There is nothing like a good walk to clear the mind and raise our spirits, yet, walking in front of people is a daily challenge that literally leaves me paralysed and frozen; fear shows up, my heart races, and I feel like I am going to war. I become self-conscious and awkward, I worry that I am being looked at and judged, and with Parkinson’s, where the head goes, the body follows. So, I don’t walk, and I remain stuck in a rut.
How do I become unstuck? Yes, Parkinson’s is an obvious part of the problem, but so too is my perception and the stories that I tell myself. Fear has become a habit. I am not dying, I am just doing something that my body struggles with, it is difficult but not impossible. Yes, some people are staring, some may even think that I am drunk, but I have the choice of betraying myself by never leaving the safety of my house again, or I can decide to face the challenge and their glances head on. Every difficulty that Parkinson’s sends my way is an opportunity to grow and improve, and so, I am being given a lesson in breaking through my fears and embracing difficulties. I believe that everyone is afraid of something, and we all have things that hold us back, I am writing this blog in the hope that you too will be encouraged to feel the fear and do it anyway.
The longest journeys begin with a single step, and I have accepted that I need to work twice as hard to achieve that step. I must plan each and every movement; shoulders back, chest out, chin up, heel first, lift my dragging leg that feels like it has a sandbag attached to it, transfer my weight from side to side, and try to ignore the mounting anxiety. I move differently from some people, and rather than trying to hide my symptoms, I am trying to become comfortable with being noticed and stared at. By allowing myself to feel discomfort, the more discomfort I will be able to tolerate, and the more inclined I will be to continuously push myself out of my comfort zone.
Life doesn’t always give us what we want, and sometimes it seems to be one obstacle after another, but difficulties will cross most of our paths; relationships can end, financial hardship might strike, and serious illness may enter our lives. Then what? We can either allow ourselves to be stopped by setbacks, or chisel away at the problem day by day. We can listen to fearful thoughts, or flick them away, accept that it will be hard, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
It is important to stress that I am not looking at this through rose-coloured glasses; some of the obstacles that we face may be impossible to move, and some things are bigger than us. We have every right to get sad and even mad, but then we have no choice but to try to make the best of things, if we cannot solve the issue then we can at least try to make it better. I don’t have the luxury of ignoring my situation, I must keep going no matter what it takes; I need to put one foot in front of the other and keep on trying. I often think of the Friends’ episode where Phoebe runs in an unusual manner, Rachel is embarrassed that people are looking, but Phoebe doesn’t care as she feels so free; I walk in an unusual manner, but just like Phoebe, I can’t let that stop me.
‘The cave that you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek’.
To be good at something takes practice, patience, and persistence, and the same applies to overcoming obstacles that are both real and perceived. We cannot cross our fingers and hope that everything will sort itself out, we can act or else stand back and do nothing. Control what you can and let go of what you can’t. I am starting step by step; my 5-minute walk will become a 10-minute walk, some days it will be a limp and a hobble, but most importantly, I am working at it. I believe that it can be done, and I am determined to rise above my mental blocks and self-imposed limitations. I am throwing all that I have at my problem and breaking it down into small steps – literally. Can you do the same?
If there is no struggle, there is no growth, and I know that Parkinson’s has been the making of me. Some may say that walking well again is impossible, but their limitations are not my own. The power of placebo is notorious with Parkinson’s, and I am preparing for my finest hour. You too don’t know what you’re capable of until you try, don’t deny yourself the life that you deserve. It’s time to step up!