Paying It Forward
The spring 2013 issue of Stroke Connection featured an online writing program for survivors led by Carol Keegan, Ph.D., a 20-year survivor herself. I enjoy writing so I eagerly signed up. Over several weeks, we were given themes on which we wrote two pages. The themes allowed us to explore our stroke experiences and their impact in our lives. Through the web-based program, I shared my writing with other participants and responded to their writing. The focus of this program was not on the conventions of writing, but the content. Using the Guided Autobiography approach, I was able to share my story in a safe, supportive environment. I enjoyed the program, flexing my creative muscles and reflecting on my stroke experience.
Reading other people’s responses to the themes made me realize my experience was similar to others. I was not alone on this road to recovery. The positive, supportive feedback we gave each other fostered a caring environment. I was sad when our time ended. However, the teacher in me wanted to know more. I contacted Dr. Keegan and learned more about the writing program. I did some research and enrolled in a course to facilitate Guided Autobiography.
My hemorrhagic stroke left me visually impaired with visual field cuts. I cannot work, but I do volunteer my time when I can. As I was finishing my Guided Autobiography training, I received a flier from the local Vision Resource Center where I am a client.
The flier was for a writing club they were starting. I called and spoke to the person in charge. During our conversation, I shared my writing experience, the Guided Autobiography approach I participated in with Stroke Connection and the training I completed. I was invited to present Guided Autobiography to the writing group at the Vision Resource Center. I am now facilitating the writing group in which we use the Guided Autobiography format. We laugh with each other and, through sharing life experiences, build community.
As the facilitator, I do not get to write or share my story, but it brings me more pleasure to share my knowledge, see the group gel and listen to participants’ stories. I am honored the members trust me and welcome me warmly.
While listening to the participants share their stories, I was struck with a thought: Stroke Connection offered me the opportunity to participate in the Guided Autobiography program. Now I am paying it forward by facilitating a writing group. In addition, I am grateful to Stroke Connection for introducing me to Guided Autobiography. As I continue on this journey, I look for other ways to “pay it forward.” I find I get more by giving than receiving.
DENICE DeANTONIO | Survivor
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