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Life Is Not a Race!

"Feeling bad is often not as bad as how bad we feel about feeling bad." (Posy, 2022)

Do we expect too much of ourselves? Are we still viewing life as some sort of race? Is the fear of a meltdown worse than the reality?

Managing medication timing

In her previous article on the difficulties of international travel with Parkinson's disease (PD), Posy explained the horrid meltdowns she experienced on her first trip to the USA after lockdown.

Were these feelings attributable to too little levodopa in a 24-hour period? Moving backwards through time zones had messed up her schedule.

As Posy had to return to the USA for another week, she was determined to manage her meds more efficiently this time. However, in spite of adhering conscientiously to a carefully planned schedule, a similar incident occurred even earlier in the 20-hour trip.

After an uneventful flight, Posy arrived in Atlanta. She navigated successfully through immigration and customs, then rechecked her baggage on to her final destination. After this, she would proceed to the security hall. Unlike the previous trip, there would be ample time to walk comfortably to the departure gate.

Posy was overwhelmed

All was going smoothly ... so why, in security, did Posy suddenly find herself fighting back tears of shame and exasperation? On arrival into the US, all passengers who have an onward connection must once again pass through security.

The discomfort involved in queueing, lifting up heavy plastic trays, undressing, undressing a bit more, and trying not to inconvenience anyone was suddenly overwhelming. Obediently standing on the yellow footprints in the X-ray machine, she held up her hands as per the illustration.

She was taken by surprise when a masked official, in muffled words, curtly instructed Posy: "Hands on head!" Posy slapped her hands down onto her head. However, the man proceeded to reprimand her: "Not ON head! OVER HEAD! LIKE THE PICTURE."

Posy was chastened as it had to be her fault. She imagined him to be muttering under his breath, "Stupid imbecile!" Unaccountably upset, she scrabbled to grab all her belongings and dress herself with as much dignity as she could muster.

She felt helpless

In retrospect, Posy should have expected some kind setback with her revised, one-off, unaccustomed (yet carefully devised) medication schedule. This was to be an extra long day with both physical and mental exertion, yet here she was, pushing herself to accomplish everything at breakneck speed.

Feeling as helpless as a tiny infant in her first obstacle race at Sports Day, Posy tried to juggle several awkward tasks at once. However, she was thwarted by clumsy, baby-like fingers and a foggy brain, just as in a dream.

She had felt inordinately pressured by the other passengers’ impatience as they waited behind her. She felt useless, incompetent, and generally pathetic. At last, collapsing on a nearby bench, she pondered miserably on her performance.

It's not a race

"What’s wrong?" asked her husband. When she explained that PD was slowing her down, he replied that she was actually moving faster than everyone else. To his erstwhile competitive wife, he explained, "It’s not a race, you know!"

It was another defining moment for Posy. She was reacting in the same way her ailing father had done before her. When his fitness was declining, he complained bitterly about being "as weak as a kitten." He was resentful because he expected to feel stronger. He was therefore disgusted at himself for managing "only" 200 step-ups, squats, etc. He was 95!

It occurred to Posy at that moment that feeling bad is often not as bad as how bad you feel about feeling bad. Why don't we give ourselves a break?

If we are doing our best, we may not achieve the standards we want for ourselves, but we should congratulate ourselves for doing our best for right now.

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