When Marty and I came home after stroke number two I was strongly encouraged by my kids, my family, my friends and my doctor to go see a shrink. Now why in the world would anyone think I needed therapy? I'm bright, I'm strong, I'm...., well I'm me, perfectly sane, perfectly adjusted; and I was perfectly going nuts with anxiety and other stuff.
I heeded the advise. It was good advise and I got to talk a lot with a good listener. She tried a couple of different approaches, but mostly she just let me talk and synthesize all that had happened, and she listened a lot and sympathized even more.
I talked a lot about the events themselves and how the night Marty had her second stroke had just really stayed with me. The first stroke was a typical "the worst headache ever" and the actual event, the ruptured aneurysm, really wasn't the traumatic part of that stroke. The surgery and the aftermath of the damage, now that's a whole other deal.
Now the second stroke, that was a real event. January 3, 2006, we were celebrating our 30th anniversary as we had become accustomed, doing nothing. Word of advise -- if you get married right around about 1/2 dozen birthdays, Christmas and New Years -- you get pretty tired of celebrating, so we had quit really doing a big celebration, besides we had just returned from our first long trip post stroke one. We were partying hard by eating supper while watching Everyone Loves Raymond. Isn't that how you spent your 30th wedding anniversary?
We had just finished eating and Marty had gone very quite. I looked at her and she was slumped precariously to her left. The left side of her face had gone slack and she was drooling just a bit and she looked completely and totally helpless and afraid. Her left side was completely paralyzed and she couldn't really make a coherent sentence. My heart started to beat so hard against my chest I could feel my pulse in my head, I knew immediately what had happened and called 911. The rest, as they say, is history.
I still see that whole scene in my head from time to time. It's why I watch Marty so closely, it's why I ask her if she is all right every time she shifts, moans, or in anyway acts differently. It drives her nuts, it would drive me nuts to have someone hover like that, I can't help it. There are just certain movements, certain sounds that create this tremendous sense of anxiety in me, like it's all happening again. The therapist said it's kind of like post traumatic stress, only it isn't the same thing.
I know it's not the same thing. I haven't been shot at or bombed or beat up or threatened, but the feelings of anxiety that still sort of wash over me are as real as when it happened January 3, 2006. I don't know if this feeling will every subside, it hasn't yet. I still jump, my heart still races, I still start sweating when I see the body language of the stroke, even though it's just the body language.
The therapist says just knowing the stimuli helps. Marty would say talking about it helps, and I have talked about it with her and with others. Time also tends to assuage the intensity of the feelings, it dampens the heart palpitations. I wish I didn't get the adrenal rush, I wish all of this never happened. Unfortunately, I do and it did.
Probably the only real lesson for all is don't get married close to a holiday, it makes the anniversary kind of anti-climactic and you end up watching trashy sit-coms on TV for the celebration. By the way, I still can't watch Everybody Loves Raymond, and it's really kind of funny.