Saturday, July 24, 2010

Parkinson's Disease and Other Disasters

Things had been looking so good. And then the unexpected occurred. The ripple effect proved devastating. It became a full-fledged disaster. The consequences that ensued were more than imagined, leaving those involved shellshocked. Emotional responses ranged from anger to deep sadness; bewilderment to curiosity. Despite the magnetic preoccupation with the news, I felt an overwhelming desire to simply ignore the trauma and pretend it was not happening.

Disasters come in many shapes and sizes. Recently, the world has been focused on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its devastating consequences. Obtuse as it may seem, that got me thinking about the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

Both disease and disaster can so easily be misunderstood and understated. That is, "disease" can be simply as it sounds, discomfort. "Disaster" may to some mean merely a flop or disappointment. But, small or large, painful or petty, if a disaster or disease touches you, it can easily lead to panic, followed by the darkness of depression. Observing those struggling with a disaster or disease can often leave you feeling as helpless as if you are watching someone drown.
But there is much to be learned from disasters, be they personal or environmental. To me, BP's responses to the cataclysmic events relentlessly pounding at their image since April 21 are lessons for all of us facing the potentially devastating personal disaster of Parkinson's disease.

First, BP seems willing to accept responsibility for dealing with the disaster that has befallen them. It seems to me that this is a healthy response for people with Parkinson's disease as well. Hiding, denying or feeling sorry for ourselves rarely helps us cope any better with the reality we must face.

Second, BP seems committed to try everything reasonably possible to stop the consequences of the disaster, whether conventional or novel. Those of us who have Parkinson's disease often find it easier to give up, wait for a cure, or simply fall into a desperate silence of hopelessness. Commitment to help ourselves, by whatever means are available, is usually constructive.

Third, the oil giant seems to be attempting to candidly communicate about the conditions facing them, their hopes, the attempts and the failures, while caring for those impacted by the disaster, at least to some extent. One could argue that this is all publicity, but taken at face value is still points to lessons people with Parkinson's can learn. Sharing our condition, good and bad, disclosing our efforts to battle the personal disaster we face, even when we fail, and caring about those who suffer along with or because of us, all seem to signify a healthy response.

There is so much to learn about dealing with adversity. The lessons are hard. But to succeed in leaving a legacy of dealing effectively with disaster, we must learn not just from trial and error, but also from the lessons of others facing hardship around us.

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