Edgar Allen Poe said, ” Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”
Confession time: I am one of those obnoxious optimists, the kind of person who methodically excavates and studies events in order to discover good in disaster. Here is a partial list of good things related to my stroke:
1. I skipped Menopause.
2. Realized I have an abundance of devoted friends who are enthusiastic in their efforts to keep me their lives. They invite me to events, pick me up, drive me home, and pretty much bring the party to me.
3. No one asks me to be the designated driver; nor do they frown when I have a second glass of wine.
4. I received a perpetual handicap parking placard, which I try to use thoughtfully. There are certainly other people do need it more than I do, but it is great during a thunderstorm.
5. I have met some incredible people in the medical community: former strangers who impacted my life ways they cannot imagine. They kept me alive and keep me living – which are two very different states of being.
6. I appreciate my family more than ever– they have infinite patience and an amazing abundance of loving support, support I never knew I’d require before my “Big Bang”.
Sometimes catastrophe rips bonds asunder. Sometimes it acts as emotional super glue.
Occasionally, friends and their children tumble into my deadzone. I only figure this out when it’s too late.
Should we be mid-conversation and a dullness glaze my eyes and my mouth cease its blather, please know I still care about you and our chitchat, but have momentarily darted into my brain cavity to operate the mega-watt searchlight, peering into the dark moldy folds of my mind in search of your name.
I expect silence and the vacancy you encounter in my visage will signal my distress.
You can throw me a lifeline here. It usually just takes a little hint. Like pointing to yourself and saying, “Elizabeth.”
Before your feelings get hurt, remember I am the person who sometimes can’t recall whether I have running water at my house.
And that hole in my head sucks up an amazing a number of random things, glasses, multiplication tables, appointments, past pain, and the day of the week.
I swim in muddy water.
4 1/2 years post stroke, some friends and I were discussing floorplans, we had just toured a home where the front door opened directly into the living room.
In the car, Julie said, “I think a house needs a foyer or entryway of some sort.” I thought about what she’d said and agreed, then experienced the strangest most unsettling moment of complete blankness.
I scratched my embarrassingly empty head, “Does my house have one?”
My buddies giggled.
I asked “How do you get there from my kitchen?” Giggles became nervous titters.
The fleeting image of a large piece of furniture slid through my mind.
I remained blank, blank blank, while Jayne patiently described walking from my kitchen though the dining area to reach my entryway.
I groaned. It took what seemed a very long time to conjure an image of my entryway in my mind. My friends sat uncomfortably silent in the car as I searched the empty hole in my head.
It wasn’t until I walked into my front door that I actually remembered the entryway in my house.
” Oh yeah.”
Of all the impairments brought on by my stroke: dead arm, distorted sense of time, cramped foot and leg and sorry math skills.
Fatigue is the most challenging. Even though I schedule a ritual nap everyday, I have difficulty falling asleep.
I can be staggering with exhaustion but the incessant hamster wheel in my head whirls with centrifugal force.
I’ve worked out ways to compensate for most of my host stroke debilitations. But I can’t figure out how to compensate for zero energy.
I hold things with my feet or knees or whatever wedge I can find; I have a 3 foot wide clock on my living room wall; I walk with a hiking stick on rough on the services; I use the calculator on my phone to check all my mental ciphers.
I took sleeping medication for a long time. But a good eight- hour sleep only lasts until about 2:00 PM when I usually run completely out of juice.
Despite my dragging body and clouded mind, sleep is evasive. I lie there on my comfy bed in my quiet room willing myself to rest. That is about the time every single project or future project I have ever considered begins tapping on my mind’s shoulder. A fretful mind does not rest. This may sound like worrying, but I really don’t worry, I wish. Sometimes my desire for increased independence immobilizes me. Without rest there is limited energy for progress.
I guess the most independent part of me is the hamster in my head. She does whatever. She wants. She wants to run the wheel. Like the Energizer bunny she is unstoppable.
This issue is exponentially worse when I am working on a novel or other piece of writing because then all the fictional characters bring their own hamster wheels and set them up crowding the original hamster. They all race along suggesting plot twists and snappy dialogue to the point that I am more exhausted after a “nap” than before.
Something must be done to get me to the point illustrated below: