I promised myself I would not allow this stroke to define who I am, that a stroke was something that happened to me, not what I have become. Until I realized that there is nowhere around this. I am a stroke survivor.
I am trying to embrace this “new me”, the survivor me. I am a much more flawed version of my old self. Looking at me, there is little to tell you that something is wrong. It is only when I start moving that my deficits become evident.
There are days when I feel that my head is stuck under a fish bowl and everyone is tapping on the glass. I can see people and hear people, but they are much too loud and it is difficult to filter out the voices from the noise. Being in a crowded place overwhelms me and if it’s loud, I get even more rattled. This overload leads me to becoming tired and grumpy.
There are days when my brain & body is my enemy. It is as if someone made a voodoo doll of me and he or she relentlessly sticking pins and needles on different parts of my body.
I move a lot slower than I used to. Both mentally and physically. I used to be able to come up with a smart ass remark about anything. I am still a snarky, sarcastic smart-ass my punchline are just delayed! I move slower. Being careful of every step and just simply dealing with the heaviness of my limbs. I slow people down and I know it can be difficult to deal with me. I try to be considerate of the people around me. The difficulties I experience are not all visible. I can’t even put words to how I am feeling sometimes. My family and friends rally me on, but I know it can be difficult on them too.
I have been given a journey on a road I didn’t plan on traveling. Fortunately, I have people around me willing to share my travels. There are many times, I have to ask. It’s not always easy and I am slowly accepting that needing help is not a sign of weakness.
What I have discovered is that inside this broken body and brain, I still see glimpses of my old self. The funny, sarcastic, smart, strong and determined me. I think that this old me is what keeps the new me moving forward.
Three years ago, I was an average mom and wife, living an average life and doing extraordinary things to stay healthy. I was running 10 plus miles a week and racing 5&10ks and some half marathons on the weekends. I was an average runner who was only competing with myself. In October of 2014, I had a massive stroke. I was in and out of consciousness for about two weeks ( so I was told), and when I came to, my first words were “I need to get out of here, I have a 10k to run on Thanksgiving.” I was not aware that I had become disabled. My legs, which took me to many finish lines and helped chaperoned many of my boys’ field trips were no longer working. My left hand and arm were paralyzed as well. That reality did not hit me until the first day of physical therapy in intensive rehab. That was when I realized I had to learn to walk again.
This new me is cranky at worse and tenacious at best. There are days when I do not want to get out of bed and my biggest accomplishment is turning on the t.v. There are days when I feel I am ready to take on the world and in a small way, I feel that I do. I get discouraged, angry and get sad but I also know that some days I just need to put my big girl panties on and fight.
If you are reading this and you are a stroke survivor, I hope that I can offer you the information, support & encouragement you need to get through rough times. When you feel alone and misunderstood, I hope to be able to give you company. And hearing from you would also help me know that I am not alone. That there is a community we all can fall back to in tough and painful times.
If you are a caregiver or a family member of a survivor, know that we are very grateful for your presence in our lives. Although every survivor is different, I hope I could give you some insight into what a survivor is going through.