Find the Joy, Even in the Worst of Times

Find the Joy, Even in the Worst of Times
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I am seeking the joy in life. It’s difficult with medical setbacks or the off-period surges of pain and emotion. But joy is still available. I know it. I feel it. I’m showing up every day to find it, even during the worst of times.

There are times when my body feels miserable. Those days are now stringing together. The urge to flee, to escape to anywhere but here, always beckons to me. One choice is a healthy path with better long-term outcomes. The other path is one that seeks to flight/fight/nurture and can lead to addictive behavior. I choose the healthy path, the path of joy and healing. I know it is not an easy choice and requires sitting with what I am experiencing.

Both disease progression and aging present new experiences. I am challenged to sit with new challenges. The practice of sitting with ourselves involves the conductor, a mental construct used to observe self-status, viewing the pain and our suffering without engaging in action or undue emotion. It is a compassionate, curious, and nonjudgmental observer. But the louder the discomfort, the harder it is to use the observer.

If I try to drown the discomfort with brain-altering chemicals, or if I don’t engage in conductor/exercise practice, I can’t use the conductor when I really need it, in the worst of times. If I choose the escape route, I am choosing not to train my brain to be stronger and more capable. There are times when I choose to escape, too tired to keep working at things. But those days are fewer now. My choice to let things go for a bit is a conscious respite and not a permanent escape.

The brain abhors a vacuum. It will rewire itself to whatever we decide to do each day. If we decide to escape all the time, then the brain will accommodate. The more we escape, the more habitual the practice becomes. We give it little thought. Continuing this path leads to the dead end of neural somnolence.

If I decide to move off that road, navigation is difficult on a new route overgrown with emotional weeds and barriers. It is not well-traveled like the one I used for so many decades. I knew the road to escape. I didn’t know how to sit. I am finding joy now in many places since I began the practice of sitting with it.

In her book about living well with chronic pain, Toni Bernhard describes many of the obstacles one can face when learning how to sit with chronic pain in a way that doesn’t make things worse. We all hear old tapes playing the negative voices in our lives and our own discouraged self-talk, reliving memories of past traumas that intrude with sitting calmly while in pain. The memories don’t go away just because I can sit with them. I am sitting on the edge of a metaphorical riverbank watching my life’s stream meander past me. From the riverbank, I watch as the leaves and logs of old memories drift out of sight.

My difficulty is that Parkinson’s results in exaggerated pain and emotions. It has taken diligent practice to rewire my brain to handle this new level of intensity. I am continually making progress because I choose to sit with it. The surges of exaggerated emotion controlling my life interfered with just about everything. Now they are not as influential, and the result is an improved quality of life.

So, I look for joy, which is a positive counterpoint to suffering. According to an article published in the journal JAMA Neurology, joy can be defined as “that which separates thriving from mere survival.” Joy is the positive experience of well-being that includes the effects of multiple positive emotions, such as love and awe, rather than just a single emotion. The concept of joy in the health literature is commonly associated with themes of vitality, spontaneity, expansiveness, inspiration, hope, freedom, and connection.

I am cultivating an “attitude of gratitude,” and finding the quiet things I might have dismissed before. I am making time to sit in a sunny room and renew hope in myself, my life, and my relationships.

Reader comments have addressed the topic of exaggerated emotions and Parkinson’s. Many of us wrestle with the beast. When I can focus on joy, life with Parkinson’s is much better. I get up and show up with the intent of finding joy in something, anything! There is joy in laying down one brick in that new path every day. Make it a joyful day.

I thank all my readers who allow me to share my columns in their lives. I invite you to comment on the joy in your life.

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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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. C is the familiar pseudonym for readers who visit “Possibilities with Parkinson’s.” The love of writing has spanned his careers as a research theoretician, brain rehabilitation clinician, and college professor. Dr. C was first diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s disease in 2014. His interest in how Parkinson’s disease can manifest itself in other body and mind symptoms has become a focused area for his research and writing. His goal is to share current medical research on how Parkinson’s can be diagnosed in early stages, and to help other early-stage Parkinson’s patients manage their disease process in a holistic healing approach.
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Dr. C is the familiar pseudonym for readers who visit “Possibilities with Parkinson’s.” The love of writing has spanned his careers as a research theoretician, brain rehabilitation clinician, and college professor. Dr. C was first diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s disease in 2014. His interest in how Parkinson’s disease can manifest itself in other body and mind symptoms has become a focused area for his research and writing. His goal is to share current medical research on how Parkinson’s can be diagnosed in early stages, and to help other early-stage Parkinson’s patients manage their disease process in a holistic healing approach.
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  • emotions, joy, setbacks, adaptability, PTSD, early stage, remission, default mode network, insular cortex, criteria, hallucinations, storm
  • emotions, joy, setbacks, adaptability, PTSD, early stage, remission, default mode network, insular cortex, criteria, hallucinations, storm
  • emotions, joy, setbacks, adaptability, PTSD, early stage, remission, default mode network, insular cortex, criteria, hallucinations, storm

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11 comments

    • Dr. C says:

      Hi Phuong ~ You can read any of our columns on BioNews Parkinson’s News Today and see that most of them by Dr. C. have hyperlinks to references. We provide these to help people find more information. You can also go to http://www.DrC.life and see additional lists of articles that we have found.
      Wishing you a very happy holiday season and a safe 2021.
      Dr. C.

    • Dr. C says:

      Hi Monette ~ Thanks for the comment. We are happy you find the information useful. We are looking forward to writing more in 2021. Wishing you and yours the very best of holiday season. Stay safe!
      Dr. C.

  1. Dr C,
    I felt the need to express how impactful the discovery of your writing has been in my life. I count it as one of my “somethings” to be grateful for. Your words have served as a beacon of hope in an otherwise turbulent, lonely sea.

    • Dr. C says:

      Hi Stephannie ~ A bit of a belated reply but one nonetheless grateful for your comment. I remain encouraged by readers like yourself that my writing and ideas have found their place in your life. I am grateful for the opportunity that allows me to reach out — and hear back — from folks like yourself. Your comment adds fuel to my fire of motivation. It helps me to “show up” even on days when I don’t want to get out of bed! Thank you for your encouragement.
      Wishing the best for the year ahead,
      Dr. C.

  2. Michael B says:

    Dr C

    Hang in there. In our various shapes and forms we are on similar paths. Hour by hour, day by day.

    Much love and gratitude for your writing and thoughtfulness.

    Michael

    • Dr. C says:

      Hi Michael ~ I need all the support I can get! Thank you for reaching out and offering the love and gratitude. It means a great deal to me and encourages me to continue along the path of introspection and sharing — good moments and challenging moments. Comments like yours inspire me that perhaps I am speaking to fellow travelers and perhaps, making a difference along the way.
      Thanks for reading my columns and I hope you continue to check in.
      Dr. C.

  3. Mike says:

    Dr. C,
    Our collective worries from our condition can be as daunting as our actual circumstances. If I am proactive
    though it does not have two be my reality. Because I am early in my illness there are still strategies (excercise,writing) that can keep me on an even keel. I use lots of my recovery tool versus Parkinson’s.

    I am grateful for that.

    Mike

    • Dr. C says:

      Hi Mike ~ In response to both your comments, thank you! This is exactly what I’ve been writing about in several columns. These last few days have been difficult for Mrs. Dr. C. and myself on many levels. It is difficult to try to “show up” and maintain positive attitudes. But with PD, and other events in our lives, the best we can do is just what you identify — proactive, positive, and not accept the situation as hopeless. We must choose daily to be positive. And, like you, I find that the pain is less, lasts for a shorter time, and I can change how that moment is. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your reading my columns and checking in with BioNews Parkinson’s News Today. Keep up the good fight!
      Dr. C.

  4. Mike says:

    A person has a choice each day. Self pity can only lead to an emotional trough. I must choose daily to be positive
    When I do that I feel better. The pain is less and for a shorter period.

    Mike

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