Our greatest lessons often reveal themselves in times of despair, and the past few months have certainly been challenging in terms of my journey with Parkinson’s. My health steadily declined; I became less and less mobile, energy levels plummeted, my anxiety was out of control, and I was basically losing the ability to manage my own body and do even the simplest of tasks. All of this left me feeling isolated, devastated and extremely vulnerable. I therefore segregated myself from others so that I could hide my imperfect body and the symptoms that were becoming more and more difficult to hide. I had lost myself.
However, everything that happens to us has the potential to help us to grow, and this was not a wasted experience. I realised how deeply grateful I was for the support of those who love and care for me, they caught me when I fell. This very difficult time in my life reminded me how incredibly lucky I was to have these kind and loving people in my life.
I also learned that I needed to ask for help, I never want to be a burden to others and so I find it hard to accept help or to even ask for it. However, we all need help at times, to varying degrees depending on our circumstances, and needing help does not make you weak. I consider myself to be very resilient and have always been able to bounce back from life’s challenges but sometimes you just can’t deal with things on your own, and this was one such time. Life got better when I expressed how bad things were and got help. Others don’t know what you need unless you ask, and they can’t be expected to read your mind, so just ask for help.
I am surrounded by kind and caring people who are concerned about my wellbeing, they gladly gave up their time to help me and never made it feel like a chore or like they resented me. They wanted nothing from me, and despite their own commitments they just wanted to help.
People are often afraid to ask someone if they need help as it may not always be wanted. I would advise that you simply ask what support is needed, those with chronic illnesses are often trying to hold on to what independence they do have, and it is important not to disempower them. The offer of practical support can be invaluable; things like taking the dog for a walk, going to the shop, or dropping over a cooked meal can be a great help. Just listening to someone and creating space to allow them to articulate what they are going through is equally important, this can provide a sanctuary where they don’t have to be pretend to be fine. Ask questions to understand, offer your time and presence, be patient, don’t judge, and just make the person feel recognised and encouraged.
Maya Angelou – ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel’.
Having been on the receiving end of such kindness, it is important for me to ‘pay it forward’. I will endeavour to help others more and to leave my little corner of the world better than it was. Service is a good way to take our minds off our own problems and gain some perspective, it lifts our mood, and it makes life more meaningful. Some days this kind gesture might just be a text, phone call or a compliment, but it might have a huge impact on the recipient, and it may help them more than you can imagine.
The darkest time of the night is immediately before the dawn, and thankfully my health is starting to improve again. I will keep going, but I cannot do it alone. I am blessed with a great partner, family, and friends, and I truly treasure them. I never lose sight of how lucky I am. Hard times will come to me again, but so will my support team…