In my column about time management, I mentioned a nagging inner voice saying, “You did not get enough done today.” That phrase ties to an old “tape,” inner dialogue left by the voices of parents and childhood teachers that says, “You are never going to amount to anything. You are a bad person.” The inner drive to continually produce is an effort on my part to quiet down this old tape. But with Parkinson’s (and getting older) the cost of this nagging inner dialogue has become too much. My New Year’s resolution is to dull this inner dialogue’s noise and intrusion.
The inner drive to always be doing something, to be productive, is also tied to identity. During the holidays, friends and family often inquire, “What have you been doing?” Doing is connected to how we describe ourselves to others, to a sense of our own identity. Parkinson’s disease (PD) consumes the time necessary for doing things that connect to identity. The sense of self begins to shift and the old tapes, once silenced by a healthily productive life, are emboldened by the disease.
Everyone has old tapes tied to memories, some more intense than others. My New Year’s resolution focuses on my most annoying tape because it damages my self-identity and it’s hard to find the self I knew before my Parkinson’s battle. Since I can’t find, feel, know, or sense my old self in the way I once did, there is an emptiness. Part of how I knew myself seems absent, and that emptiness gets filled with the noise from the old tapes. I can’t use “doing” as a functional way to address my identity anymore, so it is my New Year’s resolution to find a better way.
The search for self in the midst of PD is a winding path through the forest of symptoms and steps taken to embrace a high quality of life. It is a forest path filled with obstacles, and it can become one’s self-identity. But there is a difference between saying, “There stands that Parkinson’s guy,” and saying, “There stands Dr. C. He has Parkinson’s.” It may seem like a subtle difference, but it is important because linking one’s self-identity too closely with the disease also creates a link to negative self-dialogue: “You are a diseased person.” That raises the volume of the old tape.
The disease should never become our identity, but given how much time is spent on Parkinson’s and how much conversation is focused on it, it is difficult not to become the disease. The cognitive aspects of PD also make it harder to stay in touch with healthy self-identity. Who am I? How do others view me now that I have this disease? Answers to these two questions help me to keep in touch with the Dr. C alternate identity I have developed and strengthened over four decades. Yes, this self-identity includes PD, but it is something that has happened to me rather than something I have become. Also, replacing negative internal dialogue with positive internal dialogue has been a regular practice, though it seems a bit harder these days.
This New Year’s resolution is sent to me, to Dr. C, who is struggling to sit with a healthy sense of self. It is a resolution wish sent along with a lightness, a gentle touch. It is sent with hope, kindness, and an infinite well of patience. I share the same resolution with all those who read this column along with compassionate blessings for your new year.
Do you have old tapes that interfere in your life?
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.