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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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Stroke Inspiration – it’s out there if you look for it!

When we think about inspiration, what image or feeling does that conjure up? Would it be fair to say that we are more inspired by ordinary people who have done amazing or extraordinary things? The Oxford Dictionary define inspiration as: The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.(mass noun). Since my stroke, four years ago, I became inspired by others. I read books, journals and followed those on Facebook and the internet who I felt had moved on with their lives following a great setback. My close friends I have come to know; Ida Dempsey and Neil Collie trained to run marathons and they too, had suffered major setbacks after stroke. If they could do that…then what reason did I have not to do the same? They were my inspiration to run.

Meaning of life

Many people tell me I am an inspiration.  Yes, I moved forward with my life in a positive way, I too began running and wrote my poetry. Yes, I self published my book, A Stroke of Poetry, and I am training for my next 10km run in June and I now deliver Stroke Safe presentations to the local communities but I do not feel inspirational in the sense of the word, but feel I have a purpose and meaning in my life to share my experiences in order to help others. If others see me as an inspirational person, then surely that’s a good thing. I feel like I am just me. Just ordinary Shelagh with a positive mindset and a desire to get better and fitter everyday and tell the whole world that they can live a happy, positive life. I am part of a Facebook group, Attempt 2 Run After Stroke, where stroke survivors share their experiences of being able to run and swap running advice. This week, I read a post from one of the members, who is now my friend and has approved me posting his comment. His name is Lama Nishit, a ‘nearly 44’ stroke survivor from Darjeeling, who suffered his stroke 2 years ago. This is his post..

“Doctors said I had a massive stroke, I was almost dead. It was more than three hours before I received any treatment. I might not have been here today if my concerned colleagues hadn’t travelled to my place when my flat owner had called them. They then took me to Krishna institute of medical sciences. I had an ischemic stroke, a blood clot in the brain. I was given statins ,aspirin and many more injections and medications to thin the blood. Oh and they inserted stents in my clogged arteries. Once my condition was stable, I began rehabilitation. Luckily I stayed in the hospital for 15 days. I was devastated, I thought my life was over. My right side was completely paralysed and I was in a wheelchair but I tried to remain positive and take one day at a time. Lifestyle may have raised my risk of a stroke. As a smoker, I had developed a two pack a day habit. I drank occasionally and neglected my fitness over work. Stroke does not discriminate by age, it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. So folks you can prevent strokes by making healthy lifestyle choices. Strokes can happen to healthy people too. The risk factor is higher among people who do not follow a healthy lifestyle.”

Lama

  Lama Nishit

I have followed Lama on his running journey now for several months and he is truly an inspiration to me and many others who follow his progression from what you read above, to a stroke survivor who is now running and determined to keep running. Lama comments: “In order to feel better, you have to feel good about yourself.” That is very true and if anyone out there feels that they cannot move forward, please seek advice from the Stroke Foundation or hop onto Enableme to seek inspiration from others who have had the same feelings that you are now experiencing. Email me or contact me through Facebook. Remember you are not alone in your recovery.

Please let me know how you go, whether this is with your exercise or any small part of life that you have improved since your stroke..I would love to hear about it.

Stay healthy and happy always.

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