My 2-Year Stroke-iversary Month

 In August 2016 still in the ICU just days after suffering my hemorrhagic stroke.  I don't remember any of this, but the photos remind me that I never want to go back.

In August 2016 still in the ICU just days after suffering my hemorrhagic stroke.  I don't remember any of this, but the photos remind me that I never want to go back.

It’s been two years since my stroke - since I was given a second chance at life.  There really isn’t anything more impactful than almost dying to get you to take a step back and re-evaluate your life.  Two years of re-shaping who I am as a person; re-working the way that I think; the way that I function. After two of the most important years of my life, I feel like I have been re-born.

No longer will I get stuck on things that I have no control over.  Obviously, all of this is so much easier said than done, but I have worked really hard to change.  Not change just for the sake of change, but really change for the sake of living. Who and how I was just wasn’t working. It wasn’t working to the point of a near death experience.  Gone now are the days of me going out of my way and out of my mind to help others who really don’t want my help. I am a helper, a fixer. I have always wanted nothing more than to help people.  No matter what it was, if I could help change things for the better for someone else, I would go out of my way to do so. Therein laid my problem. Not everyone wants to be in a better place. It sounds weird and was such a foreign concept to me, but going to therapy these last few years has helped me understand that some people are just comfortable with chaos.  It is just what they know and no matter how much you want to show them a better way, that’s just not what they want. I have come to the reality that people have to make their own decisions about how they want to live. Whether I agree with them or not, it is their life to live.

 Now I'm living my best life with my trusty service wonder pup, Stella by my side.

Now I'm living my best life with my trusty service wonder pup, Stella by my side.

I hate to see people suffer and just be stuck in their misery.  I wanted to be like a superhero and pull them out of it to show them that there is an amazing beautiful world out there.  That’s what I always wanted, but that was just my own desire. What I have learned, post-stroke, is that it doesn’t matter what I want for others.  It has to come from them. I was constantly fighting an uphill battle that just wasn’t helping anyone, especially me. What came with that was stress and resentment.  Always thinking, why can’t they just see how great things can be? They can’t see that because they either just can’t, don’t want to or even just don’t know how to. I would fight and fight to help people, but I was harming myself to help them and the worst part of all, was that it was usually for not.   No matter how hard you try, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. As difficult as it is to see someone drowning, you can’t get dragged down with them. Offer help and if they don’t take it, then move forward with your own life. I have finally been able to do that with mine.

I used to live vicariously through others.  I would be happy and fulfilled if my people were happy and succeeding.  I never focused on my own happiness. I’m not sure why, I just never did.  I now go to therapy weekly to try and figure that shit out. Like everyone else, I am a work in progress.  

Post-stroke, I have learned to take care of me first.  You have to love and take care of yourself before you can do that for others.  The biggest change for me post-stroke, is that now I love and care about myself more than I ever have.  I felt selfish in the beginning, but now I realize that it isn’t selfish to take care of yourself. It is essential.  Maybe it was my Catholic guilt or just how I am wired from my upbringing, but taking care of myself hasn’t come easy. I work very hard to be a better person. For myself yes, but also for others.  That is how I help others now - by helping myself first. Even after being so close to death, I am still a helper. I have realized that I can help so many more people much more effectively if I am the best version of myself. Joe 2.0. no longer harbors anger and stress (well, I try for the most part not to do that).  I lived. I survived. I am here for a reason. I don’t know what that is exactly, but I am certain that it isn’t to be upset and angry all the time or to be stuck. I feel that I am here to grow and learn every day; to surround myself with likeminded people; to create; to love; and most importantly, to live.  

This is my two-year Stroke-iversary. I have grown more in the last two years than I have in the past two decades.  I love to help people and that will never change. What has changed is that I love to help me just as much. Just like Luke Cage, I move forward, always forward.  Not to say that there won’t be hiccups along the way. I am sure there will be. The difference with those hiccups now is that I won’t let them slow down my progress.  I will take them for what they are. Small inconveniences. The Universe doesn’t have it out for me. I’m not cursed. There is no world wide conspiracy trying on to keep me down.  It’s just life. I choose to embrace it, enjoy it, and love it. The positive outweighs the negative every time - it’s not even close. Life is beautiful. I love ‘love’ and I love life.  I am so thankful to be here to live it and to thrive at it. I can’t wait for my next Stroke-iversary so I can reflect on this next year in my new life.