It was becoming intolerable.
I had found ways to handle the others, but when Parkinson's disease (PD) injected pain into its merciless cocktail of symptoms, everything took a sharp downward turn. The pain invaded my body so quickly, I didn't notice what was happening until my movements became strenuous.
It was hard to believe that just two months earlier, I was running 5km everyday. Now, I was walking with difficulty, and sometimes, with a limp. This rapid decline was perplexing. Yes, my symptoms had indeed worsened over time, but at a relatively slow and steady pace. What caused this sudden deterioration?
The only possible culprit I could think of was exercise. It was the only thing that had changed. Six weeks earlier, I’d had an eye infection that took a month to heal. During that time, I didn’t run. I barely exerted myself physically. I convinced myself that I would return back to my fitness routine once my eye had healed completely.
It was only one month. One month of not exercising. Surely, people have committed worse crimes. Perhaps so; but my exercise break would prove to be a bad decision with irreversible consequences. It would go on to cripple my ability to manage this beast of an illness (without medication) as I had done for years.
By the time I decided to take PD meds, I was barely able to get through the day; the pain and fatigue I was experiencing were at the highest levels they'd ever been. Looking back, I don't regret starting meds. What I do regret is the negligence (not exercising for a month) that exacerbated my symptoms to a level that forced me to start meds much earlier than I had anticipated.
Regular exercise has since become non-negotiable for me. Previously, I saw it as something I chose to do to improve my symptoms. I should have also viewed it as something I HAD to do to stop my symptoms from getting worse.
If I had realised that not exercising would considerably worsen my muscle rigidity, and usher in debilitating pain, I would have chosen differently. The mere thought of experiencing the steep decline that I did would have scared me to the gym. The decision to exercise would have been easier to make. A no-brainer, actually.
Think about it, which of these two statements has a bigger impact on your decision to exercise? "Exercising reduces your risk of suffering from a major illness." vs "Not exercising increases your risk of suffering from a major illness." I think most people would chose the second statement.
Am I saying that people should be frightened into exercising? That's besides the point 😉. The point is this - the knowledge that exercise is beneficial isn't sufficient motivation for everyone, but when it is truly understood that NOT doing it is detrimental, the stakes become higher, as does the motivation to do it.
Thankfully, I learned that lesson before the walls caved in; albeit the hard way.