Are You a Survivor or a Striver?

In my post-stroke stage, I have asked myself, are you a survivor or a striver? It occurred to me, why can’t I be both.

In The Beginning… Being a Survivor

In the beginning of my rehabilitation, I began everyday with brain fog. I politely refer to brain fog as cloudiness that scatters a little at a time. This feeling is something I did not experience before my stroke. It has to be one of those post-stroke symptoms that as my brain heals it will slowly resolve on its own. Even after fifteen months of post-stroke the cloudiness returns once or twice a week. I am learning to accept this cloudiness like the scattered clouds in the sky. Whatever the day offers, I accept the cloudiness like I accept the cumulus (cu-mu-lus), stratus (stru-tus) or cirrus (cear-rus) clouds on some days. Then there are days I do not feel the cloudiness but sunshine all day long.

As a stroke survivor, to get through the day, I have learned to treat my body and mind differently. For example, if I go out one day of the week to the Stroke Comeback Center or go groceries shopping, I must rest the following day. I find that when I am obedient and relax the following day, I can avoid anxiety attacks. After getting a day of rest, the relaxation builds up my mental and physical stamina so I can go on an outing the following day. It is my hope as my stroke ages, one day of outing can turn into two days in a row of outings, rest a day, go out three days in a row of outings, and rest a day, etc.

A neurologist will tell you each person’s stroke is different and that we have different occurrences from our stroke. I am not sure what other stroke survivors feel, but I welcome you to give me a high-five if you have felt or feel similar post-stroke events. It’s okay for me to share an experience or feeling that I did not have before my stroke. The Stroke Comeback Center has welcomed me to gently and patiently share my feelings without shame, disapproval, or dishonor.

As the Stroke Comeback allows me to come to the Center each week to lay down my post-stroke burdens, I have learned to accept they are softly encouraging me to articulate what I are feeling, and share the great ups and downs of my last week.

The Middle….Being a Striver

Thinking back over the last year I find I am also a striver, constantly seeking the beginning of the day and what that new day will bring. I try to dare not journey into the next day, leave the next day to come with a different adventure.

Prior to my stroke, the majority of my day was high strung. I was very anxious about laying out today’s life plans, along with the next day and the next day’s plans.

My stroke is teaching me how to take one day at a time. Whatever I did not accomplish on the current day put it to bed. You know as they say, we worry about over ninety percent of things we later find out the worry was not necessary. Have faith to know your Higher Power will take care of the issue or allow it to resolve itself.

During my Stroke Comeback writings, I sometimes feel embarrassed when I cannot remember how to spell a word or think of the word that so easily spilled out into my pre-stroke vocabulary. I regroup and think about anything I consider bad that happened in my life, if I look deep enough, I can take that bad thing that happened and find something spectacular to share with the world. In my case, my stroke has lifted a veil that was over me. While I was previously hesitant about writing the things I was thinking; of course, as long as the writings were not harmful to others, now I can write whatever I was quietly thinking, free from the “ties that bind me”. This is part of my healing process.

The Ending… Being a Survivor and Striver

Now there are days I do not want to get out of the bed and I want to crawl into a fetal position on that day. But the happy post-stroke part of me graciously says, okay Nicole “rise up and shine”. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Lay back and take a mental health day, read a book. Look at the leaves dancing on the trees. Listen to the birds singing their beautiful songs just for you.

After all of the years I have tumbled through life, my post-stroke stage sometimes gives me peace beyond all measures, “peace in the mist of the storms”.

The End

Striver – seeker, quester, finder, purser

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