Thanksgiving in the Parkinson’s Diva world! By Maria De Leon

Comments 2 Standard

Perhaps, today you find yourself in a precarious position, your health is not the best, your family is not around, or you have not been able to do the things you wanted to do? You may feel like there is not much to be thankful for especially when a chronic illness seems to be winning at times. Or how can I find joy in my present circumstances? Believe me, I understand your trepidation I have asked myself those same questions at times. And have spent holidays in the hospital or in bed at home so I get your pain and frustration. But I have found that as long as we are alive there is much to be thankful for even for the small things we often take for granted. Simply give thanks because you are alive one more day, you can talk, you can move you can breathe, you can smile, that you have friends, that you are not alone. Faith in God and hope in a better tomorrow you too can find harmony and give thanks in the midst of adversity. As the late Stephen Hawking quipped once (with his artificial computerized voice having lost his ability to speak or move at all, “however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do. All that matters is that you don’t give up!”

As the years go by, I find 2 things to be true that we all can do something no matter what our circumstances are and that as long as we are alive there is hope. Because of this I try to be grateful even in the small things. Having a grateful heart opens us to enjoy the in life the things that truly matter. It is these things that make a life worth living and worth remembering – so this thanksgiving season, I like to express my gratitude for the small things that punctuate my life. There is nothing more wonderful to a mother’s ears than to hear a child express their gratitude for making their return home from college a warm and welcoming one. To see your children enjoy their food and exclaim can’t wait for the next day to come just so that I can eat left overs again! And before going upstairs to sleep with a kiss so gentle and loving on your forehead say ‘I love you mom’ and by the way ‘thank you for making the house so pretty for the holidays.’

Suddenly, all the tiredness and fatigue of running around wild cleaning, decorating, buying things for a special meal along with the 10 hours of drive time to retrieve from college disappear. All is well in my world with my 2 loves safe at home. A mother’s heart is never full unless her children are nearby and safe. We are all grateful that this year I am doing well and able to cook and help with the festivities making the meal extra special this year. We laugh and think about the last 2 seasons when my health was not the best and spent all day sleeping during the thanksgiving holiday forcing my husband and daughter to prepare the meal I had bought. Of course they agreed unanimously that it was one of the worst meals even though I had pre-order a cooked turkey since I knew I could not prepare a meal in my state. But we are making time up in quality singing Christmas carols (a little ahead of time just because we love the season) as we cook and drive around together always ending in laughter because I cannot sing or keep a beat. But hearing my daughter play the piano once more after several months of being away bring great joy to my heart. Even the cat who usually wonders off to sleep somewhere does not miss a beat of the conversation and looks upon our lively discussion expectantly purring from beneath the Christmas tree (his new favorite place to chill).

I am also extremely thankful and grateful to God for all the wonderful people in the Parkinson’s community I have had privilege to meet and work with this past year. I am also elated for the steps that are taking place all over the world to bring better understanding to issues of women with PD and for Hispanics all over the world, with this I can’t wait to go to Barcelona for the next World Parkinson’s Congress 2022.

Happy thanksgiving from Parkinson’s Diva – from my family to yours!!!

@copyright 2019

all rights reserved By Maria L. De Leon MD

Write Away by Maria De Leon

Leave a comment Standard

“What does not kill us gives us something to write about” ~ Julie Wright

As I have journeyed with Parkinson’s over a decade, I have learned the importance of maintaining a balance in my life. This includes maintaining an emotional, spiritual and physical equilibrium.

One way that has helped me to maintain overall well-being in my life despite living with a chronic progressive disease is writing and sharing my story with others. There is power in embracing your past and present. Through various ups and downs, keeping a journal has allowed me to stay socially engaged.  This in turn has helped me remain physically and mentally active.

Maintaining a diary or journal is not only an inexpensive activity but lends itself wide open to individual expression of creativity from choosing the type of journal, pens, stickers’ and font to name a few. This is why I created the journal for women with Parkinson’s called ‘Hello Possibilities’ (can be found on line at amazon, Barnes & Noble’s) to help other women whether patients or caregivers to find a safe place to work through their feeling whether alone or in a group.

Furthermore, I have found that having difficulty writing because of tremors or dystonia should not be a reason NOT to journal. There are other ways of journaling like keeping a Mandala diary or using dictation. There are various software’s available like dragon voice recognition and dictation software even some of the smart tables have features that can help write.

I find that journaling also allows for a valuable tool to work on problem solving and gauge emotional well-being – sometimes for me the mere act of committing thoughts to pen and paper help alleviate the fears, anxieties and concerns I may be struggling with at the time. It serves to reassure me that I am still me and that I do HAVE control over my thoughts, attitudes and disease. Especially when I have difficulty sleeping, as most of us with chronic illnesses do, writing is a great way to calm the racing thoughts running through my head like a movie on fast forward.  Once, I start writing even if it’s just a couple of sentences the thoughts stop. If there are real pressing issues this allows me to start thinking of solutions. If you live alone or sleep alone you can keep a diary by your bed but if you are like me that has a bed partner I get up and find my comfortable place to write. Once my thought are down on paper I can rest better and go back to bed. But don’t activate yourself too much by turning all the lights keep a quiet cool place in a corner like I have with a soft light. I have a stained red glass lamp which provides enough light for reading and writing. The red light also provides a very tranquil mood for introspection. If you really want to get in the mood use an essential oil diffuser with a scent like frankincense or lavender to help you relax.

The other thing I have discovered and I stress in my new journal, just released, is that writing can also serve as powerful tool to recognize patterns. If you keep track of easy to quantify behaviors like sleep, depression, anxiety activity levels (apathy), cognitive changes like irritability, pain, or obsessive behaviors.

For instance, for me when I start sleeping longer than I usually do – not fatigued or depressed merely sleepy is a sign of underlying infection typically a urine infection. The sleepiness for me always comes before other symptoms of infection like chills, rigors, burning, frequency and urgency. So if other people do not notice or you don’t notice otherwise that are sleeping too much if your writing suddenly changes from daily to none or sparsely – you have a clear indication of something amiss and time to take action. But for more sinister problems like falling into depression or loneliness- the content of the writing will also change from hopeful to helpless or darker in nature which can be a huge sign of needed help. So it’s important to glance over to recognize patterns or allow your physician (or someone you trust) to have a look to be able to help and make appropriate changes. With drawing as a form of journaling it is easier to note changes in the color or designs you choose.

Ultimately, maintaining a journal puts you in the driver’s seat by allowing you to notice patterns. – it allows you like it has done me to take ownership of treatment and be proactive in your own care by calling your doctor and ultimately doing things to alter behavior and prevent snowballing into something more serious

For me seeing the words on paper is empowering perhaps it could be the same for you-whether you are a patient or a caregiver.  When I write I realize how much stronger I am because of what I have overcome – you too can realize your strengths and potential for living a full balanced life despite having PD.

Go ahead try it! You may want to start by writing your favorite verses or affirmations or a letter to God, your children or your future self.

@copyright 2019

ALL Rights Reserved by Maria De Leon MD