I was twenty-seven when I had a stroke. I was a fun, loving wife and mother of two young girls. Our family loved living a full life. We allowed little to slow us down. The stroke slowed us down. It changed our family as a whole. It changed my view of talking about subjects I previously would have shied away from. Things that would have made me uncomfortable previously suddenly became an acceptable way of life.
I remember one evening we were having dinner with a family we knew well. Their girl saw I had food on my face to the left of my lip. She told me food was hanging there. I laughed and used my napkin right away. The girl’s mom appeared ready to crawl under the table as she started scolding her daughter for how rude it was to point this out. Yet, I was grateful she had told me. Otherwise, I would not have known that I had slightly missed my mouth. The stroke made half of my face numb. Through time this area of numbness has grown smaller and smaller. All what remains of the numbness now is an area located close to my lips. I hesitate going out to eat with people because of this area so easily keeping food I do not feel land beyond where my mouth ends. In new company, I know my dinner dates will be uncomfortable if I collect food on my face. But please, I will only be uncomfortable hearing you help me if you are uncomfortable telling me.
The lessons of life I have learned are different but none are regrettable. Some lessons make me laugh. Some lessons still fill me with discomfort. None of these lessons should have been learned by a person as young as I was. Yet, in learning these lessons, I have so much information I can offer to those who will follow in my path or those who become caregivers. As you watch someone having difficulty or take time to sit with me, please tell us when we have something wrong. I do want to know. I don’t want you to feel like you are being rude in pointing out the mess I do not know I have made. I have learned a lot, and I want to answer questions you might have. I want to help you learn, but I do not want you to feel uncomfortable when you notice an unfamiliar way you can help me, too.
Other Inglorious Truths
There are some other inglorious truths faced during experiences of my difficulty in life. Some of them are simple; some are harsh:
A one year-old is cute stumbling when they learn to walk. When you are relearning this assumed talent, it is no longer so cute to watch. The long looks of admiration toddlers receive are replaced with quick glances of pity for adults.
A catheter left in for an extended time can create the need for you to relearn how to void your bladder. This is no longer a spontaneous action happening without a dedicated thought process. Even the most basic things in life we tend to take for granted; even the most personal things in life may need renewed concentration as you begin to learn seemingly simple tasks once again.
Sometimes while laughing at yourself the world will not laugh with you. Rather, the world freezes with discomfort and confusion. They render a pause of awkwardness when trying to deal with the space between your distractions of humor and their discomfort. Continue to smile and offer hope to grow in all those around you.