We went back to the gym that we had passed through earlier. It was time for the PT evaluation and I was nervous. For some reason I felt as though I should be trying my hardest to do well on the evaluation, as though it were a test and I could only get a passing or failing grade. I wanted to do well. I don’t remember much of the initial PT evaluation, just a specific memory of being allowed to stand between the parallel bars by myself. In those few moments of standing in the parallel bars with no one holding onto me, I felt free. Not even last year’s training rides on my road bike, flying down the side of the road, had made me feel like that. I could do anything.
Finally, Adam was helping me back into the car and I was watching houses and businesses pass by. I was exhausted and just wanted to rest for the next thirty years. I wasn’t tired; just physically exhausted. We went home and relaxed for a bit, and then it sunk in that I would have to get up and get ready to go again the next day. The thought was exhausting, but I loved being on a schedule. I enjoyed the structure that came with having my days planned out. I missed having my days planned out the way they had been before the stroke – up at 4, ready for some PT (back when ‘PT’ meant ‘physical training’ and not ‘physical therapy’) by 0415 – 0430, showered, eaten and ready to go to the office by 0730. Now, 8 months post-stroke, I’m lucky if I can be showered and dressed in an hour and a half.
I honestly can’t say that I preferred life before the stroke in comparison to after it. Before it, I had a ton of friends, a decent job and an idea of where I wanted to end up in 10 years, though I didn’t really know the specifics of how I wanted to get there. Now, I’ve managed to reduce the people in my life to those who put forth effort to keep me in theirs, know what I want to do with my life for the next 5 years (including how I’m going to get there), appreciate things like being able to eat without a feeding tube, am much closer to Adam’s family and am much closer to Adam.
Okay. I’m going to talk about it. Not many of the stroke survivors I know are willing to go into detail further than ‘so-and-so quit talking to me.’ That happens and that’s fine. We can’t hold it against people when things in our lives have to slow down and other people’s lives continue on at the same pace. Things happen. People drift apart. There’s nothing wrong with that. It actually seems mean to be angry with people for not derailing their lives to join in. I had a stroke, was unable to put forth the efforts necessary to maintain some relationships, would sometimes even become tired just from the thought of picking up my phone to text someone, and therefore I didn’t send the occasional text message needed to keep a friendship alive.
I’m sure that such an unfortunate end would have come to my friendships with Heather and Meg had they not been willing to actively engage with me and put forth their own efforts. They didn’t allow me enough time to wonder if they were still my friends. With this example in mind, I have very few friends left from my life before the stroke. Sure, there are people from before the stroke on my Facebook page and other feeds, but there are very few who randomly text me or want to make arrangements to see me. Yes, it would be easier to be angry with the people who kept moving on with their lives. Yes, it hurts to know that people have moved on without me. I’m glad that people have moved on, though, and I’m incredibly thankful to the friends who stuck with me when I didn’t feel like texting back or didn’t have enough energy to get dressed to go hang out. Strokes are really tough things to recover from and I’m really grateful to the people who haven’t let me go through the recovery process without them.
Anyway, that’s a brief explanation of why so many friendships end after a stroke. The ‘strokie’ may not have the energy or means to pursue previous friendships and they subsequently end when one person is left with the task of maintaining that relationship for both people. On the upside, at least for me, the most incredible people have entered my life because of the stroke. A friend of mine, Ashley, is an incomplete quadriplegic and stroke survivor whose stroke occurred at age 21. She’s not letting that stroke keep her from raising her son or finishing college with a DPT. Dan was unable to maintain his balance on a regular bike after his stroke and is currently trikking across America during his Spokes Fighting Strokes campaign to raise stroke awareness. Krissy has survived two strokes, runs the blog Not Fast, Just Fabulous, supports a boy through Who I Run For and supports others with disabilities through myTEAM TRIUMPH. As soon as I can run again, I’ll be running for someone who can’t. If you ever read this, thanks for posting all of your running updates, Krissy. They’ve helped me a ton and now I’m working on being able to run for someone else.