Don't Judge a Book... By Natalie L

 For the past several years I have shared facts and personal experience with PD on my personal Facebook page during the month of April for PD Awareness month. The feedback from people has been extremely positive and they tell me they have learned a lot about PD. Here is one:

If you’ve been scrolling past my Parkinson’s awareness posts, that’s okay. But please consider reading this last one. This one is less clinical and a little more personal. Having PD has taught me many things, but I think the most important is how I was spontaneously and unwittingly judging other people. Or making assumptions. I don’t mean about someone I’ve known for a while, but rather just a face I may pass on the street or in a store. Body language says a lot to us and PD can distort the first impression that is presented to people. Masking, where a PWP (person with Parkinson’s) experiences immobility of facial muscles, can put an emotionless expression on the face which often gets interpreted as uncaring or angry. Tightness of muscles and a shaky voice can give the impression of nervousness or anxiety. The way PD (and other diseases) can twist up the body and cause speech difficulties can give the impression of mental challenges.

For example, some of the men in my PD circles have the masking issue. They are the sweetest guys, but in the past, if I had just seen them across a room or on the street, their expressionless faces might have seemed, well, creepy. I might have avoided eye contact and felt uncomfortable. Many PWP can’t communicate clearly. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a vibrant soul inside longing to be known. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my face in a reflection and wonder who that person is. Often it does not reflect the person I know is inside. It’s difficult to admit that it took that realization to awaken me to how I look at others. I'm still learning.

There are extremely fascinating, remarkable, intelligent, funny people trapped inside their failing bodies. I thank God for showing me that, and I pray I will get bolder about searching out those hidden treasures in people. And I hope you will too.