It was four months ago today, that I woke up with a headache, not knowing that in just a few hours, my entire life would be turned upside down and changed in ways I could not begin to imagine. Everyday since the stroke, I wonder if there is another one lurking out there somewhere, just waiting. Every headache still causes an internal panic and many times, when I lie down to sleep, the fear keeps me awake. I am hyper aware that ten percent of people who had the type of stroke I did, die within a year. Today, I am one-third of the way through the year and once I am through the year and while I am happy about that. Overriding that happiness is the knowledge that twenty-five to forty percent of people have a second stroke in five years. Then, there is the forty-three percent risk of a fatal stroke in the next ten years and part of me is wondering if I am merely moving further away from the last one or closer to the next. I try and block it all out of my mind, but it is always there. Anytime something seems the slightest bit off, I have to wonder. It’s the dripping faucet while trying to sleep.
I often wonder if I could have done something that day to change how things went. What if I had taken an aspirin for the headache? I wonder what I might have done different that day if I knew what was in store. I guess those types of questions are asked by anyone who goes through something major. I find it scary that life can take us speeding towards a destiny just a few moments away from our current reality.
When I first got home, I thought the hardest part would be learning to walk, but that was actually a piece of cake compared to the loneliness I feel. I have wonderful people in my life, and have received so many comments and emails and support from people that have really helped. I am also aware that nobody really gets it. Nobody really understands what it is like and that makes me feel both happy that nobody in my family or circle of friends has gone through this, but I also get so frustrated that nobody really gets it.
And I feel I talk about it all the time. I sometimes feel it is the only thing I know anymore. I so often feel I am nothing more than the guy who had the stoke and now, when people ask how I am doing, it is no longer the throw-away question to which I am supposed to answer “fine.” Or am I? I feel they want an update. But do they? It has made me socially awkward and very self-conscious. What do I say? What do they really want to hear? Even this blog, which used to be about so many other things, or so much of nothing, depending on how you look at it has been taken over. I need to talk and write about it to understand, but I am nowhere closer to understanding than I was when it happened. And I feel nobody else understands either. Sunday, during lunch with a friend I mentioned I was one third of the way through the year and the dangers of a second stroke in the first year, when my friend made a joke and said “So you are waiting for it everyday!” I know it was meant to be funny, but it isn’t. And I am.
I have always been a person to do things on my own. I really don’t like relying on other people and have gotten through the bulk of my life that way. But now, I feel I may be in a little over my head. I decided to find an online group, where I could at least talk and communicate with people who get it, and give my friends and everyone else a break. I did a Google search and site after site was filled with images of elderly people. In wheelchairs. Being helped into cars. And all sorts of other things that are just not me. And then I came across a few stories of people. People like me, who were young and then suddenly paralyzed, unable to speak or in comas. I have a friend whose brother had a major stroke, and it makes me so confused. Should I be grateful that it didn’t happen to me? Should I be worried it might? Should I just shut up about it since I got off pretty light, all things considered? I feel all these things. As I went to sign up for the forum and chat rooms, there was a form to complete. Among the questions were “date of first stroke”, date of second stroke”, “date of third stroke”. I just started to cry.
Is it only a matter of time? And if it is, what will the next one be like? Will I be as lucky as I was last time?