “Because.”
I think asking why almost gives you an answer within the asking. By asking why of an all-powerful, all-knowing God, we are admitting that we cannot and are unable to control our lives nor the lives of those who we love. We realize that God is real, even though we may choose to walk away because of what He allowed for reasons we may never understand. We may choose to deny Him because we don’t agree with what He allows. He gives us a free will to make that choice.
However, while He allows things to happen in life that we would prefer to have pass over us and leave us unscathed from life’s messes and mistakes, He remains sovereign and is there with us, no matter how bad it gets. He will make us stronger, wiser, and humble inwardly and more compassionate, patient, and forgiving toward others outwardly. If I cannot understand the why’s, I can be thankful for the blessings that come out of the why’s.
So, ultimately, I have Parkinson’s disease. If just one life is encouraged, if just one life is strengthened, if just one person feels more hopeful and not alone – then that is why I have this Little Monster hanging around. And, it may not make me happy to have PD, but it definitely brings me joy to be used because of it.