Sad man sits on ledge in blue abyss.

Feeling a Loss of Purpose With Parkinson's Disease

As I was flying back to New York from visiting my parents in Dallas, I watched Netflix’s The Crown. The show, while painstakingly dull to some, provides serious insight into familial structure and how to operate around a sense of obligation.

One episode, in particular, focused on Prince Phillip’s (Queen Elizabeth’s husband) loss of purpose in life, thus becoming more irritable and downright nasty to be around.

The "taking stock" moment

The whole of the episode essentially discussed how men reach a certain age and take stock of what they have accomplished. In the case of Prince Phillip, he was held back by his royal obligations and many of his dreams remained unfulfilled.

In the case of my father, his Parkinson’s forced him to his “taking stock” moment at 62, which may seem in the realm of normal for most, but coupled with the mental health side effects of Parkinson’s disease, has led to quite a depressing time in his life.

Work and life intertwined

A bit of background on my father - his father died when he was very young and his mother was quite sick for most of his life. In India, when a child is left without a father and a sick mother, the child begins to work as a means of survival, as was the case for my father.

Essentially, the man has been working since the age of 10 years old and not just to survive, but he has been guiding himself and his family since he was a young child. Leaving behind a life of poverty in India, moving to Saudi Arabia for a few years, getting married then finding his way over to America where he successfully ran a business for nearly 30 years.

We didn't see this coming

When he retired in 2016 because of Parkinson’s, he did not just retire from owning a small business for 30 years. This was the first time in his whole life he did not have anywhere to be in the morning.

At first, we were all very excited for him. He hadn’t taken a vacation ever. He barely ever slept in (though we suspected he liked to do so). Finally, he could breathe and relax.

What we didn’t realize though is this permanent break led to a serious loss of purpose. I mean, for the first time in his whole life he did not have anywhere to be. What is even more, the Parkinson’s disabled him from being as active as he could’ve been without the disease.

Losing more than just a routine

So where does that leave him? Logistically? What does his routine look like now? He wakes up around noon. Showers, changes, eats breakfast, drinks tea. And then waits for my mother to come home. His life was bustling and chaotic but now he doesn’t have that routine.

In my head, as a healthy person, it doesn’t make sense to me that someone could desire to work so much after having worked as much as he has. But, he is not healthy and even if he was, losing a sense of purpose is unfathomable. I don’t think he ever saw this coming.

Parkinson's obstructs the way back

What makes the loss of purpose the hardest though, is the loss of control. Parkinson’s is a bitch of a disease that leaves you unable to even go for a walk without hurting yourself. Talking and sharing your experience is difficult because your speech is compromised. Volunteering is out of the question because how can he help others when he needs help to get out of and into a chair? Anything that requires a scheduled amount of work won’t happen because he gets so tired from walking down the hall. And it will only get worse because Parkinson’s is degenerative.

So he is a bit lost right now and with his Parkinson’s progressing the way it is, I don’t know if he’ll find his way back. All we can do is pray for him and support him as we always have.

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