Here's the thing about having a stroke. Or at least, here's the thing for me about having this particular stroke.
Me pre-stroke is not me post-stroke.
Me immediately post-stroke is not me now.
I don't know how much of that is medication. I am on some intense medications and they definitely affect mood and temperament, and that's got to be doing something.
But also, I knew as soon as the stroke happened exactly what was happening and, knowing people who have been through stroke recovery and having spent a fair amount of time researching neuroscience and neuroplasticity for my architecture thesis, I knew just how bad it could get.
So when it didn't get that bad, things changed for me. Imagine having a really bad couple of months: your beloved dog has cancer that has come back, you have a job you love but it is in a field that is currently notoriously unstable, etc. I won't bore you with my drama. Then a piece of amazingly good luck lands on you, you are saved from incapacity and death and the ruination of several dreams. The very worst thing doesn't happen; the very best thing does.
In addition, I don't know why, but in the hospital I had what can only be described as the most amazing lucid dreams. They went on for HOURS, which has got to mean I wasn't getting very good sleep or something, but for me, the experience was awesome. I got to do whatever I wanted in a dreamscape where everything went the way I thought it should (because these were lucid dreams, not regular dreams). I designed and sewed amazing quilts, I did lifecasting without anybody's hair getting stuck anywhere (this is, by the way, impossible, so don't think talent or practise will help; it will just make your subjects balder). I made some amazing furniture without screwing up the cutting or nailing at all.
I've been thinking about those dreams this last week. In a way I think they were about me telling myself stories -- the events in the dream were entirely in my control as opposed to normal dreams where you're stuck with whatever filing your unconscious mind needs to get done. But in a way they were about outrageous luck, and what I would do if I had it.
So I'm thankful for how lucky I was, to be in the right place at the right time, to have a truly talented neurologist, a smart husband.
Recovery is not easy. My days at work are simply exhausting. Physical therapy is actual work, and I sometimes spend half a day just going from one doctor's office to another. The stroke has raised problems with how other medical issues are being dealt with (I can't take any more drugs that have increased risk of stroke, or at least I should not), so I'm seeing specialists about those as well.
But through it all I keep thinking about walking shakily through the Critical Care ward at Alameda Hospital, with beds full of people who may never walk again, who are relearning how to swallow so they can stop being tube fed. I think of people I know who are permanently disabled from strokes, who can never again do some of the things that made them the happiest.
I did lose things in the stroke. But I got something, too.