Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Stroke Suvival ~ Coping with Crowds

Now I don't know about y'all, but I have difficulties with crowds of people even if it's only family. So you can imagine what my 4th of July family reunion was like with four generations of family...only 100+ made it this year.

Ever since my stroke, I get extremely uncomfortable in a group of four or more people. My brain goes into sensory overload. At my monthly stroke survivors meeting there might be forty or fifty of us in a room, but only one person speaks at a time. I can manage that but regular get-togethers like this past 4th of July family reunion, Christmas, or my recent deluge of family doing deconstruction on my brain shuts down. It's just too much.

This is a far cry from my pre-stroke self where I taught in a classroom with fifty students or did round robin discussion groups with hundreds. I could listen and respond to ten different conversations at once. Now, my brain doesn't know where to focus on the multitude of conversations going on. They all begin with "Momma," "Jo," "Grandma," or "Honey" and they are coming from different directions. I get a tilt-a-whirl sensation where I have to shut my eyes and close off my hearing. It still does a year post stroke.

I know I'm not the only stroke survivor that feels this way because others have expressed the same thing. So it makes me ask when will it get better? I get the same answer I get when I ask how long does recovery take? It depends on how fast your brain rewires itself. If it manages to rewire. A lot of help that is if you are the impatient sort like me.

Those two words are as helpful as "IF." If I spend more time in groups will it get better faster or will I just be spinning my wheels? If I gradually build up to larger and larger groups will it help? Nobody has an answer. Weighing all my choices I chose the last one to try.

The Fix (for me)
I have found over the past year of testing this theory it works.
  • Just after my stroke, one on one was comfortable. Constant eye contact was essential and one subject with constant reminding what the subject was. Any more than one was an overload situation.
  • After six months after my stroke, I was managing a three-way conversation with three people so long as it was the same subject. I would need reminding what the subject was. Limited eye contact with speaker. Any more was an overload situation.
  •  After ten months after my stroke, I was able to have a four-way conversation on the same subject. If a new subject was introduced, I'd have to be reminded what the original subject was. No eye contact is necessary.
  • After a year, six people in conversation about a single subject. Overload occurs with the addition of a seventh person and multiple subjects at once. The brain goes tilt.
So there is improvement as my brain rewires. There is hope that I'll be able to write fiction again with multiple characters given time. Maybe by my fifth year post stroke if my improvement continues and I continue to push my limits. One day I may be able to say Dyslexic/ADD what's that. At least I have hope that I can overcome my deficit.

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. My friend who is a TBI survivor is the same way, Jo. That's how I started editing her work. We were at a local writers meeting and everyone was critiquing her writing, a grammar intensive session, and I realized she couldn't take what was being said in. I asked to take her offering home and do an edit and email it to her. She was thrilled and that's why I edited her book.

    She says it gets better, though it can still be hard if the crowd isn't aware and takes turns.

  2. And that's why I chose you out of the 60 that offered and the twenty-something I interviewed for my stroke book. The fact that we know each other other places helps too.

    It getting comes in waves on a beach with ebb and flows.

  3. Improving, yes. In small steps. I did manage the 4th fairly well but we sat off to the side so people came up to us in a one-on-one situation. It helps to preplan.

  4. 100+ people???? That gives me anxiety just thinking about it, good for you!

  5. Amy, Usually our family reunions are closer to 350 people. I'll take 100 any day.


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