Isn’t it funny that most times when irony strikes you, it’s with a negative force? Why can’t it be funny in a way we can all laugh at? I recently referenced my insane, psychotic post-stroke phase in a post and I really thought I was beyond all that. I thought I had wrangled up all of those emotions and herded them into a corral where I could somewhat control them or at the very least know where they were. It’s important to see your emotions so you can prepare for the tantrums and fits of attempted rebellion. No one wants to be held in a box, why would my emotions want to? Every now and then, you let one out, you let it run wild and when it’s tired you escort it back home and let it rest while you handle life and its curveballs.
I had a moment of weakness. Suffering a stroke comes with so many different faces of effects from the inside, out. There’s so much going on that it’s like trying to find your way through a corn maze after being dropped in the center with a blindfold on. You don’t know right from left, north from south. What is up and where is down? Who am I? Who was I? Who am I now? Who or what am I supposed to be now? Some people are too disabled to try to define anything or ask questions or lack the energy to do anything other than ask the questions. Some of us get sucked into this black hole lacking everything that keeps us grounded and we are suspended in a void with nothing but questions, wonderings, and epiphanies starving for light, floating around us.
I sometimes wonder, am I fortunate that my stroke had a definite cause? There are people who wonder why, why? Oh why? And I do not. What I find myself circling around the most is: How did I not know? I had this thing living inside of my head and I didn’t know. I listened to it whispering to me every night before I went to sleep and every morning when I woke up. I saw the signs, everything I had ever questioned about myself physically, on a health-conscious level, all led to the AVM. The hallucinations growing up, the weird dreams, the noise, the strange red mark, the birthmark. The irony of it all; my attraction to men with veins that bulge:
So I wonder how I compare to those that don’t know what caused their stroke but then I remind myself that it doesn’t matter because our confusion, rage, depression…it’s all on the same roller coaster, we are just experiencing it from different seats on the same ride. Sometimes I feel like I’m the first seat with the forceful wind breaking over my face and sometimes I’m in the middle where it’s safe and other shoulders are there to protect me when the sharp turns want to send me right or left; and sometimes I’m in the back barely holding on. There are days where I’m waiting in line like I never got on the ride in the first place and I’m starting the ride all over again. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to remember the turns and know which ones to brace for and which ones to lean with rather than against. Sometimes I’m like that kid that just barely made it onto the ride by a half-inch. I’m wide-eyed and I’m scared but I’m also anxious to get this thing going so I can see how it will end.
I know where I want to be and that’s where my positivity can reign supreme after all of the negative forces have been evicted from my life. It’s very hard work. My stroke awakened me in ways I am still having trouble understanding. I’ve been able to see more of myself than I ever wanted. I see what type of person I was before the stroke switched things around. What I find to be most disturbing about this “awakening” is that I not only see who I was but I am fully aware of how much I have changed and cannot change. All I can do is try to use that awareness to better myself, to make better choices. But again, this just isn’t easy. I am swirling around in this hole and I see the problematic equations and I know the solutions but for some reason I simply cannot line them up appropriately or I am too afraid to. It’s all very bothersome.
I have my two boys and my husband, I have cousins floating around here and there but I only converse with one through Facebook. The others I have no more connections with. My husbands parents and the Widow are now my only family and that totally freaks me out. They are good people but they are not my people and knowing that they are now all that I have makes me question whether or not I have ever had any clan of my own. I’ve realized through my stroke that some of the worst aspects of my character, the negativity and judgmental parts of me, the arrogance and selfishness – I was raised around and with that. After my stroke, after the walls of my dams were burst through by rivers of blood, shifting the platform on which I stood to see myself, thus changing my perspective, I saw the paths that led from the dark woods that I was made from, towards me. Everything taken from me, everything I sacrificed, everything that hurt me and tore at me, it all revealed itself to me while I lay with my eyes closed with thoughts of my future dancing behind my eyes.
I am not shifting blame; we all have mommy dearest issues and sibling rivalry but who was there to protect me? I didn’t know how and apparently no one else did either. I realized, as my thoughts sifted through these files I discovered hidden and away from my conscience, that I could change who I was by changing how I looked at my past and who I had become as a result of it. I was not strong enough to listen, to speak out, to take charge or to create boundaries and make demands of my own but I would do my best to do these things now that no one knew who I was anymore. To everyone I was just different, crazy; I was not becoming what everyone had hoped for.
Directly after my stroke, as I waited for a month for my brain surgery, I experienced my first bargaining session with a higher spirit I am unsure exists. I locked myself in a closet and I cried and begged; I made offers of forgiveness in exchange for answers. I had one request: take my life now because you should have taken it that morning I awoke and my life was changed forever. You owe me. No one owed me,;I doubt there was anyone to listen that was not physically present in that house. What was I to do? I had so many questions and so much going on around me and so much to face still ahead of me. I saw nothing but challenges in my future while I was continually being tested by those forcing me to “recover.” Recovery cannot be forced. Not when the damage you need to recover from is more than just a little weakness or a mild psychotic break. People expected so much of me. They said so many things they didn’t know hurt me and ate away at what little confidence my doctors and therapists had helped me to grow. I hated so much of my life and I loved so few so deeply that it was becoming unbearable. I truly felt that leaving, dying, letting go of the struggle would be best for everyone, my son included. They could be free of the burden. I knew the challenges, they did not. I may not have known each and every one of those challenges but when it is a struggle to sit up straight, to get into a standing position, to learn how to move around with only half of you cooperating, you kind of get a quick idea of what lies ahead. I wasn’t even considering the mental and emotional toll this was all taking; I was so consumed by the physical changes that I had yet to take in the mental effects. The thing is, even when you don’t see or notice what is going on and changing inside of your head, it doesn’t stop the PTSD from doing its job. It doesn’t stop the parts of your brain that you don’t communicate with from ravaging on its destructive path. I knew to expect this but I never would have considered it PTSD. The therapists in the hospital just said to expect “changes.” That’s very vague but I knew what he meant without knowing. I had already had a breakdown by then. I asked him to explain it to my family so they could understand what type of support I needed. He never explained it to them. They were in a rush. It was time for me to get out of rehab, they were tired of being there, they were tired of watching me “milk it.” I wanted to learn more but I was not afforded the patience, the time, the support.
Things only got worse. Stilla, my sister, she is a very demanding person, her personality is very strong and takes up a lot of space. Of all the things that took place during and shortly after the initial stages of my post-stroke life, her destructiveness hurt me the worst. My mom, I always knew she was weak and selfish in a way that comes across as selfless. She makes you feel like you owe her when you in fact don’t owe her anything. Old lady smiles and cookies don’t mean you owe her. If that woman ever hands you a cheesecake bite, you put that thing back in its Rubbermaid container, close the lid and leave the house immediately. It’s like the poisoned apple, only way fattening and delicious.With my mother I only had to learn to set boundaries, accept her damaging faults and grow a spine to enforce my new “rules.” It sounds easy enough but I assure you it is not. No one wants to tell their mother how they really feel about her as a person. Everyone is expected to blame their mom for their issues but what happens when you understand it’s her as a person, her individuality is what makes you harbor nothing but disdain for them? No parent can prepare for that. No offspring could prepare for that sanely. I am a human, I did not do it sanely. I didn’t do it with grace, either. I was blunt, rude and strong-minded about it all. I really had no choice. All I wanted was answers to the lies so I could deal with the truth for once. She could not do this for me. I am now the horrible person in my family.
I’ve decided that I will have to deal with the hatred from my sons for disconnecting them from their family (cousins and such) but I cannot have the Evil Duo around me. And to be honest, I do not feel they are healthy for my children in any capacity. I once confronted Mom about a picture of my niece she shared with me. There was a man’s elbow in it. I still swear it was Krank Ficken’s elbow. I can’t help it; as soon as I saw it I felt the color drain from my face. I have only seen his face on the registered sex offenders list for my hometown. That picture is about a decade old or so. There’s no real reason for me to suspect this was his elbow, that tattoos he had while he was actively my step-dad had been covered over according to Mom. This elbow was mere inches from my nieces bare legs. She was about 5 or 6 at the time. I immediately contacted Mom. I cannot hold things in anymore or else there will be consequences for all those around me or involved. I have to speak about strong feelings or I will explode in a rage and hurt everyone in my way. It’s just another one of those “new” things about me that comes with having a stroke. She denied it immediately. I asked the same questions as before. The ones she had refused to answer from the moment I decided:
The truth will set me free
Maybe I hoped it would set us all free but like I said before: recovery can not be forced. Those needing to recover have to be ready for the struggle mentally, physically and emotionally. Otherwise, failure is the only future there is.
A few days later Mom told me that the man in the picture had secrets. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I thought the owner of the elbow was my childhood rapist, it actually belonged to an habitual heroin addict that stole from Mom and used in her bathroom. This is what she allowed to live with her. This is what she brings around her grandchildren: child rapists and heroin abusers. Again, I’m evil because I won’t allow her near my kids. She can’t give an honest nswer to a straight question because she will only provide more horrible truths or reveal all the many lies she has built her life with.
A couple of years ago, my sister made a post about her job on FB. I told her to quit, to find a new job. I was not trying to be mean or belittle her or anything of the sort. She became hostile, as is her usual method of defense, and started harassing me on the thread and after all that had happened prior in relation to my stroke and care afterward, I had finally had enough. I removed her from my Facebook’s friends list. It was unnecessary drama and I needed the peace. She was very upset by this. She continued to comment on the post about how much of a bitch I was for deleting her (real petty stuff) then she sent me an incredibly painful e-mail telling me how much I deserved to have the stroke because I was selfish and self-centered and all this nonsense. She then blocked me from Facebook altogether. At first I was upset but as time went by I realized that was not a bad thing. Things were quiet. When she had to create a second account, I blocked it as soon as I saw my friends becoming hers. The drama belonged to others now.
Kasper and I had a fight sometime after that and because I had no one to turn to I was forced to think about what had just happened between us. For the first time in our relationship I had to deal with a problem in our relationship on my own. I discovered that this is not a bad thing. I realized that, after Kasper and I dealt with the issue by talking it over, most of the negativity filling the gaps in our relationship had not come from us but the input of those I had allowed to enter our relationship. We fight like normal couples, removing my mother and Stilla did not heal everything “wrong” in my life but it relieved A LOT of the pressure. For the first time I was living my life by my rules and with decisions I had made on my own without other people telling me what they think first. When you listen to a view seen through clouded eyes, your own vision because clouded and that’s just not fair. I decided to leave my family be and not communicate with them anymore. I do not talk to my sister and though I do converse with Mom on the few times a year she texts me I don’t actively seek these conversations. She makes me very upset as I am reminded by all the wrong in my past that had been created with her help, or lack of help, just by the mere mention of her name. It is better to let them be. They seem to be doing better for themselves thousands of miles away anyway. Even if the financial backing does happen to come from the man who stole the sanctity of my childhood as well as my right to explore my world unhindered by fear and nightmares.
So when a dear old friend of mine posts on Facebook about his Islamic faith and ends up being harassed by my dear sister, I find myself thrust into this argument I have no desire to participate in. My friend, GreenEyes, begged me to read her comments. I told him I did not want to because I have found peace without her in my life. He finally convinced me to unblock her so I could read the comments. I discovered that she had either reactivated her old account or created a third and blocked me because I could not see her comments. Is it possible she reactivated or created a new account just to be the one doing the blocking? It sounds incredibly childish but I would not put it past Stilla.
I had no idea Stilla had been “studying Islam” and I was stunned by her comments on the issue. She was insulting his faith and not in a way to criticize Islam but him. I do not agree with bashing people for their faith. Religion is, in my opinion, simply the text of some people’s faith. You do not need a book to tell you how you feel though many need that text to help them identify and define those feelings. He believes in Allah, follows the word of Mohammed, whatever, and that is his right. I was very upset at how she was demeaning him. It was disturbing to be honest. He was patient, though, calm in his words and kept trying to dissuade her from debating him. Faith shouldn’t be a debate, let him believe what he believes. And then I read a comment about me. He said I was right in the pictures I share. We do not see all Christians in the same way we see WBC so why should we see all Muslims in the same context as we see ISIS? She said my opinions don’t matter because my brain injury made me crazy.
I cannot describe how crazy this had made me. I was reminded days later after reflecting upon this for hours, that I am still selfish and self-centered. I took that one comment and flew with the wind like a witch on her broom under a full moon. I forgot the purpose of being on that thread (which I viewed through Kasper’s profile). I turned it into something about myself as if I needed to prove everything she ever said about me was right. I cried, I ranted and I even made some regrettable posts on Facebook. I’ve officially decided that my family is no longer a part of that family. True family would try to understand what their family is going through instead of using it against them to make themselves appear wiser and better. She, nor my mother, had ever once attempted to truly understand what I was going through and have been going through. They took advantage of me for whatever reasons they could find. They made me feel useless and worthless when I needed them to do the exact opposite. I didn’t want the attention, the help but I needed it and I am seen as the horrible person because of it. All they think of when they think of me is the woman locked in the closet losing her mind after a part of it had decided it was time to blow open. They didn’t consider the grief, the rage, the confusion, the loss…nothing. They want me to believe I deserved this, that everything is my fault and that I am a crazy and horrible person. I may not be even and I may not be the warmest of souls but I am not evil or horrible and no one with a shred of humanity within them deserves this to happen to them.
I caved and I gave in to the crazies that entered when I opened that door to glimpse the woman who used to be my sister and I let them eat at me. Despite my previous endeavors to remain safe from them, I gave in to curiosity and I nearly lost touch with myself all over again. I cannot let that happen again. This stroke has been some sort of blessing, a painful one but a blessing all the same. I will not allow anyone to have me believe it was a curse.