As I was starting to feel smug and all ‘I’ve got a handle on this Life-with-PD-Thing’, Anxiety drops in for a chat. I’d just written a blog post about being a lot more calm, and next thing you know I’m feeling overwhelmed again, and having a few panic attacks! It felt like a moment of failure.
I’d already discovered in parenting that if you ever feel like you’ve got this parenting malarkey sussed, it means a new challenge is on the way, to make you feel like a noob again. Same with Parkinson’s and anxiety (and probably everything else under the sun), although in this case its more like an old challenge resurfacing. I’ve actually been having an ongoing conversation with Anxiety for many years (a long time before Parkinson’s turned up), alongside Depression which appears occasionally, just to kick the tyres. Parkinson’s works a bit like a steroid shot in the arm of depression/anxiety, but I’m never quite sure which one is to blame for what. I suspect that there is also a role played by hormones and my menstrual cycle, but the exact details are a mystery.
The anxiety feels connected to Parkinson’s as my freak outs often happen as my symptom levels rise and the dopamine level in my brain drops. I can feel the anxiety in my gut – its a turbulent, squeamish, butterflies kind of dread. A worry that I won’t be able to do whatever it is I have to do next. I’m usually okay when this process is going on. Well, I can handle it. But in times of higher levels of stress it is so much harder. Sometimes I’m just so overwhelmed with the fear and pressure that I panic, and start screaming and crying that I can’t do it anymore. Its a bit of a hit to my pride to be honest.
You need a toolbox full of ways of dealing with it. No matter how many tricks I have up my sleeve though, I’m always looking for ways to add more. An important one for me is my support crew, which is a number of different people, including my husband who is good with sensible suggestions and soothing words of wisdom, and the best hugs in the universe. And my kids who play an enormously supportive role – distracting me from my stuff with their stuff! But also their sense of fun is incredibly uplifting, alongside their inner wisdom and freakishly on-point ways of knowing how to help me out sometimes, or just make me laugh. In the support crew is also a number of treasured loved ones and friends who all help in different ways (you know who you are!).
My other take home is you have to continually practice the things you practice to keep the balance. Sometimes when things feel easier I might let some practices slide a bit. Then I get a kick in the guts to inspire me on. I’d started a practice of mind training using Yoga teachings – the whole-of-life stuff not the stretching, although stretching is great too. This is helping me deal with stress and not feed the anxiety/worry beast (e.g. during 4am-why-am-I-not-sleeping-freak-outs). It needs constant practice though for mastery. I got onto it through the discovery of an awesomely helpful website – https://www.swamij.com/index.htm. I’m not sure what led me there, but I started reading the articles, and the Yoga sutras, and putting into practice the witnessing thoughts practice and some breathing practices. I haven’t quite got a meditation practice going, so baby steps. You need to keep doing a bit each day though, the key is in practice. Karate is the same and is wonderful as a mindful practice; being on a constant learning journey in karate is invigorating, exciting and fun. I get re-freshed from a trip to the dojo. But if anytime, for whatever reason, I lapse for a few days in doing any practice, at the next training in the dojo I feel woolly-headed and slow for a bit.
I’m beginning to realise from these types of set backs, I should never be surprised at needing to marshall my forces, and organise the resistance. Or in other words maintain balance. Some days it will be easy, some days it’ll feel too hard. The trick is (and I often lose sight of this) – don’t deep dive into despair when you feel overwhelmed. Accept it, roll with it. Pick up your practices again when you can. Try not to punish yourself for failing. It happens. Tomorrow is a different day. Get up, and get on your way.