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I'm Afraid . . .

How many times do those words flit across your mind? I’m afraid . . .

It seems like everything can cause panic after a stroke. Think about walking for the first time again. There are so many muscles, tendons, and ligaments that worked in harmony before the stroke. Now, just getting them to work together is almost inconceivable.

Like a child learns to walk, so does the stroke survivor. It is not just the leg muscles that need to work in harmony, but the arm and shoulder muscles as well. Until my stroke, I didn’t give a thought to how everything had to work in balance.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. I’m not sure I believe it. I do know that it took me a year-and-a-half to before I walked “normally” again. People who didn’t know me thought I was fine when they met me on the sidewalk. They weren’t inside my body feeling an uncomfortable, painful cramp that I have had for almost seven years. They don’t understand the pain in my arm that accompanied the pain in my leg.

Despite the pain, I kept on walking. Call it ego, but I wanted to be viewed as someone who was normal. People who talk to me now say that they cannot tell that I have had a stroke. They should have talked to me four years ago.

I’m Afraid . . .

The thought of talking frightened me back then. I had aphasia, a communication disorder. If not “cured” by the third month of having it, The National Aphasia Association’s website says that you will probably have it for life. Sure, you may get better over time, but getting over aphasia past month three is a long shot.

My heart goes out to those 40% of stroke survivors who have aphasia. I have met a lot of people who have had it for a very long time. It is crippling. Still, people strive to speak, to be heard.

I was one of them. I had an interview in August 2015. I was filled with glee. I was going to get a job! All I had to do was get through the interview. The call came in. We introduced ourselves. The first question came: Tell me about yourself. I opened my mouth and said . . . nothing. I couldn’t get a word out. No matter how hard I tried, there was nothing.

After that experience, I tried a few professional places to practice. Nothing really worked. I had two people in my head. One person who understood what the other person told me. I knew exactly what I wanted to say back. I couldn’t do it, though. Some times I came up with something simpler to say that was less precise. The two "Marcia’s" fought in my head every day.

Then, about two years out, I heard about Low Lever Laser Light therapy. There was a 74 year-old man at a networking event. He had been in a car accident. He said the car accident left him feeling fuzzy for words. He went for laser treatment because it helped him clear out the cobwebs. His story gave me hope. I had him introduce me to his provider.

The doctor told me that he would try, but speaking had become a long-term issue by that time. Although there were no guarantees, there was still hope. I tried laser therapy and had about a 40% difference over time.

The aphasia had gotten better, but I still had it. I must be an answer "out there" if I looked hard enough. I actually found what was the cure for me. Yes, I am telling you that I no longer have aphasia. It took a doctor giving me micro current neurofeedback to rid me of the beast. I am grateful to have found neurofeedback. I am also wondering how come nobody talked about this option sooner.

I’m Afraid . . .

Because you have to learn things again after a stroke, you are often afraid of things that other people take for granted. I was often afraid. I still am. I do the things that frighten me because there is no other option for me.

The funny thing about being afraid is that you conquer your fears. I am less afraid about doing the normal things now because I have learned how difficult it is to do the mundane.

I don't care what you call it. Grit. Spunk. Perseverance. You have to be gritty to succeed in conquering your fears because, after a stroke, you have many. It doesn't matter how many times you fail. It matters that you are willing to try again, and again, and again. There are others who are there to help you. Myself included.

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