Turning Negatives into Positives: Handling Insensitivity as a Stroke Survivor

Turning Negatives into Positives: Handling Insensitivity as a Stroke Survivor
Photo by Harli Marten / Unsplash


Stroke recovery encompasses more than physical healing; it's an emotional and psychological journey as well. Today we delve into transforming negatives into positives, especially when confronted with insensitive remarks, and embracing the journey with resilience and hope.

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The Impact of Insensitive Remarks

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Understanding the Origins

Insensitive comments often stem from ignorance rather than malice. Recognizing this can help mitigate their emotional impact it's unfortunately something we all experience even if accidentally, it's part of life and recovery as a survivor.

Key Points:

  • Lack of Experience: Many people are unaware of the complexities of stroke recovery. This is one of those things that natually happens if you either arent a survivor or havent been around someone going through it. It goes back to most things in life we generally don't know until we need to really know at at least beyond a surface level. I think we can all understand that perspective and reality.
  • Unintentional Harm: Comments that seem insensitive are often not meant to be harmful. at least my perspective that has been the case, people generally mean well and say something with the best of intentions, but again it's hard to know until youve been through this scenario however well intenetioned could just be the wrong thing at the wrong day or time.

Personal Reflections and Growth

As a survivor, reframing remarks as misguided support has been key to my emotional recovery.

Personal Anecdote:

"A comment about my speech initially hurt, but I realized it wasn't meant to offend. This understanding was a turning point in my journey."

The reality for me was I took this to heart and knew I needed to get to work so, I used it for motivation to just keep working and focus on my recovery journey. At first this is much easier said than done. No doubt about it but with time. patience, and practice like most thing stroke recovery related it gets easier and easier with time. I know first hand how annoying it can be to here 'it takes time' but hopefully hearing it from another survivor helps in your journey!

Overcoming Emotional Hurdles

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Building Emotional Resilience

Resilience is a muscle that grows stronger with practice. Techniques like mindfulness and creative expression aid this process. I would never claim to be an expert in resilience because that would be weird in my opinion, however through a lot of trial and error and practice I have found a few things that have worked for me the last few years since my stroke.

Resilience Techniques:

  1. Deep Breathing: Aids in calming the mind and reducing stress. there are some great books and resources work exploring on breathing and breathwork. Don't be fooled by the terminology breathwork is just a term that would be significantly less annoying if they just said breathing exercises. That was the big hang up for me at least until I finally learned more. check out Oxygen Advantage website and app for a wealth of information to get you started.
  2. Mindfulness: Helps in staying present and reducing anxiety. Again this was one I struggled with for years to really get into a rhythm. Again a lot of great resources and apps to try out and see what works best for you. I am a huge fan and proponent of the Calm app, it just the one I prefer and have had good success with over the last few years.
  3. Creative Outlets: Writing, art, or podcasting for emotional expression. I'll be honest here about the creative outlets. As much I wanted to dive back into these endeavors and hobbies, it's been a long hard road for me. The things that were once super fun, great outlets and enjoyable escape from the computer became annoyingly difficult and frustrating. although with time and a completely non linear path things have changed and I've been able to slowly get back into the things I once loved pre-stroke. With time i fully expect to regain the full ability to do these thing at or even exceed the level i was once at, bu thast doesnt come without hardwork and dedication.

The Role of Support Systems

Support networks are vital. These connections provide comfort and perspective.

Support Option Suggestions:

  • Joining stroke survivor groups
  • Participating in book clubs
  • Engaging in heartfelt conversations with friends and family

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Handling Remarks with Grace

Responding with kindness and understanding can educate and enlighten others. again this isn't always so easy or what happens in the reasl world, but it is something to strive for as a survivor or caretaker or family member. Also take a breath when needed to let emotions settle whenever possible or you remember!

Tips for Handling Insensitive Remarks:

  • Use humor to defuse tension. This s one is always a little difficult for me because I rely on it heavily and I'm not afraid to push the limits when it comes to humor so it can also backfire on me sometimes. Just something to keep in mind if your like me and let it rip without thinking all the way through when using humor, everyone reacts and appreciates comedy a little bit differently.
  • Gently correct misconceptions. There is never anything wrong with this approach but the delivery and how we aim to come across is anothe key here much like humor being able to access and read the situation or peron/people youre doing this with is critical to how well or poorly its received.
  • Share personal experiences to increase understanding. when appropriate this is an ideal method to explain and either give or receive proper context. coming to a conversation and place of being helpul is generally best and doesn't try to prove anything, rather it sets the tawble to share your experience so others csn understand and learn yoyr perspective to see if or how they cn apply and learn from your story.

Communication is Key

Effective communication with loved ones is crucial for mutual understanding and support. I cannot reiterate this enough it is hard, hard, hard to get everyone to understand this concept. A stroke changes everyones life in some capacity be it you the survivor, a spouse, family member, loved one fiend etc. This is perhaps the most difficult because we all think we know each other so well and that likely is the cassee but the true understanding of the impacts and changes for all involved cannot be stressed enough.

Everyone involved will change to some degree. so stay open and honest and know thing will and so change in all capacities. The person you kneew before the event will be differfent so the person you once knew amay be very different in short order. please give each othrt time space and grace and do assume anyone is the sme old peron thy once ewere. it's not generally fair or helpful long term. From my own personal experience, I can admit when I'm wrong, which has often been the case in my life, but I've also tried to make real positive change, and sometimes that gets off track because my love ones, and those around me, don't give me the benefit of the doubt that I'm trying to make changes.

Again, your experience might be different, but it's just something to keep in mind that the stroke survivor is really going through a transformation, frustration and rebuilding so allow that to happen without confrontation and accusation whenever possible.


"By sharing my progress, I help my family understand my journey, fostering empathy and effective communication."

Embracing Positivity and Growth

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Finding Joy in Small Victories

Celebrating small achievements is essential for maintaining a positive outlook. Each step forward, no matter how small, is a victory in the recovery journey.

Ideas for Celebrating Small Victories:

  • Keeping a gratitude journal. I will admit in the beginning, I thought this was terribly stupid, because I couldn't type couldn't do handwriting could barely communicate, but now looking back after four years and some change, I wish I had started with this sooner, because even the struggle of starting slow could help the progression. You don't have to start a gratitude journal necessarily, but just spend five minutes writing no matter how terribly or typing no matter how horribly because the sooner you can get practicing crappy, I'll be at frustrated it's likely the sooner you'll be able to reggae that strength and work those muscles back into shape. Again, I didn't really understand this until I really started to do the work and realized just how many muscles ligaments, tendons, etc. are used to do the things that we once took for granted that are now seemingly difficult it all sort of works together.
  • Sharing milestones with loved ones. This is helpful to celebrate, collectively because it celebrates everybody's efforts because his corn as it sounds it does take a team and a village, and everybody plays a role so taking a moment to celebrate that no matter how silly or insignificant is a worthwhile endeavor. You know if it's a big week and a couple of things have clicked you don't have to celebrate everything all the time, but do take the time to enjoy the recovery because again it's not until longer down the road that you realize just how much work and effort it really takes.
  • Setting and achieving small, manageable goals. Of the many few things that I feel like I repeat on an endless basis this is by far the best at least for me I have pickles I have big dreams. I have ambitious ways of doing things ways I want to do things and some have been successful. Some have been less successful, but more often than not, connecting smaller pieces towards the bigger goal seems to be a much easier much more enjoyable way to get to the angle it's not necessarily for everybody. Some people are capable of hitting big targets, but I can tell you the later and longer you go into the recovery process the more you little bits that you can accomplish and achieve in smaller pieces helps with mental health and allowing the body and mind to catch up and build towards the angle quicker in my experience. I tried to do everything at once, and I really got nowhere in a hurry, and it wasn't until I started breaking things down into smaller chunks that everything improved at a much more rapid rate for me! Again, your experience may very, but worth considering and really not something anybody got into my head. I honestly I wish I had thought of or approach things this way from the gecko it may have been perhaps less frustrating and I don't think anyone would argue that smaller test that are achievable are in fact very much less frustrating generally.

The Power of Positivity

A positive mindset can significantly influence the recovery process. Embracing optimism not only improves mental health but can also lead to better physical outcomes.

Again, this was never the way I was prior to my stroke, but I would say in the last four years I have really embraced this mindset, and I would have a hard time arguing against it no matter how ridiculous do you think it sounds it actually isn't and that's coming from a guy who grew up in New York, and New Jersey I'm a fan of tough love I'm a fan of being coached, but I will say I definitely changed and embraced this mindset and again it would be hard to argue that having a positive outlook positive mindset is ever a bad thing. If you were like me and having a hard time initially switching to this perspective, take it slow you don't have to announce it to anybody you don't have to ever say anything to anybody, but just do it for yourself and with yourself and you might be surprised where it takes you and how things start to take a different shape than you ever expected.


"Maintaining a positive outlook has been my anchor. It transforms challenges into opportunities for growth and healing."

Staying Focused on Personal Goals

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Setting Realistic Goals

Establishing attainable goals is crucial. They provide direction and a sense of purpose during recovery. Again, I sort of said this earlier in the post but as a reminder, these are some good small tips to get going on goals, regardless of what those specific goals are for you.

Goal-Setting Tips:

  • Start with small, achievable objectives.
  • Celebrate each accomplishment.
  • Adjust goals as recovery progresses.

Building Confidence Through Progress

Every challenge faced and overcome builds resilience, leading to a stronger, more confident self. This can all be achieved with a plan and goals set and managed in a way that works best for you. I've highlighted how I went about it, so hopefully that's a good jumping off point to get you headed in the right direction to rebuilding your confidence.

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uPhoto by Katrina Wright / Unsplash


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Photo by Greg Rakozy / Unsplash

Embracing the recovery journey with optimism and educating others with kindness and patience transforms recovery into a path of empowerment and growth. It's never easy they're going to be challenges to face head on and difficult situations and circumstances, however, keeping an open positive mindset can go along way in your recovery and life!

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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