The title of this piece is drawn from a commercial I saw featuring Patti Labelle. I appreciate the sentiment and attempt to remember it every day. It is important to me that my medical setbacks do not define me; they are simply another challenge along the way. The stroke left me with a number of physical infirmities not the least of which is the speech impairment I struggle with each day.
The stroke (you’ll notice I am careful not to refer to the condition as “my stroke” as that seems to infer ownership, which I am loathe to claim) occurred nearly two years ago. At that time, the doctors told me the aftereffects would eventually decrease but it has been well over the one-year mark whereupon I expected diminishment of my weaknesses. As more time passes, I must reconcile myself to the fact that, unfortunately, some of this will be permanent.
At the time of the episode, I was at work and began experiencing symptoms such as slurred speech as well as left side weakness. I went home and went to bed (my first mistake). I awoke in the middle of the night with the strange sensation that I had awakened to die. Later on the next morning, I went out to run some errands (my second mistake as by this time I should have been on my way to the hospital). I knew I was in trouble when I began bumping into people and they pushed me away as if I was inebriated or on drugs.
Later on, I learned that all the delays I made in getting me hospitalized were instrumental in increasing the severity of the cerebral-vascular episode that I suffered. To some extent, I blame myself for my current circumstance. I know that the stroke had several contributing factors, including: a long undiagnosed case of hypertension, as well as type-2 diabetes so there is no need for me to beat up on myself for my delay in seeking medical care.
I guess it fits my deep-seated Catholic inculcation, a need for assigning self-blame as well as an equally deep-seated guilt I have long associated with my religious childhood. Religion aside, I must realize that these setbacks are not my fault; I simply took “a bullet to the brain” as my speech therapist was fond of saying. I must somehow find the strength of mind as well as body to overcome.
Immediately following the “accident” (as the medical people are apt to describe it), I suffered from intermittent crying jags, (which I continue, periodically to endure); any strong emotion is usually translated into sobs and tears. The doctor prescribed Prozac, which I did not care for as it reminded me of central nervous system stimulants, interrupting my appetite and sleep patterns. I quickly halted that regimen. While the drug did wonders for my mood, the side effects were unacceptable. I’m sure Prozac (and the like) have helped many; it just wasn’t right for me.
Therefore, I continue to move hopefully forward; I will press on with the various activities I enjoy but am now obligated to enjoy less: music making, hiking, photography, writing – though the latter two present fewer problems than the former. Perhaps in time and with the requisite effort all these things will fall back into place.
stroke recovery, stroke after effects