Parkinson’s presents special problems with walking and balance. Here is my Parkinson’s daily journal entry from one year ago today:
“10/28/09. Up at 4. Slow as always. Got to the kitchen at 4:08. Today I learned something new…apparently, I have been walking and going up and down the stairs with my feet/legs in terrible positions — I imagine they have compensated for my lack of balance. When walking, my left foot is approximate 60 degrees left of center and my right foot is about 45 degrees right of center. I forced my feet to point forward and attempted to walk…this is the terrible part…I could barely walk, and walking came with lots of pain. I am back at square one learning how to walk again. One day, I will write in here that I learned something new about my physical ability and motor skills and that it is a good thing — that day is not today!”
This was a huge realization for me. My body’s balance was so poor, and then I learned that my feet were nowhere near pointing forward. It took some time, but I got in the habit of looking at my feet before taking a step. As a result of being hunched over and primarily shuffling my feet already, it was not too much of a stretch to look down at my feet before proceeding forward.
It was a constant battle to keep my feet pointed forward, and I had to practice when sitting in a chair. At first, my calves would be in terrible pain after a minute or so, but over time, my muscles remembered what it was like to be pointed in the correct direction, and they did not punish me as much. Once I was able to master walking with my feet pointing forward, I got a little relief in my leg pain and lower back pain.
I write about this because walking and balance are critical parts of our mobility, and also, they are critical parts of our confidence when we are around others. Lacking the confidence that I could walk through a parking lot, or down the aisle at a grocery store, or through the auditorium at my child’s school without everybody staring at me and wondering “what is wrong with him” made it even more difficult to walk than it should have been…and it made balance impossible…physically, mentally and spiritually. The more they stared, the shakier I got.
Getting over the self-consciousness was a larger hurdle than the physical part. Parkinson’s wants it that way. The disease likes to feed on our psyches and insecurities, and it makes us awkward in a crowd so we prefer to be alone. And alone is how we feel…very alone. To get beyond this, we have to take a huge step and be with other people, and go out in public, and get comfortable in our own skin again. It sends a message to Parkinson’s that says, “I have the power to heal myself and you are not going to make me sit at home and deteriorate.”
Step 1. Believe in yourself. You have the power to heal yourself. Repeating the phrase “I have the power to heal myself” will go a long way to achieving success with Step 1.
Step 2. Get your feet pointing straight, get your balance back, and be with other people.
More to come.
All my best,