I was 27 years old, at the start of my medical career and expecting my first child, when the neurologist confirmed what the first clinician had suspected – the tremor I had been experiencing over the preceding year was Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease for which there is no cure.
The diagnosis was made and my dance with denial, fear, anger and secrecy began, one that lasted almost a decade. Thoughts of disability and helplessness eventually turned to hope and optimism but the transformation was a painful and difficult process.
My story however is not unique. Each of us is challenged in some way, be it in our health, our finances, our occupations or our interpersonal relationships. I would like to share with you what my particular journey has taught me.
When a stressful life issue arises, “Why me?” is a natural yet futile question. After all, why not you or me? We are never challenged with more than we can bear.
There are life lessons in every circumstance joyous or otherwise. Whether it seems fair or not, obstacles present themselves for a reason and our life journeys play out exactly as they should. Without the experiences and introspection that these difficulties bring, we cannot evolve.
Recognize that within you lies great inner power – your ability to choose your reaction to any given set of circumstances. How you face the challenges that come your way is truly yours to determine. And in that moment of choice is your true strength, to determine your life experience, which moves you from a position of helplessness to one of empowerment. By recognizing this truth, any obstacle will not defeat you as you may initially believe but instead may be the very element that causes you to thrive.
You must learn to accept whatever stressful situation life brings you for what it is. Not that acceptance equals complacency but only once we embrace our difficulties will we be able to move beyond them, allowing us to become actively engaged in managing or solving the challenges that have arisen. Denial and avoidance of the truth only delays your progress. Without acceptance, there can be no resolution.
Know that you are so much more than the label your challenge has placed on you. You are not defined by your circumstances, your disease, your relationship or your finances. You have so much more to offer the world and so many other blessings in your life to be grateful for. Also within you exists infinite potential so any barriers that are placed in your path, you can surpass.
Finally, always live in the moment. Take nothing for granted. Face each day with gratitude for the simple joys with family and friends. No one really knows what life will bring and at some point we all have to abandon our fear of the future in order to begin living our present. Live your present with grace and integrity!
To paraphrase noted clergyman and author Phillips Brooks, “Don’t pray for an easy life, pray to be a strong person.” If you are able to make this fundamental paradigm shift and harness your power of choice, your ability to determine your life experience despite all obstacles, then what you now see as a curse may instead be your ultimate blessing.