Before Parkinson’s (any chronic illness, we all “lived like water flowing down a hill..going in a single direction until we splashed” against a rock which has forced us to find a new path.
A Relationship by definition is the way two or more people are connected but more importantly how they behave towards one another. As long we live in this world, we will always have relationships some of which are closer and more intimate than others. These latter ones are the ones that become more deeply impacted and can be totally uprooted by our behavior, the choices we make and the things that impact our lives.
We know that no two people are ever alike and the fashion in which we deal with stressful situations is no exception.
This is the time when boundaries will be pushed to the limit.
So it should not be a big surprise that when major life stresses occur in our life’s any and all relationships will be put to the test. The hardest hit are always the ones closest to us like our immediate family and close friends.
I too have lost relationships of decades because the person I thought would understand my shortcomings would understand. Although, the losses hurt and the relationship mourned I had to come to terms that my health was more important.
How do we keep our most valued relationships from becoming part of an UN-salvageable shipwreck?
Setting appropriate boundaries.
We can’t expect to have good relationships or understanding of our needs; much less be able to tell our friends and family what we like to get from them to help us continue being the friend, partner, lover, sister, and mother. Although, these will have to undergo some type of modifications to allow for life’s changes in both parties.
Discuss gently with the people you love, the specific issues you have and then try to find ways to get around these issues. For instance, I tell my friends and family that in order to protect my limited energy/time that may be needed for a higher priority, I reserve the right to cancel a commitment especially if I am not well.
Sometimes however despite our best efforts casualties will occur and we must learn to let go.
When we set boundaries saying what we will and will not accept in our lives it forces the other person to evaluate their own boundaries.
How you handle these strains depends on the intimacy of relationship and how valuable that friendship etc. Some relationships can’t be dissolve such as familial ties but can become estranged with lack of communication.
I am sure all of us have experienced strained relationships during our lives particularly after receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis. At times is hard even for us to accept our own illness much less for others who are mere spectators to fully understand our condition as outsiders.
For instance, my close friends know that my life changes day to day and so in making social plans we have learned to give each other leeway in changing plans last minutes as long as we both get the same opportunity. Equally we are all open to spontaneous planning to gather. In my case, people that have trouble accommodating to this my new life and insist on making plans way in advance and or in getting upset if things change last minute have been for the most part excluded from my social circle. Similarly because of my ups and downs and loss of voice along with all my other demands, I have adopted communicating with my special friends and family members for the most part via text. This way we are constantly in communication. However, there have been those that insisted and got upset if I was not able to speak directly with them at the time they need me without understanding my own issues and did not want to compromise as to how and when we spoke. These types of demanding behavior even from long term friendships have resulted in breakage of a friendship. But like a bad hair do you must simply accept it and know that you will get another chance to try something new and perhaps even better.
Because we don’t live in a vacuum all of our actions have consequences. You must speak up and let the person know how you feel and is up to that person to respond positively or ignore your circumstances. If that person makes no effort in meeting you half way perhaps is time to rethink that relationship.
Develop healthy boundaries say YES to good things and NO to bad things! Speak your mind gently without feeling guilty but remember that those around you have the SAME right to decide what they deem BEST for them!
all rights reserved by Maria De Leon MD
“The good and the bad mix themselves so thoroughly in our thoughts, even in our aspirations, that we must look for excellence…“ Anthony Trollope, He knew He was Right
Most of us marry someone who is our opposite which is what makes us work as a team by bringing different assets and points of views into the relationship. However, if 3 important rules are not established or discussed, as we get diagnosed with a chronic illness or as Parkinson’s progresses (in my case), there maybe a build up of resentment, quiet seething, and increasingly snide remarks along with looks that could kill if given half a chance. So, instead of working as a team our contrasting ideas, and managerial styles can lead to friction which can pull us apart by making us feel alienated; as if we were working alone towards different goals.
I have seen this over and over in many patients and friends who both feel as if the other did not care when it fact both are committed to achieving the same goal- well being of the patient and stable, happy marriage. For instance, a wife after suffering a devastating illness in which she has practically been hospitalized for nearly 6 months has left her completely devoid of any will power physically, emotionally, and spiritually she is at the border of giving up from pure exhaustion. What she needs is complete rest and time to process everything she has gone though without anyone fussing over her. Yet, her fears are making her clingy and desperate putting her husband on edge. Husband recognizes depression and her need to talk to someone so he asks doctor for a counselor to help but she refuses the much needed intervention. His managerial style is to find a solution to her beloved wife’s problem depression which is causing her to not eat and wither away more. After being by her side day in and day out through out the entire ordeal, he too is in desperate need of respite.
Sometimes because of different ways of approaching the situation it may appear instead to the other person that the partner has either given up or does not care. When these sentiments begin to build up inside of a relationship, especially one that has endured much already, is a sign that you are reaching a dangerous zone. A frustration like a patient refusal to adhere to doctor’s orders, or to loved ones wishes for their own well being as the case above, can spark a fire and unleash a fury causing at times a twenty year marriage to implode on itself. Then we are left alone to pick up the pieces and deal with our illness at the same time through lenses of disillusion.
The epiphany– sometimes a feeling of neglect and betrayal we feel from our spouse is more about us than them. We have to start peeling the layers back one by one before we are confronted with our own insecurities and fears. This will lead to self discovery and understand what we are really upset about. Since, as Maya Angelou wrote “tragedy (chronic illness), no matter how sad, becomes boring to those not caught in its addictive caress.” Thus, at some point in our lives we have to confront adversity all by ourselves. when you do, remember that Healing is a life long process which starts by being kind to yourself. You must love yourself before you can love others fully. I pray that you discover this before you lose something more valuable. In our struggle to survive living with a disease or trauma which has greatly impacted our lives is to focus on the “cure” (be healed). Sometimes, sadly as it may occur with cancer patients or trauma victims, physical healing can take place only to expose our deepest darkest fears leaving us emotionally and spiritually devoid.
I have discovered that ironically the best way to heal completely and be free to live life to the fullest is to let go of the idea of finding a quick fix. The answers is not on the outside rather within us and it takes time. Many people go through therapies and treatments like yoga, bicycling, mindfulness, pharmaceuticals, acupuncture, etc. as if by partaking in these we will eventually reach a point where we can say I am finally – completely healthy and cured (from whatever ails us)!
Not so. This is not the end of the world or us for that matter. Not only is it okay to not be perfectly healed since it reflects life as it truly is- imperfect. We are a work in progress.
Instead on focusing on the bad- focus on the good and learn to compromise. Learn to let go of resentments and things that don’t nourish the soul, give you joy, or strength.
Remember, when dealing with an illness like in any relationship 3 rules apply:
#1 Neither one is going to be entirely comfortable all the time– we are all unique individuals, thank goodness if everyone was like me it would be very chaotic. The pendulum is always swinging back and forth in any good relationship- is a give and take – if one person is always in control then there are bigger issues with poor boundaries that need to be addressed.
#2 Decide upon a philosophy to tackle the illness – this does not mean you are not free to make decision as the situation arises on the spare of the moment -simply means you have an agreed upon common goal-
#3 There can only be one driver at a time– I am sure you are all familiar with the saying “too many cooks spoils the broth.” But, in order to enjoy the drive whatever the scenic route may be, there must be trust that the person in charge of steering will get you to the right destination safe.
Now, you can start living life with the fullest not dwelling on the past, focusing on the future but living the here and now. embrace life do things because they nourish you, they make you a better person not because you are trying desperately to be healed. always be grateful for what you have and the people around you who are willing to stay by your side and support you and share your journey victories and defeats.
Have a blessed week everyone!
Spiegel Amy, “Letting go of Perfect: women expectations and authenticity.” Foreword Smith, Angie. B&H Publishing Group, Nashville,TN 2012
Harvey, Cig (Aug. 2017): “Let it Go.” The Oprah Magazine, Vol 18 (8): 92-103
All Rights Reserved Maria De Leon