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When I Felt Like Part of Me Was Missing After My Stroke

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It was the scariest time in my life. I was being rushed from the neurologist’s office to the ER by my husband because the doctor told me I was having a stroke and a brain hemorrhage. I was in tears from the time I got there until the time I was admitted. I honestly felt like I wasn’t going to make it.

I was a patient in the ICU where I was hooked up to several different machines. I stayed there for a few days until I was stable enough to move to the step down unit before being discharged home. I had to walk with the physical therapist daily down the hall to start regaining strength in my legs. By the time I returned to my room, I was exhausted. It was then that I realized it was going to be a very long recovery.

Once I was home, the visiting nurse was scheduled to stop by every day as well as the physical therapist. On the third day of being home, the physical therapist tested my right side to see how weak it was and what I needed to work on. Based upon her evaluation, she told me I was able to go to an outpatient rehab for physical and occupational therapy. Philip had his parents take me on the days he had to work.

It seemed like an eternity to get through the rehab days because the therapist would make me stretch, do stairs, and stand on my weak leg only and catch a small weighted ball using the hand that was weak as well. Then I had to bend down to pick up cups, balance my abdomen on a yoga ball, plus other strenuous exercises. It took me a while to finish everything I was told to do. Two o’clock couldn’t come soon enough for me and I was exhausted by the time I got home.

During this time, I started to feel like something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I felt empty inside. My life consisted of not being able to drive, rehab three times a week, and doctors’ appointments. On my off days all I did was rest, do exercises, and work on improving my other deficits. Even though my husband surprised me with a digital camera and encouraged me to learn how to use it, that still didn’t fill the void I was feeling. It really got to me after a while.

I attempted to try different activities to see if that was the answer. Keeping busy with reading, watching comedy DVDs, talking to friends and listening to my favorite music didn’t cut it. It got to the point where I felt sad and useless. I couldn’t do much of anything until I got the OK from my primary care physician and neurologist to resume my usual activities. All I could think about was, “Is this the way my life’s going to be from now on?”

I kept working on building up my strength for the rest of the year. When I saw my doctors for a follow up, I got the green light to drive,  but was limited to where I lived and couldn’t go out in the winter. Dr. M. was being cautious. I had not been behind the wheel in 12 months and had to take things slowly with getting back on the main highway. While I was happy not being homebound anymore, the empty feeling continued. I felt like the old me was gone and there was just a shell of my existence.  How was I going to get it back?

After a few months of resuming a routine, I realized what I was feeling after all of this time — lost. While being around friends who worked full time and had children, I was envious of them periodically. They had careers and were raising a family. It was my dream in high school to have that as well, but I had to face a new reality. My life as I knew it would never be the same again.

It would be several years before I finally found myself again.  I took a journey of self-discovery beforehand, and realized that as we get older, we are still learning. Whether it is dealing with unforeseen circumstances or a health crisis, there are two choices. To take responsibility and work at achieving a resolution or to wander aimlessly by giving up and losing faith in ourselves.

Getty image by Kaipong.

Originally published: February 14, 2019
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