No, this post is not about what email client you prefer after stroke but, instead, a wee opportunity to think about positive ways of being post stroke. I consider myself a layman of life with no particular genius for living, however, here are a few of my life changing perspectives post stroke in no particular order.
Tai chi - prior to stroke, I would never have dreamed of doing tai chi. I considered it something a bit poncey or something retired people did in urban parks. After stroke, I embraced this gentle movement, and found that it provided me with a grounding sense of peace as I flowed with each movement. I began to see how it mirrors the natural world around me and reminds me that I am a part of this life force.
Meditation - I practice Zen breathing , and what a benefit it is. Not only has it allowed me to recover from debilitating dyspnoea, but it also gives me a tool to reduce anxiety, slow the heart rate down, and focus. Prior to stroke, this kind of thing seemed pointless. I was convinced that breathing was an automatic bodily function that needed no extra cultivation apart from the occasional sigh, reflecting the weight of the world. Now, I feel that my lungs are a way for me to change gears. Controlled breathing allows me the opportunity to centre myself and balance my thoughts when everything starts to spin out of control.
Electronic games - I loved computer games as a child, indeed, I would sometimes truant from school by feigning illness, and then when my father left for work, I would switch on the computer and play computer games all day until he returned. At some point in my life, I rejected this past-time as time wasting, and joined the masses in doing other things that were deemed more productive but actually really aren’t. After stroke, I returned to this hobby and have now clocked over forty games. It has been an integral part of my recovery, allowing me time to focus on my motor skills in a pleasurable fashion with interesting storylines, absorbing artwork, and becalming music. I appreciate the work that has gone into creating an immersive space to entertain, and interact with. Financially, it also works out cheaper than renting a film and supplies a much longer attention investment.
Time - Before stroke time was of the essence. What essence, I now cannot say. It may be appropriate to say that prior to stroke, my time was other peoples. Post stroke, my time is my own. Ironically, post stroke I have inaugurated a habit of collecting watches and clocks. Before stroke, I never wore a wristwatch, I now have three. This isn’t for anyone else’s benefit besides my own control over my own time. I no longer race to do things, this partly materialises from being unable to but now has extended to things that I can do faster if warranted. What was it Douglas Adams remarked? ‘I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.’ I’m sure Samuel Johnson would agree, and I have to admit, I concur. I take a lot more time with things, but I also observe more, I spend time now on smaller things. I don’t flash past things like I used to. I will stop, listen, look, feel, smell, and think. I didn’t do this very often pre-stroke.
Etiquette - Before stroke, I was never expressly mature. I enjoyed hanging out with children and indulging in that world of endless and pliable imagination, but I separated the two worlds. The child’s world and the adult’s world. Well, post stroke that division has gone, and if it pleases me to challenge an adult to a duel with a wooden sword, by gosh I just will. What was it Aldous Huxely said? ‘We are all geniuses up to the age of ten.’ Allowing my actual personality permission to run free has given me a coping mechanism for the pain of symptoms. I’ve spent too long trying to be an adult and fit into the mould, and it hasn’t rewarded me with any satisfaction, but blowing a raspberry when someone informs me that I haven’t stacked the dishwasher properly brings me endless joy.
Dogs - As a cat person, and the son of a cat lord (my father having had thirteen cats and a keeper of their cremated remains in urns about the house), for years I refused point blank in accepting a dog into my life. It all came down to one issue I had with humankind’s relation to dogs, and that was the power dynamic. I love animals but I have a problem with subservience, and saw our canine’s relation to humankind as emblematic of this. My tune has now radically changed, as my dog is wonderfully disobedient at times, but more importantly benefits from the love and care I can provide, and in exchange, returns this with her own variant. Also, being able to correspond with such a companion while I undertake my daily activities has proved to be immensely soothing and a welcomed distraction to my symptoms.
Music - I rarely listened to music prior to stroke. I worked in silence. I wrote in silence. I found it irksome if people played music while I was doing something, and preferred conversation than singing along to a tune. All that changed after stroke. It is interesting that I revisited my early childhood interests in music, which was primarily ancient music, and followed a sort of timeline, creating playlists for different occasions. I went from ancient or early music to classical, to jazz and 80’s pop, and then discovered drone and drift which is a completely new genre I had never explored in my youth. Now, if someone puts on a tune in my presence, I want to sing along with it. I will join in singing if someone else is. Music saved my recovery from being too cerebral. I have to say that it has become one of the most essential rehabilitation tools I have used, and relates a lot to the concept of audio biofeedback. Although, I still don’t understand why some people garden with music playing, or the radio on, when nature provides us with a glorious symphony of its own.
So, what transformations have other stroke survivors experienced? Feel free to scribble something down here if you fancy.