Return To Me

He walked through the door,

My heart sank down to the floor

Years before, our bodies were as one

now his presence is just a reminder of what we have done…

to our lives, our hearts and egos as well

How did we manage to command our love to hell?

I question the validity of our connection that I believed so strong

and the softness of my heart that loved you for so long.

Maybe I didn’t know you at all?

Did I create you in my mind, exactly as I needed you to be?

Did you conform to my design until you decided to flee?

The questions linger,

the feelings remain,

My heart remains broken

and here you are once again.

It’s time to pay attention to the warning signs!

We are surrounded by warning signs.  Why is it that the majority of us don’t pay attention to them until it’s too late?  Impatient flyers, squirm in their seats, wishing for the stewardess to conclude her show and tell, drivers speed by cautions signs and find themselves nose to nose with an oncoming train and then there are the people like myself, who read medical warnings, but never imagine facing a life threatening medical emergency.  Somehow, even though we are aging, we still feel like vibrant teenagers with our long life ahead of us.  We believe we are immune to everything that could negatively impact our lives.

A few years back I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.  I went to the doctor, complaining that I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like I was descending into darkness, desperately trying to flip an internal switch to get my lungs to breath and my heart to start beating.  It was (and continually is) a petrifying feeling.  My description of sleep apnea is a nightly ritual of facing death and waking up, feeling as though you are a hero, successfully slaying monsters through the night.

My doctor gave me a flimsy pamphlet with minimal information on the subject.  After I got home and started to research it, I was surprised that my doctor wasn’t a little more informative or concerned for my future health.  It was as though it was no big deal that I had a condition that could possibly kill me if it was left untreated.

Sleep apnea can lead to diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, stroke or sudden death.  After all of the research I did, I decided it would be best to move forward with my treatment plan and order a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine.  Trust me, I was not very happy about wearing a long-hosed mask on my face every night.  I was quite vain at the time and fretted over the possibility of finding Mr. Right and losing him as soon as he had to sleep next to me, wearing this crazy thing on my face.  I got past that feeling quickly when I realized that Mr. Right is nowhere in sight. So, the mask went on!  Problem solved!  Well, maybe not?

I’ve always heard about the warning signs for a stroke – FAST

F – Facial Drooping

A – Arm Weakness or inability to raise arm

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time – Don’t waste it.  Get yourself to the emergency room immediately

In October 2016 I experienced the “signs of a stroke” but just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I could be having a one.  How could it be possible?  I wasn’t even 50 years old yet.  I’m basically a healthy, active person. How could this be?  So, I chose to not listen to the warning signs.  I waited long enough that I was not eligible for the medication that can be administered during the crucial part of the stroke.  My recovery was more successful than I originally thought it would be, but I still struggle every day with memory loss and concentration issues, but I realize how incredibly fortunate I truly am.  I’ve learned a very important lesson.  I now pay attention to all the warning signs, even if I don’t think it pertains to me.  I hope you’ll pay attention too.  One day, those reminders will come in handy and save someone’s life.

If you can’t see my illness, does it not exist?

I guess I should just be happy with the fact that I am ALIVE!  I am a stroke survivor!   It’s only been 6 months since my stroke.  I managed to recover quite quickly (on the outside).  From looking at me, you would never know that my brain decided to play a wicked game on me.  For a period of time, my face was a constant reminder to people that something awful had happened to me.  With my eye stuck in an open position, my right side of my face swollen, and the right portion of my lips drooping  downward, unable to open to eat, drink or speak, I was treated with compassion and kindness by most of the people I knew.

Now that my appearance is back to normal, the fact that my brain no longer functions the way it once did, is just completely ignored by people around me.  I’m not sure why it bothers me so much that no one remembers that I went through a life changing event. I’m not looking for people to bow down and kiss my feet, or fan me with exotic feathery fans.  I’m wishing for a tiny bit of recognition of the fact that my brain is in a constant state of confusion.  Even though I have a strange, empty feeling in my mind, I still get up every day, drag my exhausted behind to work and do my job as efficiently as I did before.  I originally planned to merge back into my job at a slow pace, easing myself back into the chaos.   Unfortunately I realized on my first day back that my plan would be impossible.

No one recognizes the daily struggle that a stroke survivor faces.    Simple tasks are now complicated.  Numbers are puzzling and words are now so difficult to comprehend.  I find myself forgetting to turn my car off and only realizing it  upon returning after hours of shopping.  I’ve tried to explain this to the key people in my life who seem to take advantage of my responsible nature.  They just don’t get it.  Their response is to throw even more crap onto my list of responsibilities.  It’s quite overwhelming.

I’ve learned that everyone has a “position” in life.  Unfortunately mine has become the doormat.  I’ve allowed the people in my life to continually step on me to get where they need to go.  Is this fair? No!  Why do I allow it to continue?  I’m not quite sure.  I’d like to use this horrifying experience to make positive changes in my life.   I’m finally finding my voice.  Maybe I’ll use it to tell the oblivious people in my life to take off their blinders? If they don’t, maybe I’ll just put mine on!

Mirror, mirror 

Mirror, mirrror, I beg of you

Show me the girl that I once knew

The girl with the silky hair and porcelain skin

I’m so confused, where do I begin?

I knew she was here, not too long ago

Please mirror, mirror, I need to know

What happened to that young, beautiful girl that I once saw?

Her rosey cheeks,chiseled down to her jaw

Her eyes glistened like precious jewels

Please mirror mirror stop being so cruel

Show me that girl, and not the one that I see

I can’t understand how this could be me?

Rewinding Life

Days drag on

yet years fly by

Changes are gradual,

but in the blink of an eye,

we become  unrecognizable

to the world, to ourselves

The plans we made,

into our minds we delve

Stepping off the original path

an unexpected life unfolds

The regrets we have,

Our broken heart holds

We dream through the day

and fret through the night

We wish to go back,

change what we can

We hope for more time,

To get back to our plan

We wither away in disbelief

no more plans, no more time, 

…. just grief

Before the memory fades…

I did it!  I made it to the big 50!  Just a few months ago I started out my day with excitement to see my new nephew.  I got myself ready, headed out to run a few errands before driving to my brother’s house.  I got in my car and pulled down the mirror to check my makeup like I always do.  My bright pink lipstick looked like I had a makeover done by a 6 year old.  I fixed it the best I could and continued on my way. When I reached the bank I found that I was extremely confused.  I was making a simple deposit and could not count the cash I had in my hand.  I must have counted it 8 times.  When I walked up to the teller, I could not remember how much money I had just counted.  I was in a total state of confusion. Needless to say, I received weird looks from the teller who probably thought I was stoned.  I didn’t think much about the confusion at the time since I suffer from sleep apnea.  I’m always so exhausted.  There are days that I can barely function.  Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on the entire body. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for quite a few years now.

I made it to New Jersey with no problems.  Normally I get lost, so I was very impressed with my navigation skills for a change.  We sat down to eat lunch and I noticed that my face felt tingly.  It’s funny how we all pass around articles containing warning signs of different medical emergencies, but, when it’s actually happening to you, those signs don’t pop into your mind.  After not being able to chew, I mentioned it to my brother.   He said he noticed that my lips looked weird.  Hmm… tingly face and lips drooping and mental confusion?  Even though all the signs were there, I refused to believe that I could be possibly having a stroke.  I refused to go to the hospital because I would not accept that this was happening to me.

I waited until the next morning and went to urgent care.   After taking my blood pressure, I found myself in the back of an ambulance, being rushed to the emergency room.  I can still feel the panic I felt that day when one paramedic whispered to the other, “she’s having a stroke”.  It was absolutely terrifying.  I now know what it feels like to be staring death in the face.  So many thoughts rushed through my mind at that moment.  All I could think of was what would happen to my children and my parents.

As I was questioned by multiple doctors, I realized this went all the way back before my lipstick fiasco.  My nights consist of jumping out of a deep sleep, gasping for air, feeling my heart slow down, feeling my body descend into blackness.  It’s as though I come close to death every night.  I wake up every morning thanking god for yet another day because when I close my eyes at night, I’m sure it will be my last.  On the night before I started with all of these symptoms, I was awoken by what I thought was an apnea.  This one felt a bit different from the rest.  My body leaped into a sitting position, which is normally when I start to feel like I’m going to survive.  The feeling lasted much longer than it normally does.  I didn’t remember until a few days later that on that night I had a dream that I was driving on a bridge with my son Nicholas. It was dark out.  A white car with very bright headlights was heading toward us.  The car was in the wrong lane and heading directly for us.  I swerved, but the car purposely swerved in the same direction.  The two cars danced back and forth between lanes until my car had nowhere else to go but directly into the bright headlights.  As we crashed, I could hear my son’s voice screaming out to me.  Even now, when I recall that dream, I have an overwhelming feeling of loss.  I lost part of myself that night.  The worst part is that I will probably never regain it back.

I feel so incredibly lucky that I have been able to make a physical recovery.  My deficits are all internal.  I’ve lost the part of my brain that fully comprehends things.  I can listen to every word that is spoken to me, but, I am only comprehending half of it.  The bright side is that I can block someone out without even intending on it.   It definitely comes in handy sometimes.

I struggle with numbers and math.  Sometimes it’s actually hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced this.  It’s frustrating that my mind is saying a certain number, but my hand writes a different number.  Just recently I met a man who also suffered from a stroke.  He works in finance.  We both had a good laugh when we realized that we both work with numbers but now can barely understand them.  A sense of humor is most important in dealing with this and just about everything else that life throws at you.

I have been told that the odds are against me and I will possibly have another stroke. My fear normally sets in as bedtime approaches.  I try to keep myself calm and realize that I am not in control of this.  I do what I can to keep myself healthy and as stress free as I can.  That’s another thing that I find humorous.  The doctors all recommend keeping stress out of my life.  Hmmm, I have two children and a stressful job.  So how should I go about eliminating the stress I ask?

So, what do I want to accomplish with this blog?  I would like to preserve my memories in case I suffer from yet another stroke and will not be able to function enough to do so.  My biggest fear is that all my thoughts and memories will be stuck inside my head, spinning around like an eternal merry go round.