Monday, 18 November 2013

“Mine eyes are full of tears; I cannot see”

King Richard II by William Shakespeare

When you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it feels like you are cast in the role of Shakespeare’s King Richard II and Parkinson’s is the usurper of the crown Bolingbroke. Parkinson’s deposes you and takes what should be rightly yours: the sovereignty over your body and the conscious control you have. It seems you have no choice but to resign from yourself and declare:

“I must nothing be;
Therefore no, no, for I resign to thee.
Now, mark me how I will undo myself…”

Note how Richard empties himself out (“I will undo myself”) by failing to identify with his new role as citizen and not King (“I must nothing be”). Parkinson’s, with the insidious prognosis (CHRONIC, INCURABLE, PROGRESSIVE), can push you into believing you have lost yourself and therefore you must start to dismantle your life, declare yourself bankrupt and empty out the world around you. If you, like Richard, cannot see yourself within a alternative role from the one you expected to have, you will:

“With mine own tongue deny my sacred state…”

You deny yourself and end up knowing:

“I have worn so many winters out
And know not now what name to call myself…”

It is natural to start to blame yourself for Parkinson’s as Richard blames himself for giving up his crown:

“If I turn mine eyes upon myself
I find myself a traitor with the rest
For I have given here my soul’s content…
Made glory base and sovereignty a slave,
Proud majesty a subject, state a peasant…”

By taking on the responsibility of Parkinson’s (you “made glory base”) you have a little hope that you can cope in the future. But this makes it more likely that you will allow yourself to become Parkinson’s:

“How soon my sorrow hath destroyed my face…”

The fear of losing our identity makes us retreat from the responsibility and we deny our knowledge of Parkinson’s because it protects us from the accusation. We end up in a perpetual oscillation between trying to control the future and denying there is anything to control.

“Fiend, thou torment’st me ere I come to hell…”

However, Parkinson’s is not King, he is a citizen. Even within Parkinson’s you retain sovereignty in how you react to situations. Richard breaks his mirrored self-reflection and therefore loses awareness of this fundamental choice:

“As brittle as the glory is the face,
For there it is, cracked in an hundred thousand shivers…”

You don’t have to crack your mirrors or deny yourself in the face of your disease.

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