First OCD. Now Parkinson’s? I’ve Got This!

4 min read
Tyler Lastovich / Pexels

Source: Tyler Lastovich / Pexels

For more than 15 years, I’ve been talking and writing about life with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. I’ve penned two books on the subject, served as a national spokesperson for the International OCD Foundation, spoken at conferences across the country, and done countless media interviews about the so-called Doubting Disease.

This outreach has felt like a life calling, and it has been. But, as it turns out, the universe has some additional advocacy plans for me. Two months ago, after nearly a year of seemingly-unrelated medical issues, a bevy of tests, and consultations with a number of specialists, I was given a new diagnosis: Parkinson’s Disease.

Didn’t see that one coming!

I knew next to nothing about PD. Isn’t that what Michael J. Fox has? It’s degenerative, isn’t it? No cure? Will I spend the rest of my life shaking and falling?

With the help of the Parkinson’s Foundation and the MJF Foundation, I began collecting answers—hopeful ones—and in the care of a wonderful neurologist specializing in movement disorders, I started a new medication that is already making a huge difference in addressing my symptoms.

But now what?

I’m the OCD Guy. I know mental illness, not physical challenges. Should I talk openly about this journey, as well? What’s my role in this new arena?

And then it hit me: The real crux of my advocacy over the years has not actually been OCD, but rather what I’ve come to call the Greater Good motivation that has allowed me to thrive with the disorder.

Choosing Greater Good

The concept is simple: Choose to pursue purpose– and servicedriven goals, rather than fear– and doubtdriven ones, and you’ll find inner strength you didn’t know you had. With this shift in my decision-making, I was able to do the hard work of OCD treatment and learn to manage my obsessions and compulsions.

So can’t I apply the same strategy to my new Parkinson’s challenges?

The answer, I’m certain, is a resounding Yes, and I know this from my work with the Adversity 2 Advocacy Alliance, a non-profit I cofounded in 2011. Through A2A, I’ve met all kinds of remarkable adversity-driven advocates navigating challenges ranging from ALS and cancer to stroke recovery and paralysis. And all of them are demonstrating through their own advocacy that we help ourselves by helping others.

Hmm. So maybe that’s what the universe has teed-up for me: an opportunity to take what I’ve learned about Greater Good motivation in the mental health world and demonstrate how it can be applied to my new challenges in the physical health world.

Perhaps my road ahead is not a new one, but rather a wider version of the one I’ve been on.

As it happens, I’ve spent much of the past year researching ancient Stoic philosophy for a new writing project, and I’ve come to appreciate just how much its wisdom provides a foundation for the School of Hard Knocks motivation framework I’ve written about in my books.

Amor Fati

The Stoics have a motto of Amor Fati, which loosely translated means “love one’s fate.” It can be a difficult concept to work with—especially when times are tough—but as writer Ryan Holiday explains, it represents “the Stoic mindset that you take on for making the best out of anything that happens: Treating each and every moment—no matter how challenging—as something to be embraced, not avoided.” 1

Some two thousand years earlier, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius put it this way: “A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.”

Over the years, I’ve built my own sustaining fire by choosing to look at my struggles with OCD as opportunities to grow through purpose and help others through service.

With this post, I commit to doing the same with Parkinson’s Disease.

I’ve got this.

And, if you’re struggling with adversity, I know you do too.

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