When you’re diagnosed with a condition such as Parkinson’s, it changes things. It’s not the disease, because your physical condition doesn’t change as soon as those words are uttered – though with medical intervention symptomatic a certain amount of relief may come almost immediately – it’s that there is a label which can be attached to all manner of things.
In some ways, this is a great, great thing, because no longer do you blame yourself for certain idiocies that happen (my current difficulties with swallowing, or that ‘damn, everyone thinks I’m drunk because my left foot isn’t co-operating today’, for example), but can attach a label to it. Taking the reason out of the self does help.
Conversely, there is a tendency to begin to think of yourself in terms of disease. Certainly, the system sees you as a set of symptoms to be treated, or ignored, depending on circumstances. The modern world just loves putting you into a box, even though you’re never really going to fit into one. We’re far more complex than that, naturally, and resemble quite silly Venn diagrams more than boxes. Here, for example, is a (crap) Venn diagram of my physical self:
Pete exists in the tiny overlap in the middle, between cricketer, martial artist, PD sufferer, lover, shoulder, and gym goer …
this is obviously rather truncated, and will change as soon as my shoulder is operated on. The ratios will change, and, for example, cricketer, martial artist and gym goer will move from physical to potential or intellectual. Hopefully fucked shoulder will go too. I’ll probably add invalid to the mix. That leaves me as PD sufferer and lover. Oh. Er, moving swiftly on …
We don’t fit into the boxes that modern society wants. This is fine until we get a big box to be put in. No-one worries about the boxes until one thing turns up that effectively defines you to most everyone. PD becomes one of these things.
This may seem obvious, or perhaps irrelevant, but when it happens, you know about it. This is because we want to put ourselves in boxes too. It helps. But also it hinders, and any way that we can break out becomes very, very tempting.
During my last net at Hove, I was batting left-handed. Naturally. I was batting quite well, considering. I decided to play a switch-hit, that is, changing from left to right-handed as the bowler runs up. I did so. I bashed the ball mightily. I went back to left-handed. The coach taking the session next to my net remarked to the coach feeding the bowling machine that I batted pretty well right-handed for a lefty. He was quite surprised when told I was right-handed.
Now. Someone who didn’t know me naturally placed me in a box. Incorrectly, yes, but actually quite flattering. Were I to explain, I may or may not have to say, ‘I’ve got PD’ – it just depends on whether I was being falsely boxed.
Do I feel it’s better that someone puts me in the PD box, or the box they’ve chosen. If the former, I tell.
And telling somebody changes things.