No I’m not talking about Pearl Harbor. For me a date which I know lives on with me is January 25. For me that was a life changing day. Five years ago in fact. I found myself teaching yoga and suddenly falling over. Took days for anyone to discover that I had suffered a spontaneous dissection in my neck on both sides. Cutting off blood to my brain and in a few days it was swollen and then caused a stroke. (You can read about the journey in prior postings.)
VAD is what they call it. I found a Facebook group for people with VAD and those under the age of 50 who suffered a stroke. Many going through different stages but all able to help and offer hope to those who are just coming home to find out that things are different. Many in pain and uncertain of directions to take. Many who find themselves alone and with spouses or family members who don’t understand. Many are trying to figure out how to get back to “normal” and return to their work.
I have had many read my posts here and write me directly and I’m so glad that they shared with me their story. Recently a woman wrote me from Russia and wanted to know how I managed through it. Another woman I used to teach in DC but she moved back home in Europe found herself having a VAD. She is still on leave trying to manage the pain, extreme tiredness and lack of ability to move like she used too. I check in with her from time to time just to offer her words of hope and encouragement.
Some comment how lucky I was and believe me I so know that I am lucky. However luck had nothing to do with it. I am glad I have a community around me and a loving husband who still continues to support and nurture me when I have continued physical issues. (He is the best head massager when I have a pounding headache.)
What I have found is that each person has different symptoms with brain injuries. It will depend on the part of the brain effected. For me my entire right side still has issues but I feel that my yoga experience allowed me to stop trying to fix it and comparing it. Yoga has an ability to work into the neuropaths of the brain; how we learn, move, communicate, remember. So when one path isn’t working the brain finds new ways around it. It doesn’t mean it is fixed or returned but can be different.
I heard a lovely statement that basically said we don’t put the body into yoga poses; instead we do yoga poses to understand our body. Yes that is the point. Each part of me is different and changing. When I move or sit still I turn inward to notice my body, breath and thoughts. To notice my actual truth and body in this moment. I allow the pose to bring up reactions in my body but the power is in the awareness. To let me be aware of my reactions.
For example I could go into tree pose – a standing balancing pose. I could beat myself up for what isn’t there and how awful balance is on my right side. Compare it to the left. Or I could start to see what is there – what is going quite well without comparison. I may have to place my foot differently than I did on the other side. Why do I consider this a bad thing? Is it really bad? Or just what my body needs from me right now? It isn’t forever. In fact I try it again and see how it changed.
This for me this is an example of how yoga allows me to see the entire story of right now. I would have missed this thought process going into reactions, feeling down, criticizing my right side, or blaming it for not being like it used to be. Instead the choice is to let go of that thought for a moment and see the tiny things going on so well on my right side. Gratitude, compassion and kindness start to grow and expand in my brain and development occurs. New ways to do things and be. I can let go of the only way I thought it could be and see that in the end it may have been a good experience to go through this if it showed me this expanded way of being.
So luck – no – had nothing to do with it. I had to make a choice to let go of what was and see what else was there. It wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact I spent almost 2 years holding on. Hiding the symptoms, not talking about it and acting like all was as it used to be. I used be in business and going out to late night networking events was fun. Yet I found myself 2 years since my stroke walking into a big noisy networking event, hardly being able to concentrate, was very dizzy from all the activity. This way of working wasn’t for me any longer. In fact I found out it is quite normal for stroke survivors to feel strange in crowded and over stimulated situations; something I never had a problem with before. Yet it was there that I discovered I would have to stop pretending.
I had been teaching yoga part time for 5 years and after some time off, I turned to it full time. It was supposed to be a temporary solution but as I kept teaching it kept growing. Also I found the flexibility in my schedule was better for me. I work a bit, then rest. Work a bit then rest. The challenge of teaching a class also helps my brain. Thinking about various right, left, repeat etc. Saying and speaking vs thinking the words is helpful to my stroke side effects. Having places to be pushes me to get up and go as well.
I guess you could say I was lucky to have had this part time job expand into full time but what I was doing the entire time was trusting. Letting go of what I wanted to see happen and let the universe or God take me where I needed to be. I find when this happens I only end up asking myself what took me so long to see this. It was always there right in front of me.
Anyway I am so glad for this journey and those I have heard from that had a VAD/Stroke 10, 20 and 30 years ago. I do hope to pass on the love and support to others just starting out on this change. It is scary. You are not alone.
May my words help you even if you aren’t suffering from a major injury. We are all injured in some respects and when we can learn to let go of the past or what we want from the future and just enjoy right now we may find ourselves much happier.