An interview with Matt Verguson from the WebComic Adventures in Parkinson’s Land on September 5, 2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
Matt did lots of ordinary things like growing up in Huddersfield in the North of England, having a family and working as a therapist, before receiving what felt like the very unusual diagnosis of Young Onset Parkison’s Disease. To help make sense of what was happening Matt started writing and kind of drawing the webcomic Adventures in Parkinson’s Land, a knockabout buddy tale of one man and his neurodegenerative disease. The comic allows him to say all the scary, silly, and angry things his neurologist is too important to hear.
Please tell me a little about your background.
I’m 46, I have two kids and I’m in the process of getting divorced. I travelled and worked a variety of jobs before training to be a psychotherapist. I was diagnosed with YOPD about 3 years ago during the pandemic though it had been clear that something was up for a long time before it. I’d been going to the doctor with a variety of different problems, and it all made sense when I was diagnosed. It was shattering at first, the effect on my family was difficult.
Can you tell me more about your organization?
I started drawing and writing Adventures in Parkinson’s Land, a webcomic, just as a creative outlet to cope with my own YOPD. It became a way of getting dark and scary thoughts out, things that I felt stupid or guilty for saying to other people. It was also a chance to be silly about something that felt quite scary. Which makes it less scary somehow.
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
Making the webcomic has put me in touch with lots of great people and ice received messages saying how much people appreciate it from all over the world which is very humbling and seems frankly ridiculous. Which is kind of a lot like Parkinson’s itself.
Often the strips that people without Parkinson’s like are the silly and funny ones. Whereas PWP seems to get a lot from the darker ones. There’s a lot of encouragement for us to be positive, which I agree with, but I think it’s important that there is a space for acknowledging the struggles we cope with. Parkinson’s is shit. No one should feel bad finding it difficult.
How does this also assist the caregivers?
The strip can give an insight into what it feels like to have Parkinson’s but it’s for PWP first and foremost.
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
@ParkinsonsLand on X, Threads, tumblr, and Instagram
How can others also become advocates for awareness?
Speak honestly for yourself whilst leaving space for others to speak up. Encouraging voices heard less often.
What would make the most difference to your quality of life or well-being?
Parkinson’s specific exercises.
If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
Fuck it, do what you can, you’ve survived this long.