Monday, May 22, 2017

Friends and social directors

It is common to lose some relationships after a stroke. Some friends cannot deal with the “new” friend. Some friends are there in the beginning, yet life goes on. The old adage “out of sight and out of mind” is pretty relevant.

For the survivor, recovery is every day. For friends, they need to move on. For a survivor, sometimes a sense of paranoia sets in.  Especially when friends do not contact a survivor for weeks at a time. Is it because I am different? Is it because my “new me” is uncomfortable to the “friend?”

Five years after my strokes, I seem to be dwelling on what I perceive to be the loss of friendships.  Is it me or is it their lives?

I was the organizer of my social group for years. I was the one who would say “Let’s have dinner” or “see a movie” or “let’s have a BBQ.” Since my strokes, the sense of isolation is more palpable than ever.  

I did a little experiment. I have some really close friends who I decided not to contact until they reached out to me. Some of those friends were so close before my strokes. After strokes, they were “there” but different which is common. They certainly were there after the strokes, but five years later? Not sure.

My experiment was NOT to contact them via text, calls, or emails. I do understand they might have a perception that they do not want to bother me. However, some of these key friends would know better.

Therefore, I did not contact them. No political or friend “things.” No “how have you been doing?”

The result of my almost 6 month experiment? Nothing. Even for a work issue, nothing.

Like I wrote, in the old days before my strokes, I am the social director. Today, I do not have the energy and the mental and physical capacity to be the one to initiate common courtesy.  I am tired of being the "one."

For some of those “friends,” they are on my “Favorite” list on my iPhone. It was for emergency but also they were some of my “favorite friends.”

The other night, I simply wanted to have a beer with a buddy. On Saturday, I wanted to have a burger and laugh with friends.

I had no one to call.

A neighbor had a party recently. We were not invited until it was obvious that we were outside doing yard work. Sheepish apologies ensued.

It is not just me. My wife has the misfortune to be married to me.

Stroke is NOT contagious.

Is my victim hood? I am too paranoid?  Losing friends after strokes is common. Here is an article about this issue:  http://www.strokenetwork.org/newsletter/articles/friends.htm

I do not know. Nevertheless, I am lonely. So. What do I do now? I do not know. My “favorite” list is diminishing in many ways.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Illusions of my old life

Recently, I had two “aha moments.” We went to a wedding two weeks ago for two classmates of mine. I met them when we were in junior high. It was the first time I have seen many of my classmates since my strokes. Second, my family was in McCall, Idaho for a science camp. It was the first time I was alone since my strokes.

The wedding was just wonderful. The bride and groom reconnected at our 20th class reunion. They dated ever since. The theme was “FINALLY!”  We are approaching our 40th class reunion in two years! It was so special for me to see “old” friends.

It was even more special that my best friend from junior and high school attended the wedding. He and his wife were so close to me even though college though he went to the Naval Academy and I went to Boise State.  The have now moved back to Idaho living near us. It seemed that the years melted away.

The most interesting aspect of the wedding was the reactions about “ME.” One classmate who I met in 7th grade hugged me and said, “I was devastated when I heard about your strokes. I assumed you would be a cripple. You look great! I still pray for you.”

A couple of classmates were even hesitant to approach me. It was almost like they did not want to hurt me.

The best part was just the hugs and the relief when they understood I was basically the old irreverent Mark.

The week in McCall was also so uplifting for me! The sense of complete independence was gave me such joy.

Though my classmates at the wedding assumed I was “back,” I will never be “back to normal.” When 20% of your brain is dead, something has to give!

Part of what I had to give up was a sense of complete security and the wisdom to be what I used to be.

EVERTHING I do has to be deliberate. My sense of direction, tying my shoes, using a knife without cutting myself, driving, using simple tools like a pair of needle nose pliers, carrying on a conversation at all, etc.

Everyday “things” that people take for granted..

This week was simply ordinary.

On Monday, I drove to Nampa for some college meetings. I asked a lot of questions. For hours!

On Tuesday, I had a doctor’s appointment in Boise and headed back to Nampa for another college meeting. After that, I took my mother-in-law to lunch for her 85th birthday.

On Wednesday, I attended a lunch downtown with 700 people. I talked to so many people, laughed, and hugged. Throughout the day, I did laundry. Then I had dinner with my brother-in-law. It was a great night and we talked about a lot of things. Just a typical conversation.

Thursday was my day of “rest.” I had a nice lunch with a friend of mine. Scrubbed toilets, vacuumed, watered our flowers and the neighbor’s as well (for the whole week), etc. Last night a “tree guy” removed a tree damaged from the winter. I was with him for two hours. He is a very talkative guy!

This morning, I worked on college stuff, had several conversations about the college, and now I am typing this blog. Tonight, I will attend the CWI nurses “pinning” ceremony. On Saturday, I will be in front of about 7,000 people at the College of Western Idaho.

Seems pretty boring yet I also remember a doctor telling my wife and me that my stroke was so devastating you won’t really recover much.

Honestly, still have trouble remembering that I cannot be “Mark Dunham” again. The wedding and solitude this week were inspiring for me. Yet, I do accept that – despite my recovery –  I am damaged and sometimes I feel like a fraud. Living my life thinking I am my old self again.

My life seems to be like an illusion where people believe “Mark Dunham is back” nonetheless I smile, laugh, and silently say “you have no clue about my reality.”