Especially since I could have blogged about a lot of things, and I chose to blog about disability...I think that's significant. There were things that I needed to say. I'd written about disability before, in a (now out-of-print) book of personal essays, and what was in the book was what I needed to say about stroke and disability and recovery at that point, about six years after my surgery and stroke. But at that point, although my volunteer and professional experience in the disability sector had made me very capable of speaking about discrimination against disabled people, I didn't know that this discrimination was called ableism, and just how insidious it could be. I could tell you that being called "inspirational" made me uncomfortable, and why, but I couldn't talk to you about inspiration porn. I could talk about how environments disable people when they're not accessible, but I couldn't talk about the differences between the medical and social models of disability.
And I knew only the very basics about autism.
And the government considers me "trained" - I have a Developmental Services Worker diploma, which is the certification that government prefers that front-line workers possess in order to work with intellectually disabled people.
It's been through the research that I've done for blogging here, the conversations with other disabled people, their families, and their caregivers with whom I've developed (mostly online, but in some cases quite close) relationships, that I've learned that, even after 20 years combined years of volunteer and professional experience of working with people with disabilities, that I had a world to learn...and took my first steps toward becoming more aware of how much appalling/icky/brutal/infuriating/insidious/none of the above (insert your favourite adjective)/all of the above ableism there is the world, and of the ways ableism was present in my thoughts and words.
It's been quite a ride, and I thank all of you for reading what I've writing, for educating me, and for passing on my work. Onward into Year 5!
I didn't write a Stroke State of the Union Post on the anniversary of my surgery this year (May 29). I tried - a couple of times. But I couldn't get it to stop reading like a list of "Here's what I can do now and what's still an issue." I know that people kind of like to hear that, but it's not really what I wanted to focus on this year, the 15th anniversary of my stroke. I couldn't figure out really what I wanted to focus on. Maybe...just the couple of important things that I've learned this year.
I've talked before about how I have trouble asking for help when I need it, for the things that I really do need help with. I've spent a lot of therapy time on that, actually. This year, even though it was difficult, I asked for help...sometimes with small things, some bigger things, and once for something that was ongoing and quite significant.
And, shock of shocks, the world didn't end!
People seemed happy to help, and I really tried hard to believe that 1) They would tell me if they didn't want to help and 2) That it's okay, really okay, to admit that I can't do everything, that I'm worthy of help when I need it, and that it's okay to ask.
Obviously there are some issues here, and I've been trying very hard to work on them. I'm not sure where they come from - perhaps that awareness will come later.
I've learned about this year about chronic pain and its effect on a person. Some people experience severe pain after a stroke. I did not. I've never experienced any sort of chronic pain. But this year, after New Year's, my left thigh started to hurt.
I didn't think anything of it for quite a while. My niece and I had spent a lot of her New Year's visit playing...playing with Gillian always ends up including "Hide and Seek" and building forts out of couch cushions and a lot of her jumping on me, and I love every minute of it, and there was plenty of opportunity to bruise my leg somehow. I was also falling asleep far too much on my couch over the holidays, watching Netflix on my new TV, and I was convinced for a long time that my leg was sore because I'd just "slept on it wrong."
But in February, when I was still having pain in my thigh getting up from a seated position, and walking when I tired, I visited the doctor. X-rays showed nothing, and in March, with the pain getting worse and worse, I was referred for an MRI.
In Canada you can wait a while for imaging if you're not an emergency case. In April and May I frequently could barely walk, and then the pain let up a bit for the nicer weather in June. By the time I had the MRI done a couple of days ago, the pain had faded, and is now fairly easy to live with.
But it's given me a whole dimension to the empathy I'd previously felt for people who are living with any sort of chronic pain. It's difficult to get motivated to do anything when pain makes it difficult to walk. I generally do a lot of walking at this time of year, but that's been difficult. Not knowing what's going on has been more stressful than I thought it would be. And this is localized pain, very mild most days compared to what a lot of people live with. It's been an eye-opener, thinking about how other people must cope with much worse...and so gracefully. I don't know how they do it.
These are some of the thoughts that have gone through my head this year.
I am finding it difficult to wrap my head around the fact that it's been 15 years since I had my stroke, and don't know what to write beyond that. More on this later, likely.