Fighting Parkinson’s, and facing fear

Fear. It causes worry. Fear. It is debilitating. Fear. It stops us from living. What is it about these words, “You have Parkinson’s Disease,” that makes us so worried that we become debilitated and stop living? Fear. What is it that makes people who were not worried about their Essential Tremor diagnosis who years later hear the words, “You have Parkinson’s Disease,” that suddenly makes them so worried that they become debilitated and stop living? Fear. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard something to this effect: “I was dealing with my physical changes and challenges well enough. Then I went to the neurologist and was told I had Parkinson’s Disease, and I felt like my life was over.” Let’s face fear, deal with it, let it go, and then start living again!

Fear has the tendency to lead to bad-ending self-fulfilled prophesies. Here is an example: “I got my PD diagnosis and I am afraid of being in a wheelchair.” If the fear of being in a wheelchair becomes so debilitating that you do not stretch and do not exercise and do not take walks, there is a very good chance you end up in a wheelchair by muscle atrophy as much as by Parkinson’s.

So, how do you fix this?
1. Face the fear. Identify it and say it out loud: “I am afraid of being in a wheelchair.”
2. Deal with it. Many times I have written about doing instead of thinking. Here is where it comes into play. Thinking about being in a wheelchair and doing nothing to avoid being in a wheelchair practically guarantees being in a wheelchair. Instead, deal with it and “do” something positive. Instead of living in the drama of the fear of being in a wheelchair, create a solution to help you avoid being in a wheelchair. Example: “To avoid being in a wheelchair, everyday I am going to practice standing, and I am going to point my feet forward, and I am going to walk, and I am going to stretch and I am going to work on my balance.” And then “do” these things, don’t just think about them, and do them with the faith and confidence that if you do these everyday, you will not end up in a wheelchair.
3. Let it go. If you are doing these things everyday with the faith and confidence that if you keep doing them you will not end up in a wheelchair, then you no longer need to worry about ending up in a wheelchair, and you can take that fear and “let it go.”
4. Start living again. If you have taken the fear of being in a wheelchair and let it go, then the fear is gone and you can again do the things you used to do — go out to dinner, go to the movies, attend a ball game, take an evening walk, get out of the house and do gardening, go to a graduation — you get the point.

You can use this formula for all of your Parkinson’s fears. At one point in Dan Millman’s Peaceful Warrior, Socrates tells Dan, “You are dying.” Dan is shaken and asks what is wrong. Socrates explains to Dan that from the time you are born, the path of life ends in death. The point he makes is that you can spend your entire life living in fear that someday you will be dying or you can view life as a blessing to be cherished and you can decide to make the most of it and actually live your life.

I see it the same way with Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s is something that happened or is happening in our lives. If we can face the fears that came with the diagnosis one by one, deal with them and let them go, then we can live our lives again to the fullest until we hit the end of the life path. That is what I did in putting together my Recipe for Recovery, doing it everyday with the faith and confidence that someday I would recover, and I reached the end of the Parkinson’s path before reaching the end of the life path.

So, instead of being afraid of Parkinson’s and being debilitated by the fear of Parkinson’s, what if you try to view life as a blessing to be cherished, despite Parkinson’s, and live your life to the fullest. Maybe you will reach the end of the Parkinson’s path in advance of reaching the end of the life path. As Socrates also told Dan, “We can control efforts, not outcomes.” Why not make them your best efforts. Aren’t you worth it?

All my best,

Howard

 

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