If you happen to be new around here, you may not have guessed it but I am a stroke survivor. Today’s blog post title I credit to Jill Bolte Taylor who chose to draw insight from her stroke in a remarkable way. I think it’s always important to stop and reflect on where your life has taken you because it often gives you a deeper appreciation of life itself. Five years ago, on 21 May 2014, I had a stroke while at work and it was a day that changed my life forever. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about what actually happened and about my recovery process, you can read this blog post and watch this video where I discuss that in more detail. Today, however, I thought I’d reflect on the journey over the past 5 years, what I have learnt from my experience and how it has impacted my everyday life.
Resilience is everything
One of my favourite quotes by Nelson Mandela is that “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Growing up, I learnt this quote off by heart and I think it’s actually ingrained into my character at this point. As anyone who has either experienced a massive health issue or sat with a loved one as they struggle through something similar will know, it requires the utmost focus and determination to recover. It can be a deeply frustrating process and there are plenty of times when you feel nothing short of a failure. The reality is, however, that you’re only a failure when you stop trying. My stroke happened to be nothing but a temporary roadblock in my life and it taught me that with perseverance, I can actually overcome anything I set my mind to. I’ve learnt to take setbacks in my stride and not be terrified of them at all.
Why patience is a virtue
You don’t simply wake up one day having fully recovered from a medical setback. In my case, it took 18 months and it takes many people even longer to do so and some people never recover fully too. I’ve learnt not to put too much pressure on myself and to accept that some things take time to achieve, no matter how driven you are to achieve them. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. What I know now is that so long as I’m constantly focusing on the end result, I can work piece by piece in achieving it and know that it will all come together. This goes for anything whether it is studying, building a business, setting long term goals, etc. Impatient people tend to get frustrated over things that aren’t of real importance and often give up on the goal at hand because the frustration becomes overwhelming. This shouldn’t be the case. You will get there, just allow yourself the time to do so.
In sickness and in health
I don’t think anyone dating in their early twenties has any idea whether they will actually stay together with their partner at that point or not. Too much is happening at that time in your lives. University, starting a career, self-discovery and all that jazz takes up a decent portion of your thought process and the remaining chunk is reserved for your social life at that age. Very few people are actually able to accept the “in sickness and in health” commitment this young. From my stroke experience, I’ve learnt that many married couples are actually unable to honour the “in sickness” vow they’ve already made to their spouses. In my situation, Ryan did not leave my side. No one would have blamed him if he had. Rather than bar hopping, the only hopping I was doing was from stroke rehabilitation to doctors appointment to blood lab. It takes a special kind of partner to be this supportive and stick around and yet he drove me to all my appointments and let me hold on to him for strength when I was too weak climb stairs. I vividly remember us attempting to go out for dinner for the first time since the stroke but the most I could manage was getting dressed before I ran out of energy. This was never an issue for him. Now, looking back, I realise that is something only an exceptional man would do… so I’m going to marry him.
Don’t waste your time on trivial matters
Life’s short. We know this, however, we often forget it. Too often. It’s so easy to be swept up in the minor stresses of daily life. I’m talking about being frustrated about being stuck in traffic, being angry about an unnecessarily harsh email, or worrying about absolutely anything. These are time wasters and energy sink-holes. You should only focus your mind on the good things. If life is short, why waste a single moment on anything that doesn’t give you great joy. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, don’t waste time on it.
I’ve consciously made an effort to remind myself of things I’m grateful for. You may even remember this post discussing the 3 things I’m most grateful for. Simply channelling your thoughts to something as positive as this can have such a massive impact on your whole day. It puts you in such a good headspace and certainly motivates you towards more positive goals and I love this! We have so much to be grateful for, big and small. I’m so grateful for having been able to recover fully. I’m acutely aware of how many people never recover and for this reason alone I am so incredibly grateful every single day. I’m so grateful for having had the opportunity to continue with my career. I’m also unbelievably grateful for so many of you who I know have been so supportive of the journey I’ve taken and been with me since I suffered the stroke. What an incredible support structure you’ve been, wow!
From every negative, there should always be one positive so with that being said, I try to look at my stroke as a stroke of insight because I truly did learn so much from the experience. From patience to tenderness, to being able to listen to stories of people who have gone through tremendously difficult, far worse sets of circumstances, I’ve learnt what no textbook could ever have taught me. I have gained insight into life and the gift that it is. I’m very conscious of wanting to be sure that I use it wisely. I hope I can encourage you to also appreciate your life, your health and absolutely everything else you have going for you because it should all be celebrated!