Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Sailing Through Life with Disabilities

If you are disabled it is hard to think of yourself as sailing through your life especially if the disability happens when you are older than a babe in arms. But it can be done. Nothing is easy in this life and a life as a disabled person is no picnic. Sounds like I contradicted myself, doesn't it?

Nope, not at all stick with me through this and you'll see why.

One sailing through life is often thoughts as a pleasurable experience, right? Just because you are disabled doesn't mean you will never feel joy or be happy again.  I'm going to relate this to me because I know myself so well and maybe you can find a common thread in yourself. It takes a couple things to get there...
  • Inner peace
  • Determination
  • Knowing yourself
  • Pushing boundaries
  • Attitude
and last but not least...
  • Courage
Inner peace is that little place inside you that tells you that no matter what the outcome to any situation it will be all right. Everyone has this sanctuary inside of them, but the hard part is finding it during chaos. It takes practice in repeatedly finding it until it is second nature to you.

I have such a spirit and I call it faith in a loving Heavenly Father. That isn't the case with everyone. For me, I turn my soul upwards. I am in return flooded with a sense of well being. Even if it's when my husband stops breathing. Even if my heart is full of despair. Even if the situation is less dire like doing the same old rehab exercises for years. I head for my certain spot and dwell there.

People always ask me how I can speak so matter of factly about my husband dying, or the challenges of my life now since my stroke, or any of the times when life has really put a whammy on me. Now you know. But yes, I am not a robot, and can react and feel things deeply. But, I can always mentally retreat to where I can find my inner peace.

Determination or in my case pure mule headed stubbornness comes from me saying like the newscaster in the movie Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Everyone has that point in them. Mine may be quicker reached than others because of my mile wide stubborn streak.

I have always found that if want something bad enough you will move mountains to get it. I am woman. No, Superwoman when it comes to my wants in most respects. I want my arm and leg restored. But while I'm waiting for that to occur, I'm figuring out how to do things for the way I am today. Sitting back and twiddling my thumbs has never been my style. If it's yours then you may have to retrain yourself into the habit.

Knowing yourself is important. I know what I can and cannot tolerate. When told I cannot do something my attitude it "watch me prove you wrong." This goes back to being stubborn. I didn't love my limitations before my stroke or since, but if I want to do me.

But by the same token, I am governed by common sense also. If something is outrageously dangerous like drag racing or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane you won't find this woman doing it. There are limits, even though occasionally I'm haphazard but I do learn my lesson fairly quickly like watching for potholes if stepping backwards. That's how I ended up with a knee replacement.

Pushing boundaries is a way to achieve what you didn't think you could. If you do not try you won't achieve. Granted you may fail a thousand times to do it right, but you may stumble upon a round about way of getting it done too. I've learned many happy accidents this way.

For example, when I came home after my stroke the OT that came by the house asked me about opening cans. I had bought a little, electric Black & Decker can opener before my stroke. I told her with confidence that I could operate it with no trouble. She accepted this without another word. Then came the day when I actually had to use it. I sat trying to figure out how to hold the can, lift and pull down the lever to open the can.

I did it. I raised the lever and placed the can in position and used my chin to lower and press down the lever. Up until last month, I've opened cans this way for almost 18 months. Last month I bought one of those battery operated, one hand jobs. The point is I pushed beyond the boundary of being one handed and opening cans.

Granted, more than a few cans have sailed across the room in my frustration in getting it done. I really couldn't afford these temper tantrums anymore. They just tired me out quicker and could get pretty expensive in canned goods. Yes, I'm buying canned goods now instead of canning it myself. I haven't figured out how to lift the rack of my water bath canner with one hand YET. My hubby does love my homemade pasta sauce.

My attitude- my choice and I'm choosing happy
Attitude is something that all of have, but having the right attitude makes all the difference in the world when sailing through your disability. I decided after my stroke, it would impact our and our children's lives as little as possible. Sounds like high ideals and impossible to accomplish, right?

It honestly takes too much energy to be sad and unhappy all of the time. Facing life with disabilities is never something anyone wants to do or desires. It is trust upon us. A right of passage or test of will that tries to trip us up at every turn. Believe me when I said, "I'm so happy I had a stroke that left me mind boggled and half my body paralyzed." NOT! It was more like, "God, how could you let this happen to me!" Did you have the same reaction to your stroke?

He knew it was only the shock talking and has forgiven me. How do I know this? Because in spite of the strokes, I see blessings and abundance of HIS love each any every day. It's there if you have your eyes set to see them.

The only thing I can change is me. I can change my mind or my attitude, but not my paralyzed side of my body. Don't get me wrong. I'm still working towards that 12% that make a full recovery, but it will take time. Would it be better to be unhappy while I do this? Even if it takes years, decades, or another quarter of a century? I'm in this body for the long haul. Keep in mind that it takes two years for nerve cells to regenerate. The brain is comprised of millions of them. Actually, being unhappy delays healing. The mind is a powerful organ.

Courage is only visible in adverse situations. Nobody really wants to be courageous. It is thrust upon them. You could be an ostrich with its head in the sand, but honestly how do you live like that? Yes, you are hiding from the reality, but it is still there waiting. It surrounds you and will engulf you, if you let it. Human beings are a violent race. We fight when backed into a corner. We may not want to, but we do. It's called self preservation.

I've been called courageous more times than I can count, but inside the opposite is true. I'm quaking in my boots. Does that mean I wouldn't climb through gasoline and broken glass to get to a person hurt in a car accident in the old days? Nope, I did it more times than I can count up until my stroke.

Even since my stroke, it takes almost more courage than I have driving a car one handed. Sure all of us have done it in the past but we didn't have to. It wasn't our only option. You had the other hand to grab the wheel if you needed to. Not now. While I always used to watch out for the other guy while driving, now it's essential because it takes time for information to filter through my brain to spur action. I have to physically twist my whole upper body to look to the left. Let's face it. All other drivers are idiots and morons.

So how do you sail through life with disabilities? One wave at a time. They be rough seas or placid pools of blue so hoist your sails and live.

Nothing is impossible with determination.                                                                                                   


  1. Hey Jo, another amazing post. It's just what I needed. In bed for the past two days. Don't know why, it's been beautiful out. Having EEG later this afternoon; keeping my fingers crossed. Hugs to you. Eva

  2. I'm still learning from you, but I'm improving myself.

    I certainly love reading everything that is written on your blog.Keep the posts coming.
    I loved it!

  3. I don't even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post
    was great. I do not know who you are but definitely you're going to a famous blogger if you aren't already ;
    ) Cheers!

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