Before the stroke, I had been playing around with writing a blog, but I wasn’t sure what to write about. Now I had a great subject. The only problem was that now I had aphasia, and writing a few simple sentences could take hours. But I hoped that a blog would help me recover some of my language.
My sister asked me what I would call the blog. I didn’t hesitate.
“My Happy Stroke,” I replied.
Before I get any further, let me be clear: my stroke was devastating. After emergency brain surgery and about three days of flickering consciousness, I emerged severely disabled and very aphasic. I couldn’t go home until about six weeks after the stroke. My children were four and seven years old. I felt a terrible sense of loss. I still feel it often. The right side of my body is a catalog of neurological problems. My aphasia and cognitive problems have
lessened, but every day is still a challenge.
But when I named the blog, in the back of my mind I was thinking about the
contrast between my experience and one of the only stroke survivors I had known,
a distant relative of mine. When I was in my late twenties and he was around 80
(if I remember correctly), he had a stroke, and every so often I would get
updates from my family about him. He lost his ability to read, and his personality
changed for the worse. From what I’ve understood, he
started to show some psychotic behavior.
His changes were extreme, but personality changes are common after a brain
injury. They are often heartbreaking for families. My family was relieved to
see that my personality didn’t seem to be affected. But after a while, a few
people told me that they did see a subtle change: I seemed to be a little bit
I wasn’t aware of a change, but when my sister brought up my overall mood a
few weeks after I left the hospital, I knew that she was right: how else could
I have suffered terrible losses, but not feel despondent every day? I was never
known for my sunny outlook before the stroke.
In retrospect, maybe “happy” isn’t the right word. But I think there was an
immediacy of my emotions—good and bad—that I hadn’t felt since childhood. I did
feel profound sadness sometimes, but at other times, profound peace. My
analytical self was on vacation.
As I recover, I feel more like my old self every day, for better or worse.
I’m more critical again, of myself, and unfortunately, those around me. And
yet, I still feel my personality is slightly different; maybe just more
accepting--sometimes. As time goes by, it’s increasingly hard to know which changes are
organic and which are the results of a life-changing event. Some of it will always
be a mystery, just like the cause of the stroke.
But I do know this: I’m very lucky. I’m lucky to be alive, I’m lucky to be
surrounded by so much love, and I’m lucky that my recovery keeps going.
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