On inadequacy – Life through the Lens of Parkinson’s

The word of the day is inadequate.

By Teresa Swartz Roberts

Blog 35. Copyright 2020

The word of the day is inadequate.

It’s a word I use to describe myself sometimes, particularly when I’m meeting with the social worker/counselor who works with my general neurologist’s office. I am inadequate. It can be a dark thought.

Wait a minute. Where’s the hope, the joy, that is at the core of who I am, the central message of Life through the Lens of Parkinson’s? It’s still there, but it’s hiding behind a mask, actually a fog of droplets hanging in the air from some conspiracy theorist who refuses to wear a mask. And it’s lost to the person who would type that sentence, knowing how divisive those words are. (Yes, I’m the person who typed that sentence. Therein lies the conundrum. I’m not sure who I am anymore.)

I’ve got to admit that, although I am a homebody, sheltering in place is getting to me. I am having trouble keeping up the momentum to do what needs to be done. Here’s the thing: I don’t know whether my feelings are my feelings or the Parkinson’s symptoms talking.

Apathy, anxiety, and depression can all be part of the Parkinson’s package. They’re also part of the package that is me. I would not necessarily have described my personality by including those words a while back, but maybe I’ve changed, or maybe I’ve just gotten to know myself better when I have so much time for reflection.

The word inadequate, that’s different. I think I’ve always felt that: not enough. Not thin enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not energetic enough, not kind enough. It’s telling that my list starts with my weight. My mother battled her weight her whole life, and she won that battle. I did not. Whatever weapons I needed for that war were not in my arsenal.

By the time I began my true weight loss journey, Mother was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, and I don’t know whether she recognized the thinning woman who came to see her as her daughter. When my son comes to see me now, he comments about the fact that his arms reach all the way around my body when he hugs me. I’ve lost a lot of weight, most of it on purpose.

Lately, I have trouble putting on weight, and I need that extra padding to protect my bones when I fall. Seeing that I’m still medically overweight, my doctor says not to worry about my shrinking until it’s a real problem. I spend a lot of time worrying about things that aren’t real problems.

My Honey and I have been married for 36 years, but I am still not convinced that I am an adequate wife. When it comes to the traditional gender roles of housekeeping, I’m not, and that makes me lack confidence. I was heating up some leftover pizza the other day and misheard a comment from my husband that indicated I should get the pizza out of the oven immediately. I am not comfortable in the kitchen, so I am sensitive to perceived criticism and eager to please, too eager, it seems. I burned my arm juggling the pan and the oven door because I was rushing. A Parkinson’s body can’t be rushed. And that isn’t even what My Honey meant.

A close friend once told me that people with disabilities are always considered “less than.” I agree. I also think that there are many more Less Thans in our society. That’s the source of bigotry, racial strife, and, too often, violence.

What am I supposed to do? I don’t have enough energy to handle more than the bare minimum of chores and a couple of phone calls or text conversations a day. How can I be enough for someone else when I can’t be enough for the people I love? I can’t. I can try, but I will continue to be inadequate.

I take comfort in my religion, which encourages me to try and recognizes that I will fail. My religion tells me that I am a wretch and a beloved child of God at the same time. It gives me a role model who was fully God and fully human. He got tired of being a miracle worker and had to get some rest. He even got angry and destroyed property when he saw that the system was rigged to keep the poor downtrodden. My emotions are from God. Apathy, anxiety, and depression are part of me just as hope and joy are because I am human.

I am inadequate. That’s why I am human and God is God.

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