Mission Impossible: Getting Dressed

Mission Impossible: Getting Dressed

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it … This tape will self-destruct in 10 seconds.” Mission: Impossible (TV series).

What is my problem?

At times, putting on my clothes in the morning can be an impossible mission. This is one of the unseen symptoms that some people with Parkinson’s may deal with on a daily basis. Although it is merely a nuisance at this point, feeling like a 4-year-old learning how to dress gets a little old after a while.

Since this is one of the more absurd Parkinson’s symptoms with which I am afflicted, I have to laugh at myself. I had a chuckle at a photo of me trying to put on a sports bra.

Pulling the garment over my head causes me to get “stuck” sometimes, so I bought a sports bra with a front closure. Well, that was not such a good solution. After much difficulty, I finally found the openings to slip my arms through. However, once I had accomplished that, I couldn’t fasten the front zipper and hook. I am now back to the “pull over my head style,” and hope I don’t get stuck for too long.

Columnist photo; Dressing, clothes
Struggling. (Photo by Lisa Bjelland)

It’s not just sports bras …

On more than one occasion, I have put my pants on backward or my sweater on inside out. It takes me forever to get dressed in the first place. Now when I don’t dress properly, I have to take the garment off and start all over again — adding another five minutes to the process. Sometimes it takes me almost 15 minutes just to get dressed in the morning.

Somedays I look at one of my shawl-collar cardigans and can’t figure out how to put it on or hang it up. Sometimes, my Parkinson’s symptoms of bradykinesia and loss of cognitive skills team up to thwart my efforts. When this happens, getting dressed can take me over 10 minutes, frustrate the heck out of me, and require my entire focus. Something I have done in less than a minute for over 60 years without a second thought can now overwhelm me.

I try to exercise every morning, so most days I wear tights or spandex leggings. These do not go on easily, and inevitably, my left foot freezes and gets stuck. Forget about it when I have to take them off to use the bathroom. It feels like I am trying to remove shrink-wrap from a package with no scissors to cut it, and I end up tripping over my own feet in a hurry to get to the bathroom in time. No more waiting for the last minute. Now, I must plan when to use the bathroom so that I allow myself enough time to peel off the tights.

One time I put my underwear on inside out, and when I told my friend who also has Parkinson’s, she laughed and said when that happens to her she leaves them that way. I am getting to that point now.

dressing, clothes
Stuck in a sports bra. (Photo by Lisa Bjelland)

What can I do about it?

For people with Parkinson’s, activities of daily living can become very frustrating. Here is a list of helpful tips that have eased my stress levels so that I don’t self-destruct when I am getting dressed. Keeping a sense of humor helps, too. 😊

So if you see me with my shirt on inside out and my pants on backward, you don’t need to comment. However, know that I am probably not having a good day.

To adapt a Heidi Rader quote: “I am a Parkinson’s warrior. I fight an ugly war inside my body every single day. I may not win this battle, but I will not go down without a fight!” 

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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.

13 comments

  1. Karen davis says:

    Jean
    We take everything for granted in life. Every single thing. When our health is aligned, its amazing how we lose patience with things so important. Thank you for teaching me how to be more thankful for the things in my life.

    • Jean Mellano says:

      Karen, thnx for the comment. You are so right about taking things for granted. I have to constantly remind myself to be thankful for what I have and for what I still can do. This morning I was giving thanks for still having the ability to still tie my shoes. Who would have thought?

  2. Maria says:

    Thank you Jean for bringing more insight to this disease for many of us so unaware! Your strength, courage and comedic enthusiasm are nothing short of amazing. Continued prayers, good thoughts and positive energy.
    ♡ Maria Rignola

  3. Sharon says:

    Just read the article about trying to put a sports bra on and I had to laugh because I have that problem and I don’t have Parkinson’s (my husband does), but I do have RA. What I have found works for me is to step into those things and pull the bra up from the ankles. They are made of stretchy material and I could care less about stretching them out. Much easier than getting tangled up in the thing. Sometimes getting one of those on, I got a better workout than going to the gym. I tried the zipper front also. What a joke trying to get that zipped with arthritis! Delegated that to step-in too. Check out Tommy Hilfager’s “Tommy Adaptive”. They even have shirts with magnetic “buttons”. I’m new here, so this could be old info.

  4. ROBERT WALTON says:

    I check and recheck so I do not put my pullovers, sweaters and sweats on backwards. In my house it has become something we laugh at.

  5. toni shapiro says:

    Hi Jean….Toni Shapiro here….You could cut off the picture of your head and replace it with mine LOL niw I know what I look like while I struggle. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Jean Mellano says:

      Toni, LOL I was hesitant to use a real photo as I looked so silly. There was a time in my life when I would not even consider posting a photo like that online! Now, I don’t care anymore…:-)

  6. Suz says:

    Jean I have PD and this part of the disease is so frustrating to me! Once in my H2O class I stopped exercising and had to pull my swimsuit up and I looked down and had to ask myself why is there a seam on the front of my swimsuit. . . I had it on backwards. You just have to laugh sometimes!

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