‘Young Stroke Survivors’ get the inside story…

Townsville Stroke Forum - 19 October 17 with OT Head Ian MeadeIn my quest to secure a dynamic guest speaker for our 2017 Townsville Hospital Stroke Forum, the Stroke Foundation recommended Shelagh Brennan, as a perfect fit to speak to our theme of ‘Young Stroke Survivors’. I emailed an invitation to Shelagh, who is based on the Sunshine Coast and immediately received a reply…Yes!!

Shelagh’s vibrant personality provided an instant lift to the stroke forum, consisting of approximately 80 multidisciplinary health professionals, as she shared with us her story before and after stroke.

Shelagh cleverly interwove excerpts from her book ‘A stroke of Poetry’ to provide a unique personal account of how she was feeling whilst in hospital and upon returning home, overcoming physical deficits and providing the audience with insight into her emotional rollercoaster post stroke. Shelagh, through the use of humour, spoke about topics often not addressed by health professionals within the hospital environment, including the effects of depression and debilitating fatigue. Shelagh also highlighted positive adjustments she made in regard to her valued roles as a wife and mother, and enabling active engagement in hobbies and other leisure pursuits.

Post the stroke forum many audience members stated that Shelagh’s presentation was the best of the day. Many also stated that listening to Shelagh’s inspiring journey challenged how they would work with their patients in the future, as they assist stroke survivors to strive for a fulfilling and enjoyable life.
Ian Meade

Occupational Therapist

Acute Stroke Unit

The Townsville Hospital ☺


helenkeller1

My FIVE Stroke Survivor tips

Hi everyone.

I was recently invited by the Stroke Foundation, to be the guest opening presenter at a Young Stroke Survivors Positive Recovery Think Tank, held here on the Sunshine Coast, near to where I live (lucky for me not having to travel!). I love to take part in these events and get joy in sharing my story about stroke and how I recovered from my post stroke depression though poetry, exercise and positive thinking.

I was asked by the Stroke Foundation to list FIVE tips that I would share with the audience. This was not difficult to do as I live by them daily. Please let me share them with you here…

TIP NO. ONE – Awaken each day and pull on those positive pants!

original_positive-pants-good-luck-cardSometimes we awaken tired, grumpy, or with our head full of the huge list of ‘jobs’ we have to do that day. Maybe the weather outside is a little miserable, cold, and the sun isn’t shining. I have to say that sometimes I awaken like that but then I clear my mind of the negative things and work out how I will get things done with a smile on my face and not a scowl. However you decide to start the day usually means it will end like that, so pull on those positive pants and meet the day with focus and determination.

 

TIP NO. TWO – Focus on what you CAN do, not what you cannot.

can-cantAfter my stroke, over four and a half years ago now, I failed to focus on what I COULD do. I wanted my ‘old’ life back and was sad and frustrated that I could no longer do the things I once did, or that my brain would not work the same way. My personal trainer and my lovely friend Melinda taught me this tip. I know that it seems easy me sharing this with you all, but it does work! Once I stopped looking back to what I could no longer do and focus upon sharing my poetry with everyone, and using my able limbs to walk, climb and run, I soon realised there were so many things I could do. It doesn’t have to be poetry or exercise, but find something that gives you joy and focus on that. Go on..give it a go!

 

TIP NO. THREE – Be grateful

thANKFULOnce again, this sounds like a very simple tip. It actually is. Even though we may have had the worst day in our week, or feel we’ve had a terrible day for a variety of reasons, there is always something to be grateful for.  Your gratefulness could be simply for the gift of life, grateful that the sun shone and dried your washing, or that the bus arrived on time to take you to work. You may be grateful that you had movement in your limbs, that had not previously moved. Having a grateful heart makes us a better person. Go on, close your eyes and see what you are grateful for today. I bet you find something.

 

TIP NO. FOUR – Celebrate your successes, however small they may be

lets-celebrateI feel we should all celebrate our achievements and focus upon the positive and the smallest of ‘wins’ can change our mood and make us feel happy. I have a stroke friend who was recently able to tie his shoe laces. This task has taken months and we all celebrated this huge achievement with him. Can you remember when your child first walked or talked, or even tied their own laces? How excited were you for them?

Many stroke survivors have the smallest of goals to work towards so its important to celebrate these when they reach them. What’s your goal or something you have achieved recently?

 

TIP NO. FIVE – Love and live your life every single day

love_live_life_by_nikster08For those of you that follow my blogs, either on my website, on my Facebook page or on Enableme, then you will know how passionate I am about living my life to the full. Yes, I often do too much and my post stroke fatigue kicks in, but it doesn’t stop me. I love being outdoors, I love exercising by the ocean and in nature and spending time with family and friends just having fun. This year, I have added some slower, more mindfulness sessions to my life such as Tai Chi/Qi Gong and Yoga. Here on the Sunshine Coast I practice these in a beautiful environment at The Farm or with Dani. Perhaps find these slower forms of exercise that give time for just ‘you’ and share them with us.

I am not saying that you should follow these five tips, BUT they work for me and even if you haven’t had a stroke or a life changing illness, perhaps being more mindful about how you live your life isn’t such a bad thing. is it?

As always,

Stay healthy and happy.

Much love

Shelagh


Sensory overload post stroke – it’s not music to our ears!

DoesSensory overload n’t every girl (well, soon to be 54 year old woman) like to go out, have fun and PARTY?! I know I always looked forward to a great night out with the girls, a meal out with friends and in fact, any social occasion really, as many of my UK girlfriends will still tell attest to! (Keep your stories to yourselves ladies). The Beastie Boys sang….”You gotta fight for your right to party  and it would be true that since my stroke, my party days diminished almost immediately but I am happy to say that I have been fighting for my right to party ever since, and gladly, the social scene for me is once again returning…slowly…but returning. I hear you ask…‘Why does having a stroke prevent you from going out and having fun?’ Not including the fact you are recovering and somewhat fatigued, there are just TWO words that affect all stroke survivors. SENSORY OVERLOAD

Sensory overload happens when too much sensory stimulus is occurring at once — it can be triggered by a crowded room, a TV turned up too loud, strong aromas, fluorescent lighting — or a hundred other things. Many stroke survivors experience this feeling, which causes further fatigue, migraines and the general feeling of being unwell.

Do you experience this feeling? Do you worry that it will never go away? As I approach my four year ‘stroke’ anniversary, I reflect upon a poem I wrote for my book A Stroke of Poetry. I was a very sociable person pre-stroke and loved going to parties and I found the frustration of not being able to continue to do this, extremely sad and overwhelming. Please read my poem and then I will tell you how I feel now, because it does get better over time. I am happy to say that I am once again a Sunshine Coast socialite!

 

The party animal no more

I used to love to go out socialising, with friends and family.

But nowadays, the evenings are somewhat of a chore for me.

I have to rest before I go, or I’m shot by half past eight

Forget it now if you want me to drink as well as stay up late.

 

I love my food and like a drink, but not in the same vein as before

If I try you’d have to pick me up from the restaurant floor.

The noise and chatter are just too much; I just don’t stand a chance

And as for any live music, well please don’t expect me to dance.

 

When I get tired, my slurring starts, it’s not too good to hear.

Then a burning sensation starts in my face and goes from ear to ear.

It starts off in my ears, moves to my cheeks and flows to my head.

The throbbing, burning pain I feel, I just need to go to bed.

 

The brain ache, well, it then takes hold; I can’t stop it, although I try.

I just have to excuse myself right then and there before I start to cry.

My friends, they know me now so well and do not despair with me.

Our get-togethers suit my tired brain, they are as quiet as can be.

 

The places that we go, where there is little noise

They help me so immensely, and I’m grateful for choice.

A party animal, I once was, but for now I’ll take it slow.

There are plenty of quiet places to choose for me to go.

 

So the evenings, they’re spent mainly home, cuddling with my son

Now, is that such a hardship as I’m such a lucky mum?

That poem was written during my period of post stroke depression, where I desperately tried to fend off my negative feelings and heartache because I wanted to be the ‘old’ me. I didn’t like the ‘new’ me as I couldn’t go out, I hated noise, I detested crowded spaces and noisy chatter. I began to suffer migraines with any small amount of sensory overload. My friends were supportive but I really did not want them to know how bad I felt.

My husband David and son Patrick adore listening to rock music but I could not listen to any music in the house for fear of headaches. I could only meet with one person at a time as the added chatter was too overbearing for me. So, what did it do? I made excuses. Yes, I didn’t tell friends that I was unable to attend an event because of my sensory overload, but I lied to them to avoid having to explain how I felt. I was embarrassed about the fact I could not hold a simple conversation without getting a headache. I could not visit restaurants or bars because they were noisy either with music or full of people all talking at the same time.a true friend

I recall an upsetting conversation with a close friend. I had declined an invite to an important event for her and she discovered that I had lied. Her reaction was “I understand how you feel. You can tell me the truth. I am your friend.” Gladly, she is still one of my close friends but I had to tell her that she didn’t understand. Unless you have been through a stroke, the anxiety of not being able to continue as ‘normal’ and the added stresses of going out, nobody knows how you feel. However, I did learn that good friends are there to support you and help you through the tough times, if you let them in. Once I realised that, my life became easier and friends and family accommodated my needs whenever we ventured into the big wide world of socialising.

This year, I went to my first concert since my stroke and saw the amazing Adele at the Gabba in Brisbane. I took my ear plugs but I didn’t need them. Yes, it was loud, but there was little chatter between my sister Patricia and my friend Angela so I could focus and listen to the music. It was brilliant. I sang and danced and had a ball. Last Sunday, I drove with my husband David to Sirommet Wines in Brisbane and enjoyed the voices of Cyndi Lauper and Blondie. Wow! This was very loud. Eventually my ears adjusted and again, because there was only David and I and not a huge crowd of people chattering away, I could focus on the music, sing loudly, dance stupidly and thoroughly enjoy the concert.

It was halfway through the concert that I actually realised that I had no ringing in my ears, no headache and felt well. It has taken me four years to feel this way and it felt good. It does take time. be patient and you will get there. I promise.

Here are five simple tips which may help you cope with sensory overload. For further information, please visit Enableme, which is managed by the Stroke Foundation and answers any problems you may have.

 

  • Take a sensory break – you may feel overstimulated by conversation, so excuse yourself politely. If you are outside of home, visit the rest rooms or take some air outside. If at home perhaps consider a rest somewhere quiet. All my friends know of my stroke issues now so most of all….be honest. They understand your needs.
  • Find a balance – it is important that your basic needs are met so please don’t feel you have to sit at home lonely for fear of overstimulating environments. Try things in small doses. It may not work at first but keep trying.
  • Set your limits – try visiting busy places at quieter times of the day, or meet with friends at a place that has no live music. You may need to limit the duration of conversations.
  • Give yourself time to recover – it may takes hours or days to recover from an episode of over stimulation. Ensure you take needed rest and ‘alone’ time is the best option.
  • Consider coping mechanisms to deal with over stimulation – have you thought of yoga and/or meditation? I have taken up yoga this year and love it. It certainly works for me.

Please let me know how you go and if you are struggling with sensory overload. Send me a message  with any similar issues you face and perhaps some tips on how you cope.

Until the next time,

Stay healthy and happy

Shelagh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Colour Therapy banner

Colour Therapy ‘blue’ me away

When you were a child, did you ever like colouring? I remember my mum giving me lots of plain paper and a variety of colouring pencils and I could draw and colour for hours. I was taken to the hospital once when I was younger as I thought it would be a good idea to try and stick a crayon up my nose and see how far it went. It got stuck and I needed a Doctor to remove it! You think that would have put me off colouring for life, but it didn’t. 

After my stroke, almost 4 years ago, I became depressed and very anxious about where my life was heading and how I could be of use to the world. These seem such silly thoughts now, as I am exceptionally happy and have a pretty good idea where I’m going!Dont forget quote

My brain on many days was so full of anger, not being able to do what I could or wanted to do, but I found colouring cleared my brain and helped me relax enormously. The only decision I needed to make was which colouring pencil to choose. I could float away in my own little world and sit in my comfy chair and not have to interact with anyone for a while. I have always liked some uniformity and routine but since my stroke, my brain is much less organised and ‘anything goes’. It didn’t matter what colouring pencil I chose..it was the act of colouring that made everything seem OK. I am a great believer in the saying ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good.’  I believe that any form of colouring is therapy, if it makes you forget your woes.

In August 2015, I attended a book workshop, pre-publication of A Stroke of Poetry and a participant suggested that I should include some colouring pages within my book. “What a great idea,” I thought. I had previously coloured some Mandalas and enjoyed doing these but I needed to find some suitable colouring pictures which would not be too difficult for those recovering from stroke.

I researched the benefits of colour therapy, as I wanted to include colouring pictures in my book as a helpful tool, rather than being there just for show. I quickly learned that use of colour as a Therapy is a truly holistic, non-invasive and powerful therapy which dates back thousands of years. It aims to balance and enhance our body’s energy centres/chakras by using the colours of the light spectrum, which can help to stimulate our body’s own healing process. Learn more .

LovebirdsFor days, I trawled the internet and eventually discovered two lovely artists. Georgina Westley, a British Graphic Designer, had drawn a gorgeous design named ‘Lovebirds’ and I immediately knew I needed it for my book. Georgina was extremely honoured that her artwork is in my book and she wrote a very pleasing review.  Many of my book recipients have coloured the Lovebirds and here is one by my friend Tracey who commented that it kept her calm during one of her daughter’s intense tennis matches.

I also sourced some simple but effective Mandalas from the lovely Sharon Morgan, from Adelaide which were posted on her website Manifesting Mandalas. Sharon was pleased to have them in my book and knows first-hand how much colour therapy helps those with depression and anxiety. Sharon runs workshops where she helps people to draw and colour, to release their negative thoughts and help them soothe their troubled souls. In January 2016, my son Patrick was admitted to hospital with appendicitis and was quite poorly so I stressed a little during his operation. I coloured some of the Mandalas which made me calmer and helped me forget my worries, even for a short time. My colouring isn’t perfect and that doesn’t matter, if it helped me stay calm. Mandalas coloured from book

Within my book are additional pages entitled; ‘My Thoughts, poems and artwork’ which encourages the reader to write down or draw their own thoughts and feelings and hopefully take away the sadness and negative thoughts that they may be experiencing. 

Let me know your own thoughts on colour therapy. There are many adult colouring books available but if you would like to order a signed copy of A Stroke of Poetry, so you can release that ‘inner artist’ in youI will even throw in a packet of colouring pencils!

Here’s hoping that you have some colour in your week!

Shelagh

 

 

 


October

October’s Stroke Roundup

October is the month of Halloween and often regarded as ‘Pinktober’ and dedicated to raising funds and awareness for Breast Cancer. I have managed to squeeze in three breast cancer events, Patrick’s 15th birthday party, strategy meetings for marketing my books, helped organise the Vintage Calendar Girls Gala Launch and progress the Pop up Book Shop event so I have been tremendously busy. I feel this October has also been filled with book sales and Stroke awareness and maybe I should refer to it as ‘Stroketober’ for me!

Queensland Mental Health Week ran from 9-15 October and I was invited by Cecelia Scahill, a Mental Health Recovery Nurse, to present at Caboolture Hospital. Caboolture HospitalThis was a lovely morning and I had a most receptive audience and spoke about how I used poetry and exercise to get me through my post-stroke depression. The positive feedback was tremendous and here is a photo of me being presented with some lovely flowers from Cecelia.

I am always keen to tell my story, raise awareness about stroke and help others with similar health issues and a few weeks ago, I was interviewed for the October edition of Profile Magazine. You can pick up a free copy of Profile Magazine at various cafes and retail outlets on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a two page article and you can read it here.

I mentioned last month that I was involved in raising awareness about Rare Cancer, through my involvement with the Vintage Calendar Girls 2017 Calendar. The Gala Launch was well attended at Old Petrie Town on 22 October. Caroline Hutchinson, 92.7 FM was MC for the evening and celebrity Barry Hall spent the evening signing the calendars, and brought along his delightful girlfriend Lauren Brant and posed for lots of photos. It was lovely to have my hair and makeup done and dress up for the event. VCG picHere is photo of me with Barry and my super friend Allison, who posed with us on the front page of the calendar. If you would like to purchase a calendar or follow the Vintage Calendar Girls and their plans for the 2018 Calendar…here is the link

Last week I visited Unity College and had the pleasure of chatting to Class 3.3 and their lovely teacher (Mrs Lennox), who also happens to be my good friend Majella. Each week, her class are taught issues about health and we decided it would be a great idea for me to speak with them and teach them the signs of stroke (FAST). They were very welcoming and they were all eager to learn and thankful for the goodies I gave out. I truly believe that you are never too young to learn about stroke or how to detect/prevent a stroke.Class 3.3

On Saturday 30 October, my good friends and trainers Melinda and Amy, MAB Personal Training and Adventures, organised a Boot Camp in recognition of World Stroke Day. It has been some time since I attended any boot camps and my aching body the following day was testament to the fact I dragged myself up and down those sand hills at Currimundi Lake! Thank you to everyone who came and supported this event and with $5 from everyone’s boot camp fee and donations, we raised $70. I will be sending this to the Stroke Foundation with my next payments from my book sales.

For several months now, my friend Mary, Tamarind Book Club, who helped my organise my own book launch last November, and I have been organising the first Pop up Book Shop to be held on the Sunshine Coast. It is to be held this Sunday, 6 November, at the Caloundra Power Boat Club and 30 authors will be hosting tables and showcasing and selling their books. We have a number of children’s authors who will be facilitating colouring tables and a ‘story corner’. Entry is with a  gold coin donation in support of the ‘Buy a Bale’ charity and you can read about the event here. I will be hosting a table and selling ‘A Stroke of Poetry’ for $20 but every purchase will include one of my hand made Christmas or Greetings card. A lot of work has gone into this event and runs from 10am – 1pm and there are so many beautiful books to be bought so come along with your Christmas list and I really hope to see you there.

That’s it for me for this month and as always, please stay healthy and happy.

Shelagh