It’s been one of those days where you find you’ve taken two steps forward and three steps back – then fell backasswards off of a cliff. Want to come to my Pity Party, anyone?
- I’ve had a stroke. Can’t remember squat, like:
*how to type
*how to use a pencil
*how to spell
*how to walk
*how to talk
*how to dress myself
****how to finish the novel I was in the middle of when I had this blasted TIA, which was a hard won, one-third of the way to completion.
I seem to have gotten lost somewhere, those parts of me that make me – ME. I do know who I am. It’s locating me inside of this dumfuggled, scrambled, crambled, muddled, fuddled and befuddled, addled, dizzy, woozy, muzzy, groggy, foggy, dopey and dazed brain of mine that causes me such agitation.
It’s so frustrating. I get flashes of the whole the snapshot of what “Me” entails. Then it’s gone.
I know the basics: I’m married – and of a necessity, due to my limitations, separated from my spouse. I know I’m an ordained minister, an arm chair philosopher and a student of Nature and that I maintain websites connected to THOSE parts of me (which are woefully out of date).
I also know that I cannot pursue any religious ministry because my filters
are all out of kilter and “the ‘f’ bomb” slips out every now and again, along with certain other, less shocking profanities. In any case, no longer clergy material.
But I AM still a writer, damnit.
At least, I think so.
“I think, therefore I am…”, or so the saying goes. So, yes, damnit…STILL A WRITER!
You just watch – – I’ll come away from this experiece with all sorts of creations under my belt (Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise!)
Folded Dreams, a follow-up novel to my venture into the world of self-publishing, managed to get to about 45% edit-worthy completion. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my work at that point, but I was proud to have at least made it that far! And then, as often happens of course, I hit an annoying bout of writer’s block – so I pouted for a few days, then decided I’d really show my Muse how childish an old fossil can get, and “cut off my nose just to spite my own face”…
Translation: I did what I believe a serious writer should never do for more than a few days at a time – I took a stupid vacation from writing. A couple of weeks should do it, I thought to myself. Just two weeks.
That was about the end of November or first of December, 2016.
As fate would have it (or “Never Disrespect Your Muse”), on the 8th of December I had a pretty serious stroke. Not a “major stroke”, mind (the kind that leaves one totally blind and unable to control one’s bodily functions), but bad enough to have to start from scratch to re-develop the ability to walk and use the muscles on the whole right side of my body to cough and spit toothpaste into a sink, and the dexterity I needed to dress and to even simply keyboard.
Writer’s block just became very real and much more complicated than ever, indeed.
It was necessary for me to leave my home and move in with one of my children; but I was determined to be ready when my muse again visited me, so I had my computer and flash drive book files brought over here to my son’s house.
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with the urge to write. I thought about perhaps starting that book on stroke recovery which my therapists at Brooks Hospital had suggested. But, no – I wanted to get crackin’ on my novel again. After all, it’s nearly a year over-due for publish.
I plugged my flash drive into my lap top and began reading the existing chapters to the novel, “Folded Dreams”, you know, to refresh my memory as to where I was heading with the story. I really enjoyed re-reading what I’d written so far, mostly because I didn’t “recognize” it…
In fact, I had forgotten nearly the entire thing. Gone. Just. Like. That.
Since that day, I’ve pondered the story, pounded my brain and perused all of my files on story-line notes and research to find anything I recognize. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. the only ‘discovery’ I’ve made is the continued enjoyment of reading a story which, each time I open it, seems like the first time reading someone else’s work. You see, I only vaguely remember having read it at all, no matter how many times I may have done so…that’s how Swiss-cheesey my brain is.
I don’t know how long this phase of recovery will last. I would like to believe it is only temporary, even if ‘temporary’ lasts for a long time yet. All I know is that THIS is true writer’s block, the likes of which can discourage me to the point of throwing in the towel…for good and ever.
But I won’t, even if I have to change the plot to include the protagonist having a stroke and losing herself completely.
Take THAT, Writer’s Block!!
It’s not a word which requires a definition. And nor does it usually call for an example for explanation, being sufficiently self-explanatory, ya’ know? Still, if you think about it, could you actually define ‘useless’, without looking it up in your Funk & Wagnell’s?
See that picture up there? That’s pretty much what I feel like at this stage of recovery from this damnable stroke. Useless.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
(wonder if i could incorporate this into my novel Waking Up Dead! – that is, if i ever stop being so USELESS!!!)
…because it’s still hard to type, thought I’d share an article I wrote a few years ago. Somehow, an article about Strokes seems an appropriate subject…
CVA vs TIA: WHEN THE WORD ‘STROKE’ IS NOT A VERB
At work last week, a co-worker stopped in the middle of our day and looked at his right hand in amazement after it politely dropped the pen he was using. He picked the pen back up with his left hand, placed it back into his right hand and watched in disbelief as it refused to stay put.
He tried again. Plop…clatter. Onto the desk it dropped. Again.
Yep, right in the middle of notating a call log for MD247 quality control, his hand started twitching and shaking, dropping the pen right out onto the desk and pretty much gave notice that it would no longer be working for him after a 6 decade career as his primary helper.
Then he looked at me and said, “Did you see that? My hand’s not working!” A slight chill hit me as I stopped and really thought about what he was telling me. It sounded all too familiar.
Eleven years ago I became primary care-giver for my parents. I’ll never forget: I arrived on June 30th and 4 days later, on Independence Day, my mother collapsed in my arms. She never came out of the hospital. She passed away 4 days after her 70th birthday. For the first time in my life, I experienced high blood pressure.
A short year later, I was attending my father’s funeral as well. The morning of the funeral I woke up with no real use of my right hand. It wouldn’t hold a washcloth or button my blouse. Within an hour, one whole side of my body refused to function. My husband recognized the problem right away; a visit to the doctor confirmed I’d suffered several TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attack) in a row.
Common term for TIA: Mini-stroke. And now my friend SEEMED to be in the middle of one.
Now I’m happy to report that my friend did NOT have a mini-stroke (though WE all thought he did…which is why you’re supposed to go to the emergency room and talk to a doctor instead of your friends!), which we were all happy to hear. But the whole incident caused many of us to wonder: am I at risk for stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to any part of the brain stops, and lack of oxygen rich blood to brain cells during a stroke can cause some of them to die. That’s the “permanent damage” that is alluded to with the “go to the emergency room immediately” advice you get when you think you might be having a stroke. At the very least, you should call and talk to a doctor to verify your concern for yourself or someone you think might be having one, because even a “mini-stroke” can cause permanent damage if not treated within a few minutes. Permanent damage is just that: Permanent.
We always refer to things like breathing, heart-beat, blinking and swallowing as “automatic reflexes”. Other reactions like protecting your children, waking up to go to the bathroom when you “get the urge” or becoming sexually aroused whether by visual or physical stimulus, are also normally viewed as “auto response”. But if we ponder the miracle of the human body, we realize that EVERTHING, even subconscious auto responses, is connected to the brain!
It’s amazing to think that the tiniest action is the result of neural impulse – the most minute itch or the heat from a fire. Nerve endings? Of course. But what powers those nerve endipngs? Yup. That grey matter that is The Brain.
Think about it; what do you think would happen if the brain cells were damaged or destroyed that regulate:
- Remaining conscious
- Feeling heat, cold or pain
- Maintaining your balance or equilibrium
- Controlling your bladder (or other)
Someone who works in construction or is a professional or recreational athlete might be inclined to think, “I wouldn’t mind forgetting that my back hurts so bad when I get home”. Really? Because pain is the first indication that there is either an injury, or a weakness that could potentially result in injury. Even a headache could signal the presence of aneurysm, high blood pressure or, yes…a stroke.
Although memories of heartache, mistakes or things we’ve done that caused us embarrassment might seem to be memories you’d be happy to lose, remember that we learn from our mistakes. Without those memories we’d just continue making the same ones, over and over again. And you don’t get to pick and choose the ones you can keep, like that Appalachian thru-hike you took all by yourself, the cross country trip with a college friend, a beautiful sunrise with someone you loved or the life you had with your soul-mate.
So pay attention, because now comes the crucial part; as my granddad used to say, “the whereto’s and why for’s” of stroke.
There are two types of stroke: Ischemic and Hemorrhagic, and each has its own peculiarities. Yeah, scientific stuff…but important to understand.
Ischemic (from the word “ischemia” – a restriction in blood supply)
- Embolic: when a clot occurs outside of the brain and travels from that part of the body, through the bloodstream, to the brain, blocking blood supply to the brain
- Thrombotic: when a clot form in an artery (whether a large or small artery) supplying blood to the brain, blocking blood supply to the brain (these types of blockages are generally linked to high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure)
A mini-stroke is properly called a Transient Ischemic Attack; according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “transient” means, “lasting a short time; temporary”. Hence, the symptoms of a TIA usually only last for a few hours to, perhaps, a day.
Hemorrhagic Stroke (from the word “hemorrhage” – heavy bleeding)
- Intracerebral: caused by a sudden rupture of an artery or blood vessel within the brain; the sudden buildup of pressure can cause unconsciousness…or death
- Subarachnoid (no, not spiders!): caused when a damaged artery bleeds into the space between the skull and the brain, which can damage or destroy surrounding brain cells; this can affect the flow of spinal fluid, which can cause hydoencephalus
- oAneurysm: develop when walls of arteries become weak; instead of blood flowing through it smoothly, the pressure from the flow causes a bulge, or balloon affect; if the wall ruptures, it bleeds into the spaces between the brain and skull.
Recognizing signs of stroke can be learned by nearly anyone of any reasonable age. Even children, who may spend much time with elderly family members, can be taught to be aware of the symptoms. Who hasn’t heard stories on the news about the 6-12 year old children who saved a parent’s, grandparent’s or older member of the neighbourhood by knowing enough about heart attacks, seizures or other life threatening conditions, and calling 911? Take the time to learn…and teach…them.
Consider the ways that stroke affects your body, and be aware of these symptoms:
- nausea, neck pain, weakness of any part of your body
- sudden numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body;
- sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech;
- sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, including a “window shade” affect;
- sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and/or
- sudden severe headache (“thunderclap headache”) with no known cause (most common with hemorrhagic stroke) and/or sudden intense pressure in your skull.
The good news, if you will, is that by controlling those risks that you CAN control, you stand a good chance of being able to prevent most strokes ( http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mini-stroke/AN01432 ) by just following all the good advice you get about health care. The controllable risks include your alcohol, drug and tobacco use habits, your weight and eating habits, taking the medications necessary to control issues like diabetes and blood pressure and for women, following your personal physician’s guidelines when it comes to using birth control.
Submitted by Peggy Pearl-Kirkby
Research for Folded Dreams – it’s not all about things that go bump in the night!
As I was reading over my manuscript for the novel, I noticed that there might be a discrepancy between the season portrayed – autumn – and the presence of ‘massive flower buds’ on the character’s magnolia tree. Being a Florida resident where everything grows all year ’round, it had never occurred to me until now that it might be an issue.
‘Ava paused, pen still poised over the paper, to stare out of the livingroom window. There were angry black clouds on the horizon, roiling across the sky in her direction, and a cruel wind was whipping her beautiful magnolia tree all around, as if it was being beaten by a giant hand. She watched as massive flower buds went flying from the branches in every direction and jumped when one hit her plate glass window with a sharp “thwap!” ‘
For the most part, the Southern Magnolia – m. grandiflora – (typically a more tropical flowering tree) will bud in late winter in preparation for a showy array of huge, beautifully fragranced, creamy white flowers in early spring. But I had forgotten that even Florida experiences fairly cold weather and that the magnolia does go dormant at those times…gasp!
In Folded Dreams, this particular autumn is relatively mild, with balmy breezes and only the scent of fall in the air, but plant life – like humans – can follow Nature’s clock, regardless of how she’s acting. It stands to reason that there is a possibility that my magnolia shouldn’t oughtta have buds or even “fruits”, those leftover pods after the tree has flowered.
For all that I try to make sure the majority of science, history, technologies and terminologies are believable in Folded Dreams, it would be a heck of a note that I screwed up something as simple as whether or not this tree has ever been known to set, bloom or fruit in November, even if the temperatures cooperated!
” ‘M. grandiflora’ is a large, rounded evergreen shrub or tree with glossy dark green, leathery, oblong-elliptic leaves, often rusty-brown beneath, and highly fragrant, cup-shaped, cream flowers to 25cm across in late summer and autumn. In warm summers, these can be followed by striking, knobbly seed pods, from which bright red seeds emerge in early to late autumn. “
Whew! I don’t have to change those two chapters. Folded Dreams is safe – and the magnolia tree can go on thrashing about in the angry winds and throw all the buds at Ava that it cares to!