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Posts from the ‘Brain stuff’ Category

29
Oct

The Great Now What

I love this and hope it’s successful.  Please donate to this.

I am very confident in my lack of confidence that there will ever be any kind of cure for stroke.  If it ever happens, I’ll be long, long dead.  So, our options are to figure out this new incredibly messed up life for ourselves because the people who are supposed to help us the most, don’t.  That’s been my experience and the experience of many, many others who have commented on this blog.

So please donate to this project and read her story.  “Maggie (33) has it all: brains, beauty, an education, a fiancé, and plans for a family.”  We can all say something similar, no?

Watch this trailer (it’s different from the teaser that was on my last post.)  Watching this trailer will make you cry, like a lot, because if you’ve had a stroke you will know exactly how hopeless and broken and devastated and scared and angry and (insert emotion) that she feels.  You’ll be able to empathize with Maggie.  I know I can.  The part of the video with her in a wheelchair kicking a stupid ball to her physical therapist was – I’ve been there.

So, watch, read her story, and donate to this please.

The Great Now What

(Here is the teaser that Maggie sent me a week or so ago and I wanted to post it here again because it’s really powerful).

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13
Jul

Sensitivity Training

There needs to be a mandatory worldwide sensitivity training course.  Particularly in this wonderful country that I live in. It’s very sad that it took years after a horrible, life-changing brain injury for the people in my life to understand some things about me. This lack of understanding, sensitivity, and empathy has led to some devastatingly painful outcomes for me. 
Even my husband, who I am 100% positive is an empath and recently told me that he has taken the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment which resulted in him being told he has the personality type INFJ, has made some insensitivity errors with me. (I most certainly, absolutely have with him, too.  But this is my blog about stroke recovery so…. 🙂 If you’re familiar with Meyers-Briggs, you’ll know that INFJ is the rarest personality type. It means you’re full of sensitivity and empathy to the point that it can really mess up your life if you don’t know how to nurture these traits.  I’ll be confident that he gets it then every few months he’ll say something that tells me “oh, he doesn’t get it.”  But this rarely happens anymore, I’m pretty sure that he totally gets it now. 
When I start getting angry, when I start yelling or saying mean things, when I get upset, when I react horribly to something someone else is saying, I absolutely hate the way that I AM FEELING INSIDE.  That is what needs compassion and understanding.  That’s not really me, my personality. People need to be understanding of WHY I may be lashing out and the painful stuff that I AM experiencing and what is going on in MY brain.  It’s not fun in my brain, not fun at all. 
If you have ever said the following phrase to someone, or any variation of it, you should be immediately flogged. The phrase is (or a related variation) “ YOU’RE TOO SENSITIVE.” Don’t ever say that to someone. If you ever have, smack yourself in the face right now. The thing to do is to ask WHY that person is getting so upset and try to remedy that reason. Don’t just tell someone to stop feeling something that they are feeling or react a different way than they naturally do.   That leads to disaster, trust me on that. 
So, if your loved one has a stroke – which by the way is one of the worst things that can happen to a human being- please, please, please understand that they f’n hate the way they feel inside and react to things. They(I) don’t want to feel this way, either.
 
I have done SO, SO, SO many things to try to calm down these intense, flip on a dime emotions of mine. Because they’re awful. It’s horrible living in my head. Especially when I had no one to talk to about anything that was happening to me and simply being told how to act.  (Which has been the case my entire GD life) My favorite is when I laugh and cry simultaneously.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  (It’s incredibly painful) The thing I found that helps the most – and this is after trying everything including moving across the country to a warmer, sunnier climate – is a daily practice of meditation. That is what calms my mind down the best when I am consistent with a daily practice. I’ve been practicing some form of meditation for years now but I’ve always had trouble doing it consistently, every day.  That’s different now. 
Please go here for a better, affordable alternative to learning Transcendental Meditation.
3
Jul

Talking

I finally feel, after 7+ years, that I speak normally again.  Well, not normally but pretty normal.  Many, many people have told me since about 2 or 3 years out that I sound absolutely fine, my voice is fine.  Well, telling me that and my believing it and feeling that way are very, very different things.

I still get caught up on words, thoughts, etc.  I still mess up all the time when I’m trying to explain something.  I can explain anything to you in writing, I can write masterpieces, but don’t ask me to explain or articulate something to you vocally.  Up until recently, I felt so incredibly uncomfortable in a group of people mainly because of my voice and my inability to participate fully in a group conversation.  I had to be one-on-one with people.  I still MUCH prefer that but I feel ok about conversations in groups now – as long as they’re not too long.  I’m able to project my voice and make sarcastic comments again, I have timing again.  For a long time this was not the case because I spoke so so slowly that I would ruin a conversation if I tried to interject something.  I felt like people just pitied me because I sounded so awful.

For the first few years, speaking was physically taxing for me.  I remember talking to someone whose husband had a stroke and she was having such trouble with the notion of simply talking being fatiguing.  Think of it this way – I’ve talked a lot about gait/walking on this blog because that’s my thing.  I know how to strengthen certain muscles used in walking and I’m able to figure out which muscles need to be strengthened.

The same goes for your voice.  Speaking is controlled by muscles just like walking is and all of those muscles that control speech need to be built back up just like the muscles used for walking.  @Tina C. – it’s physically taxing for your husband to speak right now, it’s fatiguing for him, it gets better.  I have said through all of this that the speech issues were the most devastating part of the stroke.  Not being able to say what you want to say when you want to say it is pure hell.  Having to depend on other people to simply speak for you, order for you in a restaurant – stuff like that, is pure hell.

I wasn’t afflicted with expressive aphasia (the inability to speak).  It sounded horrible but I was able to go to a therapist and talk about stuff and cry.  Someone with expressive aphasia would not be able to do that and my heart goes out to you if that describes your situation.

 

13
Jun

He gets it.

Took a few years, but he gets it now.

This is my husband’s contribution of part of the article that I recently wrote for Healthline.com.

To Others Caring for Someone with Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA): Have Empathy

Someone drew us as cartoons and I love it.

31
May

Listicle

An editor from the online health magazine Healthline contacted me and asked me to write a contributing article about Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA). Here it is.

I’m convinced that PBA is the worst thing in the whole wide world.

26
May

Never Mind

Let me preface this story by saying that I have the best, most empathetic husband ever and I can’t believe I found him.  That said, on with the story…..(I asked him if I could write about this)

It’s hard for two Highly Sensitive People (HSP) to be together.  Especially when one of the HSPs has a disabling, chronic illness.  Last night, this happened….

I started to say something, and he didn’t understand what I said,

He then said “what?

Me: “never mind”

Him: “No what were you gonna say?”

Me: “never mind

Him:  “No, what?”

Me:  (Gets angry and upset and goes to bed)

Him: “What the hell just happened?”

Sometimes, I just need to stop talking.  Pat didn’t hear what I said the first time around, and when it’s late at night and I have zero energy anyway, don’t ask me to repeat something.  Just don’t.  Seven years after my stroke, it is still physically taxing for me to get words out at times.  When he didn’t understand me the first time and asked me to repeat myself, my brain flipped a switch, I became confused and got all messed up in my head about what I was gonna say, and……………..I just needed for it to be dropped and change the subject.

He didn’t drop it, wanted to know what I was going to say and I got angry that he kept pressing me to talk after I had said “never mind” twice.  He told me today that he genuinely just was curious what I was going to say because he thought I was about to say something funny.

Of course, I interpreted it incorrectly which led to me getting angry and making him feel bad which then makes me feel terrible……

So now, we agreed that “never mind” is our safe phrase.  Whenever I say that, he knows now to just change the subject.

12
May

Brain Fog and Migraines

Aside from fatigue, which is a whole other dimension of disability and always deserves its own post when talked about – it is never to be combined with the hundreds of other things that I deal with.  Anyway, BESIDES fatigue, as far as functioning in daily life, bouts of brain fog and migraines are the things that hold me back the most in those areas 7 years later.  I’m not even talking about participating in life – writing, hanging out in groups, taking a walking tour – all of which I cannot do.  No, these things sometimes take away my ability to simply FUNCTION certain days.

The brain fog stills gets me sometimes.  There are still days that I just know as soon as I wake up that the day ahead will be a lost cause.  Forget about getting any work done or thinking much at all.  It doesn’t happen a lot anymore, and it usually won’t last the ENTIRE day.  It’s one more thing that no one else would understand unless you’ve experienced it.

The migraines.  They’re just so bad.  Years ago, I gave up dairy for a while and it did help with the migraines, but it only lasted about a month or 2 because I wanted to order a pizza.  A few months ago, I had back to back – within weeks of each other – 2 of the absolute worst migraines that I’ve had in about 5 years.  3-days in duration, nausea, vomiting, and a pain so intense it makes you want to cut your head off.  I remember once when my husband was at work and I was at home, I got a migraine and texted him “you might wanna stop at Target on your way home and pick me up a new head, I’m done with this one.”

So, I’m trying dairy-free again.  It helps.  But I have a headache right now and I’m disappointed.  Perhaps I’m just having a Herxheimer reaction as all the dairy leaves my system.

6
May

Savant

I was listening to NPR yesterday and they were interviewing a man that fell into a pool, got knocked out, and woke from his concussion a musical savant, having never played the piano in his life.  He said he can’t even read music, his brain just tells his fingers where they should go on the piano.

Well, another piece of life that so isn’t fair.  Christ almighty I wish that something like that happened to me after my brain injury.  What the hell?  All I got physically was a hole in my skull, a body full of muscles that don’t work right, a voice that was barely there for a few years, a dominant hand that shook to high heaven every time I tried to use it and took away my ability to write or hold a damn glass of water.  Oh, I also can’t run anymore, and could not walk well at all for the first few years.  Oh also, I had terrible PBA and couldn’t participate in a conversation.  And, twice a month I get TERRIBLE migraines that last for 3 days at a time and make me vomit.  Oh, and I want to sleep life away.  Oh, and nobody around me understood a damn thing or tried to understand.  Oh, and everything makes me dizzy.  I could say “Oh, and….” about 50 more times.

Boy, would I have loved to wake up with some inexplicable, incredible talent.  I read about a woman once that woke up after a stroke with the ability to speak another language.  That one would be cool, I wish I woke up being able to speak like 5 different languages.

Did anything like that happen to anyone?

28
Apr

Fatigue

Years ago, I wrote a post about post-stroke fatigue, I’ve written about this subject quite a lot….Anyway, I remember Dean leaving this comment on some post, “7 years later and fatigue is still a bitch.”  Well, now I’m at that point.  I’m 7 years post and I’m going to say the exact same thing.  Seven years later and fatigue is still a bitch.  Dean, how is your fatigue now?

This is terrible, quite frankly.  And just like everything else having to do with a stroke, unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t possibly begin to understand this.  When I was 1, 2, or 3 years out, people around me were WAY more sensitive about it.  When you look bad and sound even worse people tend to be a lot more sensitive about things.  Everyone around me seemed to be a lot more understanding about the fact that I need to sleep A LOT and that an evening out or any social encounter whatsoever causes me to need recovery time usually for the entire next day or two.  This was pretty much already the case because of my introverted personality, add stroke recovery to that….

Now, things are very different.  Now 7 years later, I look great, sound great, I look like absolutely nothing is wrong with me and have appeared that way to other people for quite a long time, so other people are much less understanding and sensitive about this issue, and every other issue that I deal with every day of my life.

I remember a really arrogant neurologist prick telling me a year after my massive stroke(s) that the fatigue that I was experiencing was solely caused by my depression.  And this guy was considered to be a worldwide “expert” on strokes.  ANY brain injury is going to cause massive amounts of fatigue.  Anger.starting…blood.beginning.to.boil……about.to.explode…..ok, enough, moving on.

HEY SPOUSES: if your wife or husband had a stroke and sleeps until noon, then goes to bed at 9 o’clock that night……don’t you dare make a comment about it.

23
Apr

All squares are rectangles, but…..

A baseball player recently collapsed during a game and it was revealed the next day that it was due to a brain hemorrhage.  My husband asked me what the difference is between a brain hemorrhage and a stroke.  Well, a brain hemorrhage IS a stroke.  It’s all semantics.  I started this blog a few years before I met Pat.  My muse for creating the blog was my own arrogance, thinking that I knew anything because of my medical knowledge.  Since the year 2014, he has been my muse for most posts.  Most ideas have come from a conversation that I had with him.  He then apologized for asking that question, and asking me to explain something having to do with a stroke thinking that it might upset me.  It’s cool, I like that I have a whole bunch of medical knowledge and I like being able to explain things like this, it’s the fact that this knowledge overlaps with my personal medical history that is the f’ed up part.

A hemorrhage means that a bunch of blood was found where it isn’t supposed to be. If it happens in the brain area, it’s a stroke.  That’s going to kill some brain matter and that, my friend, is a stroke.  So I explained it to him this way, “all brain hemorrhages are strokes, but not all strokes are brain hemorrhages.”  My main stroke, for instance, was caused by a blood clot that decided to take a journey to my brain and get lodged in an artery up there.  But, not to worry, I got to experience the other type of stroke about a week later when I was given too much heparin(blood thinner) which caused a brain hemorrhage.  Thanks, docs.  So, it’s the CAUSE that is the important thing to know.  He then asked about a brain aneurysm.  A brain aneurysm means that a weak blood vessel in the brain burst, causing a brain hemorrhage, which is a type of stroke.

He asked if this baseball player could have life-long consequences and disabilities like I do.  The answer – oh yes, I’d be surprised if this man returns to professional baseball.  He had a stroke.  They are just calling it a ‘brain hemorrhage’ right now.  The word ‘stroke’ scares the hell out of people.  And rightly so.  He said “ok, so it’s like saying that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.”  Yep, just like that.

26
Jul

Climate

Climate change makes a hell of a difference. That is, moving to a warmer climate. For me, personally. I’ve lived in Florida for two months and I realized yesterday that I haven’t had a migraine since about the first week that I was here. I’ve had threats here and there and have had small headaches, but I haven’t had a full-blown 3-day attack replete with vomiting and being totally out of commission. This was a twice a month occurrence, at least, up north.

I’m gonna go bang on some wood for a while.

I’m walking better, my balance is better. I’m sure no one else notices this but I’m speaking better and more clearly. It’s not as much of a struggle to get certain words out. The power of susnshine is not to be underestimated.  Vitamin D supplements don’t cut it, I tried. Fake light from light boxes doesn’t cut it, I tried. I tried everything. I moved down here mostly for the mental benefits because I could no longer live in the dreary, dark, cloudy, rainy hell that is PA. (I’m sorry if you live in and like Pennsylvania but I absolutely hate it). I didn’t expect an effect on some of my physical limitations this soon. I thought stuff would be helped eventually, but not this soon.

My husband is not thrilled about living in Florida. This place certainly has some crazies living here, but it’s been 2 months and I’m in a little bit of shock how good it’s been for me and my health. And we have yet to experience a winter here and the beautiful, gorgeous weather. I could do without all the mosquitoes, though.

8
May

Signature

Buying a house in another far-off state at the same time as selling your current one is a hell-ish process and I don’t recommend it.  Unless you’re like me and you’re absolutely suffocating in your current location and need to live somewhere else for the sake of your mental health – then I highly recommend it.  I thought that having a stroke, being in the hospital for a month, and having your entire life turned upside-down and inside-out was the closest that I would ever get to HELL-ON-EARTH.  Ummm, yeah it was.  This whole house buying/selling process has been like a vacation compared to that.  This has been great.  I’m sure my husband would agree.

So anyway,  we’re done tomorrow.  The house in Florida is ours now and we close on our Pittsburgh house tomorrow.  Then we’re done with all this crap.  When we drive back to Florida on Monday, we’ll just be driving home.  To our house.  There will be no uncertainty, anxiety, stopping at a hotel in West Virginia in order to print out and fax documents.  No panicky phone calls and e-mails, we actually get to enjoy this road trip.  Either the person that sold us the house or the selling realtor sucks.  I’m not sure where to place blame, but one of them sucks bigtime.

The closing of our house required signing A LOT of paperwork.  A LOT.  Not being able to write is one of the most devastating things for me about being alive, so that was fun.  We got a Power of Attorney drawn up so that Pat could legally sign everything on my behalf.  When we went to apply for a mortgage is when I became aware that this would be necessary.  There was a ton of paperwork to sign then too.  And I had to sign everything myself.  We didn’t have the POA yet and the guy had to witness me signing.  So, I had no choice.  He kept saying to me “it doesn’t matter what your signature looks like.”  Thanks for trying to make me feel better dude but that’s not at all the problem.  The problem and what makes me so upset is not the illegibility of my hand-writing.  It’s the physical act of putting my right arm/hand in the writing position.  That very act makes me cry.  Placing my arm in that position sets off a series of events inside of me that ultimately ends up with me in tears. Good thing that medical records have pretty much all gone electronic.  There are a ton of people who hate this and complain about it, but I sure as heck am thankful for it.  I certainly wouldn’t be able to do this job if it involved any writing.

27
Apr

St. Petersburg

I’m closing on my house in Florida tomorrow.  I finally feel like for the first time in my life I’m really doing my thing, what I want and not conforming to some vision that other people came up with as to what I ‘should’ do or how I ‘should’ behave.  I’m doing what’s best for me and my husband, and our marriage.  That’s certainly what matters most.

We arrived in St. Pete last night and have been exploring the city since we got here.  On foot.  We’ve been walking around.  I remember when I wrote this post.  When I wrote that, curbs were really scary to me.  A small curb felt like a freakin’ mountain.  I remember the feeling, the fear.  Anyone reading this that never had a stroke, going up and down a curb is second nature to you and doesn’t require any concentration whatsoever.  Have a stroke, that changes.  Drastically.

But walking around this flat city, curbs are no longer scary to me.  I won’t say it’s second nature for me, I’m still very aware that it’s a different level of ground, but it doesn’t require much extra concentration for me to navigate a curb.  I squeeze my husband’s hand a little tighter when approaching a curb but I don’t have to think about doing the whole ‘Up with the good, down with the bad’ thing anymore.  6 years after the stroke and it’s so different and better than those first couple of years post-stroke.  So, so much better.  It gets better.

26
Mar

Sitcoms

The idea for this blog post has been rattling around in my brain for a while so I finally decided to get it out of there and write it.

Apparently, having a stroke is hilarious.  I’ve noticed on several TV shows lately- I’ve noticed this quite a bit in the last 6 years –  but it seems to have been very concentrated lately.  In recent episodes of multiple shows, the common thing to say when someone is acting weird is, are you having a stroke?”  I’m wondering if there will ever be a day in the future that I will see that or hear that and it won’t have an effect on me.  6 years later and it still has a major effect on me.  I so wish it didn’t, but it does.  Will there ever be a day that I’ll be apathetic and unresponsive in the presence of some insensitive joke on TV?  Or insensitive people? – which are RAMPANT in this world.

I dealt with my trauma mostly with humor.  Self-deprecating humor.  I think resorting to comedy is a very common way to deal with horrible things.  It’s how I dealt with it most of the time.  Certainly not always, but when I wasn’t a basket case of tears or unbelievably angry, I was laughing at myself.  I know it’s how a lot of you have dealt with it.  The problem with self-deprecating humor is this – other people see me make fun of myself and think that means I’m comfortable with jokes being made about certain things regarding me, strokes, whatever.  That’s not the way self-deprecation works.  It has the word ‘self’ in it.  I can make fun of myself all I want, you cannot.  There are 3 people on this planet that have liberty to say absolutely anything to me, about me, around me, etc.  Everyone else – no.

The fact that TV shows think it’s for some reason funny to say “Are you having a stroke?” doesn’t make sense to me.  Most people don’t know how to be funny and are not good at it.  The majority of people that I encounter in life don’t have near the sense of humor and wit that comes so naturally to others (myself included).  If you know how to be funny and empathetic, and are delicate and intelligent with highly sensitive topics, then pretty much any topic in life can be skewed somehow into something humorous.  Granted, I’m incredibly sensitive to this.  I would not have noticed it 7 years ago but I sure do now.  But, correct me if I’m wrong, it seems to me like a stroke is joked about and made fun of way more than other illnesses and disabilities.  I guess it’s because strokes are all-encompassing.  Any movement, function, amount of language, thinking, conversation – just about anything can be f’d up after a stroke so I guess it’s easy to say on TV, “my god she’s having a stroke or something.”

Maybe I wouldn’t be so incredibly sensitive about this if people within my own “support” system had not said some incredibly idiotic, stupid, insensitive things to me in the last 6 years.  Oh well, c’est la vie.

4
Jan

Filter

I have written about this many times in the past, but I’ve been corresponding with someone over e-mail that said something to me that was upsetting. Here is the blurb from the e-mail that got to me…..

 
“Immediately after the stroke, I basically said to anyone exactly what I thought, I was far from polite. I would call that my Filter, it was my lack of holding back an inappropriate comment. I became more filtered as time went, sort of like how a child becomes more filtered with age, so I am fairly filtered right now with my comments. I am honest but not offensive. I explain this because many arguments are moments when it doesn’t do any good to be unfiltered. Honesty is one thing, but sometimes it is most productive in an argument to respond, or not respond, a certain way.”

 

This lack of filter is a neurological condition that everyone I’ve ever met with a brain injury has experienced. It’s called Pseudobulbar Affect. Look it up.  When I was lying in a hospital bed 85% dead, I was told that I was being mean to some visitors.  The months following my stroke when I was about 60% dead, I was frequently told that I was saying inappropriate things, and that I needed to change the way that I interact with people.  A few years after the stroke when I had improved to about 45% deadness, some of the things that I said during that time were brought up to me as examples of how mean I was and why some people didn’t want to come see me.   I was told these things by the people closest to me that were supposed to love and support me the most.  I was told these things were a problem with ME and not a result of the absolutely horrible, devastating medical condition that had just taken over my entire life.

 

This meanness, this “lack of filter,” this honesty, this saying horrible, racist things like I did, this inappropriate laughing or crying is a neurological condition that CANNOT BE CONTROLLED.  It’s the weirdest thing in the world and utterly impossible for someone who has never had a brain injury to understand.  Just impossible.  To try to explain to someone that you actually can’t control the words that come out of your mouth is completely incomprehensible to most people, I understand that.  What I don’t understand is that no one in my life at the time took a few minutes to read a GD article or two in order to try to understand why I was acting like this.  How selfish of me to think that at the absolute lowest, darkest, and most vulnerable point of my life that anyone around me would try to increase their knowledge and learn how to better deal with my behavior that I COULD NOT CONTROL.

 

If you’ve stumbled onto this blog, it’s probably because you yourself or someone you know and love had a stroke.  Please read about PBA and – you won’t understand it, but you can educate yourself about it.  The last two abstracts I have linked mentions that damage to the cerebellum in and of itself can cause de-regulation of emotions, so I have both issues, lucky me!!

 

PBA

PBA

PBA

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PBA