I have given a pretty lengthy and detailed description of brain function, specifically kinds and locations of strokes, here, if anyone is really interested to read it all. I think this would mostly interest stroke survivors themselves, families or caregivers of stroke victims, or medical or therapy professionals. I don't know that the average member of society would have much desire to wade through these explanations, but from my point of view, it is pretty fascinating! (Of course, I welcome any clarification on information I might mis-understand or be mis-representing there!) It was originally posted a couple weeks ago, but has been significantly edited and added to twice since, so I wanted to point out the post All In My Head again.
I haven't talked much about PBA much lately, in part because symptom seem to be quieting down for the most part, something for which I am so terribly grateful! But one experience last week is worth documenting here. After weeks and weeks of being unable to cry under any circumstances, my husband put on an emotionally manipulative "chick flic" one evening last week. It was the kind of movie I would have called a "good cry movie" before the strokes and would have shed tears through most of the second half of the film, had I been watching it prior to my strokes.
I sat there as an emotionless lump, wanting to cry at several points, but totally unable to even force tears of release even when I urgently felt I needed too. Instead, there was much laughter and battering with my teenager and husband about how I should be sobbing but could not turn on the tears.
Then, about 10 minutes AFTER the movie, my husband and I talked about mundane scheduling issues, there was absolutely no emotional trigger involved, and suddenly my voice unexpectedly broke and, even in front of our teen (who I discovered early on I typically could no longer cry around), I blurted out, "NOW I'm going to cry!" and I broke down in uncontrollable sobs. The tears could and would not be held back no matter what I tried.
Then the hick-up sobs became mixed with hysterical laughter, for I felt so very ridiculous sobbing over my husband's work schedule the next day. My son even asked, "Mom, are you laughing or crying now? I can't tell!" which only produced more tear-laden hysterical sobbing. Poor kid!
This went on for several minutes, then, like a light switch, as suddenly and unexpectedly as the whole storm had broken, it was over. No sniffling and shuttering and tapering down of tears, just sobbing one moment and totally calm the next! I picked up right where the conversation had previously left off and felt nothing unusual other than a wave of utter exhaustion.
So as soon as we had our schedules settled, I went to bed. I had no more than touched my head to the pillow in that dark, quiet room, than sobbing overwhelmingly shook my frame once again. I had no idea it was coming and had anyone asked why I was crying, their guesses would have been as good as mine. I utterly, gut-wrenching yield to the tears (not that I had any choice in the matter because they were here no matter what!) and cried it out HARD for another good ten minutes or so, then once again the tears were gone as suddenly as they started. Then I felt better than I had all evening.
I guess the tears had just bottled themselves up for so long that the pressure finally built up enough to demand release, and once the chemical release valve was satisfied, that was that??? How very odd to experience such profound physical signs of emotional expression that were totally out of sync with my emotional experiences of the moment. This used to be a pretty-much daily constant in the early months of recovery (outward expressions of vile anger and tear-laden distress when I inwardly longed for loving gentles or did not feel angry or tearful), but hasn't flared up in this extreme for a while now. No more tears since that evening, so I really hope we aren't headed into another cycle of inability to release valid emotions!
Similarly, I am gradually becoming more aware of the break down in my logical reasoning abilities. This week my husband expressed frustration that I keep making new dinners, all the while the refrigerator was becoming more and more chaotic and crowded with leftovers and food was going to waste. He asked me if I would be willing to clean out the refrigerator the next day, sort through and dispose of spoiled foods, organize what was left, and make an effort at getting current food eaten up. Physically, I have that capability now. Mentally, the thought had never crossed my mind. As I told a friend, a few days before his request, it was starting to cross my mind that "somebody really should do something about this refrigerator," but that where the logic train stopped. It never even occurred to me that I was the one building this problem nor that it was now both within my physical ability (something that hadn't been true for so very long) and family obligation to be that "somebody" who could do anything to resolve the issue. As soon as Rick explained exactly what he needed, it was like, "Of course! I can do that!" But without his prompting, I would still be trying to stuff more left-overs into a bulging fridge!
Kathy has been coming to clean my house every Thursday for well over a year now. What a blessing!!! And how beautiful that this casual pre-stroke friendship has birthed one of my closest confidants along with keeping us in a livable house. As my kids say, "Ms. Kathy is totally family now!" We are just working on weaning the weekly help down to every other week, so I felt like I did a pretty good job at keeping up the house over these past two weeks before she was back yesterday, but after seeing how my kitchen (and rest of the house) sparkles today, I realized how very much she does here that I still simply miss!
Yesterday we talked about the fridge and my non-logical information processing since the stroke. For example, Kathy pointed to a cup on the counter and asked if it needed to be put away or washed. I replied that it should be washed out but to be careful because it had been sitting there for several days, untouched, so was likely "growing something" by now! We talked about how strange it was that I could give her that precise warning, yet it had never occurred to me that prior week that I could have, or should have, ever taken care of that cup myself. Kathy is so sweet and understanding and will do the nastiest of jobs with a gentle, willing heart (what a picture of Christ, of true servanthood, she is to me!) and she said this part of my personality change, "Is just who Jenni is now." As simple as that, but still odd to learn to work with.
Later in the morning she picked a piece of paper trash off the floor. I thanked her and noted that I had been stepping over that trash and thinking that somebody really should pick it up, for four days straight now! We both laughed at my honesty. :) So my new goal is to not only see things that need to try to be addressed, but when I think to myself that "someone" should do a certain job, to try to stop and ask myself if I could possibly be that someone. We'll see how it goes...
I so wish my video camera was still working. I really want to show you pictures of my hands! I used to be a nail-biter before the strokes, but then mobility issues and jaw misalignment broke me of that bad habit because it simple wasn't possible anymore. For the first time in my life, I am struggling to keep my nails short enough not to cause injury to my family (my poor husband!) and don't have the dexterity to trim them well (and never think of it when my mom or husband can help me), so haven't cut them in months.
If you could see a picture, here's what you would see. On my right hand my thumb and pointer (typing) finger nails are worn down to the tips of my fingers. I use these two so much that the nails never have a chance to grow, but are forever being dinged, chipped and simply worn nearly to the quick. The other three nails on that hand grow the whites out just barely past the ends of my finger tips, so they are longer, but still pretty short.
On my left hand, my ring finger and thumb are my most frequently used fingers. My ring finger is the only one strong enough to usually maintain extension and support itself for me to turn off lights, push buttons, etc. with that hand. Though the most painful and generally the most stiff, I do have flexation in that opposable didget and try to put it to work pretty often too. Both of these nails are slightly longer than any of my right hand. The next longest nails (visibly longer than thumb or ring finger) are my left pointer and middle finger. These are both worn down enough that you would never guess they represent months worth of growth, but they are out there enough to be pretty dangerous , especially since I have very little, very clumsy, fine motor control of that hand. These are fingers I try to use, try to challenge as much as possible, but they aren't so responsive nor cooperative. There is a pretty nice stripe of white nail showing over the tips of these fingers.
My pinky has broken and regrown at least twice since it has last been cut. Even so, I use that finger infrequently and inefficiently enough that there is currently as much white nail showing there as there is pink! It is the one that people notice. It is the one that draws compliments. It is the one that most frequently causes people (especially my husband!) bodily harm. It is the picture of what I think a long nail should look like. Too bad it is only there because I neglect that hand so much. I always prayed for long nails, I just never stopped to consider the potential cost.
OK, Now I'm off to try to call (have I mentioned lately that I really HATE telephones?) my insurance and get some sort of resolution as to if, and if so, how much, they are willing to pay toward voice therapy for me (this would be critical in my mind if I am to pursue public speaking), starting next month if we can swing the cost. Thank you for praying for a specific need for me, yet again!
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.