Monday, 17 April 2017

My first stroke annivesary

Today (17 April 2017) is an important day, it's a day that most stroke survivors have feelings about, some will celebrate, some will mourn and others will treat it as just another day. It is exactly a year since my stroke. It's hard to know what to think about it. Should I be happy that it is a year since I came closest to dying but survived. Should I mourn the loss of so many things that were part of me yet have now gone or should it just be another day that I get through trying the best I can be with the challenges I face.

I think it is a combination of the first two and dependent on what I am thinking about one or other becomes the dominant thought.

What have I got to celebrate. Well the first thing is I am currently alive and kicking. If things had been different on that day the outcome and my recovery could have been vastly different. I was fortunate that the clot that went to my brain damaged only two places. The first place was the right occipital lobe, this controls eyesight to the left. The damage is irreparable and no matter how much my brain rewires itself I will always have lost 40% of my vision field. Even with this there is something to be positive about. I still have 60% of my vision field. I can still see sunrises, sunsets, beautiful scenery, people and so many other wonderful things to be seen. Okay I have to turn my head from side to side to see the full glory of this world but that's not a big deal is it? The second place it damaged was the thalamus. This is located just above the brain stem and although the damage was slight it has had the biggest impact. The damage has resulted in aphasia (speech problems), cognitive problems, memory and attention issues. Although these are the things that bother me the most it still could have been worse. Thalamic strokes can be catastrophic causing significant disability or even death.  So just for medical reasons I have reasons to celebrate.

Yet there is even more to celebrate. I have a wonderful family and although I have never doubted their love for me, when you face major health issues they play such an important part in recovery. Whether it is just looking after me, cheering me up when I am down, giving me a huggle or taking me away for a short break in Wales, it is something I will always be grateful for and is well worth celebrating.

So what right do I have to mourn. Well mourning is feeling sadness or regret for the loss of something, so yes absolutely I have a right to mourn. I have lost so many things that are important. I have listed some of them above so I wont repeat them. In summing things up what do I mourn; the main thing is my old self. Many of you who know me will see that there are many things that are still there and most of these are quite superficial. I still can have a laugh and a joke, I still know a lot of useful facts. Those of you who know me well see the struggles that I face day by day and how things affect me. Forgetting to put a coffee capsule in the coffee machine may seem trivial but if I forget to take my tablets or leave home without a front door key then it is a lot more important. For me all these are things that the old me would never do, so the new me gets frustrated with myself easily for relatively trivial things.  It is at specific times that the sense of loss is felt more acutely for example:
my birthday another year goes past and not sufficient progress in my recovery, my wedding anniversary I am not the same person who got married, Christmas is a time for lively family times but because of my cognitive problems I find I have to retreat into a shell as this helps insulate me from sensory overload. I now have to experience the anniversary of my stroke when all of the feeling and memories of that time come flooding back. So I honestly believe I have a right to mourn the loss of the old me. Don't mistake this for feeling sorry for myself, this feeling passed a long time go.

The final thing that people think about their stroke anniversary is that it's just another day. Yes the day still has 24 hours each containing 60 minutes of 60 seconds. So in that sense it is just another day. I will wake up the same as always, I will have breakfast and then go about the normal business of the day whatever that might be. It is not just another day though, it is a day that I will remember when my life changed and not for the better. I will never get back to the person who existed before then. It's not that I don't like the new me but the old me had less worries and never had to wake up wondering whether it was going to be a good or bad stroke day.  If you haven't got fed up reading this far I will ask you a question. Do you ever wake up and think "I am well and all is fine?" The answer is probably rarely. Well every morning I wake up and I don't think that. Every day I wake up and know that I have had a stroke and sometimes it is hard to cope with. I genuinely hope that tomorrow morning you wake up and think "I am well and everything is fine"

So for me its both a celebration of what is important in my life tinged with mourning for the lost me. To sum up my feelings on the first anniversary of my stroke I wish I hadn't had a stroke but sometimes you get dealt a hand of cards and you are stuck with them no matter how hard you want a new deal. 

Some very kind people have described me as inspirational for writing this blog or for continuing running but I don't think I am. All I am is an ordinary middle aged man, trying to live an ordinary middle aged life in the best way I can.

If you have managed to get to the end of this long blog post then well done I hope you enjoyed it. Happy first stroke anniversary to me. May there be many more to come!!

1 comment:

  1. Many congratulations David, not only on your first anniversary of your stroke, but also on your blog. It's well written and any stroke survivor can identify with much of it. I see a book coming out in the future ... all best wishes with everything mate.