Upon the Anniversary of My Stroke
Craig Whalley is LifeRing eGroups Regional Representative. Craig is also a long-time, active LifeRing contributor and was our LifeRing Executive Director after co-founder Marty Nicolaus retired in 2010. This post first appeared on the LifeRing LSRsafe eGroup on July 9, 2022.
(This is a long ramble through a part of my life that is important to me but need not be for you, except for the central message: doing things that damage your heath is foolish, and that includes drinking alcohol!)
Today marks 18 years since I suffered a stroke. As strokes go, it wasn't too bad. It took about six weeks to regain the ability to walk safely without help. I remained clear-headed from the beginning. It was an ischemic stroke, meaning caused by a blockage in an artery, but it wasn't a clot. Arteries have an inner lining and one of mine developed a tear in that lining that produced a flap that blocked the blood flow. One of the effects of high blood pressure is damage to that lining. My BP had been high for years which, in true addict fashion, I ignored. So my many years of drinking and neglecting my health almost killed me. I was pretty healthy by the time I had the stroke -- sober for almost 3 years and living a much, much healthier lifestyle. My BP was normal, but the damage had, apparently, been done.
The stroke left me with some after-effects that have bothered me ever since: poor balance (my proprioception -- the system that feeds your brain with information about your body's position in space -- was completely zapped, but gradually came mostly back), a dry eye (something in the tiny little system of tears that keep your eye moist was zapped on one side, leading to continuous problems with that eye), and something called Post Stroke Fatigue (PSF), which is very common and not at all understood. The PSF is by far the most troublesome after-effect for me. It manifests in different ways for different people -- some sleep 16 hours a day or feel completely enervated. Some get over it quickly; others never do. For me, it's a matter of always feeling tired (less than exhausted, more than pooped) regardless of how much I sleep. Sustained concentration is more difficult and sometimes impossible.
After my stroke I tried to keep working at my bookstore, hoping the PSF would lift with time. But the sort of multi-tasking required in a small, busy shop (wait on customers, answer the phone, read catalogs, etc. all at once) was too much for me so I gradually reduced my hours of work (you can do that when you're the owner!). I sold my store several years later, giving up the idea of ever working a "real" job again. By then I was nearly retirement age anyway
In 2010, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to help out LifeRing. I stayed there for 7 years, about the length of time it takes to get tired of one damn beautiful day after another. Working with a small non-profit was completely different from working with a small bookstore, but I was still plagued by the tiredness and "aversion to effort" of the PSF. Now I'm back in Port Angeles, living an exceedingly quiet life, still tired all the time and trying hard to fight off the effects of an aging body and brain.
I'll be 75 years old in another week and will celebrate my 21st year sober in August. I wouldn't be here without sobriety and I don't think I'd have found sobriety without LifeRing. I owe it an unpayable debt. I know many of us here feel the same way about this organization. LSRsafe was here for me when I had the stroke and has remained close to me ever since. I love you guys!
— Craig Whalley | LifeRing First Generation and eGroups Regional Representative
A belated happy birthday, Craig from your LifeRing fans and family.
If you are concerned you may be at risk for stroke, please contact your physician. If you have signs or symptoms stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. The CDC provides this PSA outlining stoke signs and symptoms as well as related resources in English and Recursos en Español.