Image Source: Bright/Kauffman/Crane
I met a friend for coffee recently. Our conversation flowed easily, we were both relaxed in each other’s company and we talked like ‘old’ friends. We shared a deep understanding of the many challenges we each face while living with Parkinson’s before we had even started to speak. From a previous conversation, we already knew we shared a sense of adventure and a love of cycling. We exchanged ideas and words of encouragement and support as we discussed our respective strategies to try to overcome the obstacles that Parkinson’s puts in the way of our efforts to remain active. We shared a few tears but we also laughed a lot too.
There’s nothing unusual in this story and I am lucky to have many such friendships. However, research suggests that it takes more than 200 hours of time spent together to develop this kind of friendship and yet my ‘old’ friend and I have met only twice. I believe this is because in Parkinson’s, we have a connection, a bond that enables us to fast forward our relationship and cut through the usual ‘getting to know you’ pleasantries and formalities. Instead, we move almost instantly to a place of trust and understanding usually reserved for friends who have earned this status through many hours spent together.
I’m not alone in feeling this. Another ‘old’ friend that I have only just met passed comment on the same phenomenon and another ‘old’ friend recently wrote:
‘We have a special relationship born out of a common bond called Parkinson’s. We cannot be other than genuine with each other. Our symptoms are our badge of mutual recognition. They provide the launch pad for achieving conversational depth very quickly whenever we meet someone new.’
There is not a word for ‘old’ friends who’ve just met and yet, the Parkinson’s community is full of these ‘old’ friends. These friendships span continents and know no age or language barriers. These friendships can be uplifting, inspiring and motivating, as well as comforting. The intuitive sense that these friendships are good for us in many ways and help us cope psychologically is backed up by robust research. Interestingly, this research also suggests that such friendships bring many physical health benefits too and play a key role in living well with Parkinson’s.
The apathy, anxiety and low self esteem that so often accompanies Parkinson’s can contribute to social isolation. It might not always be easy to take that first step and reach out to others but if ever you needed any incentive and encouragement to make the effort to connect with others living with Parkinson’s, there you have it.
Image Source: The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy