4 Lessons I Learned While Living With Parkinson’s Disease
I have experienced many challenging events in my lifetime — but by far the most challenging was when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001.
Parkinson's disease is a debilitating, progressive motor-neuron disease. Every person suffering from Parkinson’s disease experiences it differently. For me, I saw a constant and dramatic deterioration in my physical, mental, and emotional state of being.
In the years following my diagnosis, I developed severe shaking and tremors in my hands and legs. My ability to move became slow and difficult. I felt stiffness in my arms and legs and I had trouble with balance and falling down.
By 2010, I had broken a toe twice, fractured my foot, and broken my leg from falling and tripping. Emotionally, I suffered from depression, anxiety, and irritability. But worst of all was the speech and swallowing problems that led to severe coughing and choking fits on a daily basis.
My personal irony of being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease is that my passion in life is creating miniature art and handmade porcelain dolls. I was at the height of my doll-making career when I was diagnosed. I was an independent woman who was able to craft the tiniest pieces of art with my hands. But in just a few years I wasn't able to feed myself, work, or even get in or out of the bath without help.
By the end of 2014, my Parkinson’s symptoms were unbearable and causing extreme discomfort and disability. My legs were trembling so badly that they were causing my entire body to shake. I felt unable to carry on with my work and life.
In January 2015, I was so depressed that I did not think I could live through the end of the year. I was preparing for suicide.
If it wasn’t for my Parkinson’s, I would never have stopped and reflected on my life.
Life’s biggest changes happen at unexpected times. Amid all this chaos and pain, in early 2015, I was fortunate enough to find a life coach and healer who has had an amazing impact on my life.
Through months of work with him, I've begun turning my life around and healing both emotionally and physically. We approached my healing from a new perspective — by taking into account how my thoughts, perceptions, and unresolved baggage from the past were affecting the stress and tension in my body.
Parkinson's is considered an incurable disease. And yet, since working with my coach, there have been some dramatic changes in my symptoms. My depression is gone and I am reigniting my career. I no longer have choking and coughing fits. The only sign of a tremor is in my right leg, and the rest of my body is completely still.
This improvement did not take place because of a change in my medication, diet, or exercise regime. It took place when I changed my perspective and the way I looked at life. Every day I chose to question my anger; every day I opened my mind a little more, every day I listened to new perspectives and said thank you for all I have.
As the tension in my thoughts subsided, so did the stress and tension in my body. As I healed, here are the top lessons I learned along the way:
1. There is nothing stopping me from setting new goals.
At one time, I thought suicide was the only option. I used to have so many excuses about what was possible for the rest of my life. At 63 years old, I thought I was too old, too sick, and too insignificant to set new objectives for my life. So I stopped dreaming.
But deep down, I knew I still loved my art and creating miniatures and that kept me going. In the last few months, I've realized what counts is what I want — and not my perceived limitations.
Today I am starting a new business, spending more time on my art, and spreading awareness about Parkinson's on my blog. None of this would have been possible had I decided to end my life. My illness was a challenge and an opportunity to grow and open my mind.
2. I am the number one authority on my body.
I've been blessed to have met many amazing doctors and specialists on my journey. They have helped me get to where I am today.
But I also had to learn that doctors are just human beings who can make mistakes like anyone else. I learned that I needed to listen to my own inner voice, too. I decided to become open to the possibility that I could live a better and fulfilling life.
3. Don't underestimate the power of gratitude.
Ever since I was a little girl I chose to hold grudges and anger toward everything that did not go my way. But once I decided to find the value in all my experiences — even the toughest ones — my anger disappeared, my tension and anxiety subsided, and I began to heal.
4. Obstacles in life are what keep me growing.
If it wasn’t for my Parkinson’s, I would have never stopped and reflected on my life. I wouldn’t have become stronger and wiser, and I wouldn’t have the wisdom I have today.
Obstacles, challenges, and pain are essential for my growth. When I embrace them, they become my power.