Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fear and Compassion

The real downer lasted about a week, and I'm still kind of picking myself up from it. It was great to have support from all over, and it was definitely good to have been measuring things so I have incontrovertible progress to point myself to, but somehow neither was enough. I hate that depression is so irrational, but there it is. At least it was pretty short, and fairly light, and I'm grateful to everyone who got in touch here or by email.

It's a strange thing that as I make progress, I find 'new' areas of weakness that are afflicting me. It's weirder that they're sometimes things that I identified six months ago, but just didn't get fixed enough, or weren't fixable at the time. For example, when I was just learning to walk again, I knew that the outside three toes of my right foot weren't really doing anything. So I made them act, and in doing so improved my balance (which was terrible back then). Recently, I've been aware that my right foot wobbles around a lot at the end of a stride, and sure enough it's those same three toes just relaxing and not engaging. As a result, I'm paying much more conscious attention to them, which improves my gait, in the hope that eventually, they just work on their own. It's hard to do, though because it's hard to even notice the left little toe doing it's thing.

I had some good news again from the hospital: I have no arrhythmia, so that's another cause ruled out. The un-news was that means they still have no real clue why I had the first haemmorhage, or particularly the subsequent clots. There's one genetic test they're waiting for  (CADASIL), and another they need to decide if it's worth spending over £750 on (COL4A1). In some ways, I don't care, because of the fear.

I'm more or less fine with the idea that it was my hypertension that caused the strokes I had, especially since it's now under control. But I don't understand why it takes four drugs to bring my blood pressure down to where it should be, especially since I'm fitter now than I have been for years. Blood pressure seems more like a measurable symptom than a cause in and of itself. Of the ischaemic attacks. I can see how my epic blood pressure could have caused a brain haemmorrhage;

One of the horrible aspects of new problems being old, or just finding new things to work on is the fear that I've had more tiny strokes. The fear that my brain is steadily decaying. It's nonsense, of course, even when I think I'm getting worse, I'm getting better, but fear doesn't have to be rational. What is rational is the fear of falling: it damn well hurts. It also leaves me distressed way out of proportion to the actual physical pain, which is often not trivial. I may have lost a bunch of weight, but I still have an adult's center of gravity, and it turns out that gravity sucks.

All of which could be pretty gloomy, and last week it was, but this week the sun is shining, the gym was excellent today, and life goes on. Which means it's time for anotner:

Tale from Strokeland

I was waiting patiently to cross the street, waiting where a year ago, I would easily have nipped across the road; now I'm not sure I can get to the other side fast enough, partly because of reduced mobility, but also my inability to judge how fast cars are going. The oncoming cab stopped, and made sure I got across the road. Later that day, the same cab pulled up beside me, and the driver poked his head out to say I'd been his fare four or five months back, and how good it was to see me getting about more.

That's just one example of the countless ways that people have been kind or considerate to me, since I had my strokes. For every time that I'm annoyed at someone or something, there are dozens of small kindnesses to my day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

8 Month Downer

Eight months and counting, and I am at something of a low ebb.

Physically, I can point to the progress I've made, which is consistent but slow. My eyes continue to improve, although I sometimes worry that I'm deluding myself; it's worth it to remember that it takes babies a good six months to get their eye musculature coordinated, and that my diplopia is unlikely to resolve faster than that. Stroke is making me patient.

Sadly, I've confirmed that I have an intention tremor in my right arm and hand. and to date there's been nothing much that western medicine could do about it. Acupuncture has been generally good, though, and I try to remain optimistic that the needles will beat the tremor. There are worse things to suffer, of course, and learning to be left-handed wouldn't be the end of the world.

My left face is still palsied, and my left eye doesn't shut on its own still, but both are improving. Again, slowly.

I don't understand why my blood pressure remains so high without medication; I've added a beta blocker to the mix to the other three pills that are there to manage my hypertension. It seems unreal that, when I am fitter and healthier than I have been in many years, something so primitive and fundamental is beyond my power to affect without medicine.

As I improve physically, though, the brutal reality of life comes on the horizon; to date my focus has been on recovery. It is hard to laugh when every positive sign is met with yet another failure. It's been days since I last fell over, and at least then I didn't hurt myself at all, but any time I'm feeling a bit more deft, I can expect to land on my ass soon enough.

Excellent as it has been to recover in Dorset, I miss New York keenly, more for the friends I haven't seen in so long than anything else. 

This depression is no stranger, and even less a surprise now that I have brain damage. I know it will pass, and until then I just need to keep soldiering on towards recovery. Today, though, it feels like hard work.