Doing Life Together
Doing Life Together
When as a society, we think of health, we typically think of physical aspects. We think of losing weight, gaining muscle, and looking athletic. What most of us fail to remember is that our mental health is just as important as our physical health.
Mental health disorders are "real," but often treatable. Mental health issues can be either minor and short-term or life-long. Some others are more severe and require help from a professional.
Today, amid a pandemic, political and civil turmoil, the mental health of millions of people is at risk.
According to Mental Health America, "as the number of cases of COVID-19 increases, so does the associated anxiety. For the general public, the mental health effects of COVID-19 are as essential to address as are the physical health effects. And for the one in five who already have mental health conditions – or the one in two who are at risk of developing them – we need to take personal, professional, and policy measures now to address them."
If you need the help of a mental health professional, here are some tips to follow.
Where To Find Help?
One of the best places to start would be your family physician, who can refer you to a specialist. Which type of specialist you go for help will depend on the nature of the problem and symptoms. Your family physician can do an assessment and determine where to refer you. A local health department, mental health facility, or a crisis center are also other available options.
Try getting a few contact names, so you can research about more than one facility before choosing a provider. Also, if you have health insurance, they may provide a list of mental health providers who are covered in your plan. Your local health department or community mental health center, however, may provide free or low-cost care.
One supplemental program is peer support groups. They can serve as an essential addition to the help you receive from professional mental health providers.
Support groups can be a valuable resource, for sure. A layperson usually leads these groups. They are designed to bring individuals together- those who have similar mental health or substance abuse illnesses. Other organized types of support groups are drop-in centers, warmlines, and training courses in mental health wellness and recovery.
Types of Mental Health Professional
How to Choose the Right Mental Health Professional?
Talk with the professional on the phone. Ask questions about their approach, philosophy, specialty, or concentration. Once you have selected and feel comfortable with a specific counselor or doctor, the next step is to schedule an office visit.
Your first visit will involve talking with the therapist or doctor to allow them to get to know you and your circumstances for a visit. They will ask you what you think the problem is. They will ask about your life, job, living arrangements, family, and friends. Even though you may feel this information is personal, it will help the professional assess your situation and develop a treatment plan.
As you start working through your treatment plan, you should begin to feel improvement. You should feel you trust your therapist and feel better about whatever circumstances you are there to face.
It would help if you start to be more comfortable in your relationships because your treatment plan may be painful and uncomfortable at times. The more you actively participate in the treatment plans, the better you will be able to cope with your feelings more effectively.
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Talk therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy, offers a more satisfying life by helping people with emotional growth.
During therapy sessions, a person is free to discuss their experiences and feelings with a trained therapist, who, without judgment, supplies respected opinions and options about how the person can make helpful changes.
Why would someone commit to examining and
discussing their life this way?
By resolving psychological issues with guidance and support, a person can improve their quality of life and alleviate physical, mental, and emotional suffering.
According to researchers, there are six excellent benefits available through talk therapy:
Improved Physical Health and Management
of Chronic Conditions
Emotional issues often result in physical symptoms. Resolving emotional issues with talk therapy can help alleviate physical symptoms of stress like:
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, talk therapy can also help people manage chronic medical conditions for a better quality of life. Because these conditions affect a person’s emotional, mental, and physical health, talk therapy can offer ways to improve a person’s quality of life.
Talk therapy is recommended for:
Measurable Changes in the Brain
Forbes Magazine reported on studies that map brain activity showing measurable changes with talk therapy. Scientists understand that some emotional issues are the result of imbalances in the brain. Drug therapy is often used to restore the brain’s chemical balance. When the balance is corrected, symptoms from physiological and physical problems are lessened or resolved.
Studies show that talk therapy alters brain activity in these areas:
These brain areas affect learning, memory, and emotions associated with the anxiety and depression that can be caused by stress. Talk therapy offers the benefit of helping to manage and reduce psychological stress and affects brain activity in these areas.
Have you ever confided in a friend or family member but doubted the wisdom of the advice they gave you? Do you feel dependent on others when looking for solutions to life’s challenges? Although ideas and support from others can be helpful, your decisions should be based on what you need and the answers that will be best for you.
Because talk therapy is non-judgmental and offers respected opinions and advice, therapists help you discover the answers you need in your own way. By examining your life and emotions, therapists guide you to a better understanding of what works best for you and how to stop doing things that don’t help you. Talk therapy teaches you to use other peoples’ advice as part of, but not all of it, finding your answers.
Reduced Psychological Problems and Behaviors
As talk therapy helps reduce your psychological problems, it also helps change negative behaviors you may engage in because of these issues. According to Healthline, an online clearinghouse for medical information, talk therapy can help change negative behaviors associated with:
Because talk therapy helps people learn effective ways to cope with stress, one of the benefits is the long-term effect these changes can have on their lives. The stress management and coping skills a person learns can be used in multiple situations and with various problems. When a person faces a new challenge in life, they can draw on their coping skills to overcome new obstacles without added emotional, mental, or physical stress.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, one in six adults in the United States will suffer from a mental health issue during their lives. Mental health issues can arise from any life disruption, including loss, unexpected change, and other traumas.
Successful people understand the need to resolve psychological problems to improve their lives and achieve their goals. Many people turn to talk therapy for this benefit.
Click on the link below and get started today!
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Why does mental health matter? It influences your feelings, thoughts, and behavior daily. It affects your ability to overcome challenges, recover from hardships or setbacks, cope with stress, and build relationships. Having good mental health is more than simply the absence of a mental health illness or issue.
When you are emotionally and mentally well, it is far more profound than simply being free of anxiety, depression, or any other psychological issue. Instead of discussing mental health in terms of the absence of mental illness, we have to discuss the present's positive characteristics instead.
The Truth of Mental Health
If you are mentally healthy, you will feel content, you will laugh, have fun, feel a zest for life, cope with stress, bounce back after hardship, have a sense of purpose, be flexible, find the balance between work and play, and you will be able to build strong relationships. Moreover, you will have a measure of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Having positive mental health does not mean you won't experience difficulty. Life comes with disappointment, regardless of who you are. We all experience change and loss that can lead to stress, sadness, and anxiety. Just as a healthy person bounces back from a cold, a mentally healthy person will bounce back from stress and adversity. That's resilience.
There are coping tools to deal with difficult situations, and mentally healthy people can remain focused during the good and the bad.
So, why does it matter if you check in with yourself regularly? Regular check-ins allow you the opportunity to take notice of minor changes within you that may result in more significant issues down the line. When you are mentally healthy during good times, you will be able to stand up stronger when faced with bad circumstances.
Throughout a lifetime, most of us will experience hiccups in both our physical and mental well-being. Often, these are at their worst when we fail to check in to hear the messages our body is sending.
Your body is telling you that something is amiss. Instead of listening, you seek relief through emotional eating, drinking to excess, abusing substances, or indulging in any manner of self-destructive behaviors. You bottle it up and hope no one else notices. Or you give up and give in.
Instead, it would be best if you learned to read your red flags, recognize your triggers, and know how to manage the inevitable negativity that will come your way. You might feel great right now, even in the face of adversity, but the reality is the stronger you are now, the easier handling adversity will become.
For some reason, we have become convinced that acknowledging emotional or mental health issues is a sign of weakness. The reality of the matter is that it's a sign of strength to recognize that things aren't reasonable, and by doing so, you take the first step in overcoming the issue.
In addition to checking in with yourself often, you should aim to eat well, exercise often, have a consistent sleep pattern, and maintain strong social connections. All of this will feed into positive mental health and make it easier to protect it.
Moreover, maintaining solid social connections provides you with additional eyes who will notice you aren't quite yourself. Be open and honest with your friends and family about mental health, whether yours is strong or not. They will also benefit from open lines of communication as you never know whether they are struggling with their mental health, too.
By regularly checking in with yourself and by maintaining strong ties with others, you improve your mental health and encourage others to check in with themselves, too.
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COVID and PTSD
Mental health is an important part of life – it affects how you feel about yourself, how well you do at work or school, and even how much fun you have in your free time. It’s also something that many people struggle with on their own without getting any help or support.
That’s why I'm here, because we believe everyone deserves access to mental health resources they need for themselves and their family members. I am here for anyone who needs help!
Click the box below if you're interested in learning more about
how I can help you achieve your mental wellness goals!
Book features this week:
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Isn't it incredible to think that just a few months ago, we'd never heard the term COVID-19? While coronaviruses have long existed, this coronavirus did not. That didn't stop it from transforming our entire world, though. Life has now changed beyond recognition, professionally and personally. Some people have been on lockdown all on their own, unable to see their loved ones at all.
While others have been working from home surrounded by their family, regardless of your lockdown state of play, you have likely gone to extra effort to connect with the people you can't see.
You may have stocked up on dry goods, hoping to ride it out without leaving the house. Perhaps you felt comfortable taking regular walks while masked. We have all had our paths to walk during COVID-19. Some people will have had a more challenging time.
1. Your Red Flags
As well as knowing the red flags of cognitive and emotional overwhelm, you should get to know your red flags. Think about past stress you have experienced, whether it's been work or relationship-related. What type of event or situation triggers a feeling of overwhelm, and how can you manage that more efficiently? By getting to know yourself better, you will better understand your red flags and handle the load.
2. Know Your Brain
You know how you react when you're in love. You know how your brain responds to stress. You recognize how your brain acts when you're anxious, fearful, excited, etc. Understanding your brain can help you manage your cognitive and emotional load. Your brain on stress will cloud your judgment. The positive chemicals that come with falling in love are as powerful as the stress chemicals that come with emphasis.
You should know yourself well enough to recognize when even the slightest stress creeps in. Know the physical symptoms you experience when stressed outdo your palms grow sweaty, is there an eye twitch, do you itch, do you get a headache, are you experiencing acne breakouts, or are your bowels off-kilter? We all have our signs of stress, but knowing what they are will help you cope.
3. Abundance > Scarcity
What type of mindset do you have? Do you believe there is enough for everyone or that you have to grab what you can to protect yourself? If you're the former, you likely bought what you need to stock up for COVID-19 lockdown. If you are the latter, you probably have enough toilet paper and bottled water to carry you midway through 2021.
It might not sound like much, but with a scarcity mindset comes the idea that things are okay. Nothing will get better. That's not going to help you cope with a heavy emotional and cognitive load.
4. Listen to Your Body
One of the most effective ways to manage distress is to identify the physical and emotional symptoms, as well as the thoughts you tend to experience before spiraling into overwhelm. If you are confused by whether you're coping with your load, then you have to listen to your body because it holds the clues to your truth.
A body scan or check is a great daily tool to check in with yourself and get ahead of any red flags. It's easy. Simply sit quietly for a few moments, practice deep breathing, center yourself, and scan each area of your body. You can also ask specific questions about what you're dealing with to determine whether your body responds. Do you feel fearful? Are you tense or tight?
Are you feeling struggling emotionally?
You’re not alone. We all have our paths to walk during COVID-19, and some people will have had a more challenging time than others. If you are looking for someone to help you navigate the emotional toll of COVID, I can provide the support that you need!
Let me be there for you when life gets tough so that together
we can find new and more peaceful and enjoyable ways of living in this challenging world.
Reach out today!
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2020 has been a challenging year, to say the least. I have seen memes about canceling this year because it has been “so bad”. Well, this year has been nothing like any of expected. We have been dealing with a global pandemic for over about half of this year and the racial injustice current is taking its toll. All of this generates emotions in us that we often refer to as negative (I like the term uncomfortable emotions better). We can feel powerless in the midst of all the emotions generated by these events. But, if we learn to bounce back, we become stronger in the long run.
You are probably saying, “bounce back from a pandemic, from racism? These big things are out of my control!” And in some ways you are right but there is so much we can do to take care of ourselves emotionally so that we can build resilience. While you are in the grasp of uncomfortable emotions, it may seem difficult to build any resilience to life’s less pleasurable experiences. It is possible, and I encourage you to keep that in mind. You can build resilience even during the toughest times!
How come some people give up and cry into a bottle, while others just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on as if nothing happened? They’re called coping skills, and anyone can develop them.
Flexibility and adaptation are undoubtedly two outlooks that help people recover from bad situations. Whereas someone who may feel entrenched in their uncomfortable feelings finds it harder to remove themselves from those feelings and change direction, those who are willing to understand how to let go and change direction quickly, come out on top.
In a way, emotions are like quicksand. By seeing negative events in your life as flexible, short term situations, you can more easily move on. Let’s imagine someone who sees these negative events as a fixed point in space and time. To them, that disappointment they felt with themselves or that failure they felt, is a fixed point in their life. It’s always there. Nothing they can do will change the fact that there are failure and disappointment in their lives. Those who view situations as being temporary will be more likely to see the same situation as a speed bump in life’s rearview mirror.
So what can you do to help you adopt this outlook?
Ever poured paint or bleach into a bucket of water? The same thing happens to people who see their situations as a fixed point in life. If you only focus on what is going wrong, it starts to spread and color everything else. Try seeing new challenges as crayons that can be laid side-by-side with each other. One crayon might be missing the wrapper, the other might have been used so much that you can barely grasp it between your fingers. Some colors are more enjoyable and pleasant, compared to others. But all these crayons are useful.
To build emotional resilience, change the way you see things. But also change the way you see yourself during the crisis. If you think that you won’t make it or this is the end of you, then you will feel doomed. Your perspective is important. And then when you feel that your emotions are being highjacked, do some emotional self-care. Be kind to yourself. Nurture yourself. You can read more about emotional self-care in this article.
How would you handle these challenging events and any other hardship differently if you remembered that nothing lasts forever?
How would you feel emotionally if you focused on what you are learning through these times?
What would you conquer if examined the usefulness of every hurdle in your life?
If you want to build more resilience so you can bounce from hardships faster and always on the winning side, check out this worksheet on Resilience Traits.
It's so easy to let life and everything happening around us, bring us down. But don't see the full picture and don't know the full story. Acknowledging that not only brings peace but also hope.
We’ve come to the end of our mini-challenge, and we’ve covered quite a bit of information. You’ve learned why acknowledging, embracing and expressing gratitude is so important. You’ve also learned a few specific ways to begin a practice of gratitude in your own life. I’d like to expand on that as we end our challenge to provide you with a more in-depth list of helpful tips to tap into the power of being grateful. You can use these ideas as you move forward in creating your own routine.
Take a Gratitude Walk
Going for a walk is a great way to relieve stress and gain perspective. It offers a number of advantages. You leave your regular environment, get out in the fresh air and move away from distractions. It’s a form of physical exercise that comes with all sorts of health benefits. Walking can even be considered a form of meditation. It’s a fabulous way to focus on gratitude. During this particular jaunt, pay special attention to the things you encounter along the way. Chances are, you’ll discover plenty to be thankful for during your walk.
Make a Gratitude Collage
A fun way to acknowledge your gratefulness in a visual way is to create a gratitude collage. This process works in a similar way as a vision board. You can cut out pictures from a magazine or add personal photos. Your collage can simply be laid out on a poster board or you can get more creative and decorative. You can even keep your board electronically on Pinterest or some other app. The point is to collect images that move you to consider your good fortune. It’s a good idea to put your board in a place where you can see it or access it daily. You might even want to add to it to keep its momentum going.
Hold a Friendsgiving
Friendsgiving is like Thanksgiving, only with friends and chosen family instead of biological family. This special occasion is often held in place of traditional Thanksgiving for those who don’t have family physically nearby or who aren’t emotionally close with their relatives. Sometimes it takes place near the actual holiday. You can get creative, though, and hold your own special gathering, customized to your needs, any time you wish. A gratitude party or get-together can remind you of the people who are most important in your life and enhance existing bonds.
Look for Gratitude in Challenges
Let’s turn things around a bit. You probably know how easy it is to focus on the bad stuff. Sometimes we get stuck in the negative and allow it to weigh us down. That’s natural, but you can interrupt that cycle by consciously working to find the gratitude in life’s challenges. Look for the lessons or the silver linings. Be sure to write them down in your gratitude journal or make a note of them in some formalized way so that you can look back and remember the good that came from adversity.
One of the most impactful ways to gain perspective and be grateful for what you have is to help others in need. This can be through a formal volunteer effort with a philanthropic organization or it can simply be something like helping a neighbor you see who could use a hand with his lawn. No matter what the effort, you’ll reap the rewards when you pitch in to give to others. Try to do something to help someone else at least once a week, and you’re sure to experience a boost in gratitude.
Give these ideas a try. Research or brainstorm some additional ones on your own. Just get started so you can see just what a difference embracing a mindset of gratitude can have on your entire life.
You’ve probably heard of both meditations and affirmations, though you may be uncertain of just what they are and how they work. These two practices are actually quite simple to add to your routine or even to use in a particularly stressful moment to gain perspective. Let’s take a look at how to use gratitude meditations and affirmations to boost your spirit anytime.
What Are Meditations?
A meditation is really just a practice of taking some quiet time to be mindful and focus your attention on a particular thought or issue. It’s a moment of silent reflection that focuses you on the here and now. Gratitude meditations involve focusing your thoughts on being grateful for the particulars of your life or situation, even the ones that may not seem so positive. Your gratitude journaling can be considered a meditation, even. Any contemplative, purposeful time spent focused on being grateful can fall into this category.
What Are Affirmations?
Affirmations are short, concise and positive sentences that are meant to purposefully affect the ways in which we think and feel. These can be in both conscious and unconscious ways. What we think greatly influences how we feel and behave. Introducing these positive messages into your life on a regular basis can help you to internalize them and begin living accordingly. Gratitude affirmations focus specifically on being grateful and appreciative.
How to Use Them
Both meditation and affirmation are easy to put into practice. They can be used almost any time and anywhere. When you think of meditation, a long, intensive ritual may come to mind. In actuality, you don’t need to spend a lot of time meditating in order to reap the benefits. Simply sitting quietly for a few minutes and contemplating on what you’re grateful for can help to center you and to provide new perspective, which often will lead to feeling better. If you want something more structure or have more time, you can look up guided gratitude meditations online or grab a meditation app to try. I personally use Abide and Headspace.
When it comes to affirmations, a good practice might be to combine them with your gratitude journal. Write down positive messages that apply to your life and help to inspire or motivate you. Perhaps you want to keep them in a separate journal or store them online. Then you can pull out your collection of affirmations for a pick-me-up when you need one.
Gratitude meditations and affirmations are simple tools that offer a big return. They take only a few minutes to practice, and you really don’t need any special equipment. Give them a try when you feel you could use an injection of gratitude in your life.
***You can write you affirmations in your gratitude journal.
We need to create a safe place for men to share their feelings and seek help for mental health when needed. Our physical health affects our mental health. We need to seek help for all of us, not just part of us. We need to do a better job at supporting caregivers. If you are a caregiver, we are here for you. Reach out to us today!
Here are the websites I mentioned:
Stress affects just about everyone’s daily lives. It can affect your body in ways that can have a long-lasting impact on your health. In my book, The Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. Method: A six-step guide to creating a life with less stress, I shared how stress “lead to depression, anxiety, and a load of health issues”. Here are some ways that stress can affect your health:
Personal and Spiritual Growth Coach Stephanie Miller shares what she likes about the Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. Method and how reading the book has impacted her life.
Grab your copy at https://amzn.to/2zy7fIi
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
I know that I don’t have to write a blog post each week, but this is a goal I set for myself. It keeps my brain and fine motors working. Writing has been so therapeutic to me, I get to work on so many therapy/recovery goals in one exercise. Hence, I will do my best to write a few sentences each week.
I’ve been home for five days now. I already had one trip to the Emergency Room, that was scary. Thank God, I’m back home. Home Health services are going well. I was looking forward to being home but being home has also been very overwhelming.
However, it’s a joy to see how much my children have grown during this time. On Monday, I watched my middle child get yogurt and cereal from the kitchen, serve himself, sit at the table to eat, then clean up the table. He also returned the yogurt and cereal to where he got them from and washed his bowl. He did all that before getting his shoes and coat on for school. He will be 6 years old in a month and completing all those tasks took lot of effort and planning. He had to overcome many organizational, fine motor and sensory challenges, but he did it! I was so proud of him.
This past weekend, my 11-year-old daughter, the oldest, asked to mop the kitchen floor. I kept telling her not to worry about it, but she found many reasons to do it and assured me she would be safe. She sure did! She moped the kitchen and the upstairs bathroom and has been cleaning many other things around the house.
Last night, the youngest of our family (he will be four years old in a few days), applied lotion on my very dry legs. He loves that texture, so he had fun doing it but when he was done, he said to me, “does that make you feel better?” I had tears. I thought I was giving him something fun to do but he was more concerned about taking care of me.
In their unique ways, my children have been taking good care of me. I’m a blessed Mama, I have great kids. I also have awesome friends who shower me with love and take care of my children and me during this time. Thank you all for your prayers, visits, cards, calls, texts, emails, messages, gifts, meals, and encouragement. You make me brave and I thank God for each one of you!
Science says it takes 21 days to learn a new habit or forgo an old one. Well, it’s been 21 days since I had my stroke and I’ve seen lot of improvements. It’s amazing how many tricks my brain had to re-learn in these 21 days. Lot of new pathways have been created in my brain and my synapses and neurons have been hard at work. I realize that everyone’s recovery from any brain injury is different and I do not take lightly the challenges that we all face. As I share a glimpse of my progress in this blog post, please be advised that it’s just that, a glimpse of reality. I still have many things to work through and some things might never get better. However, many things did get better and here’s some of what has happened in the past three weeks.
The facial nerves that were affected by the stroke are the ones close to my nose and my mouth. I somehow now have an “extraordinary” nose and tongue. I smell things I didn’t smell before - sometimes smelling my own food is too overwhelming. I remember eating something that was not spicy and feeling like my tongue was on fire. Two weeks later, I’m craving more spicy food, go figure! My taste buds are just as confused as the rest of my body.
My blood sugar has stabilized and I’m finally off the finger pricks. I also had difficulty chewing and swallowing, especially on the left side, the side that was affected by the stroke. That has greatly improved as well.
My blood pressure has also stabilized, but now that I had a stroke, I will be taking baby aspirin for the rest of my life. I started other new medications as well while at the rehabilitation hospital and most of my symptoms seem to be under control. Quite a few specialists have been added to my follow-up treatment team and I’ll have to get used to that.
I can organize my thoughts and answer questions or explain things, but the more thinking involved, the harder it is for me to produce the words on demands. For example, I can tell a story or relate something that happened earlier in the day with no problem at all. However, when presented with an issue that requires problem solving, I need more time to process the situation, think about solution, pick a course of action, then share that with others. The more thought process involved, the more time I needed.
I have also been very sensitive to sound and light. I get easily stimulated, which triggers my headaches. I’m glad to report that I have been making accommodations for myself and slowly learning to cope with stimuli.
The Good News: I will be leaving the rehabilitation hospital on December 15!
I will continue with my physical and occupational therapies once I get home.
The next big goal I’m working on is getting back to work and driving again.
Until next time, remember that you can teach an old brain some new tricks…so learn something new today!
Self-Advocate & Ally to the differently ABLE
Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC
T’was the day before Thanksgiving…Perhaps a day to prepare for all the festivities: Making the last trip to the grocery store, cleaning the house for guests, planning recreational activities for the long weekend…But I was preparing for something totally different.
I had a scheduled surgery that morning. I ran a few errands in preparation for the surgery, drove back home to park my car since I wouldn’t be able to drive after the procedure. I then requested an Uber ride to the hospital.
All the people I talked to who either had this surgery or knew someone who had it, had wonderful things to say about the procedure… “You’ll be so glad you had it …You won’t have to deal with all this pain anymore… You’ll feel like a new person”. I looked forward to the procedure. It promised a new beginning. A new beginning, I had. Just not exactly the one I expected.
My scheduled procedure went well, just as expected. Once in the recovery room, I started complaining of excruciating headaches that felt very different than my regular migraines. I was taken to the observation room and given pain medication, but the headache persisted.
Then a couple hours after the procedure, I was eating a Popsicle and tried to tell a family member that my head was feeling weird, but no words were coming out. My lips were moving but no words were coming out. I could see the worried look on everyone’s faces and knew something was wrong. Within a few minutes, my room was full of people. I suppose they all came to help. Rapid response was called.
By the time the medical staff were in the room, the symptoms had progressed. I couldn’t answer questions like “who’s the president of the United States?” I knew the answer but couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t move the left side of my body. The left side of my face was numb. My left eye was drooping. I was presenting all the typical signs of a stroke.
I was then rushed to a different hospital by helicopter. The initial plan was to remove the blood clot as soon as possible; we all assumed that I had a blood clot from the surgery. Once in the new hospital, the CT scan and MRI could not find any blood clot, yet I still had all the stroke symptoms. I was put on stroke protocol and treated as such.
I was in that hospital for a week, three days were spent in the Intensive Care Unit. My entire body was out of order during that time. I had developed medical problems I didn’t have before. My entire being had changed, internally and externally.
While the changes were debilitating, I was not ashamed of them, but I slowly became aware of other people’s discomfort with my “new disabilities”. One person who had known me my entire life said, “you can’t afford to be a disabled woman with three kids” and by that comment I was reminded of society’s view of disability.
Ten years ago, I was legally declared “disabled” due to debilitating medical conditions. Those conditions were however invisible and apparently did not bother anyone. I have worked since, I have been a mom, a business owner, and so many other things while living with the same challenging conditions.
Somehow, as long as they were invisible, nobody cared. There were my problems, not society’s. I spent some days in bed, some days I had to call for help, other days I canceled work assignments and prior commitments. Somehow, nobody ever told me I couldn’t afford to be a “disabled woman with three kids”.
This time my disability is visible, and it seems to bother people more than it bothers me. I’m in a wheelchair. I’m having difficulty communicating. I can’t take care of my personal care needs. It’s obvious that I’m not “independent” according to society’s standards.
Does society view people with visible disability as a burden? Now that they can see my limitations, is it a constant reminder to them of their lack of support? Perhaps my invisible disabilities made me look “normal” for ten years and now all the sudden I’m no longer “normal”? Sadly, the answer to all these questions is a loud “YES” and I have read many research papers on this topic during my post-graduate studies, but I will not bore you with that.
If my visible disabilities do not bother me, does that mean that I will not apply myself to regain the functions I’ve lost? Not at all! I’m doing physical, occupational, speech, and vision therapies and I have already seen major improvements. What I’m trying to say is that I do not fear limitations. Even if I do not regain all the functional abilities I had before the stroke, I believe and KNOW that with support and accommodations, I can still have a meaningful life. Maybe my life will be even more meaningful than it’s ever been because I now have a deeper sense of gratitude, appreciation, and empathy.
I will not apologize for having disabilities, visible or invisible. I’m a beautiful human being inside and out. What you see or do not see does not define who I truly am. Get to know me and other people that society calls “disabled”, then you will realize that we are all able and disabled in our unique ways. Every human being has both strengths and weaknesses.
Now, look at the title of this article again, but only read the words in capital letters. You should read I CAN BE ABLED. Yes, people can be "abled" by the respect they receive from society and that respect starts by assuming that they can have meaningful lives.
If we assume that people can have meaningful lives, regardless of their functional limitations, then we start supporting people in achieving lives of purpose, and therefore, there will be no room for statements like “you can’t afford to be a disabled woman with three children”. In fact, I will joyfully be a "disabled" mother of three "disabled" children because our family has embraced disability as part of our human experience. It’s time the rest of society gets with the program!
Self-Advocate & Ally to the differently ABLE
Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC
P.S. Hallegra is my middle name. It comes from the Italian “allegria”, which translates into “allegresse” in French or “glee” in English. Therefore, Hallegra means lively joy or gaiety, which I want to identify with even more in this season of my life.
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Chou is a best-selling Author, a Transformational Speaker, Certified Life Coach, Counselor and Consultant on a mission to inspire people to rise above their circumstances. She is passionate about helping others achieve emotional wellness, reach their full potential, and live fulfilling lives. You can contact Chou at firstname.lastname@example.org