My name is Melanie O’Brien and I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease two years ago at the age of 41. I am by no means alone in receiving an early diagnosis, but it is generally recognised as a condition affecting those who are much older. If I start by saying that I am truly grateful that I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, I hope you will believe that I am not trying to be sensationalist or saint like; I am however being truly honest. This condition happened for me and not to me; it is forcing me to make changes to my life and I am now happier than I have ever been.
I’ve always been in a hurry to get things done, and evidently, I couldn’t wait to get Parkinson’s. When diagnosed I felt helpless, numb and lonely; I hit rock bottom, and I don’t apologise for that as I’m only human. I needed to grieve, and it was a perfectly natural reaction as I was in shock and despair. No one way of grieving is better than any other and I adopted the stiff-upper lip approach for my friends and family as I couldn’t stand watching them in pain, but the mask came off when I was alone. Parkinson’s dominated my every thought and I couldn’t see any hope.
I soon realised that couldn’t keep brooding. I decided to ask for a miracle. I’m sitting at my laptop excitedly writing a blog about having a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, surely that is a miracle in itself? I believe that our biggest struggles are our best teachers, so what lessons was I being directed to learn? What if this diagnosis was a blessing and not a curse?
Parkinson’s is a disease that causes in-balance, and I was someone who was lacking any balance in my life; I worked constantly and so had no work-life balance. I sacrificed sleep, meeting friends, relationships and exercise all in an attempt to try to get through an endless to-do list. Parkinson’s disease was telling me that I needed to park some things now and ease up, my life was out of balance and crumbling around me. I craved equilibrium and peace and so perhaps Parkinson’s was protecting rather than attacking me? Your physical body is a reflection of your inner self, and healing will not happen until you listen to your body, I hadn’t shown myself love or compassion and so here I was…
I took the medication prescribed but I knew that there was more to do; I decided to treat the causes rather than symptoms. Sometimes we need a wake-up call in order to wake up, my body did me a favour that I refused to do for myself. My nervous system was on overload; I was a control freak and so was given an illness that made me lose control; I was out of balance and so lost balance, I was a perfectionist who lost the ability to do things perfectly and my chronic fatigue was a reminder that I needed to get more sleep. I had to take responsibility and trust that I was losing myself in the fall so that I could find myself in the rising.
So, it was time to rebalance; it was time to make my own dopamine (which I had stopped producing), change my neurological circuitry, leave behind self-destructive habits and literally become someone else. I also had to believe that this was beatable! The ego will tell you that you are doomed, it will instil fear and doubt, but if you do your research, you will see that so many people have reversed or halted their symptoms from Parkinson’s Disease and indeed many other conditions. Recovery happens; but you must believe in the possibility that it can be done. As far as I am concerned, healing is on its way. I can be a slave to my story, or trust in my own ability to heal myself from within.
I found this support through a wonderful set of holistic healers who dusted me down and started working on me from the inside out. I use homeopathy, attend regular reiki sessions, healing meditations, yoga classes, hypnotherapy and CBT, I also immerse myself in books about positivity and healing from within. I have been a vegetarian since the age of 13 and became a vegan shortly after diagnosis as I knew that I had to be very aware of what I was fuelling my body with. I do weights at the gym and run; I refuse to let my body just give up and waste away. I will not be healed overnight but I am laying the foundation to do so.
I can’t always control my body, but I can control my mind. I found inspirational gurus, became an eager student and became my own health advocate. I live in a constant state of gratitude. I also let go of my anger with Parkinson’s as I know that someone somewhere is sitting in a neurologist’s office being given a diagnosis that is much more aggressive and life-changing.
I am very excited about the future and the opportunities being created by Parkinson’s; I have just started my own blog, and I hope to start raising awareness of Young Onset Parkinson’s and to help others in their journey towards healing.
When you live with Parkinson’s you never know what a day brings, so like it or not, every day is full of uncertainty. To a control freak like me this is extremely frustrating, but I know that I am being guided to release control and trust; it’s time to fall into the arms of uncertainty. It’s time to say ‘yes’ to the adventure and trust that it will work out better than I could ever have imagined…