“People are too hard on denial. Shrinks have theories to confirm, patients to command into the breach. But a person has only a problem, a souvenir, a life to shoulder through. We need to tell ourselves whatever is necessary.”
- Darin Strauss, from his memoir Half a Life
Almost everyone I know who has Parkinson’s lives with a certain amount of denial. You have to. Denial becomes a coping mechanism, a way to survive. It’s not a conscious thing but it’s undeniably there. When we moved to Philadelphia, eight years ago, we bought our house because we loved it but we didn’t consider the fact that there were seven front steps! I know someone who bought a small castle to live in after her husband’s diagnosis (Philadelphia is probably one of the few places a small castle can even be found) and another friend just bought a working farm with thirty acres.
Over the winter, we went hiking on an icy trail by a river, because it was a beautiful snowy white day in the woods, and the dog was jumping around with excitement. It wasn’t until I almost fell that I realized it wasn’t a good situation for Hal. Why did we even embark on this trek?
Part of what must be going on is a “so there” to the Parkinson’s- “I’m going to live my life anyway, just the way I want to.” It’s okay to have this kind of attitude because it helps you get through the day. You need your dreams even if they aren’t Parkinson’s-practical.
Then there’s the opposite of those living with denial. Couples who sold their houses before the Parkinson’s got worse, moved into assisted living places or a condominium. They’ve planned and researched everything, equipped themselves to deal with whatever may come. But what is to come? None of us knows. That’s the hard thing; we just don’t know.