They say being on camera makes one look 10 pounds heavier, but no one ever mentioned that it also has the uncanny ability of capturing every wrinkle and crease ageing one instantly. I was horrified when I looked at some pictures that had been taken of me recently, and asked my family "Is this what I really look like?" Receiving a painfully honest answer, there was a resounding "Yes". It's curious how we see ourselves, even looking in the mirror I don’t see the same woman who stares with that unmistakable Parkinson glazed expression that is so apparent in photographs. We are probably all alike in this respect, and don't see what others do. Although I certainly don't feel like I'm 21 any more, I had no idea my appearance has changed so much. Maybe this explains why sometimes I am offered assistance when out. I always thank people, thinking how thoughtful and sensitive complete strangers can be. But now I'm starting to realise, they offer help because clearly I look like I need it!
I don't mind getting older, and am strangely quite proud of my few unruly grey hairs that announce I've "lived" and have a story to tell. The crows feet around my eyes are reminders of all the laughter, smiles and good times I have enjoyed over the years. However, I do mind the change in my appearance which has nothing to do with age, but rather from the effects of Parkinson's itself. I often have the most unattractive gormless expression on my face, known as "masking", which would be great if I played poker, for no one would be able to guess whether I'm bluffing or not. I find this unblinking, staring, rigid face unnerves people who don't know I have Parkinson's, and leaves them wondering what on earth is wrong with me. I sometimes stare without realising, which probably appears rude to those who are unaware of this very visual and upsetting symptom.
I am still able to smile and laugh if it's spontaneous, but when I'm just listening to someone talk, I can feel my face literally freeze up, usually curiously with one eyebrow raised as if I am about to pose a question. Even worse, put me in front of a camera, and asked to say "cheese", the most terrible false smile which looks painfully stretched across my face appears, so taking photos for media purposes has become extremely difficult. To get a good picture, I have to be taken off-guard where my smile is genuine and natural, so I guess it's fortunate that despite my situation I can still find things to laugh about. We all need to laugh, it's by far the best medicine!