Today, Tuesday, October 29, 2019, is World Stroke Day. And as a survivor myself, having suffered a stroke two and a half years ago at the age of 22, I wanted to use this post to reflect on the big changes and lessons I’ve learned since.
Maybe I’m just in a travel mindset after having returned from 8 days in the UK, but what immediately comes to mind for me in terms of progress post-stroke is in the form of increased Independence while traveling. As I mentioned in my previous post, 2 weeks ago I left the country for the first time since having a stroke to fly cross the pond with my brother to visit my sister and best friend from college. I had been to London once before, so I didn’t feel the pressure to be constantly on the go and sightseeing every minute of the day. The nicest part about this trip was just hanging out with my friend Freddy and my siblings, just enjoying each other’s company and chatting over good food and drinks.
For the first part of our trip, my brother worked from the London office, my sister had class, and Freddy had to work on producing some new songs, so I took the opportunity to focus on rehab exercises and on writing the first draft of my new book. Lucky for me, I was able to spend the week in Freddy’s roommate’s room, as he was out of town for the week.This turned out to be perfect because I had space to set up my things and do some exercise. When Freddy was working or out playing football with his friends, I was in the apartment grinding out exercises.
As much as I try to get a lot of exercises in during the work week, it’s really hard because, quite frankly, after a full day of work I’m tired and rehab is the last thing I want to do. But I figured that having a week off from work was a special opportunity and I needed to use it to my advantage to get done things I’m typically too tired to do during the week.
Over the first few days in London, I did a lot. I treated my siblings and some friends to a nice dinner at Yauatcha Soho. It was delicious: edamame truffles, venison puffs, roasted duck, and much more. And let’s not forget the most delicious lychee cocktail I’ve ever had (it tasted dangerously like juice).
And our night didn’t end there. After stuffing ourselves full with delicious Aian food, we walked off the meal. We headed over to enjoy drinks at Swingers, a mini golf themed bar close by the restaurant. While we regrettably didn’t play any rounds of mini golf, we did enjoy a delicious honey and lemon infused cocktail before heading across the street to Mahiki for some red bull vodkas and an evening of dancing.
It didn’t end up being a super late night, but I was still pleased by my ability to stay up later than usual. I’m like a grandma, in bed by 9 end up at the crack of dawn. But I prefer it that way. And as much as I do enjoy a night out, it takes me longer to recover from them now, so it all needs to be planned out well in advance so I can prepare myself mentally.
The next morning, I was surprisingly not hungover and enjoyed a productive day of writing and well over my daily goal of 10,000 steps. Freddy and I took my sister shopping, which was a lot of fun. For essentially the first two years after my stroke, I had little to no interest in shopping. And I loved shopping. I could spend money like it was my job. But lately I’ve been enjoying trips to the mall to walk around and look in the shops. I’m not sure what changed, but I take it as a good thing that I’m getting back to activities I once used to enjoy.
Perhaps because I am more mobile these days, I am able to find pleasure in activities like window shopping, because I am not weighed down as much by fatigue. Because I am able to walk now without assistance, I feel that I owe it to myself to spend as much time as I can moving. And yes, this gets to be hard since I work a desk job 5 days a week, but I do what I can and get my practice walking to the train station before work or on the weekends at the gym when I have more time.
But back to London. Up to this point of the journey, I was most proud of myself for recognizing when it was time to take a break from my activities and just relax. I knew that Monday with dinner and drinks was going to be a big day/night for me, so I prepared accordingly by resting up and not running myself to the ground with too many planned activities beforehand.
Knowing my limits and recognizing that I can’t do everything like I used to has been the biggest adjustment to my new life. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t still enjoy the same activities that I did before having a stroke. I just enjoy them in a slightly different way now. And ultimately I think it’s for the better. I know that I can still go out and have a good time but without drinking (and getting to sleep at a more reasonable hour; I love my sleep now).
I like to say that I am high on life and can still enjoy a night out with friends while sipping on a cocktail or club soda. I don’t need alcohol to have a good time (but it definitely helps ;)).
I’d love to connect and hear from you about your experience with travel post-stroke and what you’ve learned about yourself through recovery. I can be reached via Facebook (Maddi Niebanck), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Instagram (@maddistrokeofluck).