Being impacted from a Stroke happens suddenly and it happens over time. I am 3 months post stroke and still being impacted in new ways, all while learning how to navigate life on my Brain Injury’s terms.
Once the event happened and the blood clot went to my brain (left side) I had immediate deficits on my right side. I was incredibly fortunate in that I had just coordination and compromised muscle tone problems in my dominant right hand,(fingers mainly) and my right leg (knee down to foot). I could still walk but needed the aid of a Walker due to my balance being comprised.
After 18 days in the hospital, 12 of those days in intensive rehabilitation, when I came home I was getting around my little apartment pretty well with the Walker and I was able to flex my fingers open about 70% of the time. I started cooking most meals for myself and trying to rebuild some structure to my new life. Unable to work I had hours I needed to fill.
It was more challenging being home than I expected it to be.
Everything takes more exhausting effort, getting dressed and making breakfast first thing in the morning. Then I need a nap. Another Learning curve: Neuro Fatigue is like no other fatigue. Rest does not leave the Survivor feeling rested no matter how much sleep. It takes enormous amounts of energy for a brain to heal, and it takes time. I soon learned that I’m not able to”just get over it.”
This has been the toughest of impacts. While in the hospital I was doing great, even said to the Rehab Psychologist that my obnoxiously happy nature was serving me well post stroke, I was rocking it. But..alas… once home and past the thrill of being on my own in my own home again the emotional turmoil struck me.
First came the anxiety, it didn’t just creep up on me, it hit me full force like a storm, a full on panic attack one evening while simply eating dinner.
It was just me and a close friend, a simple dinner in front of a movie. One moment I was eating, talking and the next I thought I was having another stroke. Let me add here that when I did have the stroke I was asleep, I don’t know what it feels like to have a stroke, only what the results are. The symptoms from the panic attack were so intense and so frightened me that I called the emergency 911. In the next 5 minutes while waiting for the paramedics I experienced rapid heartbeat, my entire body was tingling and going numb, I couldn’t catch my breath and I was shaking so bad I couldn’t stand up.
The paramedics arrived and immediately established my blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation while also performing a stroke assessment. I was not having another stroke…. it was anxiety. One of the paramedics pointed out that when I used deep breathing tests that I was bringing my blood pressure down 20 points. I’d had no prior experience with anxiety but I believed him.
In weeks to come I began having more anxiety symptoms, although more subtle. My injured brain was remaining in a hyper alert fight or flight mode, every day noises like my phone ringing would startle me so badly I’d literally jump. My brain is having to relearn to filter out alarming sounds that are not alarms. It helped to know this is what it is, but I am still unable to reason with my brain when panic strikes.
Since I have been diagnosed with being on the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder spectrum from a life threatening medical event. I was prescribed an anti-depressant to treat the anxiety, but after several weeks I wasn’t feeling any benefit for the anxiety and more significant was ironically I was getting depressed, which was exacerbating the anxiety. I began to realize that I was isolating, even experiencing social anxiety and agoraphobia, my small world was shrinking even smaller. Just last week I connected the dots to the medication and tapered off it, by the fourth day without the medication I felt 95% better. The anxiety is improving as well. I’d had no prior experience with anxiety and in hindsight found the depression was paralyzing. I’m grateful for the first hand awareness about anxiety and depression,
I didn’t know.
Now I know
Being impacted by Learning Curves.