About Me – originally posted Feb. 27, 2013
My Introduction – updated 2/11/16
A lot has happened in the last year and a half since I last updated My Introduction (10/26/14). So, here’s what has been happening in my life.
First, thank you for visiting my blog and being curious about me, my poetry and art. So hello, and let me introduce myself. My name is Lynn McHale; I am now 64, soon to be 65 in March., divorced for 32 years, retired in Sept. 2012 from Sears Holdings after 41 years. I have a son and daughter in-law, no grandchildren yet. Oh good news!! I am expecting a grandchild in July, and thrilled about it!!! I have a wonderful family, friends and neighbors who are all very supportive.
I love nature, watch the weather, play bunco my lady friends in my former neighborhood. Yes, I made the decision to move to an Active Senior Retirement Community. It was a lot of work downsizing. It was exhausting physically, emotionally and mentally. But I made it through, with the help of my family and friends and am now happily living in my new apartment and lovely community. I have met so many interesting people and made many new friends and have gotten involved in some activities and committees. I love to decorate, so this gave me the opportunity to make some changes to my living space. I love to see plays (subscribe to Broadway series at the Paramount). An update – a friend of mine who recently retired and I just signed up for a bus trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto in spring 2015. I’m looking forward to it, but also little nervous about the travelling with Parkinson’s and my balance issues. I’m hoping it works out well! Update to an update – I went on the trip and it turned out fine. I had a few tense moments on the bus, it was raining and with other vehicles it just made me very anxious, but I persevered. I also went on the boat that takes you to the falls. I was worried about it being wet and the effect it would have on my balance. Took it slow, did not go on outside of boat, stayed inside, and it was OK. Also worried about walking at night to view the falls, which was a little tough with my vestibular/ocular issues, but made it. So, three big hurdles jumped over!!! I wrote about my experiences, and will post soon.
In 2005, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I underwent chemo-therapy, a lumpectomy with nodes removed and radiation. I thought I had waged the toughest battle of my life; I had survived breast cancer and was now busy living my life. I am still cancer free today and very grateful for the last 9 years!
In 2011, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which absolutely devastated me. I had already fought and survived breast cancer. I couldn’t possibly have a degenerative brain disease! I didn’t deserve to have this happen to me! I was very angry, frightened and in despair. I remember telling someone that this was the “kiss of death.” I had great difficulty wrapping my head around this diagnosis, and when my coping skills were depleted, I realized I needed professional help.
I sought help from a neuro-psychologist over the course of several months. He helped me re-frame how I thought about having PD and living with a chronic illness and most importantly how I perceived myself. In the safe confines of his office, I could be brutally honest. I didn’t have to be guarded when I described how I was feeling. I didn’t have to soften the message or try to hide things to protect and shield my family and friends. It was finally OK to tell people at work. I had only told my Director and VP and select few others. It was OK to be really, really angry. It was OK to hate everybody and everything! It was OK to cry, even to laugh! Keeping it all to myself had become such a burden, which now was lifted. Most importantly, I did not have to pretend to be strong; I could sit there and be just me, all my raw emotions exposed, learning how to be Lynn, who happens to have Parkinson’s. I went back again about a year later for a few weeks, for what I call a “tune up” or “attitude adjustment”, as I feel I will always experience ups and downs, and sometimes the downs just need to be talked through. I highly recommend counseling for learning how to accept and cope with living with PD. An update, as I thought I might need “tune ups” from time to time, I did see my neuro-psychologist in spring of 2014 for about 6 sessions. Once again, good to go! (sort of)
Update to an update – I seem to be overbooked all the time, and overwhelmed with responsibility and tasks to do. So when I should have all the time in the world since I am retired, I am seeing a social worker who is helping me find balance in my life!! I know, crazy! More to come on this.
I should mention that I did see two separate psychologists when I was battling cancer, both of whom had very different approaches and I liked very much. That being said, coping with Parkinson’s has been more difficult. With cancer, I’d either survive or die. With Parkinson’s, the “unknown” taunts you each day. It’s coping with this “unknown” that takes you to the edge (not ledge) at times and can mess with your mind (we already know about issues there).
Support Group Programs
Within a month of diagnosis, I joined a support group and tried to get in some exercise while still working full time (you know how well that worked). Fifteen months later, I decided to retire a little earlier than planned so I could concentrate on my health and attend exercise classes. I now exercise at the Healthplex 3-4 days a week in both land and water exercise classes (some classes just for Parkinson’s).
Our Movement Disorder Program is blessed by the generosity of an anonymous sponsor who’s endowment funds all the exercise classes (4 land and 1 water exercise classes per week), art therapy classes, Introduction to Parkinson’s classes for newly diagnosed, monthly support meetings at two locations, newsletter, and dinner with doctor evenings a few times a year. All of the above is offered free to people with Parkinson’s in the area. It is “best in class!” I am truly fortunate to be able to have this program so close and to participate in it.
I have been writing poetry for about several years now. My writing comes from needing to get my feelings and emotions out of my head. This helps me frame up and clarify all the emotions and thoughts colliding and crashing into each other in my head. Initially, I started writing about my anger, frustration and fear I had about Parkinson’s. Over time, my writing transitioned, focusing on other aspects of life that I enjoy, or observe, or think about; such as a word or phrase I find interesting. Some are very personal and were written and intended just for me; but now I would like to share them. Some poems have meter and rhyme, others free style. It just depends on how I feel about the subject when I’m writing.
I joined a writers’ group at the public library, where I share my poetry and receive feedback from other writers, helping me to improve. I even read one of my poems for an on-line segment of the library’s writers’ group magazine. That really stretched my comfort zone! I submitted my poem “White Weather Inhabitants” in Illinois State Poetry Contest for Emerging Poets in 2013. I did not win, but it was something I never dreamed I would do, and it was exciting just the same! An update, I haven’t been attending for some time as I was working on my blog setting it up. I intend to start going again.
Update to an update, I haven’t yet been back.
My support group offered art therapy classes last year and continues this year. I felt inspired doing art projects and sharing the interpretation with the other participants. Time seemed to stand still, not matter. I found myself immersed in concentration and creation. That inspired me to start taking art classes: beginner drawing, colored and water color pencil, acrylic painting and a jewelry class at a Pinot and Painting establishment (wine and appetizers included!!), mosaic classes, botanical leaf printing classes, and few others. To my delight, I discovered I was quite good and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I never had the time prior to retiring to indulge myself in any art classes. Who knew I’d love this new discovery so much! An update, I am still taking watercolor art classes on a regular basis and have improved. Some pieces turn out better than others, but I enjoy the classes and the other women in the classes.
Update to an update, I am still taking watercolor art classes, I do acrylic painting in class at the Senior Community I live in. I also have taken ink pen, pencil, and watercolor with ink pen classes where I have learned perspective. I have painted two pieces that I am pleased with.
In Oct. 2015 I showed many of my artwork and crafts in the Arts and Crafts fair at my Senior Community. I sold some of my notecards, and some people wanted to buy some of my art. They asked if I was an artist, at first I was saying “no”. Then I decided, well yes, I am an artist. So I started answering “yes”. What a leap!
I initially was taking pictures of clouds, trees, flowers and leaves as subject matter to paint. I took some of my best pictures and then pictures of some of my best artwork and had notecards made. They turned out great!
It took me about 9 months into my retirement to figure out what activities I truly enjoyed, what other activities I wanted to explore, and where, how and with whom I wanted to invest my time and energy. I was learning how to achieve the balance in my life between Parkinson’s related activities and what I call the “other parts of my life”. My poetry and art reflect the balance I found that allows me to live in peace with my Parkinson’s. An update, with my involvement in APDA Midwest Chapter I am struggling with balancing all my activities and taking care of myself. It is hard at times, still trying to find that balance. There are many instances where I feel I put my own needs after other commitments, and to be honest I am struggling with that.
Update to an update, I am still struggling with this, and even more. As I wrote above, I am now seeing a social worker who is helping me to find balance in my life. I still don’t put my needs first. To be honest, this makes me angry and resentful at times. I really need to find a way to make this better for me, even if it is at the expense of others and other commitments.
My Involvement with PD
I am involved with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA) Midwest Chapter as Board member. An update, in Sept. 2013 I became Treasurer of the Board and May 2013 asked to Chair the Walk. I had never organized a big fundraising event before, and am proud to say we more than doubled our goal of $25,000. It was quite a success. I also designed the Walk T-shirt, which I posted on blog. I also was asked this summer to take over the newsletter. I enjoy being a part of this organization and helping others through the education, activities and services we provide both locally and nationally. We plan and hold an Educational Symposium each April, a Walk to raise funds for research in September and membership drive in fall. We train support group leaders once a year. We provide respite care for caregivers who are members of APDA and meet requirements.
Update to an update, in January 2015 I became the President of the Chapter, and this position takes up a great deal of my time, more than I want it to. This is one of my challenges in finding the balance I need in my life. I’m working on it, don’t have an answer yet, need one soon and sometimes I am so stressed out and overwhelmed, but feel so a commitment and responsibility. It weighs heavily on me, and I don’t really share how this is affecting me in so many ways.
My purpose for this blog is to share my poetry, artwork and photography. I hope that by seeing how my poetry and art helps me as a means of coping with the day to day ups and downs of living with Parkinson’s, it may help or inspire you to look at life and living with PD differently.
I’ve been writing for several years now, so I have many poems to share and post. I posted several poems for the launch of my blog, and my goal was to post weekly on Sundays. That did not work as planned, so my new goal is to make the time to spend more time on my blog to post my poems, and at times, I may just share some thoughts with you. This gets into the whole finding balance in my life for things I want to do.
I encourage you to start writing whatever and however it comes out! It does not have to be good, or rhyme or even make sense to anyone else. It only has to make sense and serve its purpose to you. Even with doing some form of art, just do it for fun and for yourself. If it gives you pleasure and makes you happy, and takes your mind off things, then that is great!
Please feel free to comment. I really want to know if a poem or photo has touched you in any way, or even inspired you. I will respond to your comments.
My hope is that you will be inspired by something or someone that helps you cope with living with Parkinson’s.
My hope is that you will explore and discover some aspect of yourself, maybe for the first time, or re-discover yourself again.
My hope is that in time, you will find balance and beauty again in the world around you and live in peace with Parkinson’s.
My hope is that you will see yourself as I now see myself:
I am Lynn, who happens to have Parkinson’s,
Not a Parkinson’s patient, who happens to be Lynn.
Yes, that being said, I work daily to achieve this state of mind. Some days it is much harder than others. It will always be a challenge, but at least I feel I have the tools to work with when I need to pull them out.
Thank you! This was a lot to read, thanks for hanging in there!
My hope is for you to enjoy my blog.