Parkinson's Disease -
Challenges and Encouragement
Monday, December 27, 2010
Comfort and Joy…with Parkinson’s Disease?
Christmas time can be a difficult season for people with Parkinson’s (PWP) and many others as well. Despite the reassuring words of “God Rest You Weary Gentlemen” [and ladies too], it can certainly be fatiguing. The weariness of getting ready for the festivities, late nights and trying to be fully invested in the fun events that take place all consume a great deal of energy. And at the best of times energy is a resource often in short supply for PWP.
Unless you are an extraordinary extrovert who is energized by social interaction, it is very likely that by the end of Christmas day you are exhausted. It was probably worth it, but all the celebratory effort has taken a toll. It may now take a miraculous intervention by God, assuming he occupies a place in your vocabulary, to rest and recharge your batteries. I was reminded of this battery metaphor when listening to the sound of my two-year-old grandson’s new but overworked dump truck, complete with forward, reverse (with back up beeper), dumper, all with the accompaniment of rumbling sounds and flashing lights. The truck had lived up to its heavy-duty title, having been endlessly engaged and enjoyed all Christmas day, but the next day it clearly needed a battery transplant? When you are weary, how do you recharge or replace your batteries?
The ancient Christmas carol continues, “Let nothing you dismay”. Given the definition of “dismay” [to disillusion, upset or alarm], this is even more challenging for PWP. Depression, anxiety, frustration and feeling overwhelmed are often a part of the “normal” daily existence of PWP. Christmas launches a special squadron of these invaders. At Christmas there is usually more intense interaction and ‘careful’ conversation among family members. Then there is the need to perch plates on wobbly knees and at the same time attempt to pierce peas with a shaky fork. And lastly, there is the let down from failing to meet excessive expectations, either your own or those of others. After all the merry-making and game playing I, for one, am worn out and more than a little dismayed. I need a holiday to recover from the holiday.
After climbing this annual pinnacle of parties and falling spent (in more ways than one) at the base camp, how do we PWP manage the consequences of Christmas? How do PWP cope with the Christmas conundrum; the desire to be part of the party and the concurrent longing for retreat and refreshment?
While I may not be able to adequately prepare for this seasonal onslaught, I am discovering that I need to do better than stumble into the aftermath. I need to discover comfort [literally, “with strength”]. I need to experience joy and relief from that dismayed feeling. This year my antidote for the ‘morning after’ was:
1. Engage in an enjoyable and restorative activity that gives you some alone time. Maybe start that new book you were given or go for a long walk in the snow (or in our case, rain). In my case it was a 2-hour motorcycle ride. Despite the weather it was a wonderful oasis.
2. Plan a special time for connecting with just a few family or friends who have easy expectations and do not consume a lot of energy. Play cards or table games. Avoid high-energy requirements. For me, it was going to a Vancouver Canucks hockey game with my two sons. The fact our team won by scoring with 24 seconds left was a bonus!
3. Schedule rest. For me this has been critical. Having a nap need not generate guilt. It is often necessary if you are to meet the demands of the season.
4. Find time to relax with a cup of tea or glass of eggnog and watch a movie that takes your mind off of the frenzy of the festivities and personal anxiety. And while not a fan of most movies, we watched a few segments of the riveting miniseries, “The Pacific”, the WWII drama produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
In spite of all the tumult and difficulty of the post-Christmas season, my prayer and hope for PWP everywhere (and especially anyone who reads this) is that there would be many occasions where comfort, joy and freedom from dismay would prevail, leaving us each with a sense of deep peace.
Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2006, I was 53. I currently serve as the President of Trinity Western University, of which I am an alumnus. I remain engaged as a lawyer who practices as general counsel to a wide variety of clients, primarily in the Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada.
Married for 40+ years (to the same loving and long-suffering woman), with 3 grown children, and one grandson. Besides my wife and family, my passion is living the adventure called life as a God-given gift, which includes motorcycle riding, scuba-diving, blogging, Scrabble and looking for the treasure hidden in each day.