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Personal Reflections...
The Body Language

When Actions Speak Louder Than Words...

Even the body language of this baby bird tells us exactly what he needs. Photo by Lauren Sue

Body Language is such an important part of communication. Even without saying a single word, a shiver of our bodies can tell someone we are "cold"; a subtle shake can advertise that we are "scared".  What if your body moves all of the time without being cold or without being scared?  When that happens, people often misintrepret our body language. With Parkinson's, it's as if our bodies are speaking an entirely different language. I can only imagine what some people must wrongly assume when they see me shaking. The following is a post I wrote when someone I knew jumped to a wrong conclusion because of my tremor:
Since we're going out of town this weekend, I took my car over to get its regular tune-and-lube at the local dealership. After checking it out, they told me I needed close to $900.00 of work before my trip.  I decided I needed a reliable second opinion, so my husband contacted an old golfing buddy who is a mechanic. He graciously offered to check out my car. Between the move last year and my husband switching jobs, we hadn't seen him in quite some time. This would provide a nice opportunity to see him again. 

I dropped off my car last night and talked with him for a bit about what we wanted done. We were standing outside the garage talking and the sun was shining directly in our faces, so I put up my hand to block the sun while my other arm was balancing my son on my hip. Suddenly, the mechanic grabbed my wrist and stopped me mid-sentence and said "you don't have to be upset, I'll get the work done". I didn't understand why he took what I said the wrong way. Although I was concerned about making sure everything could get done before we left on our trip, I really felt I wasn't overly upset in the way I spoke with him. Afterall, it was MY fault I procrastinated on getting my car checked and waited until so close to the trip before getting it done.

I thanked him for offering to do the work and I got Joey settled in to his stroller. As I was fumbling with the key ring in an attempt to separate the car key from the rest, I dropped the entire set. He went to help me retrieve the keys and, again, he grabbed my wrist and told me everything would be okay. That's when it dawned on me. He was noticing my tremor and he didn't know I had Parkinson's. He was interpretting my tremor as "anger" or that I was far more "upset" over this car than necessary. No wonder he thought I was really upset, I was standing there shaking! I guess if it had been cold he may have just thought I was freezing, but with 70 degrees and bright sunshine, I just looked upset.

"Carl, I have Parkinson's". He looked dumbfounded. He said he had no idea. He asked a few questions, like when did it start and how long had a I had it. I explained a bit, but then it was time for him to get started on my car. The sun was still positioned with a direct glare in to our faces, so I shielded my face one last time as we said our goodbyes. For a third time, he reached out to grab my wrist and he said "you don't have to shake". I told him that I didn't have control over that tremor; it was a part of my Parkinson's and, unless I was sleeping or on medication, I would be shaking. He said he'd never met anyone with Parkinson's and he didn't know what the tremor looked like up close and he was sorry. I told him not to be sorry, he just didn't know. I also told him he didn't need to feel sorry for me, either, because I would be fine.

One thing I noticed with him (actually, in many other people, as well) is that he seemed to take my shaking personally, like I was upset with him. I assume everyone just "knows" about Parkinson's and I guess there really are many people who have no idea what it's all about. It's one thing for me to tell him "I have Parkinson's", but having him understand what that means is something completely different. I tend to forget about my tremor, since it's such a part of my everyday life. As for my car, he said that I could drive another 10,000 miles before worrying about the extra work the dealership was trying to sell me. He charged me nothing for his second opinion and he learned something new in the process: a little bit about Parkinson's Disease.

Lauren Sue