You will get better….. trust me

I’ve been reading “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor and wanted to share this quote with you.

“Recovery, however you define it, is not something you do alone, and my recovery was completely influenced by everyone around me. I desperately needed people to treat me as though I would recover completely.”

So true….I was having a bit of a wobble, and this quote completely nails it for me.

I cannot change circumstance, but learn from it rather than being a passive helpless participant. I cannot change circumstance but I do have control over how I react to it.

disabled parking passOver the weekend an old friend came to visit, co-incidentally he had a stroke 6 years ago. His encouragement resonated, “you will get better…. this is not how you are going to be, trust me…..”. Just a few words of hope, but something that I really needed to hear. The multitude of cautious professionals, who have been treating me since my event, fear to opine so simply and the right words can be such a powerful catalyst.

The Anat Baniel Method and Clinical Pilates are the perfect marriage of treatment for me . With Pilates I am learning that focus on my breathing allows you to be more present in the body, and with both approaches awareness of movement is key.

I continue to gain benefits and enjoyment in my weekly clinical pilates sessions. This past week the focus has been on my neck. The brain computes movement of the whole body. The mouth, tongue and jaw take a huge part of the brain, and the movement of the neck and back are intimately connected to it.

Slow is extremely important, but at times I find it quite counter-intuitive, so often I catch myself rushing. Moving slowly takes much more control. Fast the brain can only do what it has already learned, and only by moving slowly are we able to upgrade the quality of movement. Its hard to change patterns that are already so ingrained, and I need to trust that change will happen with neuroplasticity, and my brain will heal and recover.

For me, it’s been important to have a space devoted to recovery, somewhere free from distractions. When I had my stroke we were busily renovating, a former office space was redundant and was ideal . So it was decided to use this room as a place where I could concentrate on my recovery. Previously I used a community gym for daily exercise, but with the initial problems that I experienced with mobility having a space at home seemed a better solution.

My first acquisition was a treadmill that my son wasn’t using. I already possessed a good selection of weights, resistance bands, yoga mats and blocks. Slowly I am adding . I have several balls of varying diameters, from large, to small and weighted. I recently purchased a yoga bolster , which has proved to be wonderful new prop, especially useful to do my chest opening work- and infinitely more stable than the ball I used prior to getting it.

Be very cautious though when assembling your space, always be cognizant of your safety. For example, a treadmill provides a moving surface that may be inappropriate for some stroke survivors. Even something as simple as a ball can facilitate a loss of balance that can cause a fall. Having a non slip floor is important, as is appropriate footwear, stabilizing bars or a solid chair is helpful for balance.

* I want to caution anyone reading my account, that I am no medical expert, I am writing this as a personal account of how stroke has affected me, and it’s my journey of recovery.

It all begins and ends with neurons

Art from Neurocomic, a graphic novel about how the brain works

As I approach the 6 month anniversary of my stroke I find myself not reflecting on the progress I have made, but rather reaching the understanding that when you have something that works, you have a happiness.

I am now in the “chronic” phase of recovery, I have working neurons and lazy neurons. The lazy neurons are the neurons that have lost connections. These are the neurons that need to be challenged so that they are forced to grow new connections. Challenge recruits unrelated neurons to take over what is lost in stroke.

The particular challenge that I am struggle with, is muscle tightness, this compromises the movement of my left shoulder, lower arm, hand and fingers. So in addition to working on my cardiovascular endurance daily , I need to work on increasing my strength. Up until recently this was difficult, but during the past 2 weeks the “tone” (tightness) is showing slight signs of improvement.

I think Ive already stated in a previous post that I am a firm believer in doing what you love to help you stay on course with rehab. Adding new things to the rehab mix keeps it interesting, and as such enhances the effectiveness.

In a previous post I included  a Ted Talk video by  Dr. Jaquin Farias,  which discussed the effectiveness of adding dance to the recovery mix. I am pleased to report that I am now adding 30 minutes of dance daily. The challenge is twofold, learning choreography combinations really works the brain (somewhere in the depths of mine, is a distant memory that is being stimulated).  Second is the sheer challenge of moving, it would be easy to throw in the towel but after several days I am getting better. Watch this space, I will try and post a video soon ( you must promise not to laugh though)!

Here is my muse the one and only Tracy Anderson.

* I want to caution anyone reading my account, that I am no medical expert, I am writing this as a personal account of how stroke has affected me, and this is my journey of recovery.

A beautiful broken brain

Stroke affects 15,000,000 people year across the world ….it can happen to anyone,anywhere, anytime.

In the early hours of a Monday morning in November 2011, 34 year-old Lotje Sodderland was woken from her sleep with a pain in her head so excruciating that she lay on the floor waiting to die. She was experiencing a massive life threatening brain haemorrhage.

My Beautiful Broken Brain is the Lotje’s story – a film born out of necessity to help a young woman make sense of having to start her life again when she was only half way through it. Incredibly, thanks to medical intervention she survived.

I watched this amazing account of one young womans experience with stroke on Netflix today. I urge anyone who would like to gain a better understanding of the mind and brain to watch it.

Thinking outside the box

They always say time changes things

But you have to change them yourself

Andy Warhol


Kathy James in the pinkI am taking the action to change my mind, I have a choice, it is my body…. I am the one in control,  I can regain function. There is no magic pill that can transport me back to how things were before my stroke happened.

Before my stroke movement was  not something I really paid much heed to, oh sure I exercised and worked on my fitness but, for example, I could lift my arm without much  thought,  because well it just happened didn’t it?  Just like babies and toddlers do, I can relearn the basics of movement, all over again, and retrain my body/brain connection. Thanks to neuroplasticity I have an opportunity  to alter the neuro – circuitry of my brain. 

One of the most important components of recovery is patience.  I wish I  could in all honesty espouse this virtue in spades, but  I am human and have  melt down days. Days when frustration trumps triumph. 

Its been  one of those times. The past few days have been a struggle. I started NeuroMovement® for Healthy Necks and Shoulders with enthusiasm, only to struggle with lesson 4. The pain in my shoulder is my brain overwhelmed, too preoccupied to  be able to move through sequences, and it  is  same with lesson 5 . I practise the visualization, but feel ultimately a sense of disappointment.. I get very excited when I start something new. Eager for immediate results….. and now I realize   I am missing a vital point of this program.  Go slow . Its not a rush.  Time to regroup.

Those who know me well  are aware that prior to my stroke a big part of my fitness regime was The Tracy Anderson Method. Over  the past 5 years patrons of my local gym got used to my daily workout which incorporated 30 minutes of dance  cardio…. Crazy old bird dancing! Ha ha! Today I would like to share this Ted Talk video by Dr. Jaquin Farias, after watching this talk today, I am thinking its time to re-introduce dance to my exercise regime TAMily  🙂

* I want to caution anyone reading my account, that I am no medical expert, I am writing this as a personal account of how stroke has affected me, and it’s my journey of recovery.