Having been in a reflective mood today, I thought I would write down some of my thoughts three years on. I will not repeat the physical aspects of my stroke, but dwell on the key things that have impacted on me and how I have coped with them. I’ll start with ‘dreams’.
Following my Stroke I had lots of vivid dreams about running, walking and jumping over obstacles. When I woke in the early days, my first thoughts were...oh I’m cured. It’s all been a bad dream! Then I felt the lack of movement on my left side and the hard reality kicked in again. Although these dreams continued for a while, I was able to realise, even in my sleep, that these were just dreams and I got used to them. These dreams were succeeded by lots of dreams about travelling, where I was always late for trains or that trains had left without me. These I interpreted as being my reassurance that having been close to death it was not yet time to go. In the early days, I think I feared dying in my sleep, but this fear eased over time.
My second great lesson was about Friendship. A lot of people I thought of as friends seemed to ignore the stroke and avoid any visit or contact. My true friends were, and are, ‘golden’. Even when I was back on my feet again there were those who never asked how I was or just remarked, ‘ you’re doing well’ or ‘you look well’. Interestingly, my partner has just had a hip replacement and the same pattern has emerged. Good friends and neighbours have rallied round, but others who ignored my condition have ignored his. Fortunately, being fiercely independent we manage and online shopping for food etc. is a life saver.
Thirdly, I have learnt ‘patience’. I can do lots of things, but tasks take longer and explosions of anger are inevitable. However, it is no good swearing, crying or sinking into depression. If a task goes wrong, I just pause or sit and rest and think of a way round it. As human beings we are also amazingly adaptive. I have ways of getting things upstairs one tread at a time and can carry things upstairs in a shoulder bag. I move things from the washing machine to the tumble dryer a few items at a time, despite the effort required. Again, I am conscious that three years ago I could do all this effortlessly, but there is no point in brooding over this. There are ways and means,
Finally, my walking has improved, but my weak left arm and hand still have a life of their own and are less functional when I am tired. When tired, it can throw things, drop things and miscalculate, I still get post stroke fatigue as well, but after three years I am used to it.
I am now 75 and still aiming for further recovery. I know it might not come, but that will not stop me trying. I share all this because I am sure my fellow survivors will recognise some of these things as part of their own experience. I am lucky that I had a hard childhood that taught me how to stand on my own two feet and that is why I can still stand on them now! Good luck on your journeys, whether you are survivors or carers. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings!