"Its harder for you to see me symptomatic than it is for me to experience the symptoms."
Maybe your partner has communicated this or a similar message to you before. When you’re diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, you learn that off times will come and go, and you get used to planning your day around expected (and unexpected!) off episodes.
On the other hand, it’s much more difficult for loved ones to become accustomed to witnessing their partner’s struggles and not being able to help. That and plenty of other factors contribute to the stress and pressures that a lot of care partners experience.
As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s important to take care of yourself, take breaks, and recharge before you’re able to continue giving your partner that same level of support over time.
Here are some things you can do to help manage the pressure when things start to get hard:
Understand that even the most loving and caring people experience frustration and resentment. Give yourself permission to have these feelings, and remember that it’s okay to feel the way you do. Most importantly, understand that you’re not alone.
Focusing your attention on the good things can work wonders for your mood and your mental state. Make lists of small things that make you happy, little wins from the day, experiences and people that you’re grateful to have in your life, or a combination of it all.
Set Aside Time For Yourself
Prioritize finding time each week to do something for yourself. Whether it’s getting away and going to the gym, reading a book for an hour uninterrupted, going for a walk, or something else, meeting your own needs and spending time with yourself regularly can make all the difference.
Join a Support Group
Sometimes nothing helps more than talking to other people who are going through the exact same thing as you. If you’re not already a member of the Young Onset Parkinson’s Network, you can join for free — we’re just as much a resource for care partners as we are for those diagnosed with YOPD!
Make a Therapy Appointment
If group discussions aren’t your style, talking to a professional one-on-one can help you to better understand your emotions and discover more effective ways to manage them. It’s also a great outlet for venting and expressing bottled up thoughts and feelings without hurting anyone around you.
As much as “go for a run” is probably the last thing a stressed-out person wants to hear, physical exercise really does improve your mental state. That doesn’t mean you have to start training for a marathon or anything, but going for a walk, doing some yoga, or even signing up for a couple of fitness classes can have a major impact.
Spend Time with Friends & Family
It’s common for care partners to forget about their lives outside of YOPD. Intentionally setting aside time to connect with your friends and family outside of your responsibilities as a care partner is a great way to remind you that YOPD isn’t all there is. It can be a great change of pace.
Just as YOPD affects everyone in the diagnosed person's inner circle, YOPN membership is offered to all those diagnosed early with Parkinson's Disease AND those in their inner circle, or "care partner team". Spouses, parents, children, friends, and family alike are welcome in YOPN.
Being a care partner can be a difficult and frustrating experience. But you’re here reading this because your strength and deep love and care for your partner outweigh all the negatives. So even when times are tough, don’t forget to stop and take care of yourself.