Depression and anxiety can be symptoms of Parkinson’s, results of having PD, and/or side effects from PD medication. Yet we still have a stigma about addressing mental health aspects of PD. “It’s all in your head…just buck up and you’ll be fine.” I have written before about my fellow PD blogger, Natasha McCarthy, from Prince Edward Island, Canada. She is a remarkable woman, mother of two beautiful little girls, in her 30s with Early Onset PD. I was so moved by her blunt post about mental health (1/25/2017) that I have reprinted excerpts below. Please check out her entire column and her blog at A Broken Body’s Journey.
…This post ….has been looming in my head for a while now. Too fearful of people’s opinion’s to share it. It’s really heartbreaking how something as important as mental health, but the reality is people are embarrassed of it, they feel depression or anxiety or anything related to mental health that we are struggling with makes us weak. I say us because I struggle with it too, I never did before PD…
Many would think getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s would easily be enough to become depressed. And yes indeed of course that happens. However in addition to that many people get depression, anxiety and issues with apathy as a symptom of the disease … Not unlike myself, who never had an anxious bone in her body and now I suffer with social anxiety, part of which is a fear of people seeing my symptoms which sounds ridiculous because everyone knows I have PD. …
Now, deep breath…. I see a psychologist once a week. Dear lord I just said it. Yup that’s right, I started to go to one back in November. I still feel embarrassed when I walk into the building and have the thought in the back of my head “I wonder if anyone I know will see me going in there”. When really I should be proud of myself for going and seeking help if I need it. But that’s just not the way we think in this day and age in our society. Why do I go, you are wondering? Well in a nutshell I had to give up my career in August of 2013 because I was unable to do my job. …Giving up my career was a blow …and I struggled greatly with it.
Laura with Natasha McCarthy at World Parkinson Congress, Sept. 2016
However, because of struggling with said loss of career I tricked myself into believing that I had dealt with this loss. When in reality I did not deal with it at all, I simply jumped in feet first and replaced it with being a stay at home Mom. I only had one [child] home with me, my little Izabella, as her big sister Samantha was gone to school by then. …I consumed my life with my new “career”. And then the day came, this past September when my baby got on the school bus with her big sister and I watched them drive away to their adventure for the day. Then I turned and walked back up the driveway admittedly tears streaming down my face … I remember thinking that day “what the hell am I suppose to do now?” To be honest I’m still trying to figure that out, hence going for counselling once a week. I’m trying to get the tools to deal with my anxiety and to cope with feeling like I have no purpose and trying to figure out again what that is. I’m trying to learn to be honest fully with all the changes and things Parkinson’s has done both to me and for me and see things in a different perspective. I go to try and figure out my way moving forward.
Did I come to the decision to get therapy easily? No, not at all. I thought about it on and off for all of September and October always making excuses over why I didn’t need to go. Always the stigma of what people would think looming. I left the house less, I would buy everything down to laundry detergent online so I wouldn’t have to go to a store. I would have days where I would not shower or get dressed other than to take the kids to their activities. ….
I did share at our last local [PD] support group that I was going to a psychologist….I felt like there was a cement block on my chest as the words were coming out of my mouth… Why do we do that to ourselves? Let’s STOP doing it. Let’s not be ashamed when we are struggling emotionally with something. ….If you are feeling low and you can’t get out of your own way and you can’t get past the funk you are in, to hell with everyone else and what they think. Go get help!
…Today I feel terrified & brave all at the same time. But I’m gonna focus on the brave part. I’m gonna enjoy this big sign of relief and feel the joy in being fully honest, not embarrassed and REAL. Because life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and that’s ok! Let us all be brave!