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Writing, the Little Monster and Me
By Sherri Woodbridge
When, at the age of eight, I was teaching school to my students — my monkey, Pinkie, my life-sized doll, Brenda and my Raggedy Ann doll, Annie — English and creative writing were our prime subjects. I read many stories to my class and critiqued the stories “they” wrote.
As far back as I can remember I have loved to write. One of my life mottos has become “I live to write, and I write to live.”
Years later, when I was in my mid-30s, I began to notice that my favorite activities, including writing, were becoming more difficult. For example, writing by hand was becoming challenging for me, so I began to type out my articles, stories and lists. After an hour or so of this, I found that my right fingers would begin to cramp up badly and refuse to work.
At first, because my symptoms were advancing slowly, I tried to continue life as usual. Then, after I found myself tripping constantly and returning home from work too exhausted to spend time with my family, I knew it was time to go to the doctor. Two days before Christmas in 2004, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
A year and a half later, with my doctor’s support, I decided to leave my job. With the free time I had, I began writing again. It was something I could still do that did not drain all of my energy. Besides, I loved it.
I started writing about my experiences living with young onset PD (YOPD) in an online journal, or blog, which I now call Parkinson’s Journey (www.parkinsonsjourney.com). It began much like a diary, but one that could be read by anyone who found it on the Internet. It was my wish that if anyone were to read it, they might be encouraged by knowing that they were not alone with this ‘little monster’ called PD (or, in my case, YOPD). I soon found that many people were reading and responding to my entries, sharing their experiences and letting me know they found solace in the words.
I still write several times a week and the blog has become my best therapy. They say that if you are struggling with something, you may not necessarily need a professional counselor if you have a good friend who listens. Writing became my good friend. As I have written more, I have come to believe that maybe there is something to this disease, other than the aches and pains, the difficulties and the uncertainties it brings.
The blog has generated for me a supportive network of friends. Writing openly about Parkinson’s seems to affirm to other people with PD that they are not alone in their struggles, which in turn inspires me. The more transparent that I have been in expressing my struggles with the ‘little monster,’ the larger my online family has grown. I have even recruited a friend to work with me on Parkinson’s Journey.
I realized recently that this arena of PD patients and caregivers has blossomed into a beautiful family and support group. There is such a deep level of bonding that occurs when you share a chronic disease such as PD. We look out for each other, try to encourage one another, check up on each other and cheer each other on. Sometimes, it seems as if we are all able to leave all our little monsters outside the internet chat room doors, leaving us free to enjoy each other’s company.
There are days my fingers still refuse to do what I want them to do, so I carry a small recorder to capture new article ideas. Plus I look really important! Whenever I start feeling down about having to drag this little monster around with me the rest of my life, I like to remind myself of one important fact: Parkinson’s does not have me. I have Parkinson’s. I am still me and I am still able to write. For that, I am grateful.
Sherri Woodbridge lives in Southern Oregon, where she enjoys spending her time with her husband, children and granddaughter. In addition to writing frequently for her blog, www.parkinsonsjourney.com, she is also currently working on a book about people with Parkinson’s.