I'm not sure if it was seeing the ambulance go to the back entrance of the same rehabilitation hospital I stayed at after my stroke. I'm not sure if it was the conversation I had with the leasing office about my decision to vacate my second-floor office. I'm not sure if it was losing my balance five times doing physical therapy today, but today was a very emotional day.
It wasn't until I got home, hours after I talking with the leasing office, few hours after physical therapy and seeing the ambulance, that it hit me. I was sitting on the floor in the middle of my living room and in front of me were boxes and tote bags full of things from my second-floor office. That visual was all it took for me to truly see what was going on.
This day was emotional because in so many ways I had to face the reality of all that the stroke has taken away from me. It was almost like seeing my career in boxes. The ambulance reminded me of where it all started. Losing my balance in Physical Therapy reminded me I'm still not steady on my feet. At that moment, in that lonely moment, in the restraint of the four walls of my living room, I was reminded that this rehabilitation is not temporary. Recovering from a stroke is not temporary work.
Many thought I should "be fine" by now. Others told me they thought I'll be doing stairs by now. Even my doctors thought I could drive by now. My kids and I would love to do all the physical things I did in the past and for me to take them to all the places we went. We all hoped. But as my temporary handicap placard got replaced by a permanent one, and I resumed with vision therapy, reality set in.
This is the reality seven months after the stroke: I'm still not allowed to drive. I'm having more balance issues these days, and it has delayed my transition from the walker to a cane. Although my speech and vision have improved, my short-term memory and my left eye are still of concern. The pain on my left leg often makes me feel foreign to my body. It is as if I have two bodies living inside of me because my left side and my right side operate on two different functioning levels. This is my reality.
After reality set in, in that lonely living room, my thoughts shifted from the loss to the gains. I thought of how strong I've been. My stroke strengthened me, so instead of looking at all that this stroke has taken away, I will hold on to the strength I've gained from all of this. Tenacity. Perseverance. Faith. Hope. Friendships. Advocacy. And those are things that nothing will ever take away from me.
Chou Hallegra, Stroke Survivor, Counselor & Consultant
Credits:Photo by Zoe Deal on Unsplash
Ever been stranded? Not just on the side of the road but on the sidelines of life? Ever felt like you have given it your all and still things did not turn out as you expected? I been there many of times. At those times, what I wanted or needed was not always what I received from others.
Life has a way of hitting us out of nowhere and even the ones who prepare well are not exempt from the pains that come from living. The death of a loved one. Chronic or sudden illnesses in ourselves or in a family member. Broken relationships. Life is hard. Life can be painful. We do not have to live long before we experience pain and loss of some kind. And, if we are honest, we can all admit that we had a time or two (or more) when we did not feel like we had the strength to keep going.
We are so good at telling others to "hang in there" and "keep on keeping on" and I'm guilty of it as well. But, do we realize that statements like these force others to be (or at least pretend to be) invincible human beings who should not feel hurt, lost, or even defeated at times? That is misleading. That is not human.
It also makes us, the people saying those things, hypocrites. Not always intentionally but still hypocrites to the true sense of the word. Hypocrites, because we know that we ourselves had moments where we felt exactly the same way and the last thing we wanted to hear was "hang in there" or keep on keeping on". We felt like giving up and most likely all we needed was someone to listen, someone to show that they care, someone to remind us that tomorrow is another day.
Sometimes, we use those statements when we do not know what to say. Other times, it is simply because we ourselves feel uncomfortable with the situation. In a few instances, those statements are the easy way out when we feel inconvenienced. Yes, being there for others is an inconvenience and few of us are willing to stop and support others in ways that are meaningful to them because it is easier to simply say a quick "fix-it" statement.
People are not looking to be fixed, they want to be supported. Even on my toughest days, I do not want someone to tell me "it's going to be okay" or "this too shall pass". I want someone to just sit with me awhile and walk with me in my hardships.
Next time you see someone hurting. Please do more than give advice. Sit with them. Talk with them. Share a time when you overcame a hardship. Most importantly, ask them "how can I support you in this?" This reminds them that they are humans, just like the rest of us. This shows that someone cares. This gives them hope. This also helps you help them in a way that they want to be helped.
Chou Hallegra - Counselor & Consultant