Reflections On Stroke Awareness Month

I was going to release this blog on June 1st, but when I took a look at the photos of myself in the hospital for the first time ever, it was more overwhelming than I expected so I had a to take a few days to reflect on how I felt about not remembering that time in the hospital, how much worse I looked than I thought and how far I've come.  I'm so thankful to be where I am in my stroke recovery.
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June 01, 2018

As Stroke Awareness Month comes to an end, I have had time to process and reflect what that means to me.  Being a relatively young and new stroke survivor, this experience is all new to me. To be honest, I didn’t know about Stroke Awareness Month until this year even though I had my stroke almost two years ago.  I wasn’t very coherent for the first year out of the hospital due to the memory loss I suffered from the stroke. I feel better and closer to being myself more than ever since my stroke, which has not only made it easier to help myself through recovery, but to also help others along their recovery.

I have found that recovery has been one of, if not the most, difficult things I have ever had to do in my life.  The most difficult thing has been how lonely it feels. However, I do have a pretty good support system in place.  My girlfriend has been amazing through this process and I know that I would be lost without her. My friends are supportive and my family has done the best that they are capable of.  The loneliness I feel comes from not having anyone who can relate with what I have gone through. Everyone tries, but nobody can really understand unless they have gone through something similar.  

Things started to turn around when I started my podcast, The NeuroNerds, with my co-host, Lauren Manzano.  She suffered a concussion and could really understand the things I was going through.  I don’t know where I would be now if not for The NeuroNerds.  It has helped me in so many ways during my recovery.  I have a co-host the understands so much of what I have been going through and it has given me the opportunity to meet so many other survivors.  Hearing all of their stories has given me a new perspective of my place in the stroke survivors community.

I have been so overwhelmed since my stroke and some days just make me want to give up, but in speaking with other survivors, I know that I am not alone and that I am blessed to have recovered as well as I have so far.  So many others have been dealt such a bad hand in their recovery. I have memory issues and I still have tremors in my right hand, but what am I complaining about? I’ve seen survivors deal with issues like no feeling on their right side and still walk a marathon, paint, create and inspire.  I say inspire because that’s what they have done - inspire me. I have deficits, but there are others who have it much worse and are thriving. I see them and want nothing more than to match their energy and drive to recover. I want to continue moving forward in my recovery, not just for me, but for the other survivors who haven’t had the support that I have.  I want to help anyone I can because I know what it feels like to feel alone and hopeless. I never want anyone to feel that way.

I have had a few survivors and caregivers reach out to me to thank me for inspiring them. That is mind-blowing to me.  I inspire people. I had been lost for years before my stroke and now here I am helping others find the strength to move in the right direction.  There was a survivor who reached out to me to say that watching my journey has given them hope. As I type that, it brings tears to my eyes. In that moment, I felt a responsibility to help others on a similar journey.  I fight for my life and recovery, but I also fight for my fellow my survivors. We are survivors and we are bonded by that. I won’t give up and I will continue to fight not just for me, but for all of my fellow survivors.  We can do this. We survived. It’s about damn time that we start to live!