Post-Stroke: Transformed by Picking Up the Pieces

I came across a quote recently that eloquently embodies me, “You don’t know this new me; I put the pieces back differently”.  I think this describes all of us, right? We have all been through hell and had to reshape our lives by putting back the pieces.  This time the model is different. 

I was born strong willed. I grew up outspoken, sometimes difficult, always thought I was correct, stood by my convictions, fought for what I believed in, loyal to a fault, and worked hard. This groomed me into a powerful woman. Did it rub people the wrong way- perhaps? I remember during my years at school I got in trouble numerous times because I stood my ground. I argued with all my teachers in high school government, debate, and political classes and in college. I aspired to become a lawyer or get into the political field. Neither one worked out. Instead I stumbled into the medical field. Not a nurse, like my mom, which she hoped that I would aspire in her footsteps. As much as I wish I could, I was deficient with round the clock compassion. So, my mom recommended the ER because it’s fast paced. Still, I couldn’t conceptualize nursing school. Instead I shifted over to the business side of the medical field, which transcended toward technology in the medical field with a large corporation. 

Pre-stroke, the trajectory of my life, career, etc. was best described as gratified and contended. Wham, my stroke happened, and everything came crumbling down. However, my attitude didn’t waiver. My strong-willed personality pulled me out of hell. My compassion level shifted to an all-encompassing love and not selective because I found a new appreciation for nurses and the medical team. Yet, my life as I knew it shattered into a million pieces. 

Recovering enforced a responsibility to slowly pick up those pieces. Every time I picked up a couple, they didn’t seem to fit right. Something wasn’t sitting right with me. I needed some self-reflection during my recovery of who I am and what I aspire to be. Centrally, I don’t view life as a one-way street. You can take detours and go in several different directions. This central notion weighed heavily on me. What is the right detour to arrange my broken pieces together? I began writing all the things that make me happy, not happy, room for improvement and growth. I also reflected on the people in my life and weeded through the ones that showed me compassion and the ones that were flippant. I understand that it’s not healthy to hold grudges, therefore I won’t but I will never forget. I embrace the mentality to rise above and show those people compassion even though they didn’t care whether I made it or not. Eventually, with healing, I won’t give a second thought with the wrongful attitude I witnessed and sadly continue to be subject to, but right now it’s still raw. 

I forged on and examined the pieces that came together easy - my home life, husband, friends and family. Nothing needed to change. The other moving parts I needed to figure out, am I happy with what I’m doing, is there more that I can do, am I valued, how long will this recovery take, when will things get back to normal? Truth be told, it’s hard to answer any of these because I’m conflicted. I love my job and co-workers and those who have shown me humaneness. I placed a plus sign next to that. Am I growing to the potential that I can? I placed a negative sign next to that. Do I feel stagnant? That’s fluctuant depending on the day but that does not expound my attitude because I work for a great company. My stroke removed a barrier suppressing ideas that I was previously disinclined to express. I have so much in my head to make things more streamlined, user friendly, stroke risks, stroke trackers. Where do I go with that? I don’t know. It’s up to me to voice my ideas and I’m frozen. This astounds me since I’m extremely outspoken, yet this is different. This is introducing something new that could potentially be useful.  What’s holding me back? I need to insert myself and show people that I’m more that what I do. I have ideas and some of these ideas are from learning what was needed during my recovery. 

Patient advocacy was the other piece that launched. My newfound compassion and conviction are a voice, an ear, and supporter. To me, this will become my legacy. Perplexing, I always questioned what my legacy will be when I leave the world. I stumbled on that several times. Will it be my humor, the ability to change a disaster to recovery? No, I found something more paramount. It took a stroke, but something wonderful came out of that. So, I got the itch and signed up for every single foundation that I could to volunteer. I started this blog to get my emotions out in hope to help others relate. I did a podcast recently to talk about my journey. Suddenly I got another itch to start my own podcast. I looked it up to see how easy it was. Looks straightforward but the editing and getting an audience is a different horse. I researched public speaking, but that’s on hold because of COVID19. I looked at lobbying. You name it, I wanted to delegate myself to everything related to stroke and brain aneurysm. I was informed by one foundation that I could volunteer via zoom meetings to help other survivors and families. It dawned on me that families of stroke survivors are often overlooked. They are learning how to live with someone that either has severe disabilities, struggling to get their life back on track, and depression.  So, I outlined a syllabus addressing both sides. Now, I previously mentioned I didn’t want to go into nursing because I didn’t feel I had that compassion bone that’s required. I want to specify that I am a compassionate person, but not at a nursing level. Suddenly, that’s shifted where I have a heavy compassion level for all these patients.  For the entirety of my life, I pledge my allegiance to patient advocacy. I don’t want to box myself with stroke victims, but anyone with medical or mental trauma. 

The next piece was to embody a laid-back personality to balance my strong one which is at a level 10. I started off laid-back after my stroke, but when I returned to my normal life, I noticed the strong personality was coming out. I materialized that these two needed to merge. Live a laid-back life and utilize my strong personality when necessary. Overall, being laid-back should be effortless, and good for the soul. 

Subsequent another piece is health. I graduated from physical therapy since I’ve made improvement. I haven’t done many of the exercises they gave me at home because after I’m done working, I’m ready for a nap. I’m not eating healthy because I’m too lazy. I ordered food from Daily Harvest, which is great source of nutrition. Yet, I got lazy to make the meals which takes five minutes max. I’ve resorted to bananas, cereal, cream of wheat and oatmeal. Not great choices.  So, I did a self-assessment and said, “Wendy, you aren’t going to be healthy unless you get this done”. So, I’m giving myself until the end of July to get extra rest and then start my workouts and research more meals that give me better nutrition. 

Lastly, self-love. I have peace in my life, I feel confident and happy with my decisions, but that inner demon with vanity still plagues me. This feels ridiculous to even complain about, but I’m being real. I’m still getting used to having short hair, but it’s finally growing out that I can style it. I get dressed up every day to feel normal. It’s still hard to look in the mirror. I look back on photos from December and see my long blonde hair. I know I’ve mentioned this in my previous blogs. Self-love is key to recovery.

Overall, I am not the same person that I was before my stroke. I have and I still am in process of piecing things together. This transformation is a different me, and not one that people are accustomed to, but I think it’s a better version of myself. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. There will be slips, but they can be easily fixed. Lesson to anyone who is struggling- when you feel like your life has shattered into a million pieces, you are the architecture of your own life and in charge of redesigning of how they come together. It’s an epic journey and worth it. 

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