“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.
ALL Rights Reserved by Maria De Leon MD