I’m in the midst of reading Stroke of Insight by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, and I’ve been asked to talk about my stroke experience at an upcoming workshop for local gifted students interested in aspects of the medical world.
Needless to say, I’ve been forced to think about my stroke & aftermath a lot lately. I have been taking stock of various aspects of my recovery.
One: it’s interesting that I have heard myself say at many times in the past that I thought I was about 90% recovered. Obviously that can’t be true at every step of the way since the stroke, but it’s always in hindsight that I realize how my recovery was really going. But, it’s as with everything that changes gradually, it’s hard to see changes in yourself.
This leads me to Two: Where am I now with my recovery? Well, I’m smart enough to say that I can’t say for sure. As Dr. Bolte Taylor says in response to this question in her book: “Physical recovery from the brain surgery was minimal when compared to the task of rebuilding my mind…”. People seem to think that once someone is physically recovered (which is easier to see & measure) that the recover is completely.
Yes, I certainly have an easier time performing certain tasks (typing, reading aloud, multitasking, talking). I’m not nearly as fatigued as I used to be and my anxiety seems to be at bay. However, is that because I’m recovering from my stroke, or because my kids are older (& so sleeping better) and my work-life is less stressful?
That being said, there are deficits that, while less obvious now, are still hanging around. I still mix up word sounds when talking (an embarrassing one is “Harrer Potty” for “Harry Potter” – you’d be surprised how often this comes up!), and there are some words that I just can spell or say now, even though I used to be able to (deficit!!!). When I proofread my writing, it can take me a few times through to catch errors. I can’t think too quickly on the spot, especially when blindsided with a question or comment I wasn’t expecting – it’s like my brain is working in slow motion.
I’ll make the point here again: how do I KNOW that these are from my stroke, or something new that I’ve “learned”? It’s hard to say, but I’m sure it’s a combination of both.
This brings me to Three: what does it really mean to be “recovered”? Does this only mean “be the person I was pre-stroke”? Is that the end goal? Since that was 2.5 years ago now, wouldn’t it be expected that I would have learned new things, had experiences affect me, and I would have changed anyway?
One day, I will go to DH’s work and we’ll do an fMRI scan of my brain to see where certain tasks are mapping to in my brain & compare them to “normal” brain function. It would be interesting to see where my brain is compensating for the large whole left by the bleed.