Jill Bolte Taylor speaks fondly of her mother's support after her stroke. They took time each day to celebrate the little strides that Jill was able to make, from learning a new word, to putting together a puzzle, to being able to get to the bathroom and back. Her mother provided a day by day tally of what she could now do compared to what was just out of reach yesterday.
"A lot of stroke survivors complain that they are no longer recovering. I often wonder if the real problem is that no one is paying attention to the little accomplishments that are being made. If the boundary between what you can do and what you cannot do is not clearly defined, then you don't know what to try next. Recovery can be derailed by hopelessness."
This comment had me in tears. For many reasons. I was treated as a pariah when I became ill as a teen. My peers, for the most part, didn't want to be around a sick, tired person. My parents did their best to accommodate me in whatever I needed at this time, but really didn't know what to do with their much-changed daughter. I remember overhearing my mother say to a friend that she didn't know who I was, that I wasn't the same person anymore.
And then, there were the Jehovah's Witness elders. Prior to the brain blip, I'd been a fully-functioning jw, a regular prosyletizer and a support to the older and younger ones in the congregation. I used my energy to help out anywhere I could. Now, exhausted and disabled, the elders said I was "just burnt-out". As jw's, records are kept of how many hours you spend each month in the preaching work. I remember one night when two elders came over, for what was supposed to be an encouragement call, and proceeded to pull out my preaching records and throw them across the table at me, telling me how much I was needed by the congregation and that it was a real shame I couldn't be of use to them anymore. When they left, my mother and I were in tears. My father was livid and wanted to say something to them. We talked him out of it; afraid of the repercussions of speaking against "God's chosen men".
And I had little idea how to support myself. I was 17. There was no file in my brain for self-nurturing. I hated my body for letting me down. And I hated my mind even more. It had become my enemy. Without the needed support, as Taylor notes, my recovery was 'derailed by hopelessness'.
For the first time in my life, I am now able to grieve for the lack of support I received at that time. I am able to grieve for how completely alone I felt and how my craving for death was really a need to be shown how to live in this new altered state. I can cradle that suffering teen in my arms and let her know that she's pretty cool.
I now have a support system surrounding me that I never imagined having in this life. I have friends that help me celebrate every little accomplishment I make. My friends Ganga and Deena do regular little dances of joy with me for all my baby steps. We celebrate our lives with every breath.
And you, dear reader, even if I don't know you by name, are part of my support network. Part of the global village that is helping raise me. My heart is filled with gratitude for your presence here.