After A Brain Stroke At 36 — I Took Charge Of My Life Again!
A brain stroke at 36!! Early morning of September, about two years back, I felt my left arm go numb and mouth started drooping, there were no words coming from my mouth. Before I became incoherent trying to understand what had actually happened to me, I was taken to the nearest ER by my family. Over there, doctors ran multiple tests and kept checking my condition to stabilise me.
I’ll take you back a little to inform you that I have never had any major illnesses before this in my life — two normal deliveries, (healthy kids with a wonderful family and friends), a regular yoga practitioner having a fulfilling freelancing career of City Editor with our favourite parenting platform with lots of exciting stuff happening every day both personally and professionally.
Then why a stroke?
Even the doctors and the medical staff were perplexed to hear my story and ran all possible tests to diagnose the cause. Suddenly my life came to a standstill while I lay in the NICU worried about my young kids, frightened if I will come out of this alive, turn into a vegetable or will ever be able to lead a normal life again. The MRI scan showed a clot inside my brain which had caused partial palsy to the left side of my body. But until they found the real cause of the stroke, the doctors feared that if I had another stroke my body would not be able to take it. All this was not revealed to me at the time but somehow inspite of the fear, I heard an inner voice telling me that I would get better and go back home to my kids soon.
After a few days they discovered that I have a blood condition called thrombophilia which causes clots in the blood. They also discovered a hole in my heart which facilitated the clot to move to my brain. To understand how to treat the condition keeping in mind my current health, the doctors had to figure out the medicine dosages that would help me control the condition and also avoid another stroke from happening. Those days I suffered from severe migraines like my head would split open because of the medication or due to neurological causes or medication, maybe both but I felt sedated and disoriented.
I felt connected to the universe
I might be out of sorts with the outside world but that time I found a deep connect with the inside world. A spiritual strength overcame me. Thoughts that I should leave all the emotional baggage of the past here and give undivided attention on healing my body and soul consumed me. I could feel all my family members, friends and well wishers rallying for me and sending only positive vibrations towards me.
I devoted all this energy towards getting better- the left hand, arm and leg were quite affected and I had a problem using them as before. The face still drooped towards the left side but I only focused on getting my coordination back. The rehabilitation process was long, almost a year before I started feeling close to my old self.
If it were just the physical part, perhaps I would have managed it efficiently. The whole episode had affected me mentally as well. After about close to a fortnight the doctors discharged me, giving me medicines that I have to eat for life now, dietary changes and I had to undertake regular physiotherapy.
The moment I came back home, I realised everything was still the same but I had changed a lot. A proud person like me who was completely self reliant and finished all the chores in a jiffy, it was a huge jolt when I struggled with the smallest of things. And this was something noone around could understand — the feeling of dependency and disability. Mundane tasks like doing small things for the kids, changing them,making mine or their hair (even reaching back to close a zip, button or hook), eating food as it dribbled out of my left side of the mouth all the smallest of things had become complicated. I couldn’t cook, use a knife, iron clothes or drive a car for about the first 6 months. The superficial fear that I did not look good anymore, that my face and my gait had changed also hounded me and affected my self esteem. My work involved meeting people, be seen online and also in the real world but I just couldn’t do that. I developed a fear of public speaking and would freeze completely while expressing my thoughts and opinions. I had to work on these issues a lot to heal myself emotionally and to love and accept myself with all my flaws.
Writing helped me in a big way and the entire team at Momspresso very patiently helped me find my footing back. Never once making me feel inadequate or disabled, rather cheering me on to do my best. And for this I am forever grateful to them. I moved onto bigger roles from there and even new jobs after that, working quietly behind the scenes and only to be seen online.
Then the last few months back, I took a giant leap of faith and came out of my comfort zone to start my own Consultancy. This made me meet all kind of people- the good and some bad too, but all part of the learning experience. Now I work for myself, on my own time and terms. I set up goals for myself and hold myself accountable to achieve them.
I did not wish that my “story” become all about the stroke, so I had stopped writing and discussing about it. In fact when people did not know about it, they treated me rather normally and I prefer that. And two and a half years on, I have taken full control of my life again. I feel healthier, more alive ( like I am finally living my life and not just letting time pass by).I am trying to experience life to the fullest and raring to go towards my 40th year. I practice yoga everyday, meet different people with their inspiring stories, write a lot more now (thankfully I can choose the work I want, the people I want to work with and write about the things I love). I am connected with a larger community online but have a small circle of friends whom I am close with. Life has become more sorted with the right priorities in focus.
Recently, I met another stroke survivor through a friend. He had a similar blood condition, suffered from seizures and had to be operated upon in the brain to remove the clot, his affected left side was more prominent than mine. But even though I quickly counted my blessings to not having gone through all that he had to, I realised how he had embraced life and enjoying each experience to the fullest and completely inspired me.Leaving his well paid corporate job, he now teaches children and travels the world with his wife.
There are some life lessons and tips I learnt through all this pain and wanted to share with everyone. If this helps even one person to lead a positive life then hopefully the purpose of this entire exercise is achieved.
1. There are no shortcuts in life
Overcoming the disability required a lot of consistency with physiotherapy for physical healing and introspection to clear all emotional blocks. Women specifically, carry a lot of emotional burden unknown to them and healing the heart from the pain is a painstakingly long process. Also never feel shy to ask for help when you think you really need it. You might need to go to a counselor for an objective opinion to put things into perspective for you. Go ahead and do it — it is your journey and noone has the right to judge you for it.
To heal you have to get to the root of the wound and kiss it all the way up — Rupi Kaur, The Sun and her flowers
2. Treasure each moment
We all know this, but we waste so much energy fighting vain ego battles and doing- ‘he said this, she said this’ — that we lose complete control of the present moment. Either we keep bickering about the past or worry about what will happen in the future, we totally forget to share a laugh with our kids, make that call to a friend and burden our spouses with a mountain of expectations.
3. Dance while the music plays
All those inspirational movies and sappy advertisements say only one thing that we keep missing out on — Nurture your creative side without wasting more time, there is never any perfect time to start writing that blog, poem or book, to paint, to dance, to garden to craft, to stitch to bake. So stop procrastinating and saying life is such a burden. Do it right now! Follow your passion and add fire to the creative side. Just see how life becomes so much more meaningful.
4. Keep your circle small
Sadly, we discover in life that there are very few people who root for you and celebrate your every achievement. Keep your circle of people who are close to you, quite small and surround yourself with only positive people. While you will still be faced with a lot of negativity in the world, don’t lose heart rather now you will be able to distinguish quite clearly between what is good for you and what isn’t.
5. Your body is a temple
A saying my mum often used, she herself passed away from a prolonged illness but she lived a full life albeit a short one. But, when I came out of the effects of the stroke I followed this mantra even more strongly. Eat healthy, nourishing food, exercise as often as possible, don’t abuse it with unnecessary stress or by drinking and smoking. Your body is a vehicle that helps you enjoy everything in this world, treat it with a whole lot of love.
6. Nourish your mind
Read good books, have long conversations with interesting people and always be open to learning. Exercise for your brain goes a long way to a healthier you — play that game of scrabble, solve the sudoku or crossword in the newspaper.If nothing else, play a game of ludo or carrom board with your kids.
7. Travel to gain new experiences
Travel whenever you can and don’t just do the touristy stuff, discover varied parts of the city or country you are visiting. Try and do one thing that is completely out of comfort zone, these will make for the memories you will cherish forever. If you cannot go out of your city, try discovering different parts of the city where you live — go for nature walks, theatre plays, poetry recitals or just about anything that interests you but will provide a new experience to you.
You may or may not have read about some of these things elsewhere but these are my learnings from the past two years that have helped me take control of my life again — personally and professionally. We have only but one life to live, make the most of it. I realised it only when I came inches close to losing it… Hope you will too.
Love & Cheers
*This blog was first published here.