Parkinson’s leaves me frightened, lonely and isolated

Ricky Darling uses art to help him express his emotions and journey through Parkinson's
Ricky Darling uses art to help him express his emotions and journey through Parkinson's

A Co Antrim man who is living with Parkinson’s has told how he tries to maintain a positive outlook despite feeling “frightened, lonely and isolated”.

Ricky Darling, 61, a retired leisure centre manager from Jordanstown, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in August 2010.

In a survey to mark World Parkinson’s Day today, Parkinson’s UK has discovered that 78% of the public massively underestimate how many symptoms of Parkinson’s there are.

Although most people are aware of visible symptoms like tremor, Parkinson’s can also come with more than 40 less well-known symptoms such as sleep issues, anxiety and hallucinations.

Mr Darling said: “I thought I had the symptoms of Parkinson’s for two years before I was diagnosed. At that time I was told nothing other than that my life would change. There was no mention of a cure. My Parkinson’s local adviser has been the most helpful person.

“Parkinson’s can make you feel frightened, lonely and isolated. My symptoms include occasional tremor, stiffness, poor posture, drooling, shuffling gait, muscle spasms and pain, along with depression. I have vivid dreams and hallucinations.

“Medication helps but when I forget to take my tablets I feel really terrible.

“However, despite all my difficulties I try to maintain a positive outlook.

“I feel positive that there are people doing research and I feel we can help ourselves by keeping knowledgeable about the condition. I use art to help me express my emotions and my journey through Parkinson’s. We need to be proactive.

“A cure would mean a lot. The government should take responsibility and look after its people – I believe they need to invest in all area of neurological disease.”

Parkinson’s affects 3,716 people in Northern Ireland – which is around one in 410 of the population.

Nicola Moore, NI director at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Parkinson’s is an unlucky dip with such a broad range of symptoms that impact on every area of a person’s daily life, and each person is affected differently.

“Depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, eating and swallowing along with constipation are commonplace and can make daily life a struggle. Often people with Parkinson’s will feel they have got a handle on how Parkinson’s affects them then a new symptom will emerge.

“The lack of understanding of the range of symptoms can make simply stepping out of the door feel terrifying for people with Parkinson’s.”

• World Parkinson’s Day is the birth date of UK surgeon James Parkinson (1755–1824), who first identified the condition in his landmark paper ‘An Essay on the Shaking Palsy’ in 1817.

New research has revealed a staggering lack of awareness of how complex Parkinson’s is.

More than a third of people surveyed thought there were less than 10 symptoms of Parkinson’s, while in fact there are more than 40.

Parkinson’s UK surveyed 2,007 nationally representative UK adults in April through Opinium.