How my stroke made me a better person

After I survived an ischemic stroke to my spinal cord, immediately I noticed the negative impact it had on me and my life.  The most noticeable impact was that I had lost the ability to run, walk or even stand, feed myself, dress myself, turn myself in my own bed which left me and my fiancée uncertain about my future.

Being a person who always tries to look for the upside in every situation, almost immediately after I realized that my stroke had changed me physically for the rest of my life and was limiting my mobility – I started to find humorous benefits to my stoke.

For example: I knew I would never need to come up with a lame excuse to get out of helping a friend or family member paint their home or move.   

More people would want to give me rides to the store. They could park closer to the doors in the disabled parking spot without fear of getting a $200 ticket.

Not to mention that I would never have to stand on a crowded bus again.

Both unexpectedly and fortunately, as time passed, I started to notice some positive impacts that the stroke had made in my life that were more beneficial that the ones I have humorously created in my mind.

I noticed that the stroke had really socked the energy out of me.  At first, I hated how fatigued I felt after participating in any activities such as going to the store or staying up late to watch Letterman.  I noticed that my ADHD had diminished – at least the part that annoyed people and got me into trouble.  Over time I was able to stop taking my ADHD medication.

Before my stroke I had a horrible fear of elevators.  I was very claustrophobic.  I believe this fear of being trapped in a small place, unable to get out on my own stems from early elementary school.  I recall one day that I had gotten into trouble during recess. The punishment was I was put into a room alone and the door was locked. 

My feat only got worse when I visited the Gateway arch in St. Louis.  After being dragged into the small egg-shaped elevator car to the top, looking out the windows and my hometown, it was time to return to the ground and head home. 

When our egg-shaped elevators returned, the outer door of the cab opened, the inner door did not.  The inner door had windows and I could see the people trapped in the car.  It took my mom and my friend Jamie’s mom, Elaine, over an hour to convince me to ride the elevator down.

My fear of elevators was so bad that I would rather walk up 10 flights of stairs that ride an elevator.

Unable to even stand after my stroke, a flight of stairs was not even an option.  I was forced to use an elevator if I wanted to get off the ground floor.  Over the years I have been in two scary elevator rides. I still do not like riding elevators, but I can ride an elevator now without a fear of terror on my face that scares the other passengers.

Before my stroke I did not like to ask anyone for help – period.  I would either do it myself or just go without if I couldn’t do any tasks on my own.  I resisted asking for help because of pride, my determination not to let people know I was visually impaired (I felt that was a sign of weakness and made me vulnerable) and a combination of shyness mixed with low self-confidence and self-esteem.

The stroke forced me into learning how to ask for help.  It made me ask strangers to open doors for me and to grab things I could not reach.  It made me face my shyness head on and by doing so (mixed with the enthusiastic reaction of people who were eager to help) both my self-confidence and self-esteem began to skyrocket.

It has been nearly two decades since my stroke.  Today I can honestly say that the benefits I have gained from far outweigh the losses I suffered.  I strongly believe that I have been propelled further in life than was possible before my stroke because of my stroke – and I thank God for that every day.

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