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The Listening Cure

Living with Parkinson’s Disease, and discovering the listening cure

by Dale Bennett

dale-bennett-branches-skyOne hard thing about having Parkinson’s Disease (PD), or any mysterious, poorly understood condition, is that there’s no road map. The conventional treatments are ok as far as they go, but unsatisfying: no one knows how the disease works, or how to cure it. The conventional treatments – drugs, surgery, and exercise – can treat symptoms but can’t stop the progression of the disease. Speaking for myself, this can be hard to to face.

But if I’m not satisfied with the limits of conventional treatment, what is there to do? How do I keep hope alive and despair at bay? My first approach has been to keep researching and trying new therapies, everything from supplements to diet to energy medicine, and a lot of other things as well. This has been engaging and interesting, and has perhaps even been somewhat helpful, especially with improvement to my overall health. 

flower-646127__340But it hasn’t had much (if any) impact on my PD symptoms, and it sometimes seems to have been mostly a means to keep my mind busy and away from the despair. It also strikes me that this approach is based entirely on a model of struggle against PD, and using that model has left me feeling very much alone. The irony of this situation makes me uncomfortable: being an engaged patient is playing right into my inclination to avoid my own emotions and to “keep it together” at all times.

More recently, I’ve tried a different approach, based on getting to know and listen to other people with PD.  I’ve begun a project to help break down stereotypes of people with PD, using the mechanism of portraits, along with interviews in which my subjects talk about what they’ve experienced and what they’ve learned. The experience of meeting these people and hearing their stories and their wisdom has been incredibly inspiring. I’ve been especially struck by the fact that everyone I’ve interviewed so far has continued to live an active and good life, with humor and determination, even after many years with PD. 

person-835453__340I doubt if I will ever stop trying to learn more about PD, or stop trying new therapies. But this second approach, which is based on acceptance, relaxation and camaraderie rather than struggle, is meeting a need I have had for a long time, without ever really recognizing that I needed it so much.

Editor’s note: Dale Bennett’s “Portraits of Parkinson’s” project is a beautiful work of deep listening and true seeing, expressed through writing and photography. Readers can find his work here; I think you will find some time spent with his website well worthwhile.
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1 response to “ The Listening Cure ”
  1. Thank you Dale for sharing your story of courage and compassionate listening project in facing a poorly diagnosed disease like PD. I just came across some links for PD cause and cure. I found Qigong, reflexology and other natural cures. May be useful for some.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsR320Sd0K0
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-110460/Parkinsons-cure-gave-life.html

    To your health and happy listening ~


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