The "new me", "old me" axiom

I’ve been thinking about the “old me” and “new me” axiom, and I have my own take on it that I thought I would share with others. I hope it doesn’t read like a Bertrand Russell essay. Every one is different, this is how I approach it, because I don’t really view it as a change in me, but a different chapter of my life.

I can understand the concept of how stroke has changed me, but not to the point where I can distinguish a change in the essence of who I think I am. Indeed, the person I was is still very much in charge of the person I am now, and is also in charge of being responsible of how the stroke has affected my brain. I appreciate that now my capabilities have to be modified, but that’s no different to any other long-term injury or morbidity I may suffer during my lifetime. In fact, interestingly, I have replenished many of my childhood hobbies like miniature painting and metal detecting, and many of my childhood habits have been revived as part of my lifestyle. These were very much a part of my “old-old self”, and are a truer reflection of me as an individual. On a surface level, I see myself as me with a brain injury to repair as best I can.

I have written before that I am an idle-minded sort of fellow, which is why fatigue, although infuriating, is really an extension of who I was, but much more pronounced. Before the stroke, I often felt mental fatigue, not on the level of now, it was never mental exhaustion, but I would get world-weary and need to sequester somewhere for periods while I restored the hwyl needed to get back to the hubbub. When I get fatigued, I often let out a long sigh. This is emblematic of the person I was before the stroke, except those sighs were shorter. I guess, the way I handle fatigue is as an adjustment that is needed when attempting inessential daily tasks, but now I find myself replacing those tasks with something else. So, because it drains me to move about, I may just lie on the couch and do some gentle studying. This is a sensible adjustment to do with my condition. I don’t really feel it is the new me, but it is the me that should have been doing this all along, instead of prioritising things that could wait, nourishing my soul with things that are pleasing and beneficial to myself. In the past, doing my tax was exhausting, and so tedious I would put it off for months. I don’t think the fatigue will affect much of that process this year, doing my tax will still be exhausting and tedious :grinning:

I suppose it’s other people who see me as different more than I see myself that way. I don’t have the endurance or spontaneity I used to have, and there are things I could manage at a drop of a hat which now requires the hat to stay on, and I don’t have the prowess to multitask instructions or tackle hasty, chaotic scenarios, but before my stroke there were also things I couldn’t do well, and things I shirked at. I have, therefore, adopted a new mantra, “I can’t do that, but I will do this instead.” I think it’s a fair compromise.

Perhaps now, the shift of doing other things is just part of a change rather than a deduction from the life I had before stroke. I’m not saying all this hasn’t got me down about what’s happened, I have spent time lamenting not being able to attend to my garden borders with the same oomph I used to or cook for a family occasion without feeling completely frazzled. But I have to be shrewd now, and apply strategies to dealing with these things. That’s not a change in myself, it’s a change to my approach. Not necessarily negative ones either, although the reason is frequently not positive. Much of this approach has stemmed from taking care of my orchard, and letting go a bit. I have missed three pruning seasons after the stroke, I have had to tell myself that is okay, let the trees grow wild for a bit. I have done other things instead of pruning like my Tai chi, that’s a good thing. Tai chi is good.

I think the most remarkable change, if you like, is once bitten, twice shy. In the past, I would think nothing about going for long explorations into the woods. In my mind, the thought of adventuring in isolated places was all about the adventure and survival. In the past, I wouldn’t have considered that things like a stroke can just happen to people. Of course, I was aware of things like heart attacks and strokes, but they would never factor into what I was doing. Now, once bitten, twice shy. In the past it would be inconceivable to think I wouldn’t go wandering in the woods because I might have a stroke. This fearful part of my personality is the most radical change in who I am now compared with who I was before the stroke.

In my mind, I tell myself that I am Rupert who has had a stroke, and now Rupert does “this” instead of “that”, and Rupert lives “this way” instead of “that way”. I think it may come from being a writer, I see the overall narrative of things, and the different chapters in-between.

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Spot on Rupert. I think in much the same way myself. The old John was always scurrying around, often doing some things for the sake of doing the. He loved long country walks, historical research and socialising. Now, like you, ai have modified my behaviour according to what I can or can’t do. I cannot scurry around anymore and research is now beyond me. However, I enjoy being taken out and ,when possible, satisfying my curiosity about the past.

Like you, ai never thought of having a stroke. Heart attack may be, but stroke was something I knew about but knew very little about. However, although my world has shrunk, I have come to look atin more detail. I never knew, for example, that we have mint moths in our garden or that a family of ravens live in a nearby pine tree. Most of all, I refuse to sit and mope. I can still do something’s and enjoy doing them, that’s the important thing.

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Well said Rups, couldn’t agree more!!
Jane.

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Like all of you, having a stroke was not anything I’d considered and the shock of getting one took some adjusting to. My main problem now is restraining myself from trying to do many of the things I used to take for granted. As I improve my ability to handle the disadvantages that the stroke has left me I now find I have to be very aware of how much I tackle.
Jobs requiring effort have to be planned for well in advance and the amount I can handle in any one day also has to be carefully controlled or I end up totally exhausted.
Deigh

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Well said Rups

We can’t change what has happened but can change our mindset to embrace and accept the changes as part of our life’s journey

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@John_Jeff_Maynard It’s incredible how the closer world becomes more in focus. I’ve found myself stopping to watch a caterpillar eat, watching a wasp groom its antennae, and having staring competitions with my cats. If I find tiny gubbins on the carpet, I inevitably pick it up and consider it for much longer than I used to.

You’ve hit it on the nail we still the same person we just have to modify to do tasks in a new way

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Thanks for your thoughtful reflection. I have always found the “old me” " new me" thing problematic and not a helpful model for me, as the person who endures is the one who suffered a catastrophic injury and loss, not of a self- the “old me” but certainly of a set of important(to me) roles for which there was considerable grief which the two “me” model doesn’t allow much room for, in my experience.
I am adapting to a very different life, that’s for sure, and one I wouldn’t have chosen, one which requires a certain amount of re- invention,
whether that amounts to creating a, or 'the’new me, I m not sure. For me the idea doesn’t help a great deal, so I haven’t adopted that language.
Thx again for your thoughtful post.
Tony

Hello @Anthony.Nickson, yes, you are right, I am to understand that the concept derives from a loss or grievance for the person who once was, but as much as I understand that that feeling may exist for some, that model doesn’t sit well with me either. In fact, the idea that there was this old me who could do this and that, and now there is this new me who is restricted and deficient reminds me too much of the phrase, shadow of one’s former self. I certainly do not feel that way. My survival instinct tells me not to feel that way. I could do without these symptoms, for sure. :grinning: But I will endure them, and work around them as who I was before having had a stroke. Thanks for your response, hope you are having a decent week. At the moment I have hit a plateau after having an “up” week, this seems to a be a pattern in my recovery, one week on and one week off.

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Hi Anthony @Anthony.Nickson, I emphathise with you about the loss of previous self-identity and change in life roles many of us SS find ourselves now living, definitely not something any of us would have chosen.

Hopefully you are able to make peace with the change and your ‘re-invention’ continues to flourish.

Best wishes

This has been the most thoughtful, reassuring and, yes, uplifting piece I have read about stroke recovery…

I shall inscribe “the shift of doing other things is just part of a change rather than a deduction from the life I had before stroke” on my wall to remind and inspire me.

And your description of your garden reminds me so much of my university study of Voltaire’s Candide, which ends with the phrase " Il faut cultiver notre jardin" (“we must look after our garden”) - a sentence meaning we “should give up on things at a national or international scale… and …live quietly …(and) stop worrying yourself with humanity if you ever want peace of mind again”.

I write this not to show off but because it means so much to me. After my strokes, my English was damaged, but I could still speak other languages, prompting the ward doctor to ask (in very slow speech using simple words) if I spoke English!..

Learning to slow down, as you describe, has been hard. It was like a crash landing after a packed life of work, being a magistrate, chairing industry groups, etc., etc. I had a fit after a year, probably - my doctors told me - from trying to do too much.

I’m not a gardener. Plants and flowers shrivel if I as much as look at them. But I will take your message to heart.

A sincere and heartfelt thank you…

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Hi @pmylrea welcome to the community.

Hello @pmylrea, thank you for your kind words, and welcome to the forum. I quite agree with Voltaire there, without getting too philosophical, in a sense we are all in our own microcosms, and these ripple out to the bigger picture. That’s interesting, about how your language was affected in that way. I assume you had already learnt the other languages! There have been cases of people, having suffered brain injury, being able to speak an entirely new language which was previously unfamiliar to them.

It’s instinctive to get carried away or caught up in the hubbub, or to feel invincible one moment, and a complete wreck the next. I have been guilty of pushing myself too far, and then crashing for days. I need to manage this a bit better at the time, things are achievable, but just need to be approached in a different way.

I have severe oculomotor and vestibular dysfunction, exacerbated by nystagmus and blurred vision. So, even though my physical functionality is fine, my balance and coordination are good, any kind of movement makes me giddy and disoriented (even with my eyes closed). I really empathise with Tantalus on this level, because I have always been, like you, quite involved with life, in a more solitary way. I’ve had to change my routine, my schedule, and adjust my approach to almost everything.

At the moment, I’ve had to leave the garden to its own devices. I now have some “wonderful” borders of creeping buttercup, dock, and nettles. It’s a still a garden no less. I tried planting some caraway early on in recovery, but was managing too many other things to commit myself to it, regularly. I’m now just leaving it, I’ve years to redress it, now is the time to focus on other things. I was given some bonsai plants after the stroke, I thought at first it was a lovely alternative to outside gardening to cultivate and care for these diminutive plants, but I must admit, I have failed. Having let one die, I now have two that look on their way out.

Have a wonderful festive season, and I hope your recovery is going as well as it can.

Thank you so much. And keep on keeping on!

I am not sure people start speaking in a language they don’t know. It’s that they restart speaking a forgotten childhood language. Languages are fascinating - and I’ve been fascinated by them all my life…

But more important than that, is the fact that I can still comunicate with family and friends. And - as you so clearly and movingly express it - we are still here to smell the flowers and see our children grow.

And again, as you say “I’ve had to change my routine, my schedule, and adjust my approach to almost everything”. My failure to do this at first, I am sure, caused my fits.

Now, I will follow your counsel and enjoy my life. This experience has made me reflect, as you say. And I wonder why I worked so hard and did so many other things. Was it to overcome deep feelings of not being good enough? Well, now I am me - different, but me. No longer worried about being good enough. Just glad to be alive. And I intend to enjoy my second chance.

Thanks again for your wisdom and inspiration…

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Hello @pmylrea, true, I did question the sentence as I wrote it but it sounds so much more immaculate otherwise. I also have an immense interest in language, I am currently teaching myself Old English, in order to have a better understanding of the Indo-European language. I have a grassroots handling of Portuguese, and am slogging my way through Welsh. I find anything linguistic fascinating. It’s a wonderful thing. In my spare time, over the last four years, I have taught English as a second language as a means of constantly indulging myself in this pastime. Hope you are having a pleasant evening.

I agree with your comments i went through a similar story hope you are ok

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Hello @BernadetteC, oh, I look forward to hearing it, if you have time or are willing to share. I am okay, I have just crawled out of a poor patch, and grappling with daily rehabilitation. Hope you have something cheerful lined up for the festive season, and will have a pleasant and gentle new year.

Hi Rups ,I had a few bad days. Sorry to hear you similar . Enjoy Xmas . Good talking David .

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Hello @David3, that’s no good to hear, we’re at the mercy of these ebbs and flows it seems. I tend to have a pattern of 3-4 dreadful days, and then come up for air for a while, before slipping back down. It’s usually when symptoms become acute over a period, it takes a lot out of me mentally as well which exacerbates fatigue. At least it isn’t as constant as it was six months ago. I hope you experience some pleasure and joy this festive season, I will be taking it as it comes, and avoiding getting swept up in the frenzy of organising feasts et cetera.

We accept that a stroke messes around with the brain and after 8 years of working out how to cope with the disadvantages I have to admit that there were some gains the stroke gave me. Firstly is my loss of tinnitus. This I had had since I was very young and had got used to its presence despite having music as my main hobby. It was some time after the stroke hit that I realised it had gone, and it has not returned.

The second thing was headaches, again something I had regularly since about seven years old. It developed into raging migraine between twenty and forty and after that just became a fairly regular visitor easily controlled with aspirin. Suddenly a few months ago I realised I’d not had one since before the stroke. I do get the odd tightness around the eyes which I accept is the nearest to an actual headache, but no throbbing headaches at all.

To eat a bar of nut chocolate was to invite mouth ulcers within minutes, now I can tuck into chocolate without problems. This may or may no have been the result of the stroke but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

One thing I’ve never discussed before but am interested in finding others experiences with is the regular problem with reminiscences. If my brain finds itself not being used it is likely to run back and bring up one of the many uncomfortable experiences I have faced in my life. Times when I’ve been wronged or cheated or put in a difficult position plus regrets for the mistakes I’ve made (and believe me there have been plenty!). Initially I tried laughing at them realising I’d outlived the other people involved. This didn’t work and I’ve just settled for riding through them again and waiting for them to go away. It would be interesting to find if this was common to stroke survivors or just age on its own. The problem has eased as time wears on, but you would be surprised on some of the petty things my brain is throwing at me nowadays now that all the major ones have been faced.

Deigh