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 house...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.
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.
Nothing is impossible with determination.