One of the challenges of writing about Parkinson’s is finding emotional balance while I learn about the symptoms that impact my dad on a daily basis.
It’s pretty easy to leap down a rabbit hole, learning about the latest clinical study or a new theory about one particular symptom. But Parkinson’s topics are often heavy, and emotionally difficult to maneuver – especially since I have a direct link to them.
My dad welcomed Parkinson’s, the uninvited guest, into his life nearly a decade ago. And ever since his diagnosis, we’ve been learning and re-learning what it means to be a person with Parkinson’s. Can you slow the progression of the disease? Does diet and exercise impact your daily life if you have Parkinson’s? And how do we learn to manage the imminent changes?
What is my role?
My piece of this puzzle involves its own set of questions: What does it mean to be a caregiver? A daughter to a man with Parkinson’s? Or a friend to someone who’s on this challenging and daunting path? It’s no wonder why I find myself sinking into sadness. Who wants to see someone they love suffering?
Interestingly enough, it’s usually my dad who stops to remind me to stay optimistic. Even though he’s actively losing some of his abilities, and fighting Parkinson’s disease every day, he still has enough consciousness to bring us both out of the darkness.
He reads my articles, absorbing the things that I’m learning. But then he reminds me not to lose hope. Because without hope, without inspiration, and without the silver linings it’d be impossible to navigate our struggles for long.
Some ways that I’ve managed to snatch those silver linings include becoming more mindful about the time that I spend with my dad (because I know he won’t be here forever). We’ve begun checking in with each other every day, even if just to say "good morning." And when I see him, I hug him for a little bit longer, counting moments like stars.
Finding the balance
I don’t want to ignore the realities of Parkinson’s by pretending to be optimistic all of the time. It’s a horrible disease with a heartless appetite. And I want to acknowledge it as such. Because not talking about the under belly gives it power.
But I also think that my dad is onto something when he reminds me to "stay optimistic." If I let myself sink too far into my sorrow, it may become too difficult to get out. In order to stay even-keeled, I think that I personally require a little bit of consciousness. And, who knows? Maybe we’re not that far away from reaching a cure.
All I know is that how we choose to greet the day matters. If we get up in the morning, looking for ways to feel sorry for ourselves, we’ll find them. But if we take a lesson from my dad’s playbook, we just may become more present, more grateful, and more willing to see Parkinson’s with a balanced lens.
Have you or a loved one ever tried speech therapy?