Some years ago, I thought about people who remark that friends or acquaintances have changed. The inference is a negative one, “you’ve changed, you’re not the person that I got to know years ago…..”. I remember thinking that if I was the same person a year from now, I’m doing something wrong!! The concept of development, or growth, has been a constant thing for me in my career and in my life, always moving forward……
Before my cardiac surgery and the ensuing stroke, I did some work on working out what was important to me. Things that I enjoyed and gave a sense of fulfillment, things that were positive. I realised that these things were tied up with my identity, who I saw myself as.
When the stroke hit, I was crushed. The things that I really enjoyed most, I wasn’t sure that I could ever do them again. I then went through an internal dialogue (an external dialogue was really hard, what with the inability to speak …….) in terms of what I wanted to be, and what was realistic.
My identity is important to me, it is who I am! I didn’t want to be a new me, only just getting to grips with the old me.The decision to fight, to not accept the cruel hand that fate has just dealt me, was a scary prospect, but it felt the right choice.
The decision to fight, to not accept the cruel hand that fate has just dealt me, was a scary prospect, but it felt the right choice.
Acceptance. People keep telling me “You need to accept it.” Either that I can’t train, or paint, or work or anything…. acceptance is the key to moving on. Really? Acceptance is part of it, for sure, but so is determination. I was determined to reach my goals, to inch towards them. To fight. In the early days, somebody said (I can’t remember who) that I should get a stick to help me walk. A walking cane? With a silver pommel? A sword stick? No, a normal walking stick……. I’m a great believer in artifacts bolstering one’s identity, reinforcing your sense of self. I didn’t want to rely on aids, I was scared to be reliant on physical aids. I was determined to walk without a stick. I did 2 lengths of the garden three times a day, and then 4 lengths, and then 6. And a circuit of the park, and then 2, then 3 and so on… My actions bolstered my identity. My sense of self is one of a fighter, never give up, never accept anything unless I’ve seen it, touched it, heard it. Yes, there are things that I accept, getting old, taxes, death….
My wife had an ‘event’ several years ago. She had a cold, then a chest infection, then pneumonia, then ITU, then multi-organ failure etc. Sitting with your young daughters whilst the ITU consultant tells you that they are doing everything that they can, but he doesn’t expect her to survive the night. That was a surreal New Year’s Eve…… But she did! I’ve looked after people to know that people this sick won’t recover without some disability, as the medical staff warned me. But she made a full recovery. Totally.
Because of that, because of my role model, my inspiration, my love, I had something to aim for, something to live for.
I was determined to not be defined by the stroke, there was more to me than a random event. I don’t know that I’m going to make a full recovery, I don’t know when I will stop making progress. But I’m going to keep fighting! I’ve got so much to live for!
In the early days, I swapped the phrase ‘I want to get back to normal’ with ‘I want to be whole again’. I knew that I may not be ‘normal’ again, but can be whole again, the new ‘normal’. My metamorphosis is, yet, incomplete.
You can read more of Rudyard’s blogs here: http://onbeingwholeagain.blogspot.co.uk