Monthly Archives: January 2007

A Black Notebook

moleskine

Not too long ago, but what seems ages ago, I made a decision to start a diary in shorthand gah stroke burp wrong word longhand. I searched far and wide for my favorite notebook, a moleskine. Not too long ago, but what seems ages ago, I started writing in this moleskine–things I could not post in non-anonymous public, but still needed to write down. It was an “overflow” writing center.

By “not too long ago, but what seems ages ago,” I mean a month ago, right before I had my stroke. In hindsight, this decision was incredibly momentous and timely–just a few days after starting a written diary, I had a stroke.

This written diary has now become my lifeline and link to sanity. It has a huge role in my healing. I write in it everyday–grateful for its hidden, underground nature. Before my stroke, I wrote things I did not feel comfortable writing about here. After my stroke, I took advantage of the anonymity of this journal and wrote despite my handicaps, despite the hardship, in incomplete sentences, in bullet points. There is no audience for a journal, there are only the words. It is really pure, sometimes rough, sometimes the words are gems.

I wrote in it while in the hospital, and it contains thoughts and experiences I don’t remember very well: the hospital, my confusion in the hospital, people’s names! It contains things like test results, and reminders to myself, and little factoids I have to remember, and questions I need to remember to ask my doctors. It contains my darkest moments, and my sense of victory. I jot in it while parked after an appointment, overwhelmed with feeling. I jot in it while at lunch with a friend, my mind flashing with a fleeting thought. I write in at the end of the day in bed, unfurling my thoughts until my mind is a flat lake.

It doubles as my “memory book,” something therapists urge stroke victims to take up, a journal to jot down reminders and thoughts and memos.

Thank goodness for this black notebook.

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a burst of hope

thalamus

Above is a model of a brain, viewed in my neurologist’s office. In the center of the brain is the thalamus–that’s what got hit during my stroke. The thalamus is associated with crucial tasks like memory and intuition; simultaneously, it’s sort of a hub and connected to other parts of the brain. Yet, its central position provides advantages to healing. That is, because it is centrally located, alternate brain paths are easily forged…and of course, lead to healing. That’s what’s happening in my head these days: the brain is finding new routes and roads.

Today, after lunch with Susan, I went to my neurologist for an appointment. I fully expected to be depressed, much as I was depressed after my initial visit to speech therapy last week. But no. I was strangely inspired by my visit, and I felt the long way I’d come in a very short time.

The doctor had seen me from my initial days in the hospital, and I watched his every move to gauge my progress–not just his words but his facial expression and reactions to me. He had not seen me since my discharge. He wrote notes down when I said I had not been able to write creatively just yet, and how limited I was in my reading of fiction work. He seemed concerned about that. He seemed non-reactive to my current cognitive state, as if he expected this level of healing. He did not seem so surprised by my progress, and told me in a matter of fact tone the nature of my stroke and its location. I had to apologize to him–he probably told all this to me before in the hospital, but I didn’t remember much of my hospital stay.

I found out today that I am lucky.

I was and am very lucky.

I could have been felled by this stroke, but somehow, emerged with what I think is nearly the best possible scenario. “It was a fluke,” said the doctor. A small PFO (hole) in my heart. A small clot. Straight into my brain, deep into the cortex, right at the thalamus. And yet, here I am, able to blog, at least, and live, and well enough to hide the stroke from most people. I’ll make a complete and full recovery, eventually.

I feel strange to consider myself lucky, but I think that’s what I am. And I often wonder, with all these new paths forged in my brain, if I will be different; I am coming to the conclusion that yes, I am changed, but not because of those paths.

Most of my life these days is “in the moment.” I just can’t hold my thoughts sometimes, and I’m thinking of all the rewards from this situation. Of all the ways I am “lucky.”

My friend Rose told me that I would learn some great lessons in this illness (she told me some other great and wise things, too). I’m trying to open my mind widely, trying to gulp the lessons up, or at least letting them in. Living in the moment is one of them. It’s hard for me to remember things–during the course of a conversation, thoughts spring into my mind and it’s hard for me to hold these thoughts as my companion talks before me. Because it takes me so much energy to hold the thoughts AND listen to my friend, I find myself letting these thoughts slip. Are they that important? No. I’ll just take it all by the moment.

If I think a thought is important enough, I’ll take out a notebook and write it down so that I’ll remember. But most of the passing thoughts? I let them pass.

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from the couch

Okay, I’ve become a couch potato these days–my doctor has forbade me to exercise and I cannot read…so there’s the television.  I can’t even work at work that often (3 hours a week is my limitation)–gah, I am boring myself.  Unbelievable.

I must say–there is a HELL of a lot of “reality tv” these days, and it is beginning to show.  Where are the “real” TV shows, you know the ones that require writing and acting and scripts?  Right now, “Lost” is on hiatus–and “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House,” and “Desperate Housewives” are only a few days of the week.  WHERE are the comedies?  Bleah.  This couch potato says “television sucks.”

Then again, I have started watching “Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency” and my brain is slowly acclimating.

Help!  Please Stroke G*ds, bring back my ability to read books and write fiction soon!

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excuse me, have to mention this!

Short post, coming through!  Excuse me, pardon me…

Every once in awhile, I go through my dashboard on wordpress and look at all the search terms that bring people to this page.  The following search terms caught my eye and got me to nearly burst into laughter (I’m at home alone, it’s weird to laugh when you’re alone, people):

 mfa writing bland

‘nuf said, no?

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friendships and illness and healing

This is an important post, and one that I have been waiting to write until I was well enough to articulate. Not that I’m all that articulate now, but the feelings are welling up in me and I just need to put them out now, despite my dis/inabilities.

This post is about friendships and illness and healing (pretty obvious, given the title)–and in particular, I have to note that though there will be people who read this in regard to their own friendships, it really does revolve around my own hangups and unique personality. I have a hangup about friendships and intimacy. My tendency is to wall myself off, because I have been hurt by so many “friends”; I spend a lot of my time finding ways to protect myself. These days, given my recent stroke, I just don’ t have the energy to figure out how to protect myself…except to isolate myself.

My friendships are both surprising and disappointing me these days. I blogged in a recent meme that my husband is my best friend–ironically, I blogged that while suffering my stroke (who knew that stroke doesn’t have to affect the body and that it can take such a weird form?). And these days, he has more than lived up to his status as my best friend. He took time off from work to be with me, he still works very short days at work, and he protects me from expending myself. I am so grateful for his presence in my life.

I have received flowers from numerous people. They have been remarkable–who knew flowers could be so therapeutic? There are still a few bouquets alive in the house, still cheering me up with their silent beauty. On days that I feel like shit (yes, I have good days and VERY bad days), it’s nice to look up at the flowers sitting on the shelf and see some proof of caring and thought. I have received multiple emails from people wishing me well, too–they are little electronic blessings. Oh, and the friends who cared for our doggies the first night I was in the hospital! They aren’t even pet owners themselves, and yet they stayed overnight at our house to stay with our dogs until we could book them at their doggie care for the rest of the week.

But there are still the weird interactions and disappointments in friends. I am a sick person now and they are scared or I am scary or something is going on. I am running into the limitations of other people. People who don’t come by, who are afraid to come by. It’s interesting to be on that other side now and see what the world is like to be ill and recuperating. The world spins by so quickly for others, and I can’t help but feel left behind somehow.

Continue reading

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Completion

The other night, I opened up Murakami’s collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, to read my 3-4 pages of creative work (that’s as much as I can manage these days before the words turn into a blurry mess). I’ve skipped around the collection a bit over the past year, but decided recently to take it story by story. (After attempting to read a novel and being overwhelmed by all the ramifications of my stroke, I decided to read short stories, and decided to read this collection in order so that I remember which stories I do read, etc,. etc.).

Imagine my surprise when I finished the short story 3 pages in.

It was the title story to the collection, and I had been slowly reading it over the course of a few days.

I closed the book with a bittersweet sense of accomplishment. In a sense, it was huge because this was the first story I have been able to finish reading since my stroke. To be honest, the experience is a bit abstract: I don’t remember every detail of the story, just a general gist, but I get a sense of the story and I officially finished reading it with a general understanding of things. There’s satisfaction in that achievement. Albeit bittersweet. It was not an option on my part to finish a short story over the course of a week, nor is it my option to hold it in such foggy memory.

I can only hope that the story has made it into the cortex of my brain somehow and that I will remember it deeply.

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Filed under Reading, The Stroke

a black hole

I have a black hole for much of December. I can’t remember much from that period of time. Hell, I don’t even remember much of my hospital stay in early January (it went by in a blur). Sometimes, I can stare at the wall, and then look at the clock and wonder how an hour went by. That’s my sense of time and memory these days. Big black holes.

I went to speech therapy (yes, it’s called ‘speech’ but they work on memories too) today for the first time and afterwards was just nearly in tears. I say nearly because I haven’t been able to cry for a few days, no matter how hard I try to cry. This, after a week of bursting into tears very easily. Anyway, I was just so blown away at my own condition–I really just can’t remember a whole lot of stuff. Before I drove on to get my blood test done (yes, I get blood tests regularly so that my arms look like a heroin user), I just sat in my car and stared out the windows, wondering, “How the hell could this have happened to me.” Yes, I know a cliched thought, but that’s what I thought.

It’s easy to deceive myself. I can move around just fine. I can speak just fine. I can hold a conversation. Hell, I can write a blog post. But I can’t remember a lot of stuff, and I have a hard time remembering, and I’ve lost memories, and I can’t read anywhere near as much as I used to be able to. I can read 4 pages a day, as opposed to the hundreds of pages of fiction I could read before.

Then I saw a news story on The Kim family, you know the family that got stuck in Oregon and then it snowed and then the father went out to get help and died while his wife and little daughters finally got saved. I had forgotten about them, they were part of my black hole of memories. Of course it poured back, and I feel more awful than ever about it all.

So this is where I’m at–going back and forth from feeling SO much better to feeling UGH. These days I have to admit I’m mostly numb, which alarms me–am I depressed? I’m starting up speech therapy. I’ve got appointments with a cardiologist and neurologist later this month. I get blood tests every other day (hence, again, the track marks on my arms). I try to go to work once or twice a week. The rest of the time, I try to entertain myself, stare at the wall, whatever.

All the while, I wait to be able to write fiction again.

Update: Yes, I’m freaked out about needles. My first days home, in addition to blood tests, I had to have lovenox shots administered to me by my husband, twice a day. Those shots burn. I still have bruises all over my stomach from them, over a week later (hell, nearly 2 weeks later).  Don’t even get me started on me taking medication for the mastitis (yes, somehow I managed to get a breast infection even though I am childless) I still have from before the stroke.  Oh, and the antibiotics for the mastitis?  Well, they had some interesting “side effects” that I had to deal with last week.

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