Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Stroke Survival: Down But Not Out

Tis the season it seems that stroke survivors get fed up with their lot in life and just how frustrating living post stroke can be. I've heard this from several stroke survivors in the past few months. They are not alone. I'm there too from time to time. You get tired of just the struggling and adjustment you have to make to do anything. Does this ring a bell for you?

You want to scream at the world how unfair it is that you have to go through everything this way and it MIGHT change over DECADES. No, guarantees, but maybe there is some hope left after adapting your life after it has been turned upside down by a stroke or brain injury. Every passing year that hope grows smaller and smaller until not a glimmer at the end of the tunnel can be seen. That is the reality of stroke recovery after the 30 days to 6 months mark has passed.

But even with the hope still alive, the frustration of adapting and/or not being able to do everything like you used to pre-stroke, frustration and your moments and the pity pot can lengthen into despair, depression, and just get you down. It's like that old commercial, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!"  The sheer reality of "forever" hits you hard. It can incapacitate you just as much as your disabilities have.

I'm speaking from personal and my clerical profession standpoint here. Get help. Two years ago, I wrote about the grief process as it pertains to stroke. In fact, I did a weekly series on Sundays about for a month or so.This year, I'm dealing with the grief process in a double whammy dose. Don't believe for an instant because I know what the process is and can recognize it that I'm immune. I'm not. The betrayal of my body (my stroke and my heart) plus the death of my husband.

The thing about the grief process is that it never truly ends. The frustration and sense of loss will pop back up when you least expect it. Items have gone flying across the room in my sheer frustration at times for my not being able to use both of my hands. My sarcasm can drool off my tongue towards a person said something unkind or without thought. Even if they are only repeating what I said about myself. At times, it can send me into an internal rage. I rarely do external rages anymore. Who do they think they are? Can't they see I'm angry/frustrated/in pain? (you choose one) How would like to have THEIR brain damaged permanently and have to struggle like I do? Sound familiar? Yep, I've been there to. I'd be a zillionaire of I had a dollar for every time I've thought, "Geez people! How thoughtless can you be? And, I'm the one with the damages brain!" over the past three years. Actually for me, it's been more like 29 years since my accident left me a bionic woman or physically impaired.

When confronted with cold, hard facts like forever, you have two very basic options: to do or don't. Extend it farther is to be miserable and make everyone around you feel and experience your pain, or to put your big boy or girl panties on and decide that whatever it is IS NOT GOING TO BEAT YOU. Only you can make that choice for yourself.

I looked at my stroke as I have every other time I've been at death's door or faced with some impossible choice. This is not going to beat me down. I choose to look at every second of life as an opportunity not to be wasted. That's not saying I don't have my poor pitiful me moments, because I do quite often. I CHOOSE how I continue to live my life on my terms. I always say I'm a Christian by choice and grace. I've been exposed to many different types of religion in my past even atheism. I've even studied quite a few is researching a choice. I believe in doing research in all things before making my choice. Forewarned is ore armed so to speak.

Talking about or even venting is helpful and/or useless but a necessary evil. Don't be ashamed of doing it. But by the same token, don't let those feelings consume you. It's like fish. Fresh caught smells great and tastes wonderful. But let it sit around for a few days, weeks, months or, God forbid YEARS, and no one will be pleased or will very likely be repulsed by it.

I know you've heard the term, "Everything in moderation" and "To everything there is a season." It's about balance. I hear you literal types out there saying, "Yah, balance is my problem since my stroke! I don't have it and the vertigo is killer!" But I'm talking figuratively. It's a ying and yang type of thing. Good with the bad. What you can't do anymore and the things you can if you try. Keeping an open mind is critical. Look for possibilities instead of sinking in the quicksand of what was.

So as my title of this blog says, "I'm down but not out." I may be facing a mountain of struggles right now (and it may last a while), but I won't fail unless I give up. In the grand scheme of things, it's only a speed bump. Retrospective vision is a wonderful thing. In order to see what will come, you have to be open and willing to act on possibilities of what's to come. Yes, I may still but paralyzed and/or suffering with spasticity from my stroke for decades to come, but there is always the hope and possibility...maybe not. Everything changes over time. When I contemplate where I was in this journey 3 years ago, compared to where I am today...I'm better. No, I truly haven't regained all that much, but I'm thankful I can move my index finger and thumb although it's only butterfly kisses of movement in my affected hand. I'm also thankful my husband is not here suffering like he was.

Life is not lived in a vacuum. Everything happens for the good, okay, or the bad, or devastatingly horrible...but where there is survival there is adjustments, adaptation, and faith that tomorrow will be a new day and a new beginning. If it seems like you are spinning your wheels like a truck embedded in mud up until its are not looking hard enough. Take a big breath in and just observe what is happening around you. You can sit on the sidelines and watch or you join in. The choice is yours to make.

Nothing is impossible.


  1. {{{{hugs}}}} for balance. If my hugs help you stand, I'll keep bringing them. ;-)

  2. I need them more now than before and so do you. Hugs back at you Zan Marie.


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