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On the Front Line

20/08/2015 09:21 BST | Updated 19/08/2016 10:59 BST

All too often a doctor will assume a patient suffering from Parkinson's is depressed. This assumption is understandable, for who in their right mind would welcome such a life sentence, yet many of us remain buoyant despite great adversity. A fellow sufferer who is a good friend, and needless to say, understands yours truly better than most, recently quoted me almost verbatim:

'Doctors ask me if I'm depressed. It's as if they want to prescribe me anti-depressant and turn me into a zombie. My family Doctor said to me, "well you have every reason to be depressed". My answer was: just because I have a good reason doesn't mean I am depressed - I am frustrated.'

This kind of response from a doctor encourages a patient to gloss over their troubles, and in future possibly not be as forthcoming. I wholeheartedly agree that catching a patient in time when depression poses a real threat, is without doubt crucial. The question is, how does a doctor read the signs correctly, taking into account the different background and character that can vary enormously from patient to patient. There is no single 'mould' that fits all where depression is concerned.

Living with Parkinson's is enough to drive anyone to despair, therefore it's not possible to be emotionally unaffected in some way. However, distinguishing between clinical depression and normal frustration or upset at suffering from a progressive long term illness, I grant you, is not easy. Jumping to conclusions and assessing the situation wrongly appears to be commonplace simply because a patient confided their worries in an honest fashion and possibly shed a tear. No one living with a chronic condition should be expected to remain cheerful and strong 24/7 day in, day out, and I believe is fully entitled to an occasional down moment. If one can't safely confide in a doctor for fear of being wrongly labelled 'depressed', then who can one speak to?

No one wants to be filled with antidepressants when they are not required. Parkinson's wields quite enough nasty symptoms, not to mention side effects of the many medications taken daily. To add into the equation additional side effects from an antidepressant which has been hastily prescribed, may very well exacerbate the entire situation. It doesn't take a genius to work out the more drugs we take, the risk of medication incompatibility increases.

The body takes a beating from constant symptoms, yet most patients I've come across, gallantly fight Parkinson's in silence each day, so it's no wonder our emotions are also affected. We feel bound by a code of honour to put on a brave face, smile when we can, and continue to sound positive to all those around us as this degenerative disease runs its course. I wish we could call in the cavalry to end the worldwide campaign that afflicts millions of people, but there appears a lack of ammunition.

With great resolve I throw down the gauntlet, as I daily go into combat with Parkinson's. In this stifling endless war, we find ourselves battling against a mutual foul enemy. Parched for a sip of relief to quench our thirst, as the days melt into one another, battle weary, there are times when it's hard to carry on. Occasionally our spirits are lifted by fellow warriors on the front line, and sweet reprieve is found in comforting words that douse the sometimes overwhelming stench of this wicked disease. Here I am sitting in the trenches, a weary foot soldier in the battlefield. I know I won't win this war in the end, but till that time I refuse to surrender, or go down quietly without a mighty fight. So for now join me in embracing life; today the loser is Parkinson's and together we stand victorious.

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