From personal experience, I was told I might have Parkinson’s in January 2012 and I was finally diagnosed in April 2012. That three month wait was the most exquisite torture. I felt glued to the floor. I couldn’t get on with my life or start the process of coming to terms with the disease and I wasn’t able to access any services because I was yet to be diagnosed. I had to deal with the emotional impact of Parkinson’s without any professional support (I was already, without knowing the cause, dealing in my own way with the physical symptoms prior to my diagnosis). I tried accessing my local mental health services but was told there was a nine month wait. It was a despairing and desperate time.
The way I found to cope with the mental impact of Parkinson’s was to try cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT); I met a brilliant private therapist who has offered me the tools and strategies to reassert myself in the face of Parkinson’s. I believe all sufferers and their families, from the moment the possibility of Parkinson’s is raised, should be offered therapy.
Therapy is a confidential place where you see an unbiased, supportive person who gives you the time and space to explore your thoughts and emotional reactions. They will also gently challenge your automatic patterns of thought and offer strategies to help you think and feel in alternative, more helpful ways. Sometimes we get lost in the minutiae of Parkinson’s so it’s beneficial to be reminded to look up from the Parkinson’s microscope and see the whole person you are. You have to be open, honest and work hard, successful therapy is based on how you respond and learn.
Don’t dismiss therapy because it can’t eliminate the fact we have Parkinson’s or the decline we are facing. But taking tablets also doesn’t offer a cure so why do we take them? Obviously to reduce the impact of the disease. Therapy is designed to do the same but in a much more personal and empowering way. The best therapy gives you the tools to be your own therapist. You can’t think yourself cured but you can think yourself to a better, more productive and helpful emotional relationship with Parkinson’s.