Fear is a Four-Letter Word

I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Is that a branch? I had to get my glasses to verify. No! It’s a 6-foot-long snake! And my 3-year-old daughter is outside! My arm flopped like a fish out of water! You see stress is not good for me. I feared her being swallowed by this anaconda of a chicken snake.

With every mass shooting, fear takes over. Should I homeschool? How much is private school? Should I go to the mall? Do you think it’s safe to watch a movie in a theater?

I fear the future. What will this disease look like in five years? In 10 years? How will I be able to care for myself? My child? Will I see my grandchildren? Will I ever be able to hold them?

One of the biggest things that I fear, is that I’m alone. Will I find that one, the one that sends my heart burning with excitement? The one that I feel completely at peace with? The one that never feels an ounce of pity nor ever sees me as a liability. 

I also greatly fear my daughter’s fears. She’s fearful of competition. She fears her own bed. I’ve seen her family so paralyzed with fear they forget to live. I fear that life for her. 

I recently heard at church fear causes us to doubt and compromise. We begin doubting what we once believed in, our abilities and our purpose. We compromise our ambitions, career, and love. 

We as a society feed on fear. We fear each other. We fear the unknown. We fear the future. We fear rejection. We fear failure. 

If we name it, put a phobia on the end, somehow in our minds it’s excused.

People often, too often in my opinion, talk about what Parkinson’s has taken away from them. A focus on negativity replaces the dopamine we’ve lost. Dopamine helps control our mood, as well as movement, so it’s only natural to have a fearful mind.

I get questioned every day how I do it. After 8 years symptomatic, how can I still thrive? How am I able to continue working full time? How can I live, drive and care for my daughter without assistance? I’ve thought introspectively over the last few years how to best answer this.

Back in 2014, I had just sold and moved out of my house. I tearfully said goodbye to my daughter’s hand painted flower room. I gave away all the belongings I could. And I bid farewell to a life I thought I loved. Feeling beatdown, broken and worthless I humbly moved into my father’s house. Where boxes haphazardly laid, I slept in the warmth of my father’s home. Until I awoke hearing rustling. I flipped on the lights, looked up and saw a mouse pop up from one of my boxes across from the bed. Fear! What should I do? If I yell for my dad, I’ll wake up my daughter! If I go downstairs to get a broom, I’ll never be able to find it by the time I get back. If I did get a boom, I feared killing it. As these myriad of thoughts ran through my head, the mouse and I had a stare down. As if we were in the days of the Wild West, I sat in my bed 5 paces away, waiting for the next move. After a 10-minute stare down, it ran under the bed. What do I do? I feared it crawling on me or my daughter in the middle of the night. Until, about 5 minutes more, I watched it run out from under the bed and out of the room. What did I do next? Prior to that moment in life, I would have stayed up all night fearing that mouse. It would have been difficult to sleep after that one night, fearing it would come back. But, on this particular night, having felt empty, lost, and worthless, I overcame my fear, turned the lights off and went back to sleep.

My divorce was 1-month post mouse and my diagnosis with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease came 3 short months after that. My fear of divorce was realized and yet I survived. My fear of a disability came true, all to find out that it could be managed for many years.

Though Parkinson’s hasn’t left me unscathed. One thing this disease has taken from me is my fear of tomorrow. Now, I cherish every moment I breathe, because tomorrow is never promised. PD took away my fear of living. I don’t fear new experiences, because that is what makes life worth living! It took away my fears of death. No one is immune to death, so treasure each morning you awake. Being diagnosed with a non-curable disease at a young age, gave me the presence of mind to appreciate all my extraordinary blessings, so much so I don’t focus on what could or might happen. 

I’ve proven in so many ways, that you can thrive in any situation, that the norm isn’t where I belong and that you control your fears even in the most uncontrollable situations. I’ve seen improvements in my memory and cognition, my balance, strength and endurance by eliminating any fears and working outside of any boundaries. Fear no longer paralyzes me. In fact, without my two big D’s (divorce and disease) I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would never have braved the American Ninja Warrior Course. I wouldn’t have taken my job in Houston. I wouldn’t have the incredible friends that are constant pillars of strength. In fact, had it not been for my two D’s, I believe I would still be gripped with fear.

FEAR is an ugly four-letter curse word. We shouldn’t just eliminate it from our vocabulary, but we should eradicate it from our lives!


Allison Toepperwein is a Blogger Partner for the 5th World Parkinson Congress. She is the founder of Lit Within. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Ideas and opinions expressed in this post reflect that of the author(s) solely. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of the World Parkinson Coalition®