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Stroke stories are meant to be shared

Do you share your own stroke story? Sharing my own stroke story is something I never envisaged during my initial stroke recovery. Why? That’s because I was not in a positive, happy place but now, I see the importance of making something good out of my bad health experience and THE best way to move forward is with passion and positivity. I began by writing my stroke poetry, as my brain would only work in rhyme, and sharing this poetry on the many Facebook support stroke groups, such as Return to work after stroke, really helped me understand how others suffered and the fact I was not alone. This was very cathartic for me, as it emptied my head of the frustrations, sadness and often amusing times that are all part of stroke recovery. Many readers would thank me for my poetry and also comment that they were unable to put their own emotions into words. Here’s one of my many poems that can be found in my book A Stroke of Poetry and was taken from my own experience of mild aphasia and know that many stroke survivors suffer from Aphasia (A language disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate).

I UNDERSTAND

Please don’t talk to me in baby talk. It really isn’t good.

Even though my words don’t come out right, I can hear; I understood

Don’t finish all my sentences. When you talk to me this way,

as it’s clear you wish I’d hurry up so we can get on with the day.

Even though my words are jumbled, and I slur to get them out,

Inside I know what I want to say so give me time and please don’t shout.

It’s important for me to process what I think I want to tell.

Even though when the words are spoken, they may not come out too well.

Buckets of patience I know you’ll need to help me through this time.

But please, oh please be mindful, they are not your words but mine.

I know my brain will heal but you must give me space.

Having a conversation does not need to be a race.

Sometimes I may not want to join in as my what anyone has to say.

But that’s okay, I do not mind, as my brain needs a rest today.

During my career as a 25 year UK Police Officer, and the latter 5 years being a Detective Inspector, I found myself stood in front of groups of officers delivering either training or simply briefing search teams in regard to serious crime matters. WOW, how my life has changed! What I am trying to say, is that the bags of confidence I had during my Police career were lost after my stroke, and even though it took a while to return, my confidence is back! Different job, but I now love standing in front of audiences; whether that be ten women from the local slimming group whilst I deliver the Stroke Foundation Stroke safe programme, or as a Motivational Speaker, sharing my story to 150+ delegates at a health conference. It is all the same. It is me, Shelagh Brennand, Stroke Survivor, Stroke Safe Ambassador and author of A Stroke of Poetry; simply sharing my stroke story. Here’s a great photo of a ‘Conversations on the Deck’ event at a local cafe; sharing stroke awareness and my stroke story with interested locals.29.3.19_Conversations on the Deck_reading poetry and raising money for Sevgen

Sharing your own stroke story does not always have to be verbal and in front of a huge crowd, as there are many opportunities to write articles, or other writers sharing your story in magazines, newspapers and other publications. I found a great resource in the website Sourcebottle.com.au; where they connect expert sources with journalists and bloggers. Once registered, I would answer many ‘shout outs’ from journalists who wanted a positive story about becoming healthier, and moving on with my life after illness. I have also recorded a number of podcasts over the years and one recorded last year with the The Phoenix Phenomen is a way of sharing my story to the world. One of my latest media articles is a feature in the July 2019 edition of That’s Life Magazine, which is distributed throughout Australia and New Zealand. There are plenty more like this on the media page of my website so have a read, and you can see the variety of ways I have shared my story over the last few years. This may give you some ideas of how you can share your story.

I often use the words ‘You have to be in it to win it’ and although putting yourself forward for things can be daunting; they can also be very much worthwhile. Last year, I won a competition to have a short documentary film about my life. It was only released last week and the amazing film company Inspireflix love to film and share inspiring stories. My film is 8.5 minutes long and I feel that it  captures my life and the story I want to tell the world. The importance of sharing my stroke story is to tell others:

  • STAY POSITIVE
  • NEVER GIVE UP
  • ALWAYS SEEK SUPPORT

Please get in touch if I can help or direct you into sharing your own stroke story and until next time, take care and stay stroke safe.

Shelagh


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Losing your identity after stroke

Welcome back to my blog and even though it has been some time since I last wrote, I plan to be blogging more frequently, and I very much hope you enjoy what I have to say; so please feel free to share with others who may benefit from my words and perhaps leave me a comment as to what you would like to read.

In this blog, I would love to talk about the issue of losing your identity after stroke and specifically, the emotional side of stroke recovery. I was stirred to write this blog after receiving and reading a wonderful, insightful book about stroke identity (but I will come to that soon). Like many, I felt in the early days that my brain had been taken and replaced with one I did not want or even liked very much. I lost ‘me’ and so many parts of ‘me’ that I resented the person I was. My brain was slow and I had difficulty forming words and sentences. Bring on the depression and this made a great recipe for not being able to move forward with any form of positivity or focus. Does this resonate with my stroke survivor friends out there?

 

My brain worked in rhyme shortly after my stroke and this helped me enormously to deal with the emotions I was feeling;  such as the frustrations, forgetfulness and often sad times I was going through. For those who have read some of my poetry from my book A Stroke of Poetry, one poem entitled: Who stole my brain? is a perfect example of some of the emotions I felt following my stroke and I know these feelings are experienced by many stroke survivors all over the world. Who Stole my Brain poem.jpg 2

Perhaps this poem explains the seriousness of losing ‘me’ but a light-hearted touch upon the fact it is actually still OK to feel like this. As a Stroke Safe Ambassador, Motivational Speaker and passionate stroke advocate, I still campaign to have the voices heard of those who are struggling emotionally – what I refer to as one of the many invisible disabilities of stroke.

Now about this amazing book I mentioned and think we need a short drum role for the truly amazing Debra Meyerson and her recently published book Identity Theft – Rediscovering Ourselves After Stroke. I first connected with Debra, a former Stanford Professor, on Twitter some years ago, following her own severe stroke, as she was keen to conduct research with other stroke survivors. Many examples of those she has interviewed are featured in her book. Some, sadly, have not been able to accept their life changing stroke and thereby unable to move forward positively, but there are other examples of hope, inspiration and those who feel their stroke was meant to happen.Book cover - Identity Theft

Debras story and her own stroke recovery is inspirational and this book was written to help others cope with the emotional part of any stroke recovery. It follows her severe stroke that left her physically incapacitated and unable to speak and covers in detail, the emotional journey of her recovery, including the fabulous, selfless support provided by her husband and children.

I had many tears reading this book as although I am lucky to have been left with no physical disability, my early stroke recovery identified so much with Debras words, emotions and ‘day to day’ feeling of being lost in a person you once were and is the first book where I truly felt connected to what I suffered. Debra was kind enough to send me additional books so if you feel this is something you would like to read, drop me a message and let’s share the love and inspiration from the amazing Debra E. Myerson PhD.

Thanks for reading and always be ‘stroke safe’Signed copy Identity Theft

Shelagh

 

 

 

 


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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