A Tale of Twins: Accepting a Diagnosis
Many years ago, I heard a story about 2 men who were identical twins. The storyteller recalled how these twin men had both been diagnosed with the same neurological disorder. The disease had a devastating impact on the men’s bodies, and both had become disabled as a result. It was highly debilitating and led them to both lose a great degree of their independence and mobility.
But, the interesting part of this story was the manner in which each twin reacted to the diagnosis. It was dramatically different from the other. For instance, one of the twin men had really struggled to process or accept the diagnosis. He could not comprehend the massive loss of life and limb that came with it. He mentally and physically rejected any help or support that he was offered or needed.
He was obstinate and hellbent on maintaining autonomy and dignity, at whatever personal cost. He was embarrassed and ashamed by not being as productive or able-bodied as he once was. Sadly, he was so embittered and grief-stricken with the supposed betrayal of his body and brain that he committed suicide rather than exist in the world of dependency.
Adapting to change
Yet, in contrast, the other twin adapted and acclimatized to the limits and capabilities of his new body. He enjoyed and welcomed the extra care and help that was now given to him. He relished being cared for and treated like a little baby again. For him, it was a welcomed and wonderful experience. He smiled at the reality of having his meals made, his body towel-dried, and his hair brushed for him.
Rather than viewing this as a loss of independence, he viewed it as a privilege ... being pampered and cared for. So, although he was similarly limited in his mobility by the diagnosis, he continued to live a life that was worth living and was of a quality to him.
This story stuck with me
I have always found it curious how this story has stuck with me. How it somehow pervaded the inner recesses of my flimsy memory bank and nestled itself in there.
I must have been in my early 20s when I heard it. Completely oblivious and naive about what lurked on the horizon for me. It was on daytime TV, and I was just mindlessly channel flicking, hoping that something would pique my interest, and this random (blink and you will miss it) true life story caught my attention.
In the years that have subsequently passed, I find this story still curiously drifts into my thoughts. Why though?
A lesson that lies within
The tale of the twins was interesting to me then and is even more so now. For me, this story highlights several pivotal life lessons. Firstly, the same life event may happen to me and someone else, but the crucial difference lies in the way we choose to react to the event, rather than the event itself. As I go through my days on this earth, I become more and more mindful of the fact that there is always a choice. I choose whether to be hateful or grateful.
It is within my locus of control to become bitter or better. Even though the latter options are debatably harder states to cultivate. They are essentially kinder headspaces to be in, for mind and body. What do I honestly gain from languishing, lamenting, and allowing myself to be engulfed in a sea of pain?
I have walked this dark, sorrowful path and it was just a lonely, sad world to exist in. I was not living or flourishing. Just existing. Time and experience have empowered me to flip the lens through which I view my Parkinson's diagnosis.
I cannot change what I cannot change
The truth is that I cannot change the fact that I have Parkinson’s disease. I cannot change the fact that this diagnosis resulted in the premature end of my teaching career. I cannot change the fact that I have stark daily fluctuations in my mobility. I cannot change the fact that I lost a lot of social connections from the diagnosis, and I cannot change the fact that for my remaining days on this green earth, I will need to take copious amounts of levodopa to function in a semi-normal way.
There is another way
However, what good does it serve me to ponder on the losses? I have no power in this domain. If I reject them, I continue to be hurt. If I accept them, then I can hopefully move on and cultivate a new normal.
I will happily admit that for the first half of my diagnosis years, I firmly rejected the change. I held onto my pain and loss like a stubborn little child. But, with the beauty of hindsight, I realize that this was a waste of energy and emotion.
I wish some wise, loving person had taken me by the shoulders, picked me up, and shaken me. Then looked me straight in the eyes, whilst they explained that there was another, more loving way to be.
On average, how many times per month do you (or your caregiver) go to the pharmacy?
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