I gave myself a pep-talk the other day; a look-me-in-the-eye, in-my-face kind of pep-talk. I think I need to do that more often. Most of us probably could use them more often.
Sometimes I suddenly think about the fact that I am me, and it kind of hits me right then…I am me…all the parts that make up me. I am a person, who has been living a life, for many years and I have feelings and thoughts and memories, and I have a lot to be happy for.
Do you know what I mean by it kind of hits me that I am me?
And you are you? Like we are contained in these bodies, they are these vessels that we are given to use so that we have a tangible way to experience life.
Sometimes it’s really good to know that I can still think about how I have a lot to be happy for, because since the day I had a stroke there have been many times when I just felt so tired of struggling, I think that I have actually gotten lost within and mired in the struggle sometimes. Which is absolutely normal, I realize, and maybe even necessary.
It seems that I’ve experienced every emotion, many times over, since it happened.
At times I think about Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s “Six Stages of Grief”, originally it was five stages (DABDA), but I’m finding that shock is being added as Stage One – Shock…Denial…Anger…Bargaining…Depression…Acceptance.
You might wonder why I think I can rightfully use the term grieving, but I think most people can understand that we humans have the ability, and even the probability, to grieve loss on almost any level, and therefore I think it’s simply different degrees of grieving for different kinds of loss.
I have grieved loss before. Almost everyone I know and have ever known has grieved, grieving is a part of life and a part of living. Loss is a part of living. Such a small word for all that it can encompass.
What maybe has amazed me the most is how much the loss of my physicality parallels the loss of a life. I don’t say that frivolously, and I don’t mean to, either. It’s not the same, but there is, for me at least, the unexpected similarity of dealing with loss.
Again though, my journey will be unique to me, filled with ups and downs. I have regained some use of my functions and I will continue to hope for more. I may have to accept some limitations for my own safety, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost hope or given up.
At least, not when I am feeling positive and upbeat.
The idea of a new Stage One…shock, is definitely appropriate in my experience. I was in shock for the first few weeks after the realization that I had had a stroke. It’s still difficult to believe at times. And before having one, I had known nothing about strokes, nothing.
[Well, except for really basic things like that left side weakness or paralysis could be a sign you’re having one. I found out later that it could be either side paralysis or affected. And I knew about aphasia, the condition where speech may come out garbled and incoherent during or after a stroke. But I didn’t know the word aphasia until later. (*And I did not experience it, either) I learned I’d had an aneurysm-type stroke, as opposed to a clot-type stroke…I’d no idea there were different types. I didn’t know why people had them and I had no idea how much mystery surrounds strokes in general.]
Shock hung around for a while. It was my second bout with what I think of as absolute shock, and the first time it was directly related to a sudden, jarring and disturbing death. In both cases I went into autopilot. I coped and self-preserved my psyche by utilizing this autopilot mechanism; where it feels like just numbness, a fog, a sense of disbelief.
Every morning I woke up disoriented and confused (in a very uncomfortable hospital bed with about a two inch mattress…this did not help matters). It was all bizarre, and when you’re life feels bizarre, you can bet there’s something shocking involved.
Sudden paralysis is shocking. To wake up and not be able to use or even move a limb, or multiple limbs, that you’ve been using pretty much your entire life up until now…well that’s shocking. I can’t speak to losing a limb; I can only imagine it’s similar, at least in the beginning, in that initial shock stage.
I did not cry, not once, during absolute shock. I self-preserved and existed on autopilot, because that’s what I had to do. When you’re in shock you don’t really feel emotions. Frankly, shock is a weird place to be.
The shock of any trauma, I think changes your life. It’s more acute in the beginning and after a little time you settle back to what you were. However it leaves an indelible mark on your psyche.
― Alex Lifeson
I’m no longer in shock.
But I’m not sure what stage I’m in now…or if I’m in any particular stage, not specifically. Unlike the finite loss of death, some of my losses are slowly coming back. It’s just that instead of slow and gradual loss of functions mine were sudden and swift. That has been hard. Either way, most any way, loss is difficult.
I cannot say that I’ve gone through and come out the other side of all of Kübler -Ross’ “Stages of Grief”, but I can say with certainty that I’ve been angry. Anger and frustration do come along, just as they do for everyone, and as they always have done in my life.
Anger can be good and bad, of course, depending on how it is released.
I like this analogy from an article on www.howstuffworks.com called ‘Can getting angry be good for you?’ by Molly Edmonds:
“Think of anger as your own personal police force or sheriff, riding into town when injustice has been done. The sheriff sends out police bulletins to the effect of, “Hey, that’s not right. That’s not how we do business around here.” That guy is going to show up. There’s really no way to not get angry.
But if he’s showing up for the right reasons, and if he deals with the situation in the right way, then getting angry can be good for you. If he sits down with the perp and has a productive conversation about how to solve the problem, then anger is doing its job. On the other hand, if you’ve got a reckless vigilante who shoots every time he gets angry, or a cowardly police academy dropout that can’t even fire a gun, then anger is not very productive. As with chocolate cake, anger has to be regulated with moderation.”
And even if my problems or frustrations can’t be solved easily, I can still feel what I’m feeling when my inner Sheriff shows up with her bulletin. Then after I’ve told my problems what-for I can let the anger fizzle away and I can get on with living.
Now getting angrier and more resentful day after day can definitely be much more harmful and dangerous. Holding on to the negatives every waking moment affects us physically, as well as mentally.
“We all want to do something to mitigate the pain of loss or to turn grief into something positive, to find a silver lining in the clouds. But I believe there is real value in just standing there, being still, being sad.”
― John Green
Life is about balance. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. Getting mad rarely means you’re unhappy. And just because you automatically answer “Good” when you’re asked how you are, when really you feel like smashing dishes or kicking something (or someone)…that’s okay.
Even if you lie in bed sometimes and think about what you’d give up if you could just change your current circumstances, that’s completely justifiable. Feeling lost or alone doesn’t necessarily stay with you all the time…but even if it doesn’t, it may mean you need some help dealing with your situation and there’s no shame in that. And sometimes it’s reasonable, if not imperative, to just be or feel quietly sad.
We just don’t want to dwell there too long. Not when there’s work to be done, much to be enjoyed, and life to be lived.
“It isn’t for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for that long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Here’s a PepTalk just for you, a little reminder to keep being awesome! I know this video has made the rounds, and I admit that I didn’t take the time to watch it until it was shown at my son’s “Senior Orientation Night” a couple weeks ago. Watching this might be the best part of your day…I love this kid! I bet you will too:
― Raina K Morton August 26 2014
*Today’s title comes from the song “Courage (For Hugh Maclennan)” by the Tragically Hip
**Which references a novel passage;
“But that night as I drove back to Montreal, I at least discovered this: that there is no simple explanation for anything important any of us do, and that the human tragedy, or the human irony, consists in the necessity of living with the consequences of actions performed under the pressure of compulsions so obscure we do not and cannot understand them.”
― Hugh MacLennan, The Watch that Ends the Night