I was a busy wife and mum, working as an independent Private Investigator. This was my retirement job, having previously served 25 years as a UK Police Officer. On 15 April 2013, I suffered a stroke and my whole life changed. I am now what many people refer to as a ‘stroke survivor’. However I am much more than my condition. I am now a self-published author, stroke advocate and a Stroke safe Ambassador for the Stroke Foundation.
My name is Shelagh and I live in Queensland, Australia with my lovely husband David and son Patrick.
I was lucky enough to be left with no physical disability after the initial problems of loss of speech, and loss of feeling in my right side, dissipated. I still suffer from daily physical and mental fatigue, but know I got off lightly.
Post stroke, I discovered my brain had changed. It seemed to function well in rhyme and most of my thoughts could not be processed unless the end of each sentence rhymed. I began to write down my thoughts and emotions in the form of poetry and soon learnt these feelings were not just experienced by me, but are shared by many stroke survivors. It was refreshing and comforting to know that I was never alone during my recovery.
These poems are about my day to day experiences; the thoughts, struggles and triumphs of my recovery as a stroke survivor. They are set out chronologically, following my journey through times of despair and depression, back to a normal life. The stroke recovery was a roller coaster of mixed emotions but being able to document in poetry even the darkest moments kept me motivated and gave me a will to carry on.
By writing, I could express myself and release the negative and frustrating emotions, and by looking back over the poems I soon realised that as these darker moments passed, each day became brighter. I hope that upon reading them, you can read the struggle but also accept the triumphs which now far outweigh the negativity.
You may feel some of the poems are confronting, and they may well be, as I wrote them to help release negative emotions such as sadness, frustration, post stroke depression and the utter feeling of despair. Other poems detail the funniest moments of forgetfulness and mishap, but all the poems are entirely true.
When I review them now I can see how important it was to maintain a positive mindset and a healthy, active life. With those two ground rules, I feel I have shown myself that anything is possible.
Along my own journey, many have asked me how to stay motivated during the frustration and depression that is so common post-stroke. This has always been a difficult question to answer, but I do believe that creativity has been a key for me. Poetry has been my own creative outlet, but we are all different. Some of us like to write, some to draw and some to paint. The use of colour therapy is regarded by many as a powerful tool to aid healing.
I’ve added some pages within the book for you to colour in, to express yourself in your own way. I hope this also adds some light to the ‘darker’ poems. There are also a few pages where you could write your own poems, or doodles, or drawing. Why not have a go exploring your own creativity.
Some of these poems were posted on the FAST parenting after a stroke Facebook site, and the first poem, of events on the day of the stroke, was published in the Spring 2013 issue of Stroke Connection, a newsletter sent to thousands of stroke survivors and their families around Australia.
Please enjoy my poems as much as I have enjoyed writing them. If you are reading as a stroke survivor, or on behalf of a loved one, I trust they give you some hope and positivity, helping you through the day with the knowledge you are not alone.