Saturday, October 11, 2014

Three Years Not Dead

My first strokes were three years ago, today; it's time for an update. I'm not sure whether to lead with good or bad news, but here goes:

First, I'm not dead. I think that counts as good news. 

Then there's all the stuff that is still a problem: I have double vision, oscillopsia, weakness and a tremor on my right side, and a facial palsy. I may be forgetting something obvious to others, but regardless, that's some of the not-unexpected not-good news. 

A lot has improved. I walk better; I have to go outside with my stick, but I still walk better. I'm fitter: two and a half years ago I was hard pressed to swim 25m without a break. Yesterday I swam just under 3km without stopping. That's good.

Some things, it's hard to say either way. I've been very depressed at times over the last few years. Sometimes because I have been flat broke, more often because recovery is slow, unpredictable,and hard to measure without the right equipment (see: broke). Right now, though, I'm not depressed. I'm swimming and going to the gym, I'm getting out a bit more, and even going on some dates. 

Mostly, things are relatively good, for now.

I've been thinking recently about 3 years ago, and how bad I must have been. Bad enough that it's taken 3 years for some of the people who saw me right after the strokes to admit how terrible I looked. Bad enough that I signed a surgical release on the first day, because they were mooting surgery to stop the hemorrhage, and bad enough that I spent eight days in intensive care. I have bad enough brain damage that three years on, recovering from brain damage is my principal occupation. 

Oddly, I suppose, I don't think of the brain damage, and associated problems as health issues. Hypertension, which probably caused the strokes, is a health issue, and one I'm being medicated for, but the neurological damage just doesn't seem to fit in that box. If you set the brain aside, I'm healthier than I've been for ages. 

I'm used to being the guy with a stick. Used to having wretched balance, to avoiding crowds when I can, and to absenting myself when I must. The exhaustion that comes is not, I think, peculiar to stroke, but is instead a feature of the learning brain, and thus it is inevitable when your brain has been damaged and recovers. 

I care less about mores. Again, this is not an aspect of my particular damage, but rather behavioral: I don't talk as much as I want, so I talk more to strangers, I'm nosier, and I share my dubious wisdom liberally. Writing is hard, so I run my mouth, which is easier. Disabilities are a great cover for this new habit: strangers can safely assume that I'm funny in the head, and who would hit the crippled guy anyway?

I can't say that it's been a good year, but it has been about as good as it could have been.