This is not a funny, normal, squirrelly post, but it was a moment of my life that I felt was so important share. Parkinson’s can be sad and I have promised myself with this blog that I will be open to sharing my pain without sugarcoating it… even though that sounds delicious. You have been warned.
A man came to therapy this week due to irritability that was leading him into periods of rage… we will call him “Jeff”. Jeff had sustained a traumatic brain injury eleven months ago. It was a car that swerved on the highway and ran into the back of his truck… he never saw it coming. He says, “It was like one moment, I was driving to work and the next thing I know… I’m this person who yells a my family and can’t even form a complete sentence.”
The Neurologist had educated Jeff that it could take a while to get back to feeling normal; he should expect emotional outbursts, headaches, cognitive impairment and sleep disturbances. The only thing that would help is time. This was not good enough for Jeff. He was a scientist, he needed his brain to lecture and write.
As Jeff was venting his frustration and sadness about the man he used to be, I noticed that he was referring to himself in third person. In a low tone he said, “ Jeff didn’t get upset at his kids… Jeff never had trouble finding the right word… Jeff could write a lecture in his sleep.” Jeff had so much denial that he had created an unrealistic version of who he believed he should be.
It was obvious that he was trying so hard to be the old Jeff that he was in emotional warfare with himself. He was beating himself up because no matter what he did or how hard he tried, he couldn’t do the things that he used to be able to do before the car accident. He had never fully accepted his loss. When I pointed out that he was referring to himself in third person, looking confused he says, “I am? I didn’t even know I was doing that.”
The remainder of the therapy session, I explained that the Jeff that he knew was gone and that he would never be that version of himself ever again. That the old Jeff wasn’t a separate identity, it was a part of who he is at this very moment. Furthermore I explained that he could improve himself with time and determination, but he wasn’t capable of doing all the things that he used to do. Trying to be “perfect, like Jeff” was only going to cause him pain and confusion.
With a few tears, he says, “I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, because now I don’t have that pressure to be the old me.” I told him that after today he could pick himself up and try to be the best version of himself. He was enough.
After therapy, I started to self-reflect and I was hit with a wave of sadness for the loss of the old Jeff. It triggered thoughts of my journey. It didn’t matter that Jeff had a brain injury and I have Parkinson’s disease… at some point, I had to come to the realization that I am not the person I used to be. The old Allison is gone and I will never be her again. But I have to say my current self is still pretty awesome. I have taken the pain and fear of losing who I was and used it to be my best self today. My life has improved by helping others and although at times I do feel sad, I can say with confidence… I am enough.