The Whale and PD: Overcoming Feelings of Embarrassment
Last updated: April 2023
Before the Academy Awards, I try to watch the movies nominated for best picture. This year that was a tall order as there were a total of 10 nominations. While I didn’t get an opportunity to see all 10, I did catch a majority. One of the movies I saw was The Whale with Brendan Fraser in the lead role.
About the movie
The Whale is about Charlie, a college professor who suffers from obesity and who lives as a recluse hiding out in his apartment. He teaches online courses in English and doesn’t turn on his computer’s camera so his students can’t see that he is obese. When he orders pizzas to be delivered, he puts the money on the porch and tells the delivery man that he can leave the pizzas at the door so that he doesn’t interact with him.
He has only a few visitors, one being a close friend who is a nurse who tells him that he will die if he doesn’t go to the hospital for treatment. Brendan Fraser won an Oscar for best actor for his performance.
What does this movie have to do with Parkinson’s disease (PD)? While Charlie doesn’t have PD he does have a condition that causes embarrassment, resulting in his choice to live life as a recluse. I think many people with PD can relate to Charlie. I know people with PD who are embarrassed by their condition and have chosen a somewhat reclusive lifestyle where they have minimal interaction with others.
As for me, I know there are times when my symptoms are not under control and I have been reluctant to go out in public. I ask myself, what will people think when they see me stumbling around like I’m inebriated? Will others be uncomfortable around me? I don’t think I am alone in having these thoughts.
Being open about my PD
However, while it may be difficult at times, I try to be open about my PD. I find most people are understanding and compassionate and are not at all uncomfortable being with me. Most people only want to help in any way they can. This has made it easier to live with PD.
While there are still occasions when I might prefer not to go out in public, I know that for me, life as a recluse would lead to depression. I need to interact with others and maintain my social ties. What I don’t want to do is to end up like Charlie who shuts himself off from the world.
Connecting with others
While PD can rob us of so much, it need not rob us of the social connections we need. A good starting point for those with PD who need a community but who fear being embarrassed or rejected is to join one or more support groups for people living with Parkinson's and/or participate in exercise programs designed for people with Parkinson's like Rock Steady Boxing.
The advantage groups like these offer is an awareness and an understanding of your condition which can make it easier for those who have been hesitant to engage with others in a public setting.
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