Anxiety, Brain Injury, Depression

Triple Whammy

Dealing with depression, anxiety, and a brain injury is confusing and disheartening.

Were my lows this low, before the stroke? Did I always hate crowds this much? Did I overthink things this much? . . . or everything just a little bit worse? I don’t remember so I can’t make an accurate comparison.

I spend a lot of time scrutinizing things like, what to do with my time, who I’ll spend it with, where I’m comfortable being from moment to moment, and how I’ll get there.

I make mistakes, but they’re not as drastic or detrimental as they used to be.

I have no regrets because in each wrongful act I’ve committed, or mistake I’ve made, I’ve learned more about myself and human nature.

As humans, what we want and what’s right, don’t necessarily coincide.

On top of that sentiment, it’s all relative to who you’re surrounded by, what your beliefs are, what takes priority at the given time, what makes you tick, what resources are at your disposal, etc.

That being said, I’d like to strive to be a better person, while minimizing emotional pain across the board.

A few of my goals for this winter are to remain seizure-free and to combat my impending, debilitating depression. That means staying away from stressful, demoralizing situations.

Part of this quest for salvation is having to battle my inner demons and win. It can be done but it’s not easy and it’s a never-ending struggle.

So, after a week of serious thinking, in early December, I decided to try remain to sober.

My neurologist okayed me to have ONE alcoholic beverage per day. However, I can’t ever predict whether I can stop after one.

For instance, on a Wednesday night about a month ago, I thought, “A glass of cabernet sauvignon would pair nicely with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie,” and it did but . . . Then, I had two more glasses of wine, only one glass of water, and forgot to take the evening dose of my anti-convulsant.

The morning after the “wine and pie fiasco,” I had a seizure.

I was treating the site where I bit down on my cheek during said seizure. It wasn’t healed after a week. This, among other things, solidified my decision to try self-restraint.

I’m really good at justifying things to myself. I never, really, considered sobriety before because I’ve never believed in abstaining from something. I believed that telling yourself, you can’t have something is just . . . cruel. But, in weighing pros and cons, at this moment, allowing myself to drink is more cruel because of the imminent domino effect.

Overall, I need to take better care of myself.

It’s been a solid month of sobriety. The more time passes, the prouder I am of myself. I’ve been treating myself the way I’ve always wanted to.

I figured, if I could just make it through the holidays, the rest would be cake.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to drink within the past month to deal with stress, to make myself comfortably numb, to “fit in,” to not remember, etc. But, I realize that those “coping mechanisms” are temporary, counter-productive, and NOT healthy. Again, one drink would be alright, but I never can tell if I’ll stop after that one. It’s better FOR ME to cut it out completely.

It took a few weeks but, now, I feel better than I have, in a long time.

I’m more in-tune with my body. If I feel “off” I think, “Did I take my meds? Do I need food? Do I need sleep?” There’s no ignoring, or guessing, or forgetting.

For about a year or so, I was afraid to leave my apartment; afraid I’d forget my morning meds, worried I’d have a seizure or a panic attack at the gym or on the bus, stuff like that. Irrational fears, really.

I people say, I’m sharper and my speech has improved. I think it’s true. Even if it’s a placebo effect, I’ll take it!

I’ve been having weird, embarrassing dreams where I slip up and do something stupid. When I realize it’s only a dream, I feel relieved and reminded of what could be or has been and I’m like, “No, thank you.”

I’ve had more energy. I still NEED my naps and I still crap out from general fatigue, but it’s less frequent and doesn’t last as long.


It helps that everybody in my life has been so supportive.

They say, “Do you!”

And I say, “Hmmm . . . Okay!”


I don’t know. Something just feels right about 2016.

Apraxia, Coping, Effects

Apraxia: Effects and Coping

So, one good thing that came out of my stroke was my sister’s interest in pursuing a career in the medical field. She’s a senior in high school, studying nursing already. She’s doing a project on apraxia and asked me to be one of her sources.

“. . . it takes muscle coordination to talk or even swallow. Most stroke victims have to learn to swallow again because they simply forgot how. This ailment is called “apraxia.” The strength of the muscles is there but the brain can’t remember how to perform the task; which order the muscles need to move in.” (Mariah Rose,, Memory Lost, Memory Found, Repeat.)

Below are some questions I answered for Dana’s project.

1. What emotions come along with apraxia?

Frustration, confusion, feeling defeated, and taking pleasure in little victories.

2. How have you overcome these emotions?

I’ve had to learn to be patient and use whatever resources I can to communicate. For example, most people know by now about my speech ailments and that, if giving enough time, I’ll correct myself or ask for help if I WANT it. I’ve chosen to be open about whatever frustrates and confuses me and not try to hide, as much as it makes me want to duck and cover. 

3. Were there any medications that helped?

No. Actually, most hinder. I take Keppra, an anti-convulsant, and in the first hour or so after I take it, it slows my motor functions down, noticeably.

4. How does this complication effect the people around you?

I think, sometimes, people don’t understand me. When I’m frustrated, I get angry and embarrassed so I lash out. When I reach that state my condition is exasperated. The more angry and frustrated I become, the more I stutter and stumble over my words. I think, it’s gotten less frequent and severe over time but, a year and a half after my stroke, it’s still an issue.

5. What would you personally want to change about your therapy? Were there any exercises or techniques that helped more than others?

The therapy I received was immensely helpful. I wish I didn’t have to jump through hoops to get it. Even the TBI (traumatic brain injury) Waiver couldn’t keep me from getting discharged from all therapies (speech, occupational, and physical) before I was ready. So, what would I change about therapy? I want/wanted more. 

Therapy for apraxia has to do with regaining muscle memory. Exercises and techniques that are effective have do with repetition and breaking patterns once you get the hang of said patterns. It can be very confusing. 

With speech therapy my therapists broke down sounds that make up words for me and, then, we’d practice those sounds. I remember, sound blends (“fl-,” “sm-,” “sn-,” “bl-,” “pr-,” etc.), the “f” sound, and the hard “k” being some the toughest to grasp. Reading aloud helps a lot. If I know a word and am having trouble splitting it out, I’ll use my phone to bring it up (dictionary, notes, auto-correct, etc.). Seeing it in print, helps jog my memory on how to formulate the word.

Occupational and physical therapy are less complicated, I think. They still involve breaking down gross motor movement into fine motor movement and practice, practice, practice but, I think, no movement can compare with the complexity of the face’s and its attachments (speech: tongue, swallowing: throat, etc.). 

Stretching and maintaining range of motion in whatever way possible helps, generally, with movement. Exercises include anything involving, again, repetitive motion.

I find, if I mentally prepare and take my time with any therapeutic activities, I’m rather successful. When I get flustered everything gets worse; one step forward, two steps back. I’m learning, when that happens, still, to regroup, shake it off, and try again.