Instead of dwelling on how far I have to go, I chose to focus on how far I have come. Occasionally, I do this exercise so that I remind myself that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.
Born and brought up in Kashmir, pretty shy in school, I was more into academics than sports. Though I always wanted to do some vigorous sports, I never summoned the courage to go for it. Most of the activities which I never got chance to do in my teens, I did in my early forties. As I always say, age is just a number and I am Forever21.
We all get affected by certain health conditions at some point in our life. Some get affected more seriously and earlier than others. The impact it has on some depends on how those conditions are controlled. I was diagnosed with Parkinson's at 45. This was the time when I went for a simple treatment for tremor in my hand that led to series of investigations. I'm not too sure I was ready to accept the diagnosis but my family—husband and son—on the other hand was supportive right from day one and undoubtedly my pillar of strength. They keep me motivated and feel appreciated.
I was in denial for at least couple of years. That's the time when I was not so comfortable talking about it and other times trying to keep the report under wraps. One fine day I woke up with a different perspective towards life. I trained my mind to accept that sooner or later my ability to work or mobility will get affected. So, why not live life fully. All this did not happen overnight. It required every ounce of courage to overcome my inhibitions. That's actually when I started loving myself more than ever before. The moment you accept yourself, half the battle with self is won.
As per a recent survey 1 in every 37 people in the UK are diagnosed with Parkinson's. It's pretty upsetting when people whom you know, be it friends or close contacts, in spite of knowing your health conditions, say or do something that embarrasses or harasses you. I had an unpleasant encounter with a friend few days back who was insensitive towards me. I was hurt to the extent that it caused emotional upheaval. Negative feelings enveloped me most of the time. So, I decided to find an outlet by writing this piece.
Age, I believe, is just a number because a person like me enjoys doing small things and derives happiness out of it. Embracing what life has to offer in a fearless manner, I decided to be unstoppable. That's the new me—to live, love and lead carefree life.
It's not easy to wear a smile and battle the chaos inside you at the same time—knowing that my ability to work or mobility will get affected someday. At the moment I have a busy lifestyle. I am working full-time for one of the diplomatic missions here in London. After work hours, I have my hobbies to pursue. Though the disease hasn't affected my work schedule so far but it definitely has affected my reflex actions. So, planning work is a key factor for me. The fact is as brutal as we all know that death is certain and life is uncertain. Fear doesn't help, it just stops life. Why stop living life before we actually do.
So my journey of daring adventures started. In 2016, I ran 10K to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. In 2018, I did my first Zipline and then in Dubai the following year. Same year in 2019, I went skydiving in Dubai from 13,000 feet. All this gave me the confidence to fight back. I firmly believe there's nothing that can stop you as long as you firmly believe in yourself.
I also took part in a Shaimak Dawar stage dance—performed to the moves of Govinda—at Wembley Auditorium in 2017, which helped me fight my anxiety levels.
The past one year hasn't been easy. The lockdown took a toll on all of us. Still, I didn't let it affect my morale. I joined online sketching classes to help strengthen my motor skills. I always remind myself that faith is bigger than fear and that helps me move forward. During the recent lockdown, I started a culinary YouTube Channel by the name of Deez Culinary Delights. I am currently working on another culinary project that keeps me occupied apart from my regular day job.
All these activities were never on my bucket list. But I have decided to live life with positivity and optimism. Recently on one of the Inspirational TV shows, I was asked how I felt when I jumped out of plane during my skydiving. I said I was reminded of a Kavita Krishnamoorti song—Aaj mein upar, Aasmaam neeche, aaj mein aage , zamaana hai peeche.
I am a warrior and my struggle to find opportunities amongst difficulties continues—I am not going to give up so easily.
London-based Deepa Kaul works for a diplomatic mission
Also read: Building self-worth is a life-long journey