Parkinson’s can make everyone, especially those recently diagnosed, feel isolated and excluded. Along with the tremor and slowness of movement that Parkinson’s can cause, your emotions can be difficult to handle. This is why it’s not easy to stay calm when dealing with stares and annoying questions from strangers regarding your condition.
So what could, and should you do, in those situations? While the majority of your friends would ask you to ignore everyone around, it’s not a very realistic option. As long as you have Parkinson’s, people are going to stare. Sometimes, you can handle it better than others; sometimes, you can’t handle it at all. However, it helps to learn how to deal with staring in a more productive and less stressful way, whether it occurs at the church or at the supermarket. Here are some coping strategies that can help:
1. Don’t go looking for it
This one is more proactive than a reactive approach. As disease progresses, you can easily get used to leaving the house expecting people to stare. There will always be people who stare. Some will be naturally curious, others will be wondering what you have been through. You can either spend time worrying or simply be prepared with your strategies to enjoy the day.
Some good affirmations that you can splice into your thoughts are:
- I approve of myself.
- I love myself.
- I am beautiful and smart and that is how everyone sees me.
This is also a great strategy for learning to love yourself, even with Parkinson’s. If you pretend to yourself and maybe to other people that staring doesn’t bother you, you’ll start to believe it.
2. Control self-talk
Self-talk is massively powerful. It becomes the reality you create and it can hold you captive or set you free. When you walk around thinking about how awfully your body moves, that is what you reinforce with your thoughts about what other people are thinking about you. Controlling self-talk is not easy but working on the things you say to yourself is absolutely crucial to your resilience and mental health. Even just being aware of your inner dialogue is a great place to start.
3. Don’t take it personally
Don’t let strangers’ stare shatter your confidence. Curiosity is a very normal, human behavior. When people look or walk differently, people may stare. It’s hard not to take it personally but if those people were to know your condition, they wouldn’t stare a second time. Remember, they are not staring at the person, they are staring at the condition. It’s not your fault but equally, it’s not theirs. They simply don’t understand the condition.
Smile and say hello. Not only smiling demonstrates confidence, but it also invites people to learn about Parkinson’s and ask questions. By smiling and inviting a discussion, you’re doing the important work of educating people about a condition that too few know about.
Is smiling at people who stare at you easy? No, it’s not. But remember, for every person you educate about Parkinson’s, there is one less person who might stare at the next person with Parkinson’s. By talking about your condition with the stranger(s), you are increasing awareness for the Parkinson’s community as a whole. And, that conversation starts with a smile.
5. Think it as an opportunity
Indulge in a chat. If you feel comfortable, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I noticed you staring at me. May I know the reason?” You may end up having an interesting conversation. If you notice that someone is staring because he doesn’t understand what he is looking at, you can pre-empt the sort of questions he will have and you can be ready to answer them.
You can see it as a compliment (that you are approachable), or an opportunity to fight social anxiety – something very common among Parkinson’s fighters.
This Blog is contributed by Dr. Deepak Kr. Nain. He is a certified therapist who specializes in the field of rehabilitation. Deepak possesses a clinical expertise in prescribing the best solutions to help people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).