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Billy E.


Has my neurocircuitry turned against me?

After my massive hemorrhagic stroke, life is less a rehabilitation than it is a healing, less a healing than an exploration of meaning, and perhaps less an exploration of meaning than a visceral explosion of joy.

Close friends, however, can clearly assure you that my supposed joy sometimes looks like irritation, impatience, and/or surprise. When I cannot physically do something I expect to do. When my energy dissipates not gradually, but rapidly. When I cannot think of a simple word that I used less than a minute ago. When I forget your name, even though I have known you for years. When I try to turn a door knob with my still partially paralyzed hand, and can't, or take what I think is four or five times longer than my estimation. When I start to walk by engaging my spastic right leg, and stutter-step and nearly fall. When I'm very tired some night, and my weary voice sounds like I'm challenged. When my passion to get well overwhelms me, and I silently cry. When I am openly praised by someone for the amazing progress I am making, and I feel like I'm moving forward like a snail (my interpretation: the person just does not know what he or she is talking about), I hide my disgust and anger. When someone subtly criticizes me for not doing something -- or not remembering to do something -- I promised to do. When I do remember what I'm upset about (a striking percentage of the time, the critic is me).

Has my neurocircuitry turned against me, never to be the same again? My internal lights were temporarily shut off about 1:50am on September 6, 2008. Even now, about three-and-a-half years later, life is radically different...

A long-description short-listed: my overt physicality still is impaired yet my sense of touch, strength, speed, and coordination is, bit by bit, healing (like filling a bath tub with an eye dropper); every sense and neurological structure has been rebooted; emotional triggers have been reset; psychological limits have been reframed (sometimes they have disappeared); intellectual capacities have gradually come back online while being restructured, in some ways as weaker, in other ways profoundly strengthened; heartbreak and pain are quite real, yet float like small skiffs over an endless, beautiful sea teeming with life.

As I fell to the floor, about to pass out yet conscious that something was terribly wrong, my jaws gripped so violently that I partially shattered a half-dozen of my teeth, leaving their fragments in my mouth and a cracked upper front tooth.

It was seven days after my stroke when I first remember anything. However, my girlfriend assures me that I was aware of my situation and surroundings on my first day in the hospital, and that, even then, I began exercising by pushing my paralyzed right arm back and forth with my left hand. I was sometimes a bit feisty, she tells me, and was irritable when a female friend came to visit and did not quickly leave, even though I evidently wanted some privacy (which I was not getting with a hospital gown!).

Nonetheless, underlying all these events lies a vast, pacific sense of gratitude which overrides my impatience, irritation, surprise, pain, and pettiness. Gratitude for friends, family, and for life itself, bringing in its wake a tangible beauty and joy.

I fumble for words adequate to the task.

See my blog at StrokeRevelations.com.


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