Each person’s journey to acceptance of a disability is unique to them but the terrain may have similar landmarks. I will attempt to describe my acceptance of Parkinson’s.
It started with the observation that my physical symptoms made me feel I was living immersed in treacle. Every movement was fighting against the limitations imposed by the disease. It can be distressing to acknowledge your limitations. However, out of this came the realisation that my body may be restricted but my mind is free. I can think and feel and have a rich mental life despite my Parkinson’s. Therefore, my diagnosis hasn’t consumed who I am. Because of the preservation of at least parts of me (both physical and mental), I realised I still have the self-will and power to choose. Importantly, I can’t change the fact of the disease but I can choose how to react to it.
Next came the difficult issue of the prognosis of Parkinson’s. Prognoses are based on the accumulated knowledge of historical cases. Due to its historical nature, the prognosis of Parkinson’s has yet to include my case. Therefore, it can only be a guide to the progression of my disease. Individuals have individual symptoms; mine is a unique instance of Parkinson’s. It follows that a prognosis does not predetermine my future.
This leads to the following conclusion: there is space for me within both the diagnosis and prognosis of Parkinson’s. What should be done with this space? I can make adaptations in my life to resist the physical symptoms. I can also enjoy the mental life this space provides.
It is impossible to accept a diagnosis when it overwhelms you and obscures self-perception. Acceptance comes when you claim a diagnosis as yours and in doing so acknowledge the preservation of who you are within that diagnosis. Acceptance is living alongside a disease.
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