I’ve tried and tried but it just seems impossible to overcome Parkinson’s disease (PD)! Does this sound familiar? You may or may not relate to the previous statement. If not, then I congratulate you on being a fortress of solitude. For most of us living with PD, or any chronic illness for that matter, it takes a different kind of attitude. Not one that is self-defeating or impossible to attain but a mindset that allows us small victories over the obstacles and barriers to happiness despite having PD. When I was in the U.S. Marines, I spent 13 weeks of training on how to ignore pain, focus on achievement, teamwork, and navigation among other things. One of my favorite movies is “Heartbreak Ridge” in which Clint Eastwood plays a rough and salty gunnery sergeant (Thomas Highway) whose last command is to prepare a platoon of young Marines for combat. At one point in the movie, a Marine questions Highway on how he is supposed to accomplish his assigned goal. The reply: “Improvise, overcome, and adapt!” Those words provide strength, encouragement, and creativity not just for a combat Marine but can be applied to real life and how we live our lives with PD.
How do you ignore pain associated with Parkinson’s? I’m afraid there isn’t an easy answer for this but sitting around feeling helpless doesn’t help your situation. Believe me, I’ve tried it. It only gets worse. A lot of pain is self-inflicted. It is the result of not using your muscles. So get off the couch and exercise. There are all kinds of programs of exercises that are designed to get you moving. Ask your doctor or physical therapist. They are sure to help. I’ve heard it said, short-term pain equals long-term gain. In principle this is true but keep at it. The more you work your muscle groups, the less they will hurt. Try a variety of programs until you find one you like. Also, try meditation, prayer, or reiki to release your pain.
Focus on achievement
Your success in overcoming the obstacles is dependent on what your expectations are for yourself. Set small obtainable goals as a way to measure your progress. For instance, getting up from a chair and walking 10 feet or getting in and out of the bathtub. These are small things, done safely, that can be counted as victories which you can feel good about. Focus on the positive side of being able to accomplish these tasks independently but if you need assistance, it’s okay. You can still count that as a win over Parkinson’s.
Teamwork is essential in overcoming obstacles! Make sure to enlist a care partner or medical professional to assist you in your efforts. There is no shame in asking for help. It is far better to achieve your goals together then to fail alone! You should already identify with a team of professionals that want to see you succeed in accomplishing your goals in living with PD. If your doctors are not asking, what goals can we help you achieve, ask why not? Sometimes it takes a team working toward a common goal with your ultimate success in overcoming obstacles that may include speech, physical or occupational therapists who have the tools for such success.
Navigational awareness in living with PD requires skill and attitude! Success here means being aware of your surroundings and having a realistic sense of your capabilities. You would never expect to run a marathon without some training, would you? If stiffness and rigidity is a problem or perhaps freezing, don’t expect to accomplish huge goals overnight. Concentrate on little things. Maybe standing for five minutes then try 10 minutes. Conditioning and training are essential elements in any exercise program.
You can do it
You can overcome any obstacles PD puts in your path! I am living testimony to that. For example, although I have a handicap sticker for my car, I intentionally will sometimes park far away from the grocery store just to exercise my legs and keep me moving. Sometimes you have to be deliberate in your methods. I encourage your input on some of the things that you do to overcome your obstacles in living with PD. It isn’t how you overcome them as much as it is important to be successful but also to be safe now and always. Keep battling my friends.