Friday, September 28, 2007

The Emotional Side of a Chronic Illness – Part 2

After Diagnosis

I have already outlined many of the emotions that I experienced during the initial diagnosis process. Emotions such as anger, disappointment, frustration, depression, loss, mourning, and guilt, were emotions that came and went, often triggered by an unexpected event or change in my condition. Anger, disappointment, loss, and mourning are emotions that I have been able to overcome. They did not follow me into my post-diagnosis life. Unfortunately, frustration, depression, and guilt decided to follow me into the world of Parkinsonism. Additionally, feelings of being alone and fear had joined the party.

Although frustration, depression and guilt are still with me, they do not intrude in my life as often. Depression is directly tied in with medication and low dopamine levels. Frustration tends to appear more often than guilt. It is my opinion that I will continue to experience frustration primarily due to the continuous changes typical of my condition, which can happen at any time during the day without warning. Of the three emotions and associated feelings, I believe that guilt will soon be a part of the past.

When I first heard Parkinsonism was my diagnosis with the probability that I may have one of the PD-Plus conditions, fear and the feeling that I was alone with my condition, entered into my life.

I immediately set out doing research on all of the PD-Plus conditions, and I was not pleased with the information I was able to find. Parkinson’s Disease can be a devastating condition in its own right, but the PD-Plus conditions were far worse with respect to prognosis. This information was all it took to kick-start the fear, which took off running.

There were several aspects of fear that dominated my thoughts. If I am dealing with a PD-Plus condition, it may only be a matter of time that the Sinemet will no longer offer any benefit for my symptoms. This scenario means that I would always walk slowly with significant difficulty, and my speech would be so affected that verbal communication would always take significant effort. My major symptoms would never be improved, and I would have them with me every minute of the day. Honestly, my fear is whether I have the strength within me to deal with this possibility. I also know that PD-Plus conditions progress more rapidly and reduce life expectancy, and I am definitely not ready emotionally for either. Do not misunderstand, I do not fear death. However, I have so much more I want to accomplish before I am ready to leave this earth. Unfortunately, these fears cannot be put to rest for a while, because I am now in a waiting game to see how quickly my symptoms progress or if the medications decline in benefit.

I now understand how a person can feel alone, even if surrounded by a dozen people who love him / her. My husband understands this condition and how it affects my life better than anyone else does. Yet, his understanding is limited, because he does not have this condition. Without having the condition, he can only observe and imagine what it feels like to constantly fight your body, depend on medication to move and speak, and to experience all of the emotional aspects involved. Therefore, although my husband understands more than anyone else who is unaffected by Parkinsonism, I began to feel very alone with my condition. I had no one to talk to about the various struggles, feelings, symptoms, etc., who could understand completely what I face with this condition. Initially, I never thought that there might be someone else out there who was facing a potential PD-Plus diagnosis.

On July 20, 2007, I was again searching the internet for information regarding PD-Plus conditions. On this day, I came across a blog called PD Plus Me. The author of this blog was writing about his experiences with a medical condition that may in fact be one of the PD-Plus conditions. As I read the blog, I was completely overwhelmed, not only with the author’s complete detailed account of his experiences and struggles with his condition, but also the knowledge that I was not the only one.

As soon as I finished reading the author’s story, I sent him an email. I let him know that I had a recent diagnosis of Parkinsonism that could potentially be a Parkinson-Plus condition. I included a little history about my symptoms, and the reasons why they might be associated with a PD-Plus condition rather than regular Parkinson’s Disease. Additionally, I let him know that his blog was one of the most informative and in depth sites I had come across, with respect to Parkinson’s Disease, as well as the PD-Plus conditions.

Within a short time, the author, Dan Brooks, responded to the email I had sent. From that point on we began exchanging information on our conditions. With each email I sent regarding my experiences with my condition, I looked forward to receiving a response in order to compare symptoms. Although there were some differences, there were also so many similarities, and I was so thankful for the opportunity to communicate with another person who understood completely the struggles and emotions involved when dealing with a potential PD-Plus diagnosis.

Dan’s blog, which is such an open and honest account of his journey through the PD-Plus world, was the final inspiration I needed to begin this blog, which had been something I had wanted to do for a while. His blog not only details his own personal story, but also offers insight into how his faith in God has influenced how he deals with his condition. It is very impressive how his blog has evolved into a great source of information for Parkinson’s Disease and PD-Plus Conditions, and that all of this information is available in one place. Additionally, the words he writes are not only educational, but also inspirational and uplifting.

I now consider Dan a friend, as well as a fellow writer with a longing to help others who are dealing with the physical and emotional aspects of these life-changing conditions. Dan’s focus is on providing in depth information on Parkinson’s Disease and the various PD-Plus conditions, while my focus is on providing assistance for those who are experiencing problems with the medical community while searching for that elusive diagnosis. Both of our blog sites share PD-Plus as a primary focus. Therefore, he has added a link to my site on his blog, and I have added a link to his site on my blog. We agree that by doing this, we may have an opportunity to reach more people who are searching for answers and feel alone with their illness. You will find the link to Dan’s Blog under “Resources for PD, PD-Plus & Other Movement Disorders.” The link is titled, “PD Plus Me, Patient’s Personal Story.”

In the short period since PD-Plus entered my life, a new set of emotions and feelings have emerged, and have become powerful forces in fighting the negative emotions. Contentment, enthusiasm, hope, and peace are working hard to replace the negative emotions that this illness promotes. I am now content with my new life as it is today and no longer mourn the life I once had. This blog has created a renewed excitement and enthusiasm that what I share may help someone else who feels alone in their struggles. Hope has been renewed in me through the love and support of my husband and the unending encouragement he gives to me daily. Peace has been provided by my faith in the Lord and the several people who He has recently put in my path who are uplifting as well as encouraging. When I look around me, I now can see how truly blessed I am, in spite of my illness.

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