We’ve met many stroke patients throughout the years, perhaps you have too. Or maybe you have come through the scary experience yourself! Even though there are different types of strokes with equally haunting names, the stroke does not discriminate in the people it chooses. Patients of all ages and ethnicity have endured this experience and have come out on the other side with a new name “Stroke Survivor”. After meeting with them I discovered many said the same things about their journey. Hopefully these six steps will help you or someone you love as well.
1. Avoid the Shame Game – Often times when someone has had a stroke, they are barraged with a sense that it was their fault. They feel like the stroke was caused by what they ate, drank or because of something they did. They are tormented by thoughts like; maybe if only they had exercised more, handled stress better or didn’t work so much…The truth of the matter is that the stroke chose them and what’s past is past. There’s no room for the blame game and there is no one to blame.
2. Seek to be Grateful – The survivors I have met all expressed an extreme sense of gratitude for being given a second chance at life. They first had to overcome the shock of it all to then realize how many people they had known in life but never truly appreciated. It’s as if the experience gave them new eyes to see a world they had been whizzing through with busy schedules and a hurried sense of racing to the end just to find out they weren’t ready for the end. They had been given another chance at living life in a different way and appreciated the opportunity.
3. Stealing Patience – Surviving a stroke can also mean working through some very precarious challenges. Some survivors completely lost their eye sight, their ability to walk, talk, swallow… The road ahead was not going to be an easy one for them but above all they had to learn to be patient with themselves. They had to give themselves permission to go at a pace slower than what they were used to, knowing this would be a huge adjustment.
4. Surround Thyself with Spotters – When an individual has gone through a traumatic experience there will be friends and family members who see the struggle and want to help. The stroke survivor may feel angry that they can’t pick up a pen or feed themselves and may resist the offer for assistance. If they can accept the love being offered and view the well-meaning friend as a spotter (like in gymnastics) the relationship will be a smoother one. The friend or family member isn’t meant to do everything for the recovering patient, but they are there to make sure the loved one doesn’t fall or hurt themselves.
5. Tell Your Story How You Want – There may be a level of anxiety on what to tell people. Perhaps co-workers are wondering where you are, or neighbors see you moving differently. When people ask what happened what you tell them is your choice. Talking about a physical challenge can be very personal and may cause a sense of vulnerability one is not ready for. It’s okay to share only as much as you wish.
6. Seek Out a Stroke Support Group – These are groups usually set up in local hospitals with people who have gone through this process themselves. Some may have recently come through the trauma, while others have been on a healing journey for years. The group is usually facilitated by a medical professional. Within the group, one will find an abundance of compassion, encouragement and emotional support. The groups I have visited were warm and welcoming with people from all backgrounds and professions. This dynamic brought many insights to the table that could benefit all the members. It did not matter where one was positioned in their journey, they were welcomed like an old friend. Isn’t that what life is all about? No matter what takes place in your lifetime, don’t ever believe you’re going through this alone.