Post-Stroke Blues

To be candid, mornings are a struggle for me. I feel stumped why this occurs, and at the end of the day I painfully dissect what occurred to seek a common denominator. Sometimes I can figure it out and sometimes I cannot. I will give examples of my struggle, but first I want to say that this is normal, and it won’t be an everyday occurrence. Do not feel discouraged because this is life, and as much as we wish, life is not wrapped in a beautiful package.

Around August 2020, I began to feel a sense of dread when the alarm went off. I would curl up in my blankets not willing to get out of bed. I did everything in my power to convince myself to stay put. Yet, I found my willpower to get out of bed, shower, and login for work. As a frame of reference, before my stroke, I knew what my days would be like, and I was prepared. It was busy, crazy and at times frustrating. Yet, I thrived on all those qualifiers. Enter stroke and I still thrive on those qualifiers, but I do not know what my emotion will be day-to-day and how much it will drain me. So, jumping back to August and I suddenly fell into a funk and could not bring myself to feel joy. I wanted to cry, give up, scream, or become solitary. I was so angry with myself because I had several weeks of jubilation. This onset feeling began to build and build until I could not see over the wall. Something had to give. By September, I was numb yet I put a smile on my face so people would not think I was unstable. If someone asked me how I was feeling, I would be honest nor conceal my emotions. To look at me, you would see a grin even though there was sadness behind my eyes. It dawned on me that I haven’t fully processed my trauma from early 2020, with two surgeries. Additionally, rewinding all the moments of hard work I put in to get improve memory, calm my PTSD and find determination to return to work by April. To give some context, the type of stroke, ruptured aneurysm and hydrocephalus that I experienced requires a long recovery time. My long-term disability kicked in and I couldn’t afford to recovery any longer and so I made a choice to get back to work. To be honest, I was happy working again to keep my mind focused on something other than my stroke or COVID news conferences. The honeymoon period didn’t last long because my mental health took a turn because trauma never ends.

Thankfully as I hit rock bottom, I traveled to Arizona with my husband in October to experience pure joy and refresh. The change of scenery, the warmth, being with friends, and trying new restaurants, discovery a state I have never been to is something my soul required for a reset. When we returned, I felt back to myself.

Fast forward to the present and the feeling of impending dread began to blare. I planted the seed of self-doubt with self-worth, I’m I on the right path, or doing things right. To mitigate some of my depression, being socially interactive in-person was necessary. I began to get out of the house more with my husband to have brunch with friends and dinner dates. These were temporary Band-Aids for my depression. Soon I found myself crying around 1 am because I was unable to fall asleep. Night thoughts can be good or bad because you have zero distractions and only room to think. I would begin to exercise because I learned that it boosts my mood. It helped, but again, I would fall down the rabbit hole of melancholia. Next it snowballed into work. I felt like I was not progressing, but the reality is- I was. I felt this weird feeling that I was not viewed as valuable, and it began to seep through the cracks that people were noticing. Even with assurances, I still didn’t feel worthy because that’s what depression does- it lies to you.

Thankfully, during my lowest point, we booked a trip back to Arizona. I needed this more than ever because my normal joking side was slowly washing away. As soon as we landed, I felt all the weight was lifted off my shoulder. I instantly felt relaxed, happy and back to myself. My favorite part of the trip was walking up Superstition Mountain. This was a big accomplishment for me because early summer of 2020, I had a hard time balancing. Now I was going up the trail with my balance intact. I felt so relaxed and for once in a decade, I didn’t need my sleep medication to help me sleep. I will admit the sun drained me, but I will take feeling relaxed as the reason. When time was up and we arrived at the airport I was sad when we arrived because I knew that when I got home, I would be stepping right back into the same funk that I left.

So, I return to work and things are going smooth and I felt that I had more clarity with my reset. Then I had on/off days of feeling great about my day and then days where I felt sad. Again, this is depression lying to me about all the things that are wrong with me. Believing the lies meant my depression was grabbing me tightly.

Recently, I did a video blog about depression and the importance of tracking your days as a reference to understand your triggers, how long it lasted, was there tools utilized to snap out of it. Well, I haven’t started yet and after this week, I am going use my new journal to track everything. The purpose is to understand what your reality is. More than likely, I will discover that I have more good days than bad. Yet those bad days somehow erase all memory of good days. Journaling also keeps me accountable for my feelings and to act instead of letting if fester to the point of no return- even though there is a return. I know that sounds contraditive, but it’s perception vs reality.

To conclude, this week has been especially hard on my soul. I have found myself crying non-stop at night. It’s hard to sleep because the nightmares are becoming more sinister. I’m running on empty. My message, even though this piece is very dark, is that I’m admitting my feelings. I don’t want anyone to feel guilty or alone when they hit these hard stretches. It can be a month, a week, a day, an hour or minutes. Either way it hurts the same. The silver lining is that these emotions do not fully identify you, nor tell your full story- it's part of healing. The more you feel, in my opinion, the more you are recognizing your emotions. Depression and anxiety are hard for someone without trauma, so it’s exacerbated for someone who has gone through any type of trauma.

We were given a second chance at life so while these obstacles make it feel like it’s not worth it- it is. Feel those emotions, learn from them, and become empowered. This doesn’t disappear overnight, it will cycle, but I guarantee that as you increase self-accountability and receive help; each cycle will get better. You are not alone and always remembering your worth. As cheesy as it might sound, we have one life on this planet and there is so much to do and see. Keep your eye forward on that goal to get as much out of life as you can.

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