During his first inaugural address in 1933, American president Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "All we have to fear is fear itself." I wish it were that simple when it comes to Parkinson's Disease, but as I approach the three year anniversary of my diagnosis, I have come to believe, at least at this relatively early stage, that much of what I have to fear is fear itself. I do not for one moment mean to minimize the horrific experiences which many of us deal with on a daily basis. I do not for one moment expect my "honeymoon" to continue indefinitely. However, if I could go back and talk to myself three years ago when I worried about Parkinson's every single minute of every single day, I would tell myself not to be so fearful. I would tell myself that three years later I would still feel totally normal 99% of the time. I would tell myself that fear and anxiety make my symptoms much worse. I would tell myself to live in the present moment and not to live in fear.
When I voted in the presidential election in November of 2020, I was terrified at the thought of having to sign my name in front of someone at the voting station. Although my handwriting was absolutely atrocious, it was at least legible if I was alone in a room, calm, and able to take my time. But as I approached the election judge and tried to sign my name, my hands literally dripped from perspiration as I muttered something to the election judge about having Parkinson's Disease and not being able to write very well. Sure enough, I couldn't even make the "J" at the beginning of my first name. It was a scribble one might expect from a three year old with not a single legible letter. Even though I live in a small town where the election judges actually know me, my fear was fueled by anger that my vote might be discarded because my signature did not match the signature on file and/or that I appeared utterly incompetent based upon my signature.
Another annoying symptom I deal with is that at approximately 1:00 p.m. every day, my right shoulder blade "tightens up" to the point that I need to lie in bed or in a recliner for awhile just to relax and let it loosen up. But guess what? It mostly happens when I'm sitting around thinking, "Crap. It's getting close to 1:00. My back is going to tighten up soon." When I am busy (whether having fun on vacation or occupied with an activity of some type), the one o'clock hour passes completely pain free. I'm convinced that my anxiety regarding pain actually contributes to the pain itself.
I'm still not sure if it's the coronet red light hat I wear twice a day or just dumb luck, but my signature and handwriting have returned to normal, even more than a dozen hours after my last dose of sinemet has completely worn off. As of now, I absolutely know that I can just write just fine and, sure enough, I can write just fine. In contrast, when I was fearful and absolutely knew that I could not write....I could not write.
I know that PD is a horrible disease, it gets progressively worse and is incurable, at least as of now. I also know that fear and anxiety make my symptoms worse and I think fear and anxiety may very well contribute to faster progression of worsening symptoms.
It isn't all we have to fear, but at least for many of us relative "newbies," MUCH of what we have to fear is fear itself. Let's try not to be afraid.