Monday, 24 April 2017

You can learn a lot about being a stroke survivor from the Star Wars movies

I saw a post on Twitter about a runner that related quotes from the Star Wars franchise to his running experiences. I thought it was a great idea so I have shamelessly copied the idea (and many of the quotes) and applied the same idea to stroke survivors.

So here goes with my version of things that Star Wars can be applied to living with stroke.

1) “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda. If something is important to you will focus your efforts toward that aim until you succeed. Just saying you will try there is an implication that you are not putting your full heart into it. Although for stroke survivors sometimes all we can do is try. I am not convinced Yoda is right with this quote but it is probably one of the most memorable quotes so couldn't ignore it.

2) "There are always two. A Master and an Apprentice." – Yoda. We should never stop learning. Whether it's learning about our stroke or about how to cope with its impact we can always learn from others. Remember one day you will the apprentice and the next you will be the master.

3) Embrace being a Master (stroke survivor) - Yoda. Our strokes are probably the single most life changing event in our lives but it does not define us. We need to recognise that being a stroke survivor is important in our lives but we should embrace the fact that we survived. 

4) "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." - Yoda. I am sure we have all been scared at times since our strokes. Sometimes if you are having a bad stroke day then fear can rear its ugly head. Focusing on fear will become a problem as it will start to dominate your life. A physiological reaction to a fear is fight or flight and it is the fight aspect that this quote refers to. When the fight response happens we can emotionally hurt people who are close to us. Sometimes its easy to hit out at our loved ones when we are fearful and it's at these times we should be leaning on our loved ones.

5) “Don’t underestimate the power of the Force”- Darth Vader. Believe in yourself. You can accomplish so much more with confidence then you can with negative thoughts. Whether you are a person of faith or not, having a positive outlook on life will help pull you through some of the tough times.

6) “Great kid! Don’t get cocky”- Han Solo. We are all experts on our own strokes but know little about everyone else's even if we think we do. When you have seen one stroke, you have seen one stroke. Do not put others down, instead build them up. I see many posts on forums when people get angry and frustrated with peoples responses. It is easy to get dragged in to the discussion and then everyone has there own opinion and it goes downhill from there. It then gets to the situation as noted in 4 above.

7) “I have a bad feeling about this.” Numerous Characters. Our bodies are wonderful things and they are the greatest gift we have ever been given. Sometimes things go wrong and stroke survivors know this to our cost. Every stroke survivors experience of their stroke is different. I am sure there are many of us who could have used this quote while we were having our stroke or shortly thereafter. Although for me this quote only became reality about 4 hours after my stroke when I realised I still couldn't see to my left and it was not an ordinary migraine as I had originally thought.

8) “In my experience there is no such thing as luck.”- Obi Wan Kenobi. Do not attribute your successes or failures to luck. Stroke survivors work so hard on their recovery. To people who don't live in my head you can't even imagine the effort it takes for me to appear normal. It isn't luck, it's very hard work and is exhausting. I do not make light of my effort and I do not make excuses for a lack of it.

10) “It’s a trap!” - Admiral Ackbar. You cannot avoid the choices you make, at some point the bad decisions will catch up on you. For a long time I blamed myself for my stroke. I put myself under pressure by taking on more and more work and never asking for help. At some point something had to give and it was at that point I had my stroke. I am sure the reasons for my stroke are far more complex but sometimes your life choices put you into the trap and sooner or later that trap will spring shut.

11) “Is that possible?” -Rey to Han Solo.
“I never ask that question until after we’ve done it.” –Han Solo in response. Never sell yourself short and do not be afraid to try new things.

12) “Always pass on what you have learned.” - Yoda to Luke As a stroke survivor I love to share my knowledge and help others if I can. I am very conscious that everyone's stroke and experience of a stroke is different but if I can help someone I will. Fortunately there are many stroke survivors who share this view and I am grateful for their experience. I also think that its important to share my experience with non stroke survivors. I am amazed at how little people know about stroke. I was one of the people who knew so little before my stroke. I didn't recognise the symptoms when it happened to me mainly because I only knew about FAST and not that sight problems were also a symptom in up to two thirds of strokes.

13) “Your focus determines your reality.”-Qui-Gon Jinn.
As a stroke survivor it's important for me to be rigorous in keeping my mind set on the goals I have set. Whether its running a 10k race in under an hour or completing a task at work. Whatever happens, the more focused I am will determine a better outcome and will be my reality.

14) “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” - Darth Vader.
If you don’t believe in yourself who will?

15) “Be brave and don’t look back. Don’t look back.”-Shmi Skywalker. When you have faced so much in surviving a stroke it is absolutely essential to be brave. To then have the further strength to not look back at what you were or what actually happened takes extraordinary bravery. As stroke survivors we must look to the future to become the best person we possibly can and that is a tough thing to aim for.

16) “Never tell me the odds.”-Han Solo. After having my stroke the first thing I did was to do a bit of research and found that 30% of people who have a stroke die within a year. The problem with statistics is that context is all important. As stroke is still predominately aged related the 30% mainly consists of elderly stroke survivors. That doesn't make it any better but for a younger survivor the basic statistic is scary. I do know that my life expectancy has decreased but that doesn't mean I will die any earlier but the is greater chance that I will. So not looking at the odds is something that we should be aware of but don't stress out too much. I plan to be around for a long time to come.

17) “Patience you must have my young padawan.”- Yoda. Recovering from a stroke is a long and difficult struggle. Little bits of progress can easily be overshadowed by setbacks. Being patient, however tough it might be, is essential for our emotional and mental health.

18) "Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the moment." Qui-Gon Jinn. It's easy to just be focused on the future and previous paragraphs stress the importance of thinking about the future. Slavishly focusing on the future and not enjoying the successes that we have means we will not appreciate the progress that has been made.

19) “Would it help if I got out and pushed?”- Princess Leia to Han Solo. Sometimes we all need that person helping to push us on those tough days. Being a stroke survivor can be very lonely no matter how many close friends and family we have. Having people around to give us that bit of help is important no matter how self sufficient we want to be. We do need to appreciate the times when we need that little push.

20) “Stay on target,”- Gold Five. Stay focused on your goals, as a stroke survivor I need to have things to aim for as it gives me things to target but it also gives something to measure success against. How do I know I'm getting better if I don't have a standard to measure against.

21) “This is a new day, a new beginning.”- Ahsoka Tano. Had a bad stroke day or bad experience? Tomorrow is a new day. Move on and let it go. This is tough to do as our future is quite often forged by the experiences of our past. What is important that we move on from bad experiences.

22) “Nothing will stand in our way.”-Kylo Ren. Refuse to be held back. Do all you can to reach your goals. As a stroke survivor we have to deal with problems and emotions that other people can hardly imagine. So we must be determined to progress and make our recovery happen.

23) “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations”-Darth Vader in Rogue One. Do not get tunnel vision where all your focus is on yourself at the expense of family and your loved ones. It is easy to be so caught up in our own stroke lives that we forget that the people in our lives have their own worries and problems. We might be one of those worries so make sure that we spend time considering the needs of others and not just ourselves.

24) “You don’t have to do this to impress me.” - Princess Leia. Sometimes even stroke survivors have things to celebrate when we do something for the first time or solve a problem. Trust me when I tell you all about it I am not trying to impress you I am sharing a breakthrough or something that is important. I want to celebrate.

25) “Yeah… you’re a real hero.” - Han Solo. This is said with a big dollop of sarcasm, but as stroke survivor we should consider ourselves as heroes. We have survived a life threatening illness and have been left with disabilities yet we still continue to live and try our best to live life to the fullest. So we are heroes every single one of us.

26) “We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.” C-3PO. At times, in our darkest moments, it is natural to feelings like this. People don't understand how hard it is living with the impacts of a stroke. To look at me you would not know that I had a stroke and many people will assume that things are not that bad. Trust me, being inside the brain of a stroke survivor is not an easy place to be. I don't believe that this quote should be something that stroke survivors should believe, we are strong and have to overcome the struggles that we face.

27) "Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view." Obi-Wan Kenobi. Being a stroke survivor I find it important to hold onto certain principles about my new life. For me they are important but others don't understand why it is important. For example people don't understand why I want to run races again after having my stroke after one. After all it would be easy to stop but to me its that I won't let the stroke beat me and running gives me that power over the stroke.

28) "The Force is strong with this one." - Darth Vader. Never underestimate a stroke survivor, they survived a life threatening illness. The strength within us is strong and we will continue to fight. 

29) "Sometimes we must let go of our pride and do what is requested of us." - Padme. Since my stroke I have definitely become more stubborn and don't like being told not to do something if the person doesn't think I should do it. Sometimes we do have to listen to that person as they may be right. An example: It was suggested that I didn't run a particular race as I was having a very bad stroke day. I really wanted to run as I felt that not running was letting my stroke win that day. However, I did see sense and did not run, whilst I was disappointed deep down I knew it was the right decision.

I am sure there are many other quotes I could have used. I would be interested on other peoples thoughts on their favourite quotes. I hope you have enjoyed this post, it was definitely not my normal type of post.

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