Last week I posted Fighting Parkinson’s, and learning to love…yourself, part 1. If you have not read that post, I highly recommend that you read it prior to reading this post. As I stated in part 1, this is going to be a multi-part series. In today’s post, and future posts, I will explain the process I used to learn to love myself, and in the end, how I learned that it was not selfish, but was, in fact, necessary for my recovery…in my life and with my Parkinson’s.
Like many people with Parkinson’s, going out in public was not something I looked forward to. I was self-conscious, and the self-consciousness made my symptoms worse, particularly if I felt my slow moving, hunched forward, shuffling manner had caught somebody’s attention (as if a 49-year-old man shuffling like a 90-year-old man with a back problem wasn’t going to catch somebody’s attention). Clearly, you can see that like many of you, I was completely in my head.
Eventually, I realized that probably nobody was looking at me and thinking bad things about me. So, why did my symptoms rage in public? After some deep introspection, I had to admit to myself that I was the only one looking at me and thinking bad things about me. I did not like how I looked. I did not like how I moved. I felt I had let down Sally and our children. I did not like me.
However, that harder thing I had to admit to myself was that having Parkinson’s was just another reason why I did not like me. I realized that I had not liked me for a very long time. It occurred to me that I needed to find out why I did not like me because my feelings about myself made me feel unworthy as a human being, which also meant I felt unworthy of my Parkinson’s recovery. At that point, I also realized that I had been trying to get better for Sally and our children. I was not even on the list of people for whom I was trying to get better.
After some meditative quiet time, I decided that I needed to explore times in my life when things were said or done that made me feel bad about myself. Maybe I had held on to those feelings and they had festered into a sub-conscious blockage of my life and my Parkinson’s recovery. Here is what I did to explore this concept.
I sat in a relaxed manner, closed my eyes and went back as far as I could in life hoping that something would jump out…and something did. When I was young, I was a very sensitive child, which is a polite was of saying I cried a lot. When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my father would scream at me to stop crying like a girl. From then on, when I felt the tears coming, I would bite the inside of my lip to suppress the tears. I need to side-track for a moment here to explain that this situation from my childhood was something I “resolved” in my adult life as a stupid thing to say to a child, and I felt it had been resolved. What I learned in my Parkinson’s recovery was only resolved at the intellectual level, but that it was not resolved at a deeper emotional/spiritual level.
Okay, back to where I was. I visualized my 4 or 5 year-old self, and he was sitting there feeling really badly about himself. I sat down next to this younger version of me, put my arm around his shoulder and told him, “Dad was wrong. It is okay to cry. Crying is natural and you were not doing anything wrong when he screamed at you to stop crying like a girl.” Young Howard stared at me, and I told him it really is okay to cry. Well, he started to cry, and then I started to cry…45 years of self-criticizing, suppressed crying came to the surface and I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed…and my tremors were out of control. A couple of times I thought I was going to pass out as a result of being unable to catch my breath. And then, the crying subsided.
As if I had not had enough surprises already, what came next nearly pushed me over the top — ANGER!!! Young me was really angry at my dad, his dad. ANGER: that four-letter word I had spent the previous seven months extricating from my being. That ANGER! And with this anger, I had a transformation.
I told young me that I was him in the future and I had not turned out so badly. However, I had this Parkinson’s Disease, and I could not have anger in my life. I needed him to help me get better, and I needed him to take a look at the facts of 45 years earlier with me to help me get better.
I told him that when dad said this, it was the early 1960’s in Miami, Florida, and I would imagine that he was trying to protect young me from being teased or beat up by the other children if I cried in front of them. It was not offered out of hatred for young me, but instead out of protection and love. Yes, I still felt it was offered in a stupid manner, but dad had come into our relationship with 28 years of his own issues in life. I told young me that instead of anger, he needed to offer dad understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Young me complied.
And with this compliance, I had another transformation. For the first time in my life, I viewed my father as another human being, not as a father figure…just another human being who was suffering from things just like everybody else, doing his best to be a good husband and father, coming into all of those relationships with his lifetime of baggage and issues. And I cried, much as I am crying now as I type these words.
This was my first step in learning to love myself. I am emotionally worn out, so I will write more next time.
Never forget…YOU ARE WORTH IT!
All my best,