Friday, 18 September 2015
I have recently ‘come out’ publically about having Parkinson’s Disease (PD…yep, like Michael J Fox). I originally developed a ‘resting’ tremor in my right hand (and yes…I’m right-handed), which affects me when I’m trying to get to sleep, trying to relax, holding a cup or bottle or glass when I extend my arm e.g. holding a glass out to someone, holding the camera to take photos and most annoyingly, when I’m painting/creating artworks… I was diagnosed with PD by a Wellington neurologist about mid-2009. My PD tremors become more pronounced when I feel strong emotions (stress, excitement, anxiety), in some social situations, if I’m unwell, too hungry or too cold. I used to try to hide the tremors by sitting on my hand or ‘pocketing it’ but I try not to do that anymore because…it is what it is…
Late in 2012 my partner and I discussed making the move with our little family to the Gold Coast (Queensland, Australia), to see if a warmer climate would help, to see a PD specialist for a second opinion, and to have an adventure! By June 2013 we had made the big move. Over two years on and we love the lifestyle on the Gold Coast - Paradise! I’m definitely appreciating the warm climate, we have a much more active lifestyle (cycling and walking the dogs) and I have lost a bit more weight (Yay – go me!). I am seeing my new specialist about 6 monthly, he is a bit more ‘user-friendly’ and he is adjusting my meds as required to account for any changes in symptoms. The tremors have however become slightly more pronounced and I have also developed a slight cognitive processing delay, which affects my short term memory and I sometimes have difficulty accessing words when I’m talking (haha, love it when my friends try to guess the word I’m looking for). Stress and high emotions still exacerbate the tremors but again…it is what it is!
I use our converted garage as my art studio, for which I’m very grateful. Although I did create a few artworks when I first set up, I have had ‘artist’s block’ since about June 2014 and I’ve just begun to paint again. I spent that time studying/training to become a swim teacher, (which is a great job for keeping active), and working out ways to manage the PD. I have begun to be a bit more patient with myself (yes, I had to take my own advice dammit!) and I have learned to ask for help when I need it, and rest when I need to. As for creating artworks, I need to make sure that I’ve created the right conditions; that I’m fed, hydrated, warm and calm…and that I have given myself time to get in the ‘zone’.
I believe that my main challenge has been getting to grips with the PD symptoms; the tremors (and the resulting aches and pains) which now affect my right arm and leg, the general fatigue, and the moments of frustration and fear that come with having PD. I am by nature reasonably optimistic, I think that having a positive attitude helps and having so much to be grateful for. I love living here in Paradise, and appreciate the support of my lovely family and friends and although I will have ‘off days’ I will not let PD define me. And as for my artwork…if I end up so shaky that I can’t work in my usual style I will get BIG canvasses and let the PD tremors help me to create awesome abstract artworks!
Hmmm... I was thinking about popping a turtle or maybe a dolphin in this undersea wave action but now I'm thinking it may stand as is... What do you think? Please let me know what you think in the 'comment' section below or tweet me on twitter.com/littletaniwha