Stroke survivors, as we are often ceremoniously called, don’t always display a visible handicap.
I don’t. Looking at me, you wouldn’t know I had a CVA (cerebrovascular attack, eeeek) only 5 months ago. I walk normally, I have full use of my arm and hand (minus the numb fingers), I don’t suffer from speech problems (minus the German accent haha), or any other cognitive issues like memory loss. At least not at the moment, I’m told this can happen at a later stage but I try not to think about it. So, in my case, the handicap is pretty much invisible.
Now, the question is: is that a blessing or curse?
Your instinctive answer will probably be: “a blessing of course, you ungrateful woman!” But is it always a good thing that you can’t see someone’s illness/ handicap/ disability?
Take anyone suffering with mental health problems. It’s not written across people’s faces if they suffer from depression. Or panic attacks, which I had my fair share of, thank you. Ok, with a panic attack it is probably written across my face, when I try and get out of a crowded supermarket as quickly as I can because I fear I’ll faint at the till and cause a terrible fuss. (why are supermarkets so horribly loud and bright and crowded and there’s no air and too much choice. Awful places. That’s why I am hoping for Amazon to take over the world so I never have to set foot into another such anxiety-inducing etablissement again. That’s also why I like shopping at Waitrose, not because I’m posh but it’s relatively calm and quiet in there, plus the coffee.)
But I digress. In the first few months after my stroke I walked with crutches. Not that I needed them as such, but they gave me some sense of security. And, they signalled to people “oi, watch out, she’s got a dodgy leg, probably a skiing accident, be careful not to bump into her”. Looking handicapped ironically gave me some protection.
Now, without crutches, waking aids or any other contraption to alert the world to my shortcomings, I feel vulnerable.
At the same time, and this is perhaps the paradox, I don’t want to be different/ handicapped/ disabled. I want to be normal. I want to live like nothing’s happened and I’m a fit and healthy 41 year old. I want people to treat me normally. I don’t want anyone’s pity and I don’t want the stroke to define me.
So, it’s a bit of an emotional up and down. I want empathy not sympathy. I want to be treated normally but also that people cut me some slack sometimes. I want to forget about it but also talk about it. I want people to know I had a stroke and not know about it.
Does that make sense at all? 🤷🏼♀️