Let’s write about stroke recovery. It’s been a long time since I got out of the rehab ward and I’ve come to not only appreciate, but also accept my new life.
Nevertheless, there are times when I feel as uncomfortable and ill at ease as a trout in milk. I can accept that tripping and falling is part of my life, and that things that once made perfect sense to me—say for example the moving parts of an engine and how they fit together—are now alien concepts. Intellectually I understand that my stroke wiped out that portion of my brain that dealt the understanding of spatial relationships and logic. And like a lot of stroke patients I get that I have to pass beyond a certain phase and just go about my life, pushing myself to relearn some things.
For most of my life I was very happy. Now I often find myself in dark confusing moods. And when the emotional squall lines cloud the horizon, I fight back.
Loneliness and despair are part of a stroke patient’s life. And so I’m very fortunate that I have skills I need to find clear skies and steady seas in life. My doctors note that a lot of my fellow patients give up and just try to ride out dark seas alone, or by self-medicating with alcohol or prescription drugs.
Instead, what I do is force myself to get outside, work in my garden, go to my swimming classes and generally socialize with friends and family. One of the real fears of people such as myself is loss of friendship or abandonment. So forcing myself to stay in touch with lifelong friends is something I do as part of my recovery.
It’s still hard for me to accept that many people are made fearful of the devastating effects of a brain accident and chose to reduce their interactions with people who have suffered and are recovering from strokes. But once I wipe the drool from the left side of my mouth, I understand I’m still the same old person I was, five years ago; still able to be relied on to help buddies move, sit with and fish, or go see a really bad movie with. I may not be able to rebuild and reinstall an upright 1600cc Volkswagen engine in three hours anymore, but I’m willing to try.
And that’s the thing about recovering from a stroke. You can isolate and watch the history or National Geographic Channels on cable, or you can get off your ass and regain control and perspective.
Hell, it was just a stroke. It’s not leprosy. Jim Forbes, getting uncomfortably personal on 07/30/2007.