I hear voices. I believe the first step is admitting you have a problem, then you can work on overcoming that issue. So there it is, out on the table…..voices in my head. The voices I hear are not cheerful and they don’t say things like, “Unicorns are real” or “Chocolate helps you lose weight”. But they also are not Field of Dreams creepy whispering, “If you build it, they will come.”
I first noticed these voices after I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. One of my hobbies was being active and trying new things that challenged me. I loved going to the gym almost everyday and the days I didn’t go, I would go to yoga or dance class. But one day when I cruised on over to the local “24 Hour Fitness” to wail on my pecs for a while, I noticed things began to change. As I walked to the front door of the gym, I extended my arm to grab the handle. The moment my skin touched the door, I had a wave of emotion came over me. I felt awkward and out-of-place in the familiar gym that I had logged many tiresome hours in. Then it happened, a little voice in my head said, “Everyone is looking at you.”
I tried to calm that voice in my head by telling myself encouraging words, but it never faded. As months went by, the voices became more frequent and not just at the gym. I would be at the grocery store, and a voice would tell me, “Try to look normal! Swing your arm when you walk, don’t hunch over, and smile.” The voices were coming from a deep place within me, where I hide my insecurities. I began to doubt myself, with activities that came with such ease in the past. Parkinson’s takes so much and leaves you only with doubt. Was I the same person? Where did my confidence go? Who would want me now? I guess you could say, I had to redefine who I was.
Now after having Parkinson’s disease for years, it is still a daily struggle to keep the voices to a whisper. I could be having a conversation with a close friend who knows I am a Parkie, but I see them look down at my hand, and a voice yells, “Hold still, your too dyskinetic, they are looking at your PD!” Then I will try some tactical move like sitting on my hand…which never works and makes me look like more of a dodo bird then if I would just roll with it.
This is part of the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s…..no, not looking like a dodo bird, but to create cognitive dissonance. I was holding onto multiple conflicting beliefs simultaneously. I believe that I am athletic, caring and pretty, but now that I have Parkinson’s, I also believe that I am fluffy, sometimes of grouchy and having a bad hair year. Talk about going crazy! This conflict in my head causes emotional distress and there is no cure. But there are tools I can use to lessen the confusion. Now when I go to the gym, I wear a ball cap. This helps me feel a little hidden so I can focus on my work out and not so concerned about what others are thinking. I keep reminding myself that everyone else is busy with their own drama, they are not looking at me.
Not only is Parkinson’s impacting my movement, but it is also messing with my concept of self. I know the voices will keep on trying to intimidate me, but the next time they say, “You were beautiful before you got diagnosed, now look at you.” I will yell back, “Knock it off! I am and always will be beautiful. No disease will take that away from me.” Then I realize I am actually answering the voices in my head…….ok, so maybe I am a little crazy, but aren’t we all?