My Experience - Mental Health is Crucial!
Mental and physical wellbeing are equally important. I’ve learned the hard way. Medical emergencies like stroke, heart attack, and such may be more time sensitive, but mental health issues can affect people physically in profound ways.
A case in point, a husband died of a heart attack due to grief a few days after his wife passed away.1
In my case, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was triggered by events surrounding the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Instead of facing problems when I was in the Navy, I told myself I would deal with things when I retired.
Pretending I am okay
I busied myself with work and years passed. I pretended that everything was okay while I was suffering depression and a terrible self-image. Still, I managed to make it through diagnoses of several major medical conditions including Parkinson’s disease.
Finding myself dealing with nightmares, unwanted memories, and intrusive thoughts, led to a flood of emotions. My medical condition was adversely affected by my poor mental health. When PTSD was triggered, everything began to unravel.
Therapy opened my eyes
Although, it’s been difficult, therapy from the VA has opened my eyes. Some things I’ve learned through therapy include treating myself with kindness and applying the same standards for myself as I do for others. In short, don’t set unreasonable expectations for my behavior and goals.
I learned of a variety of tools to help identify and examine my thoughts and emotions. One tool is identifying problematic thoughts and the origin of negative feelings such as guilt, shame, and worthlessness. I now try to identify where my thinking gets stuck.
For example, "I am to blame." or "I’m useless and a burden to everyone." and "I can’t do anything right." I found I often made a habit of telling myself negative statements and accepting them as true without critical thought.
My therapist suggested I put problematic thoughts on trial and after more than 30 years as an attorney I think she makes a good point. A quick aside about therapists – every therapist is different. If you can, try to find one who is both capable and a good fit for you.2
Prioritizing my mental health
It’s ok to take a mindful moment to ground myself. Mental health therapy deals with a lot of negative emotions and thoughts. Changes take time and effort. I spent years of lying and deceiving myself and getting back on track can take a while. These are just a few of the tools I’ve learned. Therapy is a process and sometimes slow, but lasting positive results in life and relationships occur.
Parkinson’s disease patients may find therapy very helpful. People with the disease and their care partners and families are often facing anxiety, depression, anger, and grief as the disease progresses. In my experience, the effects of ignoring mental health issues can devastate relationships, render treatments ineffective, and even the speed of progression.
Clarifying my thinking and emotion allows me to spend more time attending to and focusing on my medical condition. I’ve reduced stress, anxiety and even my blood pressure. Can mental heath therapy help you?
Do you or a loved one use smartphone apps to help with PD management?