Surprising Gifts Parkinson’s Has Given Me

Woman climber success silhouette in mountains, ocean and sunset

Written by Amy Dressel-Martin, MA

This time of year, many people set lofty, life-changing goals.

I’m not one of them.

Frankly, I have enough to manage without piling on any resolution-related stress! Instead, I find it more rewarding to observe and reflect around New Year’s to simply live well each day.

Reflecting on living with Parkinson’s

As 2017 begins, and I approach the third anniversary of my Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery, I see that I have a lot to be thankful for: the technology itself, my medical team and especially, my loving and supportive family.

Ironically, my husband says I’m happier now than I most likely would be without the constant crazy of Parkinson’s.

He says I laugh more, I have closer relationships with our kids and I’m more likely to go do something important to me, rather than follow my old tendencies to stress…about…everything.

Although we can’t compare apples to apples (since there is no longer a “me” without Parkinson’s) I can envision what I could have been like at age 48: concerned with appearances and consumed with what other people think. Reflection reveals just how much Parkinson’s has cut me to the core on that one.

Who can be concerned with their hairstyle while trying to walk through a crowd without taking someone out? Or while straining to yell over the din in a restaurant so their opinion can be heard?

How can I be concerned whether my shoes look cute when I’m falling, because I lost my balance?

I wear flats so I don’t fall over and allow myself only one glass of wine, because my speech is quiet, slow and slurred without the influence of alcohol. I plan naps for busy days or weeks so I can keep up with work, family and friends.

I have friends with Parkinson’s who truly see the disease as a gift, because it brought them all the friends they’ve made on their journey. While I love my new friends and they are the best part of my new life as a person with Parkinson’s, I don’t thank Parkinson’s. It has hurt me, and it has hurt these warm, generous people in my life — whom I hope I would have known anyway, somehow, somewhere.

Yet, as I look at my life now, I realize being diagnosed and living with Parkinson’s has honestly changed my priorities for the better.

My eyes have been opened to the struggles others may be facing. And, at the same time, my ears are learning to listen to my own needs first.

Moving Forward into the New Year

So, I think my husband is right: I am happier, in a way. And, I am more grateful for the life I have — right now. Happiness and gratitude have organically changed me, expanding my heart and my world, and that is what I plan to take with me each day in the new year.


amy_dressel-martinAmy Dressel-Martin lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, two teenagers, an orange cat, two chickens and a duck (who thinks he’s a chicken). She is eternally grateful to whoever decided putting electrodes in the brain attached to batteries under the collarbone was a good idea, because it was. 

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