Fighting Parkinson’s, and balance

I have received some feedback regarding the issue of balance…balance in life and improving balance physically. A few people have requested that I re-post balance discussions again for ease of access. Please note: In my recovery, I came to the realization that first I had to achieve balance spiritually, (heal my soul), then I had to achieve balance mentally (heal my mind), and finally I had to achieve balance physically (heal my body). I have presented the re-posts in that order.

From August 12, 2010 Getting Balanced and more on “letting go”:
“When I had Parkinson’s, I was completely out of balance. Physically, my center of balance was non-existent – my balance was somewhere behind my heels, so being hunched over was a way of life, a way of Parkinson’s survival. Mentally, I was angry, frustrated and depressed. Spiritually, I was well-grounded, but my perception was that I should not ask my Higher Power for anything. Instead, I felt that I needed to “keep the faith” that I would get better, and then do something positive each day in furtherance of that future getting better.

In his book Soul Mind Body Medicine, Dr. Sha has two main points that I found to ring true: (1) You have the power to heal yourself; and (2) First, heal the soul, and the mind and body will follow. Further, I learned from Dr. Janice Walton-Hadlock, DAOM (Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), and teacher at Five Branches University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Santa Cruz, California,http://pdrecovery.org/, that I needed to discover my Inner Divine and surrender my attachment to Parkinson’s to finally be finished with it. So, how did I heal my soul?

Balance and letting go.

Parkinson’s likes to hang around and make us feel like we have to have it forever. It knocks us off balance physically, which leads to knocking us off balance mentally (anger, frustration, depression), which knocks us off balance spiritually (we give up hope). Drs. Sha and Walton-Hadlock are correct – we have to reverse the order to beat Parkinson’s at its own game.

Think about this: Physically, you are off balance. You move slowly and cautiously, often looking down instead of forward. What does that do? It puts your body in a posture that makes it virtually impossible to walk balanced. Your neck is bent, your spine is bent, the fluid in your semicircular canals is moved, and your visual frame of reference (important for balance) is your legs or the floor, and you acquire what is often referred to as a Parkinson’s gait. Mentally, you then become off balance because you are afraid of falling or freezing, and you are afraid of the future with Parkinson’s. This is right where Parkinson’s wants you…not living in the moment, but instead living in the past (getting Parkinson’s) and being fearful of the future (life with long-term Parkinson’s). Spiritually, you give up hope that you ever will get better. At that point Parkinson’s is winning.

Essentially, when you stare at your legs and feel unbalanced, you are looking at the past. When you feel unbalanced, you fear the future (walker, wheelchair, etc.). How can you move forward in life in a balanced manner if you are staring backwards and it makes you fearful of where you are going? Hope. But hope is not enough. You have to KNOW. You have to know in your heart of hearts and your soul of souls that you will get better.

I knew I would get better. I knew it as fact. I did not know when, but I knew I would get better. I got my body ready, I got my mind ready, but spiritually, I was still looking outside myself. I had the order incorrect (first, heal the soul, and the mind and body will follow). Ultimately, to heal my soul, I had to go to the scariest place of all and look inside. It is where fear lurks behind every corner. Dr. Walton-Hadlock’s guidance taught me that it is okay to ask my Higher Power to take on my fears and negative thoughts so I could stay positive on my road to recovery.

I learned to “let go” of my fear of Parkinson’s and negative thoughts about the future. Every time one surfaced, I addressed it something like this: “Dear God, I have this fear and I do not have time for it to bring me down. I need to stay focused on positive thoughts. You are in a much better position than me to deal with negative thoughts and fears, so I am giving you this negative thought and fear and thank you for taking care of it for me.” The first day I did this, it must have been 100 times I repeated this phrase. After four or five days, the negative thoughts and fears diminished, and then they went away.

During this process of healing my soul, I found Divine guidance and love where fear previously lurked. Mentally, I was not angry or frustrated or depressed…I was happy. Physically, with Sally having fixed my Stomach Meridian flow with Yin Tui Na (Forceless Spontaneous Release), I had everything in place to be finished with Parkinson’s. Thank you Dr. Walton-Hadlock for nudging me to surrender my ego to my Higher Power and just be done with it. As usual, you were correct, and I am eternally grateful.”

From October 28, 2010 Walking and Balance:
“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.”

 

From November 2, 2010 Standing and Balance:

“Standing and balance is really part 2 of walking and balance. With Parkinson’s, I found myself hunched forward, in large part because my balance was somewhere behind my heels. I knew I never would be able to stand up straight or walk properly unless I corrected the problem.

There is a Qigong exercise I did called “standing.” That’s all you do…stand. It is a very powerful exercise because it opens channels, lubricates joints and gets balance back where it should be. As a result of being unable to stand straight without falling over backwards, I modified my standing as follows:

1. Put your back against a wall where you can be looking at a clock.
2. Feet should be shoulder width apart and pointing forward.
3. Bend your knees a little as if squatting to sit on the edge of a stool; squeeze anus once and release.
4. Hold arms in front of body as if holding a beach ball against your chest, with hands at eye level and palms facing your abdomen.
5. Your shoulders and elbows should be relaxed.
6. Your mouth should be closed, teeth closed but not clenched, and tip of your tongue resting against the roof of your mouth directly behind your middle two top teeth.
7. Inhale deeply through your nose into your diaphragm.
8. Exhale fully through your nose.
9. If possible, stand for two minutes. Gradually see if you can stand for five minutes.

Although some people believe nothing can be gained from just standing, I found this exercise released the tightness in the joints of my knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and wrists. When I stood for five minutes, I felt pain in my joints. I figured it must have been toxins being released because how much damage could I be doing to myself by just standing.

Over time, I gained confidence when I had to stand still, such as in a line at the grocery store or at the movies. I remained hunched forward, but I felt more grounded…physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I am hopeful that putting everything on balance in one place will assist with balance issues, spiritually, mentally and physically.

All my best,

Howard

 

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