There is a very fine line between a good day and a bad day. A little rainstorm, a bad haircut or even a slightly negative comment is all it takes to turn a day upside down for some.
However, think about how insignificant these little events are compared to our entire lives; it would seem we should see more good days than bad. In some circumstances, life can just get in the way, making us focus more on the negative.
Michael J. Fox was just like any other kid, aside from landing his first acting job at 15. At a young age he exposed his talent to the world. From “Family Ties,” which aired successfully from 1982 to 1989, to the praised “Back to the Future” trilogy which brought Fox great fame. He was just like any other actor; his face appeared frequently on magazine covers, and he was on the hit-list for celebrity interviews.
Then, unknown to the public, Fox took a trip to the doctor’s office and left with a diagnosis that shook his world. The results were final and fatal. Fox had Parkinson’s Disease, a chronic degenerative disease that would slowly, but surely, affect his life both physically and emotionally. In the following years, he would experience a gradual slowing of movement, cognitive impairment, constant tremors, speech problems, stiffness and a multitude of various other symptoms. Years later, Fox admitted he had struggled with drinking problems and “self-medicating” after finding out about his disease and the turmoil he would face for years to come as the symptoms worsened.
Though this reaction to a diagnosis sounds horrific and unlike the happy-go-lucky television star due to his calm and cool persona, the stark reality that this disease would eventually cause his death, was hard for Fox to swallow. It’s reasonable though, teenagers all do the same thing, according to Dr. Jennifer Lau at Oxford University. Lau states that negative interpretations are often drawn from people when they are placed in an ambiguous situation where they don’t know what’s going to come as a result. And according to Science Daily, 10-15 percent of teenagers suffer from high anxiety.
Though not as drastic or life-threatening as Fox’s situation, teens are known to go into shock when they receive a grade on a test lower than we expected. They have a near-panic attack when they realize that the deadline for scholarships is quickly approaching. Or, when they find out their parents are getting a divorce, they believe that their life will never be the same.
According to the Mayo Clinic, personality traits like optimism and pessimism often affect health and well-being. There is a distinct connection between positive thinking and stress-management. When plagued with an undeniable optimistic outlook, one is more likely to feel less overwhelmed. Other health benefits related to positive thinking include increased life span, lower rates of depression and distress and better coping skills during hard times. Also, they figured from a study by Mayo Clinic that optimists have approximately a 50 percent lower risk of early death than pessimists, concluding that the mind and body are linked.
Fox knew his life would be changing drastically, but his reaction to this dire news was nothing short of miraculous in comparison to the freak-outs that come as a result of miniscule day-to-day catastrophes. Depression came and went, and Fox was back on his feet, determined to make a difference for the cause of Parkinson’s patients all over the world. In 2000, nine years after his diagnosis, Fox created the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research. He knew he couldn’t do anything to turn around his diagnosis, but he could make a difference for the approximately 60,000 people diagnosed each year. Hoping to find a cure, the Foundation donates 89 cents of every dollar they raise to research projects. Since 2000 they have donated a total of $400 million to these causes.
According to the American Psychology Association, immediately after a traumatic event, shock and denial are normal. Victims may struggle to move on with their lives, and for Fox, this reigned true. It took him eight years to tell the public that he had been diagnosed with Parkinsons and yet another two years to begin his pursuit towards finding a cure. However, once he came to his senses, he began to speak of his disease with optimism and humor.
Though not everyone has as extreme of a condition as Fox, or deal with his day-to-day life of fame, there is a lesson we can learn from his optimism. In the end, a positive attitude amidst difficult circumstances results is a more satisfied life. When you aren’t bogged down by the inevitable troubles that come with living, you are more free to indulge in the things that you enjoy.
Looking at Fox’s life, I see my problems and stresses as so miniscule. Compared to a fatal disease, my homework stress, family drama and other life distractions seem like nothing, yet I react to them at such a loud level. I spend hours worrying when I could be positive. With my negative attitude, I never get far; I remain stuck in a cycle of depression
Setbacks are hard, and it’s even harder when these setbacks have long-lasting effects. However, choosing how to respond can make the difference from a life full of depression to a life that is lived to the fullest.
By Brittany Cornelison