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Stories - parkinsons I should like to tell you a true story: One day I was having lunch with John and another friend of his, when he casually announced over dessert that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's the day before. Strangely enough I had been at a garden party with him the previous weekend and I had been talking with his wife about the work I had been doing with a number of people suffering from various diseases. So 3 days after his diagnosis John came to see me for the first time, working together in this early timeframe was also very significant. He had had the idea he had Parkinson's for some time, as his ability to walk had become more unstable, but the diagnosis had had a quite negative effect on him. Being told he wasn't bad but would get worse wasn't very helpful and he observed that he was shaking much more than before and had found blank times (even only half an hour at a time) when he just had "nothing to do". John had recently retired and although he had a number of official events in his calendar, such as concerts, holidays, being Governor of two primary schools, and Chairman of our local Residents' group, etc, there didn't seem much to hold his attention on a regular basis. Positive self talk To start with we worked on an instant idea to help with the shaking. I asked John what he was thinking when he was holding a cup that was shaking. The instant answer was something along the lines of "stop shaking, you ……. idiot" This type of internal dialogue has 2 problems, firstly John certainly isn't an idiot, he is a very intelligent man and I just hope that I am as mentally active at the age of 70, so it really doesn't help your subconscious to be told it's an ……… idiot, it might just try and help turn you into one. The subconscious brain is quite simplistic, doesn't understand jokes, doesn't get negatives, is exceptionally fast at retrieving memories, holds enormous amounts of information, and is always on your side trying to help. So if you have the same internal dialogue on a regular basis it will try to make it come true for you - now if the idea is positive e.g. I want to be an excellent dancer that is just fine, your subconscious will help you out all it can, but if the message is "stop shaking" it may take that as "shake", as it doesn't do negatives. So here we have the second problem. Take a moment not to imagine a pink elephant; if you imagine an elephant, then try to rub it out or at best change the colour, you have proved that negatives don't work too well. So the answer must be to think about something else but shaking, but what? There are many answers to this question but the one we used was "I am levitating the cup". For this John imagined 3 helium filled balloons attached to his hand. When he wanted to lift the cup he simply levitated it. The reduction in shaking was immediate for him. You may like to make up your own visualizations - they just have to be positive, not mention shaking, and focus on what you want to achieve. Incidentally you can use the same visualization for walking - attach imaginary balloons to your knees to help you walk, it is especially good when you are tired. This is only a very quick idea but does give you an example as to the power of your thoughts and how to get your thoughts to help you out. Diet and walking tips At about the same time John had contacted the Parkinson's Disease Society and got some advice on diet and walking tips. Conflicting medication Through contacting the Parkinson's Society, John had found out that through some local research that Metoclopramide could induce some symptoms of Parkinson's. This medication John had been taking for 27 years for a hiatus hernia. He then set about determining how the dosage could be reduced and has eventually eliminated the medication altogether. We also worked on trying to identify why his body needed to continue to take this medication, to try to minimize the symptoms. 5 good things every day This is another inexpensive tip where you take a little log book and record the 5 good things that have happened every day. Firstly it is a nice discipline to get into and also on the bad days it really gives you a boost to re-read your chronicle. Anchoring a calm state When John was in a calm state it appeared that he had no shaking symptoms. Anchoring is a simple technique for recalling any particular state. For example touching your wedding ring may recall for you your very special wedding day, listening to a piece of music may enable you to re-live a particular event when you first heard that music. Of course you can have good anchors or bad anchors. The smell of cabbage may, for example, always remind you of school dinners, which you may even be able to recall in some detail. With these memories may go pictures (visual), sounds (auditory), touching (kinesthetic), tastes (gastronomic) or smells (olfactory), or if you are really lucky all five senses together - especially helpful when recalling school lunches! So getting back to anchoring a calm state - can you remember a time when you were really calm, relaxed etc ? Now how would you like to be able to recall that state, by touching something that is always with you, e.g. jewellery, your wrist, the side of your face perhaps ? When you are next in that calm relaxed state, make sure you identify as many senses as you can, then touch your anchor and hold it for a few seconds. Then go off and do something else, and at some convenient point, when you are perhaps feeling slightly stressed touch your anchor and see if you can recall that feeling of calmness. If it doesn't work, just practise a little, it is sure to come. John has a habit of chewing the nail on the little finger of his hand, so he added to this the memory of being calm. Plus, he remembers a French Impressionist painting, a French song, flower buds in his garden and bright colours there - they all added to his sense of calmness. Pretty bloody minded about illness A characteristic of John's that soon became apparent was his attitude to illness. Over the years he has had several major illnesses and his attitude has always been to "defeat them". Over his third Birthday and Christmas he had been very severely ill, when he was 14 it was discovered his legs were different lengths (this led to identifying him as having curvature of the spine and his illness at 3 being diagnosed to be polio). But he remained determined that he would not be confined to a wheelchair, and after a hiatus hernia operation, severe angina, double by-pass, a severe cardiac syndrome (feels like a heart attack but doesn't actually damage the heart) an angioplasty, and several other illnesses, Parkinson's was just another hurdle to encounter and defeat. I did some work with John to actually check out this diagnosis of Polio, because a diagnosis that came 11 years later seemed to warrant some curiosity. This is where limiting belief such as genetics often come into play. For example people often believe that because their parents may have died young with heart problems, then it is more than likely that they will do too. The whole study of genetics may have huge benefits, but this "Sword of Damocles" hanging over you certainly doesn't help anyone's health. Limiting beliefs can be suspended long enough to determine how you really feel, if you did not have this belief. We tried this on the polio diagnosis - why did John feel that he had had polio - it was the look on his mother's and great aunt's face when they looked at him in bed - he had carried this image with him for 67 years and it often came into his vision. By an NLP technique we changed the image to happy smiling faces and lo and behold John suddenly said "I think I just had the flu" - a bit of a change and it could have even been demoted to a funny story. Of course these lovely ladies, whom he loved dearly, were frightened about the health of this little boy - an only child, but changing the imprint in his memory felt like lifting a weight off of his shoulders. John's balance We all have 3 separate fields, when recalling any event. Assume you have a television screen in front of you. Your visual field is at the top, auditory straight ahead (in line with your ears) and kinesthetic looking down. Individuals tend to use these fields differently for various reasons, which probably reflect incidents in their past history. If you look up when walking (in your visual field) it is much easier to walk fluently. If you look down, you are in your feelings, and it's a bit like trying to steer a car by looking at the end of the bonnet. If you look further ahead up the road it is a lot easier. So if you look up when walking, at the trees, 20 yards up the road etc, assuming you are not in danger of tripping over something walking suddenly becomes a lot easier. From my own experience of my father, he looked down a lot when walking, no doubt in touch with a feeling that he was likely to topple over and sure enough he did. John tried raising his eyes when walking in conjunction with swinging his arms, oscillating his body from side to side, ensuring his feet are picked up and come down with proper heel-toe movements; his lack of balance improved. He also learnt to imagine a hand pulling up the hair on top of his head; this helps him to stand up straighter and walk more upright. I also worked with John on the width of his visual field - he mainly looked straight ahead which felt like someone walking on the gymnastics bar, which certainly isn't easy. He managed to spread out his visual field to be wider and also to feel a few inches taller. Both of these has helped his balance. This has been a very personal story and we have no idea whether the techniques we have used, some of which are described above, will work for every Parkinson's patient. What we do know is that you have to want to give it a try and see whether any of any techniques available can help you. I believe that everyone's Parkinson's may indeed be very different and may only be helped in a 1-1 way. What we have described above is in no way a replacement for medication etc, but the work we are doing may assist you to get another resource, namely your brain, organized to help you out and possibly reduce some of the symptoms. We are hoping to obtain some funding to enable others to try out these techniques and see if they can generate any improvements in their quality of life.


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