Take Care!

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As I hang up the phone, I hear my friend utter the proverbial “Take care!”, marking the end of another conversation. I pause for a moment and repeat the words in my head…”Take care!” This phrase brings up mixed emotions as I’ve been grappling with the essence of its meaning over the last few months. I’ve said it myself countless times and have preached the need for self-care at public lectures and in private counsels with friends and family. But do I practice what I preach? Well that’s a completely different story…
I know what I have to do, what those of us with Parkinson’s
must do in order to live well with this disease. Not only do we have to advocate to optimize our care from those health care professionals on our team but we have to recognize that a big part of managing this condition is being an active participant; doing those things that constitute the realm of “self-care”. That includes taking the time to exercise regularly, eating well, managing stress and getting adequate rest.
Sounds fairly logical, maybe even simple. But it is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. Despite my knowledge and best intentions, I continuously fall victim to my “to do list”. A life that includes many different projects, three vibrant young daughters, a husband with a busy career and countless social and family obligations, is ripe with excuses; all of which make complete sense at the time they are made. “Oh I had to get such and such from the store.” Or “That closet was such a mess, it just had to be sorted!” Or “So and so needed to be taken to such and such a place” The list is endless and instead of being conquered, it has a curiously strange way of growing longer still!
And at what price? Yes my house is organized, my emails are answered and the kids are being chauffeured around endlessly. But
my body grows stiffer, my energy poorer and my stress level rises. Many a time I have looked into my husband’s troubled eyes as he pleads with me, telling me that if I want to be there for my family and continue to be a productive part of my community, I have to take care of myself first and foremost. That driving myself into the ground is actually doing myself and those that depend on me, a disservice (imagine that!). A hard pill to swallow for someone who isn’t used to putting themselves first in any situation. But he’s absolutely right. I do want to be there for my family, friends and community, to be by my daughters’ sides as they journey through life, to grow old with my husband…and to do that will require commitment to my own well being, perseverance as well as strong motivation and yes, a little bit of selfishness.
I must say that I am getting better at it – I now try to maintain somewhat of a routine, to walk and stretch daily, work out with a trainer a couple of times a week and maintain a healthy diet. I try my best to remember to do yoga and meditate to reduce stress, to make time for the social interactions and hobbies that I enjoy. On those days that I manage to accomplish it all, I feel rejuvenated; my body is more supple and my medication requirements are reduced. The key is to remember how great it feels on those days and to walk past the dirty dishes in the sink and the laundry that needs to be folded. To go out into the chill of a late summer evening, grab my daughter’s hand and enjoy a long, carefree stroll….knowing that hopefully as long as I “take care”, there will be many such moments in the future…