Andrew coffee

Hello Beautiful People.

This week, November 26, 2022, is my first anniversary, or “strokeversary” of my stroke and I’m not sure how I should feel about it.

I started feeling anxious about it about a week ago. In fact, I was overwhelmed with grief and panic, at one point. I could not stop replaying the moment in the hospital when I had the full-blown stroke. I should have begged the doctor to do something, that I could lose the use of my hand and arm, that I am a musician. Screamed at them to do more. But I didn’t want to cause a fuss. This is ridiculous of course, they were doing all they could and I was in the best place I could be, having a stroke. Then there were the thoughts “why me?”, haven’t I been through enough over the last three years? The death of my father was followed by the death of someone who I have known since she was born and who was like a sister to me. Things come in threes I suppose.

It’s so easy to descend into despair and let that voice in your head tell you all manner of terrible things. “You’re useless.”, “No one will love you now”, “You’re broken”, “You might as well be dead.”

Well, I have learned this year that you can actually shout back at that internal bully. And I did. And it’s actually a coward. Like all bullies and abusers, it stopped and is gradually fading away.

The internal voice, the saboteur, as it’s sometimes called, is something we all have to a lesser or greater degree. It stops us from reaching our full potential and taking risks. It thinks it’s protecting us, but it’s actually harming us. It’s one thing to say to yourself, “don’t cross that freeway because you’ll probably be hit by a car” and “don’t bother going for a walk because you are fat anyway and everyone will stare at you”. One is sage advice, and the other is just plain abusive.

That internal abuser was very loud in the early days of recovery. I would grow frustrated with myself because I couldn’t do simple tasks. One of my rehab therapists noticed this and said anger and frustration interfere with healing. Be kind to yourself. That changed everything. When I became frustrated, I reminded myself I’d been through a factory reset and I had to learn these skills again. I was more patient with myself and when the “abuser” turned up, I would shout back and shut it up.

This week is also Thanksgiving, at least in America. I decided it was my Thanksgiving as well. I am thankful for being alive still, I am thankful that I can still read, write and talk and have all my cognitive functions, I am thankful that my emotional filters went and I was able to rebuild new ones, that I like. I am thankful that I have full movement and still recovering fine motor skills. Finally, I am thankful that this awful thing that is a stroke, opened me up to all the amazing survivors and carers I have met and sent me off in a new direction on my life journey. It was a Lifequake alright.

I want to end with a quote that means a lot to me and seems pertinent.

“Western culture believe we must be alive for a purpose.
To work. To make money.
Some indigenous cultures believe,
we’re alive just as nature is alive;
to be here,
to be beautiful and strange.
We don’t need to achieve anything to be valid in our humanity.”

And I’d like to add, to make just one other human being’s life a little easier.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out with love and support. I am spending my Strokeversary with those I love and making it a happy, positive day. A Thanksgiving.