Excerpted from "The Secrets of Success," Stroke Connection January/February 2004
Support comes in all shapes and sizes. Support comes from others as well as from helpful habits we create and use for ourselves. Successful stroke survival demands support, and our group had many means of support to help them be the successful individuals they are.
Art Gottlieb shared strong feelings about it: “It is absolutely essential to be part of a support group. I started out as part of the group and ended up facilitating it.”
“For me, the support and encouragement of family and friends is crucial,” David added. “And a knowledgeable medical team that supports what you want to do. If they don’t, find another one. You’re paying the bills.”
Norm agreed about the importance of family: “Without my wife, my kids and their spouses, I would probably be long gone, but they saw me through this thing. And you’ve got to have health insurance.”
“Money is crucial,” Art added. “If you don’t have access to some kind of living wage, you are in real trouble.”
Wendy pointed to a different kind of support: “I was lucky enough to have a family member who heads up a home healthcare agency. She went through the mountains of paperwork for Social Security and all that. Thank God for her or I would have been lost.”
“The most amazing person I’ve worked with had no family support,” David added. “He was wheelchair-bound. He couldn’t speak, but he took care of himself. He was able to clean his apartment. He went on trips. He had the guts to brave it through.”
John added an important point: “Groups are great, but an individual psychologist is important, too, someone you can really talk to and who understands what you are going through. Not that your family and friends can’t understand, but they don’t come from a background of brain injury and stroke. I still see my therapist once a week. She’s helped me over all the different hurdles. As you go through different phases of recovery, you need someone to talk to because you’re always experiencing something new.”
“I am with John on that,” Kate said. “I still need to talk to a therapist about working through the personal stuff that comes up. You can also rely on technology today and the resources available on the Internet. There are a lot of chat rooms out there. I also think having a support group is important. Use all the resources you can, like Stroke Connection Magazine.” Kate added, “Every evening I write my list for the next day because I found my memory leaves quickly. I keep a spiral journal with me all the time because thoughts will come into my head and I have to write them down.”
As the discussion went on, the group talked about how stroke had affected them spiritually.
“At first you are thinking, ‘God wouldn’t let this happen to me,’” said Wendy. “Then you realize that all you’ve got is your faith.”
“I think you have arrived when you get to the point where you start thinking about others and have compassion for them,” Art added. “I have never been able not to stop and talk to a stroke survivor on the street. I have to make sure that they are in touch with a support group or are somehow helped.”
“I tell survivors that I visit that I worked hard for my stroke,” David said. “You go down the risk factors and I had every one – smoking, high cholesterol, overweight, so I worked hard for my stroke, but I give God credit for my survival. I had a stroke four years ago, and since then, I have just been high on life. The stroke has made me appreciate the things I do have. And the belief that God loves me has made a big difference in my life.”
“You know that is a wise statement,” John responded. “When I say the stroke has been a blessing for me, people look at me like I am nuts. But it has touched places within me that I never would have touched, and through that I have touched people in places I never would have. It’s been amazing.”