Hands cover over eyes to conceal father with PD

Using Avoidance to Cope with Parkinson's Disease

Sometimes I wonder if my coping mechanism is avoidant. I have the travel bug and I can commonly be found in a different location every weekend. I love seeing and experiencing new things. But I think that being away is also easier than being home, where I have to watch my dad’s decline.

Dad has known about Parkinson's for nearly 8 years. And it isn’t a surprise to see the symptoms develop. But knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t make it any easier.

Perhaps it's because I love him so much that I can’t stay for too long. After all, how do we maintain our sanity while being punched in the heart every day?

Tolerating the pain

I know it’s possible to tolerate the pain on a daily basis because my mom and two of my siblings still live at home. They’ve found a way to swallow the sadness in order to be there for my dad. Why haven’t I?

The foul disease continuously sinks its teeth into my dad, growing in strength and ferocity. And I can’t bear to watch it. It’s much easier to check in occasionally than to stare it in the face.

But maybe living in the same house as Parkinson’s disease requires avoidance of a different kind. Since the changes are slow, you hardly notice them. But when you’re away, the progression is more obvious.

Over the course of a few months, it’s easy for me to see my Dad’s slowing of speech when the pace doesn’t necessarily seem obvious to those who live at home. But it isn’t possible to hide from his plentiful freezing episodes, no matter who you are.

Avoiding the reality of parkinson's

Impermanence is the only consistent thing in life. And I try to take comfort in the idea that the circle of life exists for a reason. There has to be some sort of lesson hidden in the shambles of Parkinson’s disease. But knowing that I’ll experience the loss of my dad is a tough concept to stomach- especially when it’ll be the loss of someone who is so monumental for me.

Coping with avoidance is a practice that involves avoiding confrontation. I don’t want to think about the reality of my dad having Parkinson’s, so I don’t. Anything that relates to it should be avoided.

Instead of fully experiencing the emotions and obstacles that are associated with the thing that I’m avoiding, I shy away from it entirely. But this strategy isn’t fair to my dad.

Can I embrace the diagnosis?

I’m not ready to jump on a plane to show up at my dad’s doorstep, but I do wonder if there’s a better way to manage my emotional response to Parkinson’s disease. Will I be able to find a way to embrace my dad’s disease in its entirety?

Is it possible to find the light in the darkness? And how do others deal with the constant loss that’s associated with Parkinson’s disease? Maybe I’ll start by opening my eyes a little wider and being willing to see that which causes me pain.

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