“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
While at one time I only needed you to be cute, have a reasonable amount of knowledge about punk music, know how to skateboard, and have cool hair…… As Bob Dylan sings(not punk) “The times they are -a- changin.” These days I actually care about things like integrity, employment, your moral compass, and our shared future prospects. If you don’t know already(or yet) I had a stroke, and besides time changing things, so does almost dying. I’ve always put in a vast amount of effort to reach my goals and stroke recovery has been no different. Except(I lied) one thing has. Besides undergoing an arduous amounts of therapy, I’ve mirrored my physical development with meaningful growth of my soul. Neither has been easily achieved. Therefore, I’m not willing to put the priceless fruits of my labor(or my heart) into just anyones hands. So, I need you to step up. Reject me if you will over the effects the stroke has had on my life(this has already happened) but you’d be making an egregious mistake. This is in no way because I think I’m better than other people. It’s because I know my value. Although, much of it was robbed from me upon waking up in a hospital, the years have added it back and then some. Perhaps it’s age, time, or snobbery, I know it is wisdom! Far too many people(me too) undervalue themselves. We look into the mirror of society, and a distorted image stares back at us. The truth is, we are powerful, beautiful, and strong beings capable of ever expanding knowledge. Nothing is fixed, something I once wished wasn’t true, but am now grateful for it. Change means we can grow, progress can be made, and it makes Life precious. Mine, yours, everyones. The bottom line is, if you can be half as wonderful as my beloved dog Goose, I think we’ll be fine.
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” – Gerard Way.
I’ve been asked on many occasions, how I’ve dealt with a landslide of changes and perceived lossesyet continued to move forward. That’s just it, perception. All of the things that were uncontrollable for me, could happen to anyone, but then again most people don’t have massive strokes in their twenties. As rare as such an event is(thankfully) it’s just as rare to survive it. Besides the initial question of how such a thing could happen, the question became what to do when it does. I have beenattempting to answer that question for the last five years. At firstit was just a matter of survival. While I don’t recall my time inintensive care my family certainly does. They and the medical team were fighting for me at the time. However, now that I’m able it’s my turn to enlist in the battle for myself. As I have steadily made physical and cognitive gains, many people are impressed. However, what they don’t fully realize is that anyone can achieve what I have, including them. There’s a formula.Once I became more fullyaware of what had happened to me I became deeply depressed. Except at some point I knew that I couldn’t let that depression be a road block in my recovery. After all, I was in the fight of my life! When push came to shove, I wasn’t going to let the stroke continue to push me down. Certainly it did while I was still in the hospital. But now,I felt an obligation to getting my life back.It’s funny that after you’ve been railroaded, a great determination is built up in you as a result. I simply usedthis determination to kick some proverbial butt. Along the way I have set some lofty goals for myself. Even if I fail, I will have failedabove other people because I’ve set the bar so high. In the last 1,825 days following my stroke I’ve met and had the pleasure of working with some of the most amazing individuals. Besides, the stroke really showing me what I’m made of, it has unveiled a different side of life. The side we often don’t notice and the places we oft ignore. It is in these places I have found beauty, love, friendship, and thankfulness. A lot of the formula boils down to gratitude and acceptance.
You’ve always had the power dear, you just had to learn it for yourself,”-Glinda the Good Witch.
This post will not be as long as my journey after stroke. Much like Dorothy’s house was picked up in a storm, my life too was hauled off. Except, it was by a stroke rather then a fictional tornado.
In surviving the fall from the sky, I seemingly eradicated the grim reaper much like Dorothy’s witch. In my travels since emerging from the wreckage, I too have been periodically tormented by fear. While fear is not easily destroyed by a bucket of water as in the film, it can be destroyed by dousing it with its opposite.The substance of love, hope, kindness, and healthy support.You must ignore that nagging voice in your head that insists everything will go wrong, you won’t be able to achieve your goal, and life is just happening to you. That’s a funny thing because you have the ability to exercise your will and build the road that you desire. The fear you encounter while working away on your goal can be diffused by declaring the opposite of what it’s trying to convince you of.In fact as you follow this path treating yourself with love, and receivingit from others, you’ll stumble across some breakthroughs. Not only will you experience breakthroughs, but you will also meet people to help you of an excellent caliber. People who possess hearts full of love, have infinite patience, and a true desire to help. You won’t meet these people while following the path of least resistance. As it turns out after surviving the equivalent of a thousand foot fall from the sky, you can learn to walk again(literally) just as a bird with a mended broken wing will eventually spread its wings and fly. Life doesn’t happen while you stand back and watch but when you press into it, even if it pushes back. Most of my success has happened when I dove into something head first. If you’re afraid then do it afraid! You’ll be surprised by just how much your capable of. However, if you let the fear lay a brick wall in front of you rather then a road you’ll never know. So as the song goes…. “Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road, follow, follow, follow, follow…. And I’m pretty sure there are no lyricsconcerningcoming to a halt.
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie.
As seen through the lens of a near death experience, you have no real problems. Paralysis? That’s a problem. Being stuck in a wheelchair for awhile(permanently for some) that’s a problem. These are just a couple of the problems I had after the stroke, and although the wheelchair is a thing of the past(see here) I still have many mountains to climb as I move forward in my recovery. Most of these mountains are things people take for granted. Like, gainful employment, driving, and generally living an independent lifestyle. If anything, that was my modus operandi before the stroke. I’ve always been and am fiercely independent and some would say stubborn. However, like everyone else I took my independent existence for granted. Imagine losing your lucrative job, nice NY apartment, a significant other, and waking up incapacitated in a hospital in one fell swoop? That is the reality(or more like un-reality) I woke up to in 2013.Many miles away from where I had built my home. As I grappled with my daunting circumstance, I often asked my distraught Parents to take me back to my apartment in NewYork. However, that was not to happen because I didn’t yet fully comprehend whathad happened to me. Fast forward to 2018… Today, I stand here having completed years of therapy and hitting some pretty big milestones. After climbing all those mountains, taking things for granted has generally been beaten out of me. In light of what could(and what did) happen, I have no problems. I had money in the bank, great health, and love before the stroke.Yet I still have them after! Although, maybe not in the capacity that I would like. Regardless I have them. Thus, I am working awaylike a little construction worker rebuilding my lifeafter pouring the foundation of regaining basic skills. I have had to get back to eating solid foods, re-learn how to walk and work on social skills in order to function normally again. Although, it’s still a work in progress, aren’t we all? I figure, as long as you’re still alive you have a reason and a purpose to be here. Therefore march on brave soldiers!
“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
-Frank A Clark.
There is a line that runs across the globe of my life, and you can’t see it. It’sthe day of October 12th, 2012, a space in time that has forever separated my life into a “before, and after.” Well, the before and after the massive stroke that is. Everything gets compared to and measured against this timeline continually. The closer I can get to the before measurement, the better. I used to think that my life was the most valid on the before side of this line. However, as things improve the after side isn’t looking as doomed. If you’re a psychology buff as I am, you will know that we often misremember our past aswell as our futures. This has been proven by numerous studies. In my search to nullify my own psychic pain from all the struggles of recovery I have discovered this fact, as well as the factthat 85% of our worries do not come true (read here).Combined, these two mental objects set in the landscape of time have helpedthe “after,” side of the equatorbecome as sunny as South Florida. The blindfold blocking your mind from this view is that we often believe our futures will be like our present. We can let bad circumstances settle upon us and bury us, or choose to be enlightenedby them like a flint being struck against stone. When push comes to shove, those bad circumstances have to go!Your life is as valid as you choose to view it. Surprisingly, all those traits that doctors worried the stroke would take away have survived. I’ve just had to work very hard to uncover them. The point being, that no matter what the tragedy, few things can take away your spirit.My personality has not been lost(or re-shaped) by the seven blood clots that threatened to make me brain dead. Rather, the human spirit proves to persevere.
We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” -Orson Welles.
With an over two month inpatient hospital stay and constant therapy or doctor appointments upon discharge, my social life was dead on arrival. Not to mention I was practically on house arrest, not being able to drive anywhere. This just added to the great sadness that plagued me; a culmination of living upside down in a world that was not of my choosing. This “new world,”lacked the independence I had once known prior to the stroke,possessed no social life, andhad way too much parental supervision for my liking.I often found myself alone making up things to keep busy and to keep sane. Luckily,growing up as an only child provided sufficient training for such circumstances.Living ina constantly moving world and being so unusually busy myself, friends were a rare sight. However, despite all of the hurdles there are those wonderful souls who have stepped forward and really offered their time and support. These humans are what I like to call rare birds, that stand out in an overwhelming flock of conformity and status quo. They are colorful when things are dull, different when things are uniform, and most of allcompassionate. I’m happy thatalonglife’s rocky roadI picked up these hitchhikers and can call them my friends.
Whats more, thesepassengers I haveprocured aren’t the type to bail out as soon as the car breaks down. Instead of looking for another ride, they patiently wait and help me while I try to fixmine. For years now it is on these little pebblesof good moments that haveadded up to create a roadI am ableto move forward on.It’s not onlygood company, but it serves as therapy too!It has improved my soul, AND aided in the recovery of my brain. Therefore, these rare birdsare certainly more then just flights of fancy. They also serve as part time therapists and free of charge no less! You can’t beat that. Itis often that when life beats you downthatthese birds will rise up to meet and surprise you with their goodness. Because, it is when you find yourself in the dark that you need to be reminded of the light. This was(and is) especially true in my case and perhaps yours too. It seems the things we need most will find us when we least expect it.
“There are no pleasures in a fight but some of my fights have been a pleasure to win.” -Muhammad Ali.
Sometimes, the greatest pleasure of your day is a cup of coffee in the morning.In coping with life after a near death I havein no way minimized my expectations or goals, but I have simplified what brings me happiness or fulfillment. When your life gets put on pause(or seemingly rewind) during a recovery from something like a stroke, jumping in the car to go and do what you please becomes impossible ornon optional. Often, I amstuck at home, in therapy,on errands, or in a doctors waiting room. When one’s freedom is seriously compromised, you begin to find it in other places. Many of these places werejust passing moments before the stroke, but now they have taken center stage. The little things became my main thoroughfare.For example, the promise of a good breakfast was all that could rouse me from my bed on many days.An eventpreviously so inconsequential, was now a reason to get up. I began to structure my life around thegoal of getting better, rather than work.My new career wasto be a reconstructive surgeon on the body ofmy own life. Suddenly, Ilegitimatelyyearned to fight the hectic city traffic again!A two hour commute home after an eight hour day, was a dream compared to what I faced during the early days of recovery. How little we realize what a gift our lives are when everything is going to plan. In order to feel just as productive and accomplished as I was previous to the stroke, I shifted the types of things I wanted to accomplish. Now completing a list of chores became fulfilling. Not to mention it’sbeneficial therapy! Folding hordes of towels with one arm works on a myriad of physical skills. Many that will naturally benefit me, all in the process of doing a mundane chore. Never underestimate the value ofcrossing things off a to-do list, no matter how simple it seems. Making up daily work for myself has saved my sanity, contributed to further recovery, and given me a sense of accomplishment. Once I realized that many mundane taskspropelled progress,they became par for the course. We don’t always need to do show stopping things in order to feel good or create value.It is what happens behind the scenes that creates a stellar show. The world normally sees the finished product without witnessing the intense work that it took to get there. It is for this reasonyou shouldn’t quitputting in the work.Because the work you put in will amount to what kind of life you experience.