Navigating the Ups & Downs: A Positive Outlook on Stroke Recovery

Explore a personal journey through stroke recovery, highlighting the profound changes, challenges, and mixed emotions it brings. Discover the importance of community, self-compassion, and a positive mindset in embracing this second chance at life and celebrating small victories.
Navigating the Ups & Downs: A Positive Outlook on Stroke Recovery
Photo by Cristina Gottardi / Unsplash

Navigating the ups and downs of stroke recovery begins with acknowledging the profound changes it brings to one's life, along with the mixed emotions that accompany it. Often, a stroke comes as a shock, sometimes with warning signs but occasionally without. In my case, at 37 years old, I never expected it to happen to me.

Initial Shock and Reality

After the initial shock subsides, reality sets in. For me, paralysis struck the right side of my body due to a left-brain stroke. It was overwhelming and aggressive—a shock to say the least. I soon realized that there was no immediate fix; no magic pill or treatment could instantly restore me. While I initially thought I'd recover in a few days, it took years to regain stability. The timeline differs for everyone; age and health play significant roles in recovery.

Surviving a stroke marks the beginning of a new chapter filled with challenges and adjustments. Embracing these changes and maintaining an overall positive outlook can be powerful tools in appreciating this second chance at life. Life after stroke brings physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes—from diet modifications to therapy sessions. It's essential to fight for what you need while accepting that your life may be drastically different moving forward.

Taking Action and Overcoming Challenges

Facing numerous challenges, I quickly realized the need to take action. With three kids, a wife, a life, and a career, it was anything but easy. At six foot eight, spending the first year in a wheelchair was incredibly difficult. Yet, I remained committed to maximizing my efforts within reasonable safety bounds.

There were countless hard days when giving up seemed like an option. However, I refused to let the stroke define me and chose to focus on relearning and rediscovering myself instead. Although physical activity was initially limited, I kept my mind sharp by reading books and acquiring helpful tools. I continued to manage the household and ensure everyone was taken care of.

From the outset, I decided not to wallow or surrender to negativity. It was crucial for me to recover, not only for my own sake but also for my family's well-being. In the beginning, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and want to fix everything immediately. However, embracing the constraints and maintaining a positive mindset is vital.

Small Victories and Self-Reflection

During recovery, acknowledging difficult days is essential; focusing on small victories helps maintain motivation. As time passed, I incorporated meditation and quiet moments of self-reflection into my routine. On challenging days, I allowed myself to feel upset but then reflected on how I could change my approach or perspective.

Overcoming obstacles requires determination, adaptability, and a willingness to prioritize self-improvement for oneself and one's loved ones. Initially, I primarily focused on reading or listening to books, as even holding one proved difficult. Gradually, I began to view this as a second chance at life and embraced the opportunity with gratitude. Although it didn't happen overnight, I aimed to make the most of this new beginning, maintaining a polite and kind demeanor in my interactions.

Rebuilding and Setbacks

The road to recovery was long and filled with setbacks, but I persisted in making the most of this second chance. Rebuilding is challenging in any aspect of life, yet it offers an opportunity to explore new directions and reevaluate our priorities. With time, I began to see things differently and through a fresh lens.

Acknowledging and overcoming setbacks is an inevitable part of the journey. Drawing from my sports background, I found motivation in the stories of others who had triumphed over adversity and emerged stronger. Setbacks became learning experiences that fostered self-honesty and openness with others.

Throughout this process, relationships shifted; some people offered temporary support while others proved more steadfast. This change helped me identify those genuinely willing to help during this transformational period. In the end, embracing this second chance at life has led to personal growth and new perspectives.

Insights and Support Networks

People shouldn't be blamed. They have lives to return to, and living life is complicated and filled with challenges. Reflecting on my experiences, I've learned to appreciate the progress made and embrace each day wholeheartedly. Though I'm not perfect, I strive for fulfillment while also learning to slow down occasionally.

Over time, we gather valuable insights that help us grow, and while it's not necessary to celebrate every milestone, appreciation is crucial. Finding joy in everyday moments and humor in difficult times has been my key to overcoming obstacles. Each day presents a chance for positive experiences, no matter how small or significant they may be. At the end of the day, gratitude and satisfaction with my progress allow me to rest easy.

Building a Supportive Community

It's true that progress takes time and varies from person to person. Some aspects may seem quick while others feel sluggish, but that's simply the nature of growth. Looking back, I wish I had found more support during my journey. Communities like The Center by Survivor Science would have been beneficial, as my problem-solving and fixing tendencies often led me to tackle issues on my own.

Embracing Post-Stroke Recovery

During my journey through stroke recovery, I discovered the value of building a supportive community. It doesn't necessarily have to consist of fellow stroke survivors; it could include cancer survivors or those living with MS. The key is connecting with people who are navigating challenging circumstances, as the experience of coping with a stroke is vastly different from regular life.

It's essential to surround yourself with individuals who uplift and promote a positive outlook. However, understand that your support network may evolve over time, and people may come and go. While family can be a reliable source of support, they too have their lives to get back to. As a survivor, I would recommend reaching out to different people at various times to avoid burdening a single caregiver.

My entire family stepped into caregiving roles, but extended family members eventually drifted away. In hindsight, I would have asked for help in the beginning while also pushing myself safely and steadily toward progress. Connecting with other stroke survivors is crucial because they understand our experiences better than anyone else—even doctors.

As you recover, remember to celebrate your victories and live in the moment. Equally important is practicing self-compassion—a challenge I faced personally.

Allow yourself to experience those difficult days, moments, and times. Ideally, they'll be brief, and you can then shift your mindset to one of positivity. On challenging days, practicing self-compassion becomes crucial. Through this process, I learned to be kinder to myself, something I've always found difficult. You come to understand that recovery is a journey filled with setbacks, ups and downs. Over time, however, you can look back and see the progress you've made, even if it's not exactly as you had envisioned.

Adjusting and Moving Forward

As a fixer-type person, I'm accustomed to linear thinking: do X, get Y result. This mindset is similar to entrepreneurship, where you learn and adapt as you go. Life may take us on unexpected twists and turns – some good, some bad – but we can learn from these experiences and adjust accordingly.

In conclusion, maintain a positive mindset and keep moving forward. Embrace the changes that come with life post-stroke, including the highs and lows. This new chapter may differ significantly from your previous life, but adopting a positive outlook and expressing gratitude make the journey more bearable for both you and those around you.

The phrase "it takes time" gains meaning as you progress in your recovery. While it would be nice for everything to immediately return to how it was before the stroke, over time, you may find the growth and self-reflection even more rewarding than your previous path. By appreciating life in the moment and making necessary changes, you can truly take charge of your existence.

Seizing the Second Chance

Seizing the second chance at life and the opportunity presented is of utmost importance. Gratitude fills my heart daily, and I'm certain we'll revisit this topic in future posts along the way!

About the author
Will Schmierer

Will Schmierer

👋 Hey I'm Will, Stroke Survivor since December 2019 at the age of 37! February 2020 I was diagnosed with MS🧡 If you have questions or need support, feel free to reach out will@survivorscience.com

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