I work as a mechanical engineer. I’m the type of mechanical engineer that actually builds things. This is not, I have come to know from years of experience, a given. Many engineers spend their entire careers doing paperwork or in meetings. I consider myself one of the fortunate ones.
I consider myself a fairly competent dude. I know what I know and I know what kinds of things I need to seek outside knowledge on. But I’m too nice. Or so I’ve been told repeatedly over the years. My current situation in a project at work is a fairly good example of that…supposedly.
I’m working on a project that by all accounts I should 100% be leading as the project manager. For one thing, I know how to manage this effort because I’ve done it, many times over, successfully. But that was my old life…before I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. That was the younger, edgier, more ambitious version of myself. Now, like it or not, that version of myself no longer exists. Now I have different goals. I’m still competent, but leadership positions are something I now avoid. Parkinson’s doesn’t like me to be in charge. So I’m not.
But I’m a very good deputy to the actual project manager. But sometimes i have to be very patient with him. Much more patient than I think many people would be. I really like the project manager, and he’s actually a smart guy. But he hasn’t done this type of project like I have. He doesn’t always grasp what he should concern himself with and what he needs to leave to his people. I find myself explaining things to him repeatedly. So people are telling me I should be in charge. To seize control and tell it like it is.
What people don’t realize is… Parkinson’s pretty much makes it impossible for me to handle much stress. The trouble is, stress makes symptoms worsen rapidly. It doesn’t take much stress either. For me, something as benign as being more assertive can raise my stress level. When that happens, I’m more likely to freeze up and get “stuck”. I’ll have trouble moving smoothly. Worse yet, I can have trouble talking. If things get confrontational, it doesn’t matter if i’m right or not, the stress will cause me to freeze up so badly that i can’t function.
In reality, I’m just happy that I can work at all. But these are things that really only other Parkies can understand. Ah the life of a Parky.