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May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Your Mental Health Matters!

Written by: Pam Monjar, LPC-MHSP, NCC, CGP

In this four-part series, we will examine Parkinson’s through the lens of grief.

As a grief therapist, I am inviting you to honor your overall well-being by asking yourself: Am I carrying grief? Grief can manifest with symptoms such as depression, anger, panic attacks, anxiety, fear, sadness, guilt, and regret (just to name a few). What are you feeling in this moment? How are you feeling in this moment? How is grief manifesting in your life? Where do you feel grief in your body?

Part One – The “before.”

A Parkinson’s diagnosis may be accompanied by a team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupations therapists, the need to exercise (boxing!), exercising coaches, speech and language pathologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, dietitians, and perhaps even a therapist. Parkinson’s introduces a new reality: you need a healthcare team and now there is a “before.”

You may find yourself saying, “I don’t want a healthcare team, I just want my life back.” In grief, we want things to go back to the way they were “before” everything changed (“before” Parkinson’s). You may even find yourself saying, “I want me back.” Have you heard yourself thinking or saying something

similar? Is it possible that you are grieving and need to mourn your “before”?

It is normal to first acknowledge the reality of a diagnosis with your head. Your brain will try to run all the worst-case scenarios (this is your caveman brain kicking in!) of the diagnosis, needing a healthcare team that specializes in Parkinson’s, how your life may change, and your brain will try to predict the

future. When our brains start running scenarios for the future it may fill like anxiety (stay tuned for Part 2 of this series). As the brain runs the worst-case scenarios, your journey will include acknowledging the diagnosis with your heart. The head and heart will need time to reconcile.

In the reconciliation process, allow yourself time to grieve and express your grief. Grief is what we process inwardly and the expression of grief is mourning. Mourning is expressed outwardly. By actively mourning the “before” we begin to integrate it into our lives in the here and now. Is there a part of your “before” that you need to mourn? Do you need to mourn for the you “before” the diagnosis of


Invitation: Take a deep breath. Take another deep breath. Deep breathing has the potential to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

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