For today’s blog post on the theme of losing my “self”, I have decided to provide you with two versions: 1) a short version and 2) a longer, more personal version.
Therefore, depending on how much time that you have, you could either read one or the other (or both).
I know that just by the process of going through our life – we endure losses of things that are close to us – such as: jobs, relationships, social status, people, talents, abilities (coordination, mobility, driving, etc.), and eventually our lives. We tend to define ourselves by these attributes – which is easy to do, because these aspects of our “self” is how we often describe ourselves to others and think of ourselves. These aspects of our defined “self” not only give us meaning, but also come with a price: a sense of loss of identity when those things are taken or lost from us.
When faced with such losses, we grieve. After losses, some people will stay stuck in despair, while others go on to redefine themselves. In redefining oneself with new attributes, you still run the risk of heartache – if you define yourself in terms of another ability or role that can be taken from you. Being faced with losses is especially a problem for those of us who have progressive diseases, such as Parkinson’s Disease, which may take things from us that we may have assumed would be around for a while.
I am very sad at the loss of some of my abilities and talents. I plan to try to adapt in order to continue to do things that I am able to do, to the best of my capabilities. In areas where I can’t adapt or obtain accommodations, I must strive for and allow a sense of acceptance, while keeping sight of gratitude for the gifts in life that I still have. I also will keep exploring some realistic possible goals for my future. Keep on!
I decided to participate in Judo class again this past weekend. I was eager to get back into the swing of things (or should I say throw, choke, arm-bar, etc.), especially since it had been a while since I had participated or exercised that intensely, due to taking a break at the beginning of summer. Before leaving the house for Judo this past Saturday morning, I had made sure that I had taken my morning medicines. After I arrived at class, I noticed that I was – once again, able to do some of the exercises, a few of which, I had struggled with – even before taking the summer break, such as being able to do forward rolling falls – which didn’t look pretty, yet for the first time in a long time, I was able to actually do them.
I seemed to have some flexibility and some energy back and everything seemed like it was going good. I had somewhat prepared myself all summer by brisk walking and making sure that I didn’t add on too much weight gain. In class that morning, there were a couple of new adult judo students – and I anticipated getting a chance to try my skills during the last portion of class, the sparring portion, which we call randori (practice fighting). I also am an assistant teacher. It was at the point of gripping up, moving and trying to spar that I noticed that there was something different about me. I was back to being very stiff and tense and I was horribly off-balance, to the point that it wouldn’t take much for me to topple. I was slow, clumsy, and ended up on my back several times with somebody on top of me – easily getting me in a hold down.
In the recent past, no matter how bad I was feeling, I had always been able to rely on my skills to get out of such situations – or at least to not get in a bad situation in the first place. I noticed though on this day that I had difficulty keeping my own balance, much less to be able to off-balance my opponent.
After class, I arrived home pretty beaten up. Actually, let’s backtrack a little bit: before I had even had left the facility that the class was held, it had taken me a long time to recover. I was out of breath and drained. At one point, I thought somebody was going to have to drag me out of the dojo (at a local community center) or perhaps wheel me out of the place in a stretcher. Anyway, when I arrived home, I was bruised up, banged up, weak, and had to sleep much of the rest of the day. For the next few days, I noticed that I hobbled around everywhere I went. I also noticed that I was frequently shaking in my right hand like a leaf in a storm. It was as if my medications had stopped working. My Parkinson’s symptoms seemed at their maximum level.
Not just for hours, but for days, it seemed like my Parkinson’s symptoms were worse. How did that happen? I just couldn’t figure it out. I knew that exercise could not progress Parkinson’s Disease or make it worse for very long. So what was going on with me? The answer finally came to me: I tried to compensate for poor balance and loss of control by using every bit of muscle structures that I had, meanwhile squeezing every last bit of cortisol and dopamine in my deprived brain in an effort to perform during the class that day.
I am now trying to grasp – and yet push away – a revelation. I am losing my “self”. The self who I used to be. Yes, I am optimistic. I have every right to grieve. I know that I need to redefine myself now. Who I thought that I was is now changing. This is not news- we all change, but maybe there was a little bit of delusion hidden in the corner of my brain that told me that I could keep my abilities. I still plan to exercise, to continue to do Judo and do what I am able to do. I am going to teach and try not to wear myself out too much. I must remind myself that I don’t have anything to prove. I also need to remind myself that it is okay if my balance, speed, and coordination are not there. I need to give myself permission that it is okay if I struggle. I can either adapt or accept.
On another note, we are going to have someone come to our house to give us an estimate on the cost of replacing windows and some wood trim. In the past, this would have been some house work that I may have done – allowing myself to go high on a ladder. However, at this point in my life, my wife and I both decided that it is time to hire this sort of work out for someone else to do, so that I don’t get seriously hurt. I hope to be able to afford the repairs, fix up the house, and possible sell it in a year or two as we plan to move to some sort of maintenance free living arrangement in the near future.
I understand how easily it is for those who have a hard time of breaking away from how they have defined themselves: by their jobs, talents, abilities and capabilities – and then go into a deep despair when these are threatened or taken away – it is easy to do. For now though, all I can do – is all I can do.