"You seem like there's nothing wrong with you."
That's an observation an audience member makes at every Talkback. Then comes the question of how I am different since my stroke.
About appearing normal, yes, I do, a
nd I am enormously grateful to have so few souveniers of my stroke.
Confess, I borrowed that word from another brain injury survivor, one much younger than I, whose injury was more severe, Suzan Z., who goes by Aneu Gal: Aneu, the first four letters of aneurysm, and a new, a play on words. (Susan made a 3 minute movie and created an extensive blog of her experience) But I love the word "souvenier", defined: 1: a thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place, or event. synonyms: memento, keepsake, reminder, remembrance, token, memorial, because it honors the event and the journey.
But souveniers I do have.
I can now get lost easily, thanks to loosing my infallable internal gps, so now I rely on Garmin and Apple maps. I now need a calculator to do any math, having lost my math sense. I now listen to audiobooks; previously an avid reader consuming 2 books a week, I find I cannot grasp written material as well. Whereas I previously loved fiction, I find the threads challenging to follow now, and now prefer non fiction. Whereas I previously had a photographic memory, now learning and remembering require serious effort. I have a bit of residual clumsiness, due to residual impaired spacial awareness, proprioception and or balance. I can no longer listen to background music. Either music is the foreground, or I need silence. I have no illusions about multitasking. I no longer use a real pillow; I sleep with my head on a donut shaped head rest. My children will tell you I am more forgetful. Maybe, but maybe I'm just less compulsive and perfectionist, so stuff happens!
Now if you had asked me before my stroke, would I trade in any of those for a "better life", I'd have thought you were crazy. And of course, I'd have said no.
But my stroke didn't give me a choice. It happened. And, I, like Aneu Gal and the neurophysiologist, Jill Taylor Bolte, (My Stroke of Insight book and Ted Talk), discovered great gifts from our brain injuries.
A beautiful quote from Aneu Gal's movie, "...three great things happened from laying on death's couch, and surviving: I worry less, I'm easily amused and I appreciate everything a lot more."
All true of me as well.
Because in loosing so much of the analytic, precision ordered parts of my brain, I also lost the tendency to worry, deep anxiety and depression. In loosing the logical, orderly, scientific, show me the evidence parts of my brain, I was open to serendipity, to sensing my way, to listening to and following my intuition. No doubt, discovering Improvisation, with its "Yes, and..." mantra (first with Patricia Ryan Madson, Stanford Drama Professor Emerita, author of Improv Wisdom then completing the curriculum at BATS), helped. As did my introduction to Attitudinal Healing, a program for inner healing (Love is Letting Go of Fear).
But loosing a good sized chunk of left brain in a left brain dominant person opens the door to change. New connections needed to form, and perhaps, too, allowed the right brain to assert itself. And the right brain is more sense oriented, more intuitive, more wholistic in approach. WHAT A GIFT!!! Not that there isn't constant communication between both sides of the brain, or that one can be wholly left or right brain. But the balance between the two was probably off in my case. I was overly reliant on my verbal, critical, logical skills, to the degree that it cut me off from some of the beauty, wonder and flow in my life.
The stroke restored a balance. Life is simpler now, easier, funner!!! You might have heard me refer to the new me as Diane 2.0! Maybe going onto 2.2 about now, but this me, with all my souveniers is in a much better place, ready for the next turn or fork in this road!
“Touching…A very human piece with a very human heart behind it.” The Geek Authority
"Very uplifting!" London Free Press