Our Capabilities Define Us, Not Our Limitations

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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Over the years, I’ve found myself attracted to writing stories about the underdog. I love learning about people who come up against seemingly insurmountable odds, only to overcome them through sheer grit, ingenuity, and determination.

In 2015, my first published article was about a woman who fell 45 feet while canyoneering in Utah. The fall resulted in a leg amputation. But 12 months after she lost her leg, she was hiking the entire 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail on a prosthesis. Hers was a story of triumph in that she refused to let her circumstances hold her back.

When it comes to stories about Parkinson’s disease, I exhibit a similar type of curiosity. But Parkinson’s is different in that there’s always a new challenge to overcome. Instead of tackling a single obstacle, my dad faces new dilemmas on a daily basis. One day, he might struggle to steady his tremors. Another, he may find himself having vivid dreams and acting out the violence in real life, which can be potentially dangerous for my mom.

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The speed at which Parkinson’s symptoms can change often feels overwhelming. We’re only beginning to address one concern when another develops.

Yet, just as the woman on the Appalachian Trail began defining herself by her capabilities instead of her limitations, I believe we can change our perspectives about Parkinson’s. The disease can be an opportunity for exploration instead of a life sentence. My dad can continue to be curious about finding new ways to accomplish tasks, rather than giving up and not moving forward.

Defining ourselves by our capabilities instead of our limitations creates an opportunity for empowerment. I used to observe this in my dad’s Rock Steady Boxing classes. By providing tiers of challenges and obstacles to overcome, the program gave my dad and the others important objectives that sparked motivation.

Then, instead of focusing on areas of weakness, my dad began to focus on his strengths and capabilities in order to climb the ladder of challenges. This strategy seemed to facilitate progress instead of stagnation. And I think there’s a lesson in that for all of us.


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.

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