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When People Try to Limit My Choices After My Stroke


As a young child, one of my main goals in life was to eat a whole Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie. My mom always just gave me part of one or gave the other half to my sister. I swore when I got big I would get a whole box of oatmeal cream pies and devour them. (I didn’t understand why my mom was limiting me ’til many pounds later.) But isn’t that what we all do: dream for the day when we can make our own decisions, decide what’s best for us and our families? What we often don’t realize is the responsibility that comes with it.

Still, remember the freedom when you drove on your own for the first time, got your first credit card, your own money? How free it felt to be able to make the decision of where you wanted to go, with whom, and spending your money on what you wanted? Then came more responsibility, perhaps marriage and kids. Some readjusting needed to be made, but you made it. The responsibility and choices were yours.

Then bam came my stroke at 33. Decisions were taken away from me.  “You can’t eat.” “You can’t drink.” Someone would decide when I could pee and shower. I felt like a kid when I walked, someone always hanging to the gait belt like I was a dog on a leash. I didn’t know where my kids were, who they were with and what they were doing.  All that freedom was stripped away.

Then when I got home, I had to have a babysitter, stay inside all day and not go anywhere. I was following a schedule of medication and someone else. Others cooked, cleaned my house, dressed my kids, paid my bills…

Am I upset about all those who helped me? No. All of this was done with no ill intent by any party. But not being allowed to make your own daily decisions is rough. Even now, years after my stroke, people are still trying to tell me what to do. Are you budgeting? Where’s all your money going? Where are you driving to? You’re not allowed to drive at night. You can’t drive that far. Don’t go outside alone, you may fall.

Yes I may fall, and I have fallen flat on my face, but it was my choice to go outside. Am I the best budgeter? No. I buy those shoes for my kids and get that pretty dress I want — that’s my choice. If I get into trouble, I’ll ask for help. If I fall, I cry out for someone. I’m human. I’m going to make the wrong decisions sometimes. But you know what? At least I made them on my own.

If I want advice, I’ll ask. Otherwise, stop telling me what to do.

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Thinkstock image by Sylverarts.