Friday, April 25, 2014

Two and a Half Years

It's been a little over two and a half years since I had a bunch of strokes. Time, then to take stock of how the brain damage affects me.

The first thing to recognize is that I have improved: the facial palsy is reduced, and I can smile on both sides; I walk alone, but need a stick; my eyes have got better, I don't have a squint, and the double vision has diminished; increased sensation creeps up my right hand.

This change is all good, and still happening.  There are aspects of the damage that have still not resolved yet. It is impossible to say what is worst. The problems are all pretty terrible, and many of them are binary: I can tell that my double vision has improved, but I still have double vision, which sucks. So, here's what I am living with:

Reading is very difficult. I have to obscure one eye, or double vision makes it impossible. Then, each eye oscillates (independently), so it is hard to see which word is on which line. The net effect is that it is much slower to read all text, even with the best workarounds. Since I have spent 40 odd years reading exceptionality quickly, this is awkward.

The motion of my eyes makes faces illegible in realtime, so I rely heavily on vocal cues, and people are unrecognizable in the street. This deficit is most evident in large groups: it becomes hard to follow a conversation. I avoid parties.

My balance has been damaged, which is now the primary reason I use a stick. I sway and stagger uncontrollably and at the most inconvenient times. Staying upright takes work, so I tire faster. Working on my endurance in the pool has helped a bit.

I tremble on my right side. I spill, drop and fumble all the time. This is slowly pecked out on my phone with my left hand. The tremor makes it harder and more frustrating to use my right side, but I must if it is ever to recover. I drop my keys less often, but when I accidentally use my left hand, I am reminded how far I have to go.

Through it all, I fight against futility. It takes so long, and is such hard work, and for what? Even if I can recover enough to work again, how can I transition to a job? How can I afford to? Remembering that the alternative is unacceptable, and that defaulting to the easy choice is in fact choosing the alternative, that is not something I always succeed at. But the alternative is unacceptable, so I have to go to the pool and the gym, and I have to keep trying to keep up with life.

Two and a half years is a long damn time, but I'm not even close to done, yet.