I posed the following question on the high quality intellectual forum Quora.com and got the most inspirational yet balanced reply from practicing psychotherapist Mike Leary:
THE QUESTION:(KEN GIUFFRE MD, VOLUNTEER EDITOR)
What would do with your life if you were to awake from a 3 year funk at age 51 after diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease with impaired body but clear mind?
It was initially devastating. Your right (dominant) hand is useless and you’re plagued with PD’s attendant symptom of EDS (excessive daytime sleepiness). Your mind is as sharp as ever and you’re ready to re-engage with the world again but you cannot practice medical procedures. You have an MD, writing experience, extensive knowledge of the brain, particularly the wiring of the cortex, and extensive business experience. You’ve let things go a bit because of a transient depressive funk, but now face a world that consistently and falsely misinterprets your external appearance as a reflection of a disorganized internal state. All that said, if you honestly found yourself in this state, and you considered your life an experiment of what somene with this kind of handicap could accomplish in the world, where would you start?
THE ANSWER (MIKE LEARY, PSYCHOTHERAPIST, WITH PERMISSION)
You’ve amassed an extraordinary number of skills. Most people allow themselves to be one trick ponies. Congrats on that.
The physical appearance parts are putting people off because they are out of the norm. If you deal with the public, that surprise will happen again and again, each time reminding you of your disability. Bummer. Some will even reject you because they are afraid. It’s too hard to pretend things were as they were. All it will do is depress you.
You say you have business skills so it’s time to market yourself in a way which is enticing and revenue producing.
The physical hands-on approach is a forgone era in your life now, so looking forward is assessing what turns you on, to a new fascination. Curiosity and figuring out puzzles is what keeps life interesting. You have amassed a wealth of knowledge by now and want to put it to work helping others. Think of yourself like an athlete who has some time left, but then blew out their knee. What to do? Some go into such a funk they kill themselves. Sometimes slowly with A&D. Others become pitch men, some announcers, some coaches and some salesmen.
You cannot have gotten to where you are without a ton of research abilities. On top of that, you have practical hands-on experience which makes it not theory.
The new area going up is centralized info. That’s for rural doctors to help them with procedures they were not trained in. They need info now in real-time. In essence, they are your remote eyes and hands. Skype type formats are being used to guide people in those procedures.
Another area is some kind of data mining or research for medical procedures or legal ones. Malpractice is also a big area but you have to be familiar with proper procedures. So is the insurance identification gate keepers.
I myself have been trying to get a medical animation project going for helping people use their minds ability in accelerating healing.
All these are about letting go of the previous paradigm you had with the sanctions and restrictions it seemed to impose. You get to think “Outside the box” now and find new ways to express yourself with a different set of restrictions. I have counseled a Number of physicians and nurses who lost their ability to do what they had trained for in the way they thought they always would. Physical, psychological or legal issues prevented that. Once they let go of the framework imposed on them from before, a whole other possibility presented itself.
You still have a lot of fire in your box. Don’t let it go out before you find the next track to take. There are many you haven’t thought of yet. Pretend it is a job someone else gave you and you’re doing research as if it’s for them. People still need you.