Maybe you’ve had a finger twitch for a while. Or maybe, just maybe, one of your arms hasn’t been swinging when you’re walking. Or maybe you can’t smell stinky things anymore. So you head to the doc and the doc takes one look at you and determines it’s all in your head. It’s a thing called Parkinson’s disease and the symptoms of FINDING OUT you have Parkinson’s disease now begin.
You are most likely in shock. If this normal, immediate reaction isn’t what you have, then you are probably relieved.
Relieved, you ask? Well, if you are like several others who have been diagnosed with this disease, you have probably gone to several doctors, covering several miles over several years to get several opinions to finally find out it’s one thing: Parkinson’s. Initially, you are relieved. However, once the truth sets in, so do the all too real symptoms of finding out you have PD.
Grief can overwhelm you, leaving you feeling as if you have lost something significant, valuable, irreplaceable. And you have – your life, as you once knew it. However, just because you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, doesn’t mean your life as you once knew it is over. And just because you see others with PD struggling unimaginably doens’t mean you will. It does, however, some things are and will change. But it’s hard to say what precisely will change, as each individual journey with Parkinson’s disease is different.
Anger is a real and possible symptom of PD. Maybe that is how boxing came to be known as a great exercise for PD. Sometimes you need a healthy outlet to get out what’s bottled up inside.
A renewed heart and mind, a change of outlook, and/or a positive attitude can be common among those diagnosed with a disease such as Parkinson’s. You realize the value of each moment, of each day and you find you love life just a little bit more than you did before because you realize things can change in an instant.
One symptom I think we can say we all face – and even struggle with – is fear. It is natural to wonder what it will be like as the disease progresses, what we will be like, how others will see us, what others will think, will we be a burden, and so much more. We struggle with the aspect of fear because, if we have faith in God, we may feel our faith is wimpy if we succumb those feelings. But the thing about fear is that it can drive us closer to the Lord, knowing that He is with us through the dark valleys, leading us to green pastures and still waters to restore our soul.
No matter what your “finding out” symptoms may be, there is nothing more comforting than knowing that He is faithful to be with us through it all, no matter how big, no matter how small.
This little monster – I am going to beat it I won’t let it control me while it controls me
Sometimes I think about the yesterdays and the tomorrows and I want to cry but I don’t cry but tonight I cried because tonight I am reminded of the yesterdays – of how life used to be and look like and smell like and taste like and what it felt like
The yesterdays that were pain free and shake free and drool free and falling free and stiffness free and cramping free and medication free
Maybe I cried because I forget how real this monster is and little things remind me how it is not so small and I have to accept – all over again – this little monster is now my constant companion for better or for worse
and the better and the worse are both life-sustaining as they teach me the value of living
the value of a moment a word a smile tears and giggles and people
And I am finding in the worst there is be something better – and it is in that better where I will beat this thing that strives to beat me
it might control my body but it will not control me
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.