Sunday 10 October is World Mental Health Day and I believe everyone at some point in their life will have a mental health issue to deal with. My main message today is you do not have to face this alone. Please if you have something troubling you share it and share the burden in anyway you are comfortable with.
Talking to someone is the obvious choice but for me writing provides additional self-therapy. Much of my writing is 100% visible and in public but not all. The majority is positive but like everyone I have my downs as well as ups. I have been looking through old drafts on the computer and found a journal entry I have included below. This is a factual account about 7 years after my Parkinson’s diagnosis. We were in the time just before Liz moved out and had bought a second-hand fridge freezer for her. Unfortunately, it did not work so after getting a refund it needed to be disposed of.
Liz is working again this time doing a cleaning job making it difficult to know when I have free time but I did have more time off with my daughter. I decided to get the old broken fridge freezer to the dump. It was bigger than me and I started a battle. Liz had told me I wouldn’t be able to shift it on my own as it took three people to bring it in. So it was going I had no choice. I borrowed her car and had to get it outside to the gate and up the steps before getting it in the car.
I started to move it with a trolley but because of the confined space we had left it in against a wall. bookcase one side, another fridge-freezer the other, door in the way I couldn’t just pull it out. This combined with its feet having gone through the lino which would rip and catch if I tried to drag it. So for 15 minutes I used the trolley making small movements to move the fridge-freezer about 50 cm, I had to balance it using my strong hand on the trolley and my weak one just to guide the fridge freezers movement. Knackered already but the only casualties being three photo clip frames broken I prepared for the next stage.
I used the trolley to get it to the back door but had to be able to get out of the door and tip it out onto its side through the door. Sounds easy but I had to be under it as i lowered it downward and had no decent grip. I did this slowly and carefully and it worked perfectly, and I should now be able to just slide the remainder through the backdoor, but the trolley had not slid out, off the other end as planned and was now jammed at one corner of the fridge freezer . All I needed were three hands. two to lift the fridge-freezer slightly and one to push the trolley back but at last count I had two. As well as much perspiration I also had a little inspiration using an iron bar from the shed for leverage and pushing a block under I took the weight off the trolley and removed it. The fridge-freezer slid out of the back door. The easy part was over.
Next, I had to upright it and get it through the back gate. When it was brought in, it was lifted over a wall as through the back gate was not even considered an option. The steps the other side of the gate, and the side of the house left no room to manoeuvre it was as tight as a duck’s ass. It would not slide through as the first step although small encroached on the passageway. I used the trolley to place it in the gateway and proceeded to push it through inch by inch until it was a whole two thirds of the way there and with nothing to brace myself against that would be it. I pushed for another five minutes to no effect so dripping with sweat and wet from the rain I paused. The step was tilting the top of the fridge-freezer into the wall of the house and the feet catching on the step. So I tried the next logical step letting out my temper I kicked and shoulder charged it after three shoulder charges and believe me I had bruises you would envy, it had moved about a couple of mm. That was enough though it was not completely stuck . I rocked it, pushed it, levered it promising myself tea only when it was through the gate in front of the steps.
Unfortunately stopping for tea also brought home the point that I was knackered and still had to get it up the steps into the car. Like any sensible person I realised the need to call for reinforcements. Common sense lacking, I continued on my own tilting the fridge freezer onto the steps sliding it one by one up the steps bracing myself against the wall of the house I was almost there on first attempt but not quite I had to let it slide back almost to the bottom. The next ten minutes were spent pushing it up one step at a time and then bracing myself and holding before the next. The last three steps were the hardest as I had nothing to push back against, so I jammed it diagonally against the wall alongside the steps gave myself a breather before the final push. This time I did it but fuck it how was I actually going to get it in the car.
I stood it on its end tilted it and lowered the top onto the edge of the car. Now I needed to lift the end on the floor and push but as usual had nowhere to grip. Feeling weak and spent I lifted one more time and put all my weight first positioning the car so when I pushed, I was braced against the yard wall my grip was starting to slip but I was there. I had a fridge Freezer in the back of the estate car. Well, all but about six inches sticking out.
The recycling centre although within 2 miles away had about half a mile of steep uphill road on the route. Not wanting to kill someone on the way by fridgicide (other people here invent words so why can’t I) I got the ropes out. My ropework isn’t pretty but is functional and will take an age to undo. When I finished the back of the car looked like a spider’s web. When I got to the recycling centre and parked the car got out a worker appeared took one look at my wet and dishevelled state standing there in a t-shirt in the rain and started to undo the knots. He asked if we could lift the fridge-freezer together or if he should get a trolley and looking at me again decided he could rely more on the trolley.
That was a difficult time for me, my confidence had taken a knock from our break-up and this combined with doubts about my physical capabilities led me to sometimes test myself. I originally posted the journal entry in an adult website. I did that because I did not want to worry my children and I knew that was somewhere they would not see it. It was a time my body started to be less reliable, and I was losing some of my strength. More than that, I felt weaker. I have never defined myself on strength alone, but my physicality was part of my identity. It is now about 7 years since I took the fridge-freezer for recycling. I am no longer capable of what I did that day.
My Parkinson’s moves on but slowly at a speed that has allowed me to respond to change. It has diminished my physicality and affected how I feel about my masculinity. I find having to get some things done by others that I could previously do myself, very frustrating. I am older now though and hopefully wiser. We all face physical changes and it not our physical capabilities that define our worth. As a person I am not diminished, the true strength is within. My writing has helped me to establish this.
If you are struggling, please reach out in whatever way you can. You maybe surprised how many are listening. Opening up can shine a light on the dark. It is never too late to ask for help. Let others help it is what we are here for.
Thank you for reading