Posts Tagged ‘stroke’
“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 losses yet 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 been attempting to answer that question for the last five years. At first it was just a matter of survival. While I don’t recall my time in intensive 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 fully aware 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 used this determination to kick some proverbial butt. Along the way I have set some lofty goals for myself. Even if I fail, I will have failed above 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 receiving it 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 lyrics concerning coming to a halt.
“First, I have to thank God for giving me the gift that he did as well as a second chance for a better life.” –unknown.
I’m only 33, but I’ve lived two lifetimes. Currently I’m on my second. In the first one I was a fiercely independent twenty something living in New York City, keeping busy, and working in a promising professional career. It was the beginning of my “adult,” existence. Living in a tiny room that I rented in a nice apartment in the best city in the world. I had a 401k under my belt, and nothing but big plans for the future in front of me. But of course, as they say “ Life happens while your busy making other plans.” And in my case, that saying proved to be true. Because I unexpectedly had a massive stroke and all those big plans suddenly fell through. In my second life I’m now a fiercely independent thirty something. Living in a pretty house in the woods, trying to figure things out, and life this time around has a lot less noise in it. However, despite my first go around I’m still making plans but they’re in a different vein. Rather then building on top of what I already have, I’m in the process of rebuilding. I used to despair over the loss of my former plans, but slowly I have begun to realize that in the new plans I can do anything. It’s similar to the joy I felt in moving to a new neighborhood where nobody knew who I was. I could go to the grocery store under dressed and not run into a soul I knew. The freedom of that was rather nice. Except, this time around that new neighborhood is practically the whole world. After the stroke I was thrust into a new plane of existence. I had a past but it did not define me, in fact I could choose to omit the parts of my past I did not favor. After the stroke it was as if most people were meeting me for the first time. There were no expectations or preconceived notions. I could tell them what I wanted and in being able to choose the past I liked, that eventually also meant I could choose whatever future I wanted as well. The massive stroke cleared the game board of my life so I was now free to set it up again how I liked. This by no means has been easy. In fact it’s the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I am just now beginning to see the freedom in what I previously thought was a death sentence. My future is still bright, and this one single event does not hold true for every area of my life. Because, although life is short there is still plenty you can do with it. Therefore, aim to live yours to the fullest.
Life is a gift, savor the unwrapping of it!
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”
― John Lennon.
Do you know what a mandala is? It’s an intricate design made with colored sand created by Tibetan Monks. Each one holds a different meaning and at the end of a certain period of time, the monk who created it(taking hours and days) destroys it. Why?(here)What is the lesson we can draw from it? It is one of the impermanence of our existence. Although short, it’s important to make something as beautiful as you can before it is wiped away. This speaks to the temporal state of life and is wholly encouraging. Because, since things are generally temporary, this also means there is no way you can be stuck in bad circumstances forever. In fact, it is assuring to know that there is an end. One can draw an admirable parallel, that despite these monks knowing their creation will eventually be destroyed, they painstakingly create it anyway. As easy as it would be to make one in a hurry or be lazy about it, they choose to break their backs(and maybe cross their eyes) over the intricate design of a mandala. These humans don’t simply give up or become laissez-faire about it but rather, the opposite! No endeavor is neglected in spite of its impermanence. In the midst of struggle this creation and symbolic destruction of a mandala brings hope. It points to focusing on the positive, creating something beautiful while you can, and the eventual end to a bad situation. In that vein I’d encourage you to “ Make something beautiful while your here, because it’s temporary.” Use the bright colors that dwell in your heart to make a beautiful pattern with your life.
don’t forget to add color!
“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’s the 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 as well 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 fact that 85% of our worries do not come true (read here).Combined, these two mental objects set in the landscape of time have helped the “after,” side of the equator become 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 enlightened by 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.
“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”- William Butler Yeats.
This is a short post about a subject that is far reaching into our personal stories.The invisible lines that intersect our lives and bring us together with various strangers has always fascinated me.
To think, there was a time when you didn’t know that your best friend or significant other even existed. What was going on in their lives before you met? More importantly, why did you meet? Because, as we all know, each person that comes across your life via an invisible thread has an impact. Each impact, whether good or bad slowly molds you into what you are at this moment in time. It’s as if you’re a planet turning through space that gets struck by various comets, leaving indents upon you at various depths. While some marks are shallow, others are deep. As we take stock of these interactions, often we focus on the negative ones the most. However, there are as easily more positive interactions than negative, if we only shifted our perspectives. Why not resolve to build someone up that you come across rather than tear them down? After all, it is the highest skyscraper in the city that stands out the most. Be the architect of that monumental steel giant that withstands time in the city of your life and others.
leave a positive impact!
“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” -Eckhart Tolle.
The last thing I remembered was struggling to get up off a floor that I had just fallen down to. Eventually exhausted, I drifted off into an unconscious state. This is how I was found, only later did I feel very lost. The next instance that I was conscious for, was waking up in a hospital bed about 650 miles away from the NewYork hotel bathroom floor I had fallen on. I was in a rehabilitation center after having had a massive stroke at 28 years old. Suddenly, I was thrust into a deep darkness that I felt there was no escape from. How do I get back to NYC and when!? This is all I asked my Parents about. Well, I’m still in recovery but my mind and my outlook of the future are not so bad anymore. In fact, there has been tremendous recovery because I got my mind and emotions onto a better train track. So, how do you divert your path after near imminent disaster? First of all give it time, nothing worth having(or achieving) happens instantaneously. Secondly, welcome as much positivity into your life as possible. Once you have taken time, and ingested a heavy dose of positivity you can begin steps to clean up the mess after the storm. Also, be on the lookout for any signs of progress however small. This will fuel you onto your bigger goals. Because, long term goals are made up of many short term goals. Give yourself grace, not everything will be perfect, moving forward not backwards is key. Not to mention, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Recovery from any disaster is a process. Finally, work SMART, and ask yourself if your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time measured. All these things will help you rebuild your life after you’ve suffered a setback, whatever it may be.
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, and had 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 in a 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 all compassionate. I’m happy that along life’s rocky road I picked up these hitchhikers and can call them my friends.
Whats more, these passengers I have procured 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 fix mine. For years now it is on these little pebbles of good moments that have added up to create a road I am able to move forward on. It’s not only good company, but it serves as therapy too! It has improved my soul, AND aided in the recovery of my brain. Therefore, these rare birds are 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. It is often that when life beats you down that these 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 have in 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 or non optional. Often, I am stuck 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 were just 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 event previously so inconsequential, was now a reason to get up. I began to structure my life around the goal of getting better, rather than work. My new career was to be a reconstructive surgeon on the body of my own life. Suddenly, I legitimately yearned 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’s beneficial 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 of crossing 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 tasks propelled 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 reason you shouldn’t quit putting in the work. Because the work you put in will amount to what kind of life you experience.
Never give up!
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