I remember that first Christmas after my stroke. I had to get my presents wrapped early
because it took me so long to cover them. I had no fun doing it, but I did it anyway.
My friends and family wouldn't know how excruciating it was to cut the paper for each package. I had to move my right arm in order to break the paper free from the roll. Taping wasn’t so bad (other than using too much tape), but putting ribbons on was pure agony. I don’t know why I didn’t think to use pre-made bows, but it didn’t even cross my mind.
That Christmas I went through at least three times the number of name cards than I needed. I messed up because the name cards were so tiny and I couldn’t write all that well! At last, they were wrapped and dropped off at the post office. Another thing to cross off of my list.
The Lake is Calling, but I Am Not Listening
Before my stroke, I always looked forward to going to the lake. Just seeing the cool water or smooth snow-covered expanse surrounded by hauntingly beautiful trees left me feeling breathless. Fulfilled. As we rounded the corner six years ago, and the lake came into view, I felt . . . well . . . not much of anything.
We bought our Christmas tree and my husband put up the lights. I dutifully began putting ornaments up. Oh wait, I dropped a handmade treasure. That’s odd. I don’t feel anything about that, either. My mother had made that ornament while I was a young child, blowing eggs, decorating them with gold paint, glitter, and fake pearls. She was no longer with us, so I thought that gluing it together was the right thing to do. Interestingly enough, it looked ok when it hung on the tree.
Darkness came, and I wasn’t finished. Oh well, I will finish tomorrow. It took almost two whole days, but I got the tree done. The house looked like Christmas, but it didn’t feel like Christmas.
A Christmas Discovery
When Christmas day arrived, we woke up and started opening our stockings. Like everything else in my life, it took a while to open the gifts. I had an epiphany early on as we worked our way through the presents. Every one of these gifts came from people I loved. The gifts might be silly or thoughtful, but my friends, family, and husband gave them to me because they cared.
I started feeling that Christmas.
What I Learned from My Stroke
A stroke is something I wouldn't wish on anybody. One feels so helpless afterward. You rely on other people to do the most intimate things for you. If you are like me, you don't like that feeling of inability.
I can tell stroke survivors to be patient with themselves. It is okay if you don't feel much after your stroke. You have to acknowledge that piece of yourself is missing. I think you can get your emotions back. I also think you gain an appreciation that you didn’t have before. You have had a major brain injury, and it takes time to heal.