How is it possible that the older I get, the less heavy life feels. I more often see challenges as opportunities, not barriers. Instead of being anxious about the future, I’m excited about what will come next. I enjoy pretty much everything more. Do I have some aches and pains? Sure, but I figure out how to work around them. I simply have more of the good stuff than ever before: fun, joy, love, friendship. I have very few fears. I have less anxiety, I deal with pain better, I don’t really even care about failure. When I think about death and feel it threateningly staring me down, I stare right back unflinchingly, because it doesn’t really scare me either.
That’s not to say I have absolutely NO fears or anxiety at all. Or that I don’t struggle from time to time. It’s just that, these days, there is far less of the bad and far more of the good. I feel strangely more alive, more engaged with life. In many ways actually feel younger than ever before.
But just why is that?
One could make the argument that I suffered a dull existence the majority of my life leading up to my 40’s due to early onset Parkinson’s. Having been prone to anxiety, depression, and phobias during much of my first 40 years of life. Could that be making the present seem more cheery by contrast?
I’ve heard it said that life starts at 40. Maybe there’s some truth to that. Maybe I’ve reached that magic age where i no longer give a shit, I have a decent amount of influence, my kids are grown up enough to be more fun than work, I’m reasonably financially secure, and I have ample freetime to pursue interests?
Is it possible that I owe my general contentment with life to the powerful medication that i take to counter the effects of Parkinson’s? It seems possible. I know that when I don’t take the medication I can’t move and I feel absolutely terrible. Maybe my thirst for life is nothing more than anti-Parkinson’s medication boosting my level of dopamine, my ability to move….and my mood. After all, this youthful attitude happened to start not long after diagnosis
Or maybe it’s more complicated than any of these things alone.
Is it possible that, through mechanisms not yet understood, I developed Parkinson’s over the course of years BECAUSE I didn’t know how to handle my fear, my stress, my anxiety. Perhaps being predisposed to stress, perhaps low on Dopamine to begin with, my nervous system was under constant assault. Maybe the nervous system can only handle so much abuse before damage occurs. Parkinson’s. It would be debatable how much control, if any, we have over these processes.
Perhaps after diagnosis, I was forced to find a way to keep my damaged nervous system functional. The secret sauce seemingly to be these things: medication, exercise, healthy diet, and stress reduction. Stress reduction being things like staying engaged socially, adopting a carefree attitude, and just taking care of your mental health generally. In other words, perhaps Parkinson’s teaches us how to live better.
Is Parkinson’s the Fountain Of Youth?
It would be interesting to think that Parkinson’s is the result of carelessness with one’s health since treating it once developed basically teaches you to take great care of your health.
However, there are other theories of how Parkinson’s develops. Theories that mostly don’t place blame on the sufferer. Regardless of how Parkinson’s develops, once you have it, it DOES force you to take good care of yourself. This includes adopting a carefree and youthful mindset. Maybe it’s possible that therein lies the secret to the fountain of youth? It may not be possible to remain chronologically younger, but perhaps through the right mindset, one can enjoy a perpetually youthful existence.
In this way, perhaps Parkinson’s can teach us how to stay forever young?