Living with YoungStroke, Uncategorized

Living With YoungStroke – 7

When I suffered a series of strokes in November 2015 as a result of a series of incredible misfortunes – assault leading to severe damage in my left leg, severe damage in my left leg leading to rhabdomyolisis in muscles of the lower part of my limb, rhabdomyolisis leading to kidney failure, kidney failure to septicaemia, and finally, septicaemia resulting in blood clots in various sectors of my brain – I never even considered the notion that I was about to enter months of deep depression and crippling anxiety. I was so overwhelmed by the physical effects of the incident I did not even pause to consider it may have implications much more far-reaching than anyone was about to warn me.
In the first couple of months following my discharge from the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit of a London hospital, the aspect of my recovery I should be struggling most with seemed painfully obvious to the outside world. I had a strong limp which sometimes even required the aid of a walking stick, I could barely take five steps before becoming out of breath, I slept a whopping three hours a night at the very most, I was on a cocktail of various medications and, perhaps most noticeably, I had to wear an eye patch constantly as the strokes had resulted in double vision which I could only deal with by observing the world one eye at a time. This would have been enough to completely destroy my psyche at any “regular” time, but coming out of two weeks of intensive care and a prognostic which hadn’t initially involved ever breathing outside air again, much less being back at a full-time job within a few months, my physical health turned out to be – and still turns out to be – the last thing on my mind at any given time.
Very, very suddenly after leaving home I found myself confronted with the enormity of what had happened to me, with the enormity of having my life turned upside down and suddenly feeling so outside everyone’s regular experience, and so outside everyone’s comfort zone. Some friends, whom I had considered extremely close, barely checked on me and didn’t seem to grasp what had happened. I realise this sounds whiny and ungrateful, and maybe it is. But regardless, it left me feeling like I had done something wrong and that instead of dividing my weeks up between hospital appointments and panic attacks, I should be out partying, drinking and occasionally studying like every other regular 21 year-old. At Christmas that year, my extended family barely spoke to me aside from a polite hello. The awkwardness of the situation was painfully apparent on their faces. And I felt like it was my fault if things were awkward. That I should have been able to fix it, that I shouldn’t have had strokes in the first place, that I shouldn’t be making my grand-parents feel uncomfortable.
For months, I felt guilty for not being able to work, for relying on my husband, for relying on my family, for relying on my friends. I felt guilty for relying on doctors. I felt guilty for having survived, and I felt like a burden. I became anxious for asking my husband to get me something at the supermarket two minutes away, and I became anxious about going there on my own, anxious about falling over, anxious about the pain, and anxious that my husband would be mad or disappointed that I was over-exerting myself. For the few months following my strokes, I simply couldn’t win.
Finally, I found a job at a local Burger King – not amazing, no, but a little something to restore in me a semblance of self-worth after having been forced to defer a promising MA until next year. I was so excited to finally be able to contribute to the household income once again. Until, twenty minutes after coming home from my first shift, I had a grand-mal seizure.
These occurred a worrying amount of times over the following weeks, and each time they did and I needed a day or two to rest at home, I was made to feel culpable for co-workers, made to feel like I was simply being lazy. “No one your age has a stroke, are you kidding?!” was a common phrase. “Come on, just admit you were hungover or something”, was another one. It hurt. I shut down entirely and stopped talking truthfully to anyone, stopped confiding in anyone, including my husband. Now, 8 months after the stroke, he’s the only person I dare confide in; with anyone else, I’m too afraid of being judged.
I’m only 21. I should be able to go clubbing. I should be able to spend a day out with friends. I should be able to have fun. But I don’t feel like I deserve it and I feel like I’m meant to pay for skipping my twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and just jumping straight into an old person’s disease. I’m meant to pay for getting an illness you’re only meant to get if you have high blood pressure. And although I can now see fine, I can now walk fine and I can now sleep fine, I worry that I will never live the life I was meant to and that there will always be a part of me that isn’t right.