Jul 6, 2015

Step outside of your comfort zone!

It's all too easy for us to live a life of "comfort".  When you have a serious health problem or disease we often find comfort in our medical treatments and tend to use a diagnosis to tell ourselves we can't do a bunch of things.  While sometimes that may be true often it's more of an excuse to give up. 

In the last couple months I've stepped out of my comfort zone and it's scary to do so, but totally worth it in the end.  Don't get me wrong I have my days of excuses and negative self talk that 'I can't do that I have PD' but I try and keep that to a minimum and not let it last.  After all I'm not even 38 yet, I have a long life ahead of me and I plan on living it, not wallowing in it.

I just finished an 8 week bootcamp at a place called 3rd Degree training.  I used to do these type of kick ass workouts and by kick ass I mean kicks your ass!  I have continued to exercise regularly since my diagnosis knowing and understanding that it's the only way to slow the progression of Parkinsons.  However I've altered my workouts to running, biking and other such things that are 'easier' given my legs tend to be more cooperative than my arms.  I had essentially convinced myself that I have PD and I can't do those crazy workouts anymore.  Well, the fact of the matter is that's just crap and deep down I knew it.  I had been reading about how people with PD who took up boxing and other vigorous forms of exercise had huge success in slowing their progression and often needing less medication.  I knew the facts but I continued to stay comfortable doing the things that were easier.  After my last appointment where I found out I had Dystonia in my right hand now, (another movement disorder that often people with PD get) I threw myself a big pitty party at how I had busted my ass for the last year to do everything in my power to stay well as long as possible and yet had failed.  I realized after a week of 'giving up' how ridiculous I was being (thankfully) and forced myself to get over it.  So I registered for that bootcamp I used to do before I had PD.  And you know what?  I could do it!  It wasn't as easy as it had once been and certain things made me shake very badly and I struggled with.  But I learned how to adapt & modify some exercises and make it work.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried it anyway and it was awesome!  I felt better as each week went on.  I avoided the need of any extra medications and I had more energy.  Don't get me wrong it was still much tougher than it was pre PD and there were days I had to have a rest or nap after.  I also had to pick a class time that would work with my meds being at an optimum "on" time.  Regardless, it was the best decision I could have made because it reminded me that I can still push the boundaries and do more than the easy road. 
Although my intention of doing it had nothing to do with weight loss or chancing the size of my body it was all about managing PD, it was awesome to find out I had lost 13" in that 8 weeks of hard work!

In addition to the physical comfort zone I also stepped out of a couple of mental ones as well.  I was asked to be a guest speaker to a local Rotary group and talk about Parkinsons and my journey with the disease.  I have done a lot of public speaking throughout my career as well as through some charity work I've done.  TV interviews, other various forms of media and to groups and never been overly phased by the experience.  However this was a whole different ball game.  The thoughts of getting up to speak in front of a group whether it be small or large and talk about myself and something so personal was terrifying to me.  It's one thing to sit in the comfort of my home and write this blog and share it for others to read, but to stand at a mic and actually discuss it out loud was completely different.  I reluctantly accepted the invitation and worked on preparing my 'speech' over the course of a couple weeks.  As I've discussed in the past PD has taken my ability to hide negative emotions from me.  I no longer can hide being nervous, stressed or anxious it very much presents itself in a physical way now.  Although my tremors are well controlled and most times unnoticed they are usually in full force during such times.  I prepared as best I could and off I went on the day of.  I was happy that it was a smaller group who were very welcoming and made me feel at ease.  I managed to get through it without tripping, drooling (another wonderful symptom of PD) or knocking anything over.  I even got a few laughs from the jokes I often crack about myself and life with PD which sometimes people don't understand why I'm joking about something so serious.  However I find comfort and therapy in laughter.  And at the end of it I had several people thank me for coming and who seemed to appreciate learning more about PD and hearing about how I deal with it.  So I guess I can say it's another thing marked off the list of firsts.

On another note I have never been a fan of politics.  I sometimes find it amusing but would never have seen myself visiting a local politician for any reason.  However I have joined forces with the Parkinson Society of Canada through their Ambassador program.  This group works to try and move issues forward and change legislations for various items that affect the PD community and beyond.  Things such as Seniors Strategies, Genetic Fairness Legislation and so on.  So I had my first meeting with my local MP, Lawrence MacAulay about these important issues.  I was pleased that my many conference calls with PSC and reading/preparing had worked well.  The conversation was smooth, although we didn't have much time I was able to get all the important issues to the table and was thankful for his receptiveness to the causes.  I would have certainly never believed you had you told me a couple years ago I'd be visiting MP's in an attempt to change political processes and legislation.  But again, I stepped out of that comfort zone and I look forward to working on these issues more in the future until things change.

The point of these three scenario's is that we can live our life being comfortable but sometimes great things happen when we aren't.  Sometimes when we step outside of the box and do something that's terrifying, extremely difficult and totally outside our comfort zone there can be huge benefits and rewards from it.  Not to mention great lessons about ourselves and our abilities.  I realize this more than ever lately and I hope I can always keep it close to mind as time goes on so I continue to try things that I may have otherwise found an excuse not to.  In a sense PD has defined who I am now versus who I was before; however I will not let it rule my life, my choices or consume me with fear of what I cannot accomplish.  It has taken a lot away from me but I refuse to give it anymore than required and thankfully I have been given many wonderful gifts from being forced to travel this road.  It's a journey, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes ugly but it's my journey and I will make it the best road I possibly can by stepping outside the box one foot at a time!