My PD ‘Mind over Matter’ ~ Seriously? Another software update?

The ‘Small Girl’s souvenirs of life’ part 2 ~ by Meg Bernard

“NO WAY! THAT WAS AWESOME!” Closely followed by a look of ‘freakish awe’ and the words, “you’re really weird!” To which I reply “yes, I am” because I’m not about to argue with the obvious. I’m often asked “how did you do it?”…ohhh if you only knew how badly I want to casually reply, “oh, because I’m a witch”; I think the reaction could possibly be ‘YouTube worthy’…so I explain the methods I actually use, and by the end of the conversation, the look on their faces often tell me that I might was well have said that I am a witch. A girl just can’t win sometimes.

To bring you up to speed, this conversation takes place in a hospital, or more accurately in many hospitals and on many occasions. The script varies slightly (this particular example took place after a nurse spent 30 minutes poking and digging; attempting to start an IV in my arm (eventually, with guidance, the impossible was achieved); but the look of freakish awe remains the same. The ‘how do you do it? ‘ of this situation is the fact that during the whole 30 minutes I hadn’t flinched once; “how do you do it?’ refers to my ability to separate myself from pain. Yep. Weird.

For as long as I can remember my body has been “beautifully misunderstood” (the words I use to replace odd or strange), with what appeared to be a never ending onslaught of physical challenges requiring visits to an onslaught of specialists who would treat symptoms, sometimes finding answers; therefore pain became a natural part of my existence. Over the years I started to experiment with different coping strategies for pain until, one day, I discovered that a skill I use in other areas of my life applied perfectly to this one also. I learned how to separate my mind from physical pain. Oh, I am perfectly aware that the pain is occurring; that my body does like it; and that the stress from pain added to the stress from the cause of the pain takes a huge toll on my well-being; I just chose not to acknowledge it.

The skill of self-mastery; or mind over matter; is something I have spent my whole life working on. There is so much of life that is not within my control; so it became important for me to know that my mind; my spirit; the ‘Princess’ inside of my warrior; had the ability to make decisions for what I do have control over.

It is in using this skill that I have, in the past, been able to push beyond what others, sometimes myself, saw as my physical or emotional capacity. Some examples could be; learning how to physically defend myself against a person three times my size and strength (which, unfortunately I had to use, but fortunately was prepared for), or to prepare myself and then accomplish my dream of climbing a mountain, which I had been told I would never be capable of.

Of course those are pre-PD examples, so I will also include; learning how to sit up in bed in the morning followed by getting myself into a standing position and then, to prevent falling, using a walker to reach the washroom. There is also my virtual mountain; climbing a flight of stairs; which, with my specific PD symptoms, takes more energy, burns more calories and gives me ten times the feeling of accomplishment than climbing my ‘true life’ mountains ever did.

Mind over matter, spirit over body; princess over warrior; this has allowed me to accomplish things I never thought I could. Then came the discovery that I could apply a slightly modified version of this same skill set in order to handle the discomfort of pain…not to cure it, not to make it disappear, certainly not to pretend it isn’t there…but to live with it, and not allow it to possess me and control more of me than the physical limitations of my body already did.

I have experienced some amazingly far fetched physical challenges in my life, but have decided to focus on the past 5 years; a time period in which ‘mind over matter’ became the weapon of choice in my ‘zombie apocalypse’ arsenal; the time period which followed my diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

I’ll make this VERY CLEAR straight off:
1. YES, I believe in taking medication for my Parkinson’s disease and receiving all of the benefits they can bring to my life. I am so grateful for my medication. 
2. NO, the ‘survival skill’ I have developed for dealing with my PD does not stop tremors, it doesn’t keep me from falling down, it didn’t stop my stomach paralysis and keep me from needing a feeding tube; it doesn’t stop the nasty non motor symptoms; it doesn’t cure nausea and it has not eliminated my severe rigidity and the tremendous pain that accompanies it. I DO NOT have a cure for Parkinson’s. I only have the experiences of one small girl, and how she has managed to stay sane…feel free to debate that last statement.

Since  Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease; for those who are unfamiliar, I will compare it’s progressive nature to the installation of software on a computer.

Often when I have installed new software on my computer, I figure out how it works, and think that it’s smooth sailing from there. BUT,  every now and then, at random intervals, I’ll get a ‘pop-up’ on my screen letting me know that a ‘new and improved’ update is available to install with just the click of a button; so I click the button and often discover that this update requires me to learn  a ton of different things in order to make the software perform as I would like it to. After being diagnosed with PD, I spent time figuring out how this new body worked; but I have found that just when I think I’ve got it figured out, a random ‘pop-up’ will appear, installing an ‘update’ that requires me to learn, all over again, how to get my body to work as I would like it to. One unfortunate difference between ‘software updates’ and ‘PD progression’ is that we don’t have the luxury of hitting that awesome “remind me later” button; our ‘new and improved’ version downloads without consent. This is where the discovery of using my mind to separate itself from PD pain became so vitally important; as  PD progresses, my ability to adapt to it needs just as progressive.

We all have different ways and different motivations for handling the challenges PD brings into our lives; I wish I was capable of finding “THE ONE TRUE WAY”, thereby bringing some relief to all of you; What I DO have are the experiences and stories that have helped me become my own PD expert.

So, in my next ‘Small Girl’s Souvenirs of life’ I’ll tell you a bit about the day ‘needles stopped hurting’; the day that my fierce love for my children overcame the pain of a life saving, emergency abdominal incision (WIDE AWAKE…NO PAIN MEDS…NO JOKE); as well as “Small Girl’s ‘PD pain’ survival guide” otherwise know as “Zeroing the Scale”.

Much love ~ Meg; SGwP

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6 thoughts on “My PD ‘Mind over Matter’ ~ Seriously? Another software update?

  1. A great read and story – I am in awe of you and this mind over matter stuff. Guess yogis and shamans and folks in various cultures use “pain to gain” some sort of spiritual ecstasy .whether walking on nails,hot coals or hanging from fish hooks in their backs ( a sun festival of some type done by some native Americans).

    My pain tolerance is fairly high, I think, but I could certainly improve by a lot. I’m surely not transforming mine like you are into a spiritual high or exercise. I’d love to learn how-

    Thanks and tell us more!you have an eager disciple here

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    • Thank you Ilene. It definitely isn’t a spiritual high…it’s getting to know my body, find the pain, and separate myself enough from it to still be able to make decisions. The pain is very real; I have to remind myself that just because I CAN handle the pain doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for my body to experience the pain. It’s a balancing act. I’m glad that you would like to know more and I look forward to sharing it.

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  2. Thank you for sharing and — I won’t say ‘inspiring’ because it irks me when I hear it said to me — cause for thought. I keep a blog on tog and PD (been living w yoga for 15 yrs, PD for 11). Your approach is the essence of yoga: awareness through witnessing, not avoiding or glossing over but not getting caught up in it, either. Would it be okay with you if I reposted your entry on my blog (w credits and links to you, of course!)?

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    • Absolutely. Thank you Renee.
      Yes, it’s pointless to pretend that it isn’t there. It’s a bit like grieving in that until you acknowledge it, you can’t move forward. Being aware of one’s own body and listening to it is one of the greatest things I’ve learned.

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  3. Another great read Meg. Comparing the stair climb to the mountain climbing is so relevant. I had to give up my mountain treks a few years ago after ending up with a knee replacement after my last one. After which I was finally diagnosed with PD. The pain factor I have also found myself separating from for many years, especially from being a mechanic for many years and going through a few operations. Thank you for your blog, Love it!

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