It is rare as an adult in our careers that we are extended any sort of prolonged sabbatical from our lives to re-evaluate if we have chosen to follow a path that suits us. I, like many, have now for years have tried to find happiness in chasing after “the American Dream”. I have, at times, found contentment and satisfaction but it was often fleeting.
Don’t misunderstand me when I say that having a stroke has been nothing but a serene blessing where all of a sudden my life has aligned and I’ve understood my purpose and feel nothing but peace. I have broken down more times than I can count. I scream and punch my pillows wondering why this had to happen to me. I sob at the fact that I can barely spend time with my daughter without being exhausted. I am paralyzed in fear when I wonder if and when I can return to work and how I will pay the bills in the meantime.
I know there are many who deem these emotions as “negative” and will do anything to escape or avoid them. However, I think that it is my willingness to feel the deep pain and grieving the loss of the life I built pre-stroke that I am able to find the silver lining.
Pre-stroke I felt very alone in the Eastern United States. A place I moved to a couple years ago to be closer to my daughter. I knew I’d made a few friends but was unsure what kinds of support I would have in the case ofan emergency. I longed for a “partner” or a spouse. Somebody who would be there for me should I have a disasterous event (like a stroke). The outpouring of caring and help in both tangible and non-tangible ways from people near and far has shown me that I don’t need that partner. My eyes were opened to the love and support I already had and my heart filled with gratitude for the people who do things because they are kind. If it is true that we are a reflection of our friends then I am honored to be that mirror.
Pre-stroke my relationship with my mother was complicated and held feelings of resentment and sadness that I was not accepted fully by her. Initially after the stroke she offered to come out but it seemed we both knew it may be more stressful than stress relieving to be together for a week. I was hesitant to agree but knowing I needed the help I acquiesced. I was shocked to discover the whole week was peaceful and so beautiful. A true miracle as it had been years since it had felt that way to be around my mom. By the end of the week we were able to talk about it and realized that we would have likely felt this way much sooner had we been able to spend time one-on-one with each other as we had in this scenario. We have an extremely large family and because of this it seems my mother and I had been unable to reassess the changes that we as people had made to create this new, harmonious relationship newly filled with love and trust.
Just like my mother another miracle healed relationship with one of my brothers with whom I had difficulty. I have 4 brothers (including steps and halves) and it was the one brother with whom I had experienced the most turmoil that reached out to show his love and support. All the others have yet to reach out, oddly enough. The silver lining of that second part is that I was able to identify that I choose men based on the way my brothers treat me. I don’t want to throw them under the bus too much here but focus on my realizations about my own conditioning in relationships with males.
Overall, I remember asking the universe (God, divine, buddha, whatever you call it) “when will life start to get easier”? I begged to please stop throwing the difficulties at me and just let me lead a low stress life with joy for a while. If you’ve listened to my appearance on the Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin Podcast you know it has not been easy. You could also read my book (second chapter has a lot of details) Medication Detox: How to Live Your Best Health if you want the details about how life seemingly has dealt insult after insult. I realized during this stroke that I may never catch this break I asked for. However, I am developing a new trust in everything turning out ok.
At first I thought this stroke to be an “inconvenient detour” on my path of life but now I am realize perhaps it is the path I’m meant to walk. I just hope I can slow down and continue to witness the miracles along the way.