The Return

I finally got my clearance to return to work next week.  To say that I’m overjoyed is an understatement.  Generally, several people would exult to have weeks or months away from work, however this is a different situation.  I wasn’t laying back sipping my tea and painting my nails. Ok, maybe I did paint my nails, but I have been sitting around going stir crazy wanting to feel normal since my memory came back. I wanted to fit back into my group and contribute. So, getting clearance is a big deal for me. 

Since we are working from home, I ordered a desk to roll up to the sofa for good position and got an extra screen, as my new COVID19 office. I carefully constructed my desk without instructions (again), and successfully completed my task, marveling from afar. 

I haven’t rushed into becoming normal, let’s not forget that. I’ve had several weeks where I laid on the sofa or hospital in my pajamas, miserable, medicated and not knowing if I would wake up the next day.  I had to take baby steps to get to this position. It started off by taking daily showers, then picking out clothes to wear each day. I purposely take pictures of myself to hold myself accountable (and document hair growth).  Then I started blogging to get my typing skills back. I will tell you, the first time I touched a keyboard, it was like I was learning how to type all over again.  My skills began to build.  Then I started to straighten my house up daily to make it comfortable. All these small steps helped me build a sense of normalcy.

Reading stories was initially difficult for me because it was too much to wrap my head around and caused headaches. I could only handle reading short Facebook stories that took about a minute to read. As time went on, I started to expand my reading material to the point where it wasn’t nauseating. 

I built my concentration levels by doing simple word search puzzles, and each time I mastered it, I would move on to something more difficult.  After that passed, I tackled trivia and brain games, each time I passed, I felt my mind expanding further and further back to normal.

I began walking and building leg strength. This is still a work in progress, and I need to learn to give myself a break for not walking the distance that I want, but I’m proud that I’m trying.

Something kind of new but rather expansive is a philosophical side that emerged. Do I add that to getting back to normal list? Kind of.  Either way, it’s a nice welcome. 

My deep-thinking skills have expanded too. This is one of the gifts given to me after my stroke. I’ve become more analytical, diving into a sea of research, along with critical thinking, empathy, and so forth. 

In general, it’s a long road to get back to “normal” especially when you are limited with tools that are generally given to you, but I made the best of it. I admit, I have thrown my hands up in frustration with things that are out of my control or outcomes that are rather unpleasant and unnerving to deal with.  This is my next work in progress to learn to calm my emotions and accept that there are some things that don’t work in my favor.  It is what it is, and I must take a deep breath and say I’m alive, still learning, still recovering and still trying to navigate my life. Any roadblocks are just that, and eventually I will learn how to jump them.

For now, I will revel with all that I have accomplished and jubilate that I finally get to return to work. 

Some of this is a repeat from what’s noted above but here is some task list that help you regain and know when you are back to “normal”.

  1. Can you get out of bed and/or sofa?

  1. Can you take a shower on your own and more than once a week?

  1. Can you handle reading long articles?

  1. Can you move around the house without feeling like you are going to collapse? (only applies to those without deficits)

  1. Did you get dressed today?

  1. Can you stay awake for at least 8 hours straight?

  1. Can you concentrate?

  1. Can you keep your space organized and clean?

This isn’t a long laundry list because there is a lot more to a recovery than this checklist, but this is just a sample for me. Our stroke affected us differently and took away certain capabilities that we once had so what worked for me, might not work for you.  For me this is what I wrote for myself and once I checked them all off, I knew that I was ready.  I purposely left off emotion.  As we all know through research, emotion will be a struggle for the rest of our life. So, learning normal for emotion will be another topic of discussion. 

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