The Mighty Logo

How 'Just Shake It Off' Took on a New Meaning After My Parkinson's Diagnosis

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“Shake it off. You’ve got this. Just shake it off.”

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

My parents were athletes. My younger sister and I were athletes. I’m raising athletes.

“Just shake it off” is something I grew up hearing. All. The. Time. If I had a bad inning in the pitcher’s circle, my dad and mom were right there, “Nikki… shake it off. You got this. Get back out there and just shake it off.” Rough night on the hardwood when my shots just weren’t dropping? “Shake it off. Get out of your own head. Just shake it off and be ready to work harder the next game.”

And now? Now I hear those same words coming out of my own mouth. They come out sounding an awful lot like my mother’s voice, but they are now my words. Tough at bat? “Shake it off, Mason. Watch the change-up and just shake it off.” Bad timing on an approach to a signature kill or a little late to the block party? “Ellie… you’ve got this. Just shake it off and be ready for the next play.”

I guess you could almost call it our “thing.” The Drenth/Louiselle mantra. “Just shake it off.”

Just over one year ago, on November 7, 2017, the words “just shake it off” took on a whole new meaning in a whole new non-athlete way. On that day, with my husband at my side, I heard words that I was completely unprepared for. Words that weren’t even on my radar. “You have Parkinson’s disease.” Excuse me. Say again? Parkinson’s disease? But I’m only 45. I don’t have that. No. That’s what my Grandpa had when he was old… not me. Nope. Like with almost any other medical diagnosis… age is just a number. Parkinson’s didn’t care that I was only 45. That I had four amazing, beautiful, energetic, and extremely busy teens to keep up with. That I had a job that I completely adored and took great pride in going to each and every day. Guess what? Parkinson’s. Didn’t. Care. It was clear that I was going to need to “just shake it off,” work harder and get back out there. Get ready for the next play. How funny-not-funny is it that the girl with the mantra “just shake it off” was just diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease? Because, you know… the whole “shaking” thing.

So, where is this all going? What is this all about? I’m glad you asked. Actually, I’m really just glad you’re still reading. Yes… I’ll be sharing, likely even over-sharing, more about my fight with and disdain for Parkinson’s disease. But, this is about more than that. I am about more than that. I used to write. A lot. In high school, in college, after I got married. I loved to write. But, life got busy, my kids kept me busy, my job kept me busy and I just didn’t find make the time for writing. Then came Parkinson’s. The rotten bully brought other bully friends along with it. Physical bullies in the form of shaking, muscle weakness, stumbling, extreme fatigue and loss of words. Emotional bullies in the form of tears, anger, depression, fear and loss of pride joined in on the party, as well. I was lost. I was drowning. I needed help. I started therapy. My therapist asked me how I would deal with obstacles, frustrations and disappointments in the past. That was easy. I used to write. She suggested I start writing again, Get my thoughts out of my head and down on paper or on screen. I brushed off her suggestion. Writing was something I “used” to do. My husband encouraged me to start writing again. I brushed off his suggestion. Again, I “used” to write. Not anymore.

The whispers of their suggestions kept getting louder until I really couldn’t ignore them any longer. And… here we are. Here I am. Writing. I started a blog. A blog titled what else but “just shake it off.” I’m going to write about my family… whether they like it or not. I’m going to write about Parkinson’s, about college, about books I love, about volleyball. I’m going to write. Will anyone read it? I don’t know. Will anyone come back to check if there is anything new to read? I’m not sure. Will I write daily, weekly, monthly? I haven’t decided. But here’s the thing. I have decided that I’m going to write. Even if it’s just for me. To get it out of my head.

This story originally appeared on Just Shake It Off.

Originally published: March 29, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home