What We Learned with Counseling

When Parkinson’s arrived, it was a different story. Doctors could tell us our medical choices, but who could help us know how to rebuild our lives in a way that included this disease?

Before Andy had Parkinson’s, when we’d have personal troubles, we NEVER sought out help from a counselor or therapist.

It wasn’t that we thought it was a bad idea, it just seemed to be one of those things that was for people wealthier than us, because of the expense. Church people could talk with their pastors, Jews with their rabbis and Native Americans with their elders, but nobody came to mind when we wondered if it would be productive for us to share our problems. So, we read books, talked with each other, had family meetings and most problems resolved.

When Parkinson’s arrived, it was a different story. Doctors could tell us our medical choices, but who could help us know how to rebuild our lives in a way that included this disease?

 The disease had wiped out most of what had worked in our lives before. As Andy sat in his chair shaking it was obvious he couldn’t any longer use a welding torch. This meant we could no longer support ourselves with the business we had built together for almost thirty years. Our off grid home became almost impossible for Andy to live in. The job of care taker became mine, on top of breadwinner. What we did together for fun, like running, skiing, going out for dinner, and visiting with friends was no longer possible. The changes were so vast and happened so swiftly that there was a bit of “deer in the headlights” syndrome and we had no idea how to move forward.

I argued with myself that if we had employed a family counselor in the past that would have served us well now. Andy said, “That would be a little like interviewing cancer specialists in case we got cancer one day.”  Our counselors were always philosophers and authors who inspired us. Thank you J. Krishnamurti, Joan Borysenko, Alan Watts, Jane Nelson, and Rudolf Steiner. But now we were stuck.

As soon as we admitted that we wanted and needed a counselor, a young friend serendipitously told us, “I talk to Ted and he helps me through whatever I’m struggling with.”

We were lucky. Ted was the right counselor for Andy and after four months of weekly appointments, he helped us make sense of our chaotic life. We came to understand that Andy still held an important place in the world. I was helped in finding my way as a care giver without losing my autonomy as a person and he helped guide our kids to know their roles in the changing times.

There came a day when Andy and Ted mutually agreed that their work was done. Beyond completely shifting our perspectives and therefore our lives, Ted also stood with us when we were most vulnerable and uncertain. He showed up. How can we all show up for each other when faced with changing, frightening times?

You can also read this article in my column in my local newspaper the Taos News.

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