Stroke, I Hate You!

I write this not for pity, but to give you some insight into what I wrestle with and hopefully so you can get to know me a little better. I was 43, in the prime of life or just the beginning, some would say. I had a successful career, a wonderful family and a musical hobby I truly enjoyed.

I exercised twice a day for 60 minutes, watched my diet, routinely checked my blood pressure and cholesterol. I was getting pretty good at my music, too, figuring out my favorite rock and blues songs and even learning how to solo. I enjoyed going to work every day, not something many can say.

The stroke came out of the blue in the middle of the night, like an IED (improvised explosive device) in Desert Storm. I was told I should’ve died. It took away my career, relationships, my music, and for some divine reason that I do not yet understand, left me here with a broken body, a scrambled mind, always tired and old before my time. It left me to make this journey alone, and having to learn simple things all over again. Stroke, I hate you!

Old friends have gone, because they just can’t understand why I can’t be what I once was. But fortunately new friends have come. I used to tease my grandparents for their afternoon naps, now I have to do the same. Late nights out with friends are a thing of the past.

My spouse and I separated over issues the stroke raised because she could not understand why after all the therapy, I did not come home as the person I used to be. Reconciliation was impossible due to DEEP wounds from words said. My boys don’t understand the things I do; I’m not the father they once knew.

My neurologist says hope is on the horizon and I believe him, but time marches slowly. I sit here with foot-drop, depression, left-side weakness, short- and long-term memory issues, infrequent seizures, a cocktail of medications to be taken daily that help as much as slow me down. I wonder what’s the next shoe to drop? Stroke, I hate you!

You have ruined my life, but considering the alternative, maybe I won the battle. I continue to stare you down every day! You’ve robbed me of my vitality, but I can still reason and love. Each day my feet hit the floor is a little victory.

I know God exists and has a purpose for me, to be revealed in His time. On multiple occasions I wanted to give up on this life, but some really good friends talked me off the ledge. I am grateful beyond measure. I know now that that way out would have done nothing but leave behind a mess and a lot of questions for those who truly love me. I live now to try and be a real influence and inspiration to those who know me.

The loneliness can be unbearable at times, especially when I need a sympathetic and empathetic ear. I fear walking the rest of this life alone, without the companionship of someone who can accept me for who I am. I believe my God in His time will help me find another partner to walk this path, share my interests, and be that sympathetic ear when I need it. Stroke, I hate you!

The loneliness can be unbearable at times, especially when I need a sympathetic and empathetic ear. I fear walking the rest of this life alone, without the companionship of someone who can accept me for who I am. I believe my God in His time will help me find another partner to walk this path, share my interests, and be that sympathetic ear when I need it. Stroke, I hate you!

People have asked me a couple questions about my stroke:

What does a seizure feel like?

For me seizures are probably the worst side effect of the stroke, something I would not wish on my worst enemy. As to what they feel like, mine typically are pretty mild, starting with room spins, like you’ve been out drinking all night. Then they move to my left side, usually my arm and hand, moving uncontrollably and in what feels like unnatural positions, then ending with spasms in my left leg. After these episodes, I’m usually left exhausted and tend to doze for a while.

What does a stroke feel like?

I cannot say exactly what a stroke feels like as mine happened overnight. But it was emotionally traumatizing going to bed a whole person and waking up with half my physical abilities. Then later being devastated when I realized some were going to be with me the rest of my life.

Coming to grips with what has happened has not been easy. There is the “before me” and now the “after me.” Some days I do not like the after me, especially when I remember what I could do before. But on most days, it’s okay, I’m moving on.

I’m finding ways to deal with things like fatigue, memory issues, balance and whatever. I have to say the power of support groups is GREAT as one journeys down this road. They are friends who accept you for who you are (deficits and all), and they are there for you when you need them. I’ve got a lot of life to live yet, and I’m looking forward to it!!!

I fear losing my independence. As soon as I became aware how serious the bleed was, the first question I had for my neurologist was would this degree of damage make me susceptible to early onset Alzheimer’s? He assured me that there were no studies indicating that. But every time memory issues rear their heads, I begin to worry again. However, I have learned to put most of my worries on God’s shoulders as His are bigger than mine!

Editor’s Note: Since Ralph submitted this to us, there are three changes of note. One, he has met someone. Two, his relationship with his sons has healed. And three, he is part of a stroke mentor program that helps survivors transition from the hospital or rehab to home.

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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

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Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

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Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

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Helping Others Understand

Stroke affects people differently and many of the effects of stroke can be complicated. Helping friends and family understand how a stroke is affecting a survivor can help everyone involved.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!