Happy Place Found
I often see pictures of friends on social media while on a beach vacation. There are usually sun-kissed people smiling back at me and a gentle wave rolling up to the shore. I can almost smell the salt air, feel the sand on my toes and taste the caramel corn. Along with this picture, is a comment, “my happy place.” I have been fortunate to have been able to take many beach vacations in my life, before and after my stroke. I love the beauty and the power of the ocean.
In December 2008, I had a massive hemorrhagic stroke. I spent several weeks in an acute care hospital. For three weeks, I spent time in the Intensive Care Unit and Surgical Intensive Care Unit after my stroke. I then went on to receive intensive therapy at a rehabilitation hospital for three months.
When I eventually returned home, I searched and searched for my “happy place.” Maybe it was getting a job. So, I began a job search at a fevered pitch. I applied and interviewed for different jobs but was not successful. It is hard to work when you have limited vision and cannot drive. I thought maybe I would find happiness when I no longer needed a walker and could walk with a cane. So, I continued with my therapies. I eventually was able to walk with only a single point cane and short distances without any assistive devices.
I decided to volunteer. I evaluated what I was good at: teaching and writing. I found volunteer opportunities.
I did find happiness volunteering, but something was still missing. I volunteered at the local Community College tutoring GED students. I then volunteered with the Vision Resource organization. Today I volunteer at the local library, which I love.
One day I was sitting on my deck with my family: my husband, Mike; my son, Christopher; daughter, Andrea; and son-in-law, Jose. We were laughing and talking. I realized at that moment, I was in my happy place. Nothing changed around me, but the shift was within me. When I started to accept my life, my disabilities, and the losses, it opened the door for new possibilities and happiness. Acceptance is my happy place.
DENICE DeANTONIO | Survivor Fleetwood, Pennsylvania