Friday, May 29, 2015

Still Trying to be Super Woman

Five years ago today my life changed. Five years ago today I had a stroke. Most people can't tell by looking at me, but I feel the effects of the stroke all day, every day.

When it happened, I didn't even realize it was a stroke. I didn't know what was causing the tingling on my left side. You know that tingling feeling when an arm or leg falls asleep? Yes, that's what I was feeling. At first, I noticed it in my arm.  After a while I realized it wasn't just my arm, it was my whole left side. I felt the tingling in my leg, my face and the left side of my abdomen. Some of it went away after a couple of weeks, but most of it is still there. All day. Every day.

The only other symptom I felt was tired, but I thought that was just because I'd worked another hard week and needed to rest on the holiday weekend.  I had no idea how the stroke affected my muscles. I really thought I was fine. It wasn't until a couple of weeks later when the doctor recommended physical and occupational therapy, that I realized some parts weren't really working anymore. 

I went to therapy as long as insurance allowed, and got back limited use of some of the muscles, but it's clear after 5 years that I'll never get back full use of my left side.  

My left shoulder really took the brunt of it. I can no longer lift heavy objects, or aim my left arm. (Drive through s are no longer an option!) grasping things with my left hand is possible, but painful, as it puts quite a strain on those muscles.

When people touch my left arm, it's so uncomfortable that it's tough not to scream. This is tough, since most people are right handed, and I interact with a lot of caring people. It happens all the time. Most people close to me know not to touch my left side, but people forget. When it happens, I try to be polite and not make people feel uncomfortable, but all I can really do is concentrate on not screaming.

Because I lost most of the core muscles on my left side, I have trouble with balance. Stairs are difficult. Walking across softer surfaces, like grass, are tough. Uneven surfaces can be tricky. 

This was a big focus of my physical therapy, but unfortunately there's a deficit that can't be fixed. Before the stroke, I could easily do a hundred crunches, switch positions, then do a hundred more. Right now I can do ten. That's taken 5 years of work.

The hardest part for me has been the fatigue. Before the stroke, I was heavily involved in local theatre, and would often go to a 3-4 hour rehearsal on most school nights. Now, I come home from school and look forward to bedtime. 

Sometimes I have a hard time accepting that part of my life is over.

Sometimes I get discouraged because people don't understand.

Sometimes I get discouraged because I want to do so much more, like I used to. 

THIS post (The Spoon Theory) from a website called "But You Don't Look Sick," helped me explain the fatigue to others. It's worth a read to understand what many different people go through day to day.

Why am I writing this post that has absolutely nothing to do with teaching?

For a couple of reasons:
1. I hope people will be more understanding of those "invisible illnesses" that many of us struggle with. Count your blessings every time you go down a flight of stairs without holding on. Count your blessings when you have the energy to go home and cook dinner after work. 

2. Because, despite it all, I still have plenty to be grateful for:
  • I am still able to teach. I love being a teacher. I plan to continue teaching for many years.
  • If I hadn't had more "sitting time", I wouldn't have discovered the joys of blogging.
  • There are a lot of wonderful, compassionate people out there who understand and care about my struggles... and try to help where they can!
  • I have a  beautiful daughter. 

6 comments:

  1. hi Sally, thank you for telling us about your experience. I know it cannot be easy. I am amazed that you still go on teaching, your left side must get bumped a million times a day. I didn't know that it would continue to be so painful, I knew about the loss of muscle, but haven't ever read an article that told about continued pain. My little sis had a heart attack a couple of years ago and she thought her blood sugar was off the charts, she almost didn't go to the emergency room and didn't believe the doc when he told her what it really was. I have suspected it would be hard to recognize one of these serious events and your story and hers confirms that. I am so sorry that this happened to you and sad for the things you lost, thank you for sharing. Paula

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I do get bumped quite a bit! Besides the discomfort, I'm on blood thinners, which means I bruise easily. I always have bruises on my legs at desk level! I would have a hard time giving up teaching, even if I could afford it! Thanks for your kind words!

      Sally

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  2. Sally. My Sally-Sally-Sally. I didn't know. I can so relate to what you've written. Loss. People 'close-to-me' who don't get it. The genuine grieving over what is no more and will not be returned. I've always thought we've had so much in common, but little did I realize!

    Since my bilateral mastectomies I am no longer a 'good hugger'...... a real live, deep all over bear hug genuinely causes me pain. People don't get that. My buddies only see me once a year or every third year and they want to squash me with their excited enthusiasm that I'm still above ground. AKKKKK.

    The 'invisible' nature of what we ALL must contend with, is indeed what shows empathy and understanding.

    Consider yourself gently hugged.

    Debbie Clement, polka-dotted friend and admirer

    Giving up bike riding has been one of my biggest losses. Who knew how much you use your arms when bike riding.

    Be gentle with yourself. You contribute so much to so many. We need you. Much LUV

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Debbie for all your kind words! Yes, it does seem we have even more in common besides our love for the arts and polka dots! I'll take all the gentle hugs I can get.

      Hoping our paths cross again soon!
      Sally

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  3. Thanks for sharing your story! I love how you look at the positives!

    Tara
    The Math Maniac

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