Source: © D. Rosenhaft
Those of you who follow my blog know that I suffered a stroke in 2018. (You can read my post about that here.) Immediately following the stroke, I spent three weeks in a sub-acute rehabilitation facility receiving intensive physical and occupational therapy. I physically recovered from the stroke, which caused left-sided weakness.
The stroke also left me with cognitive deficits, primarily in the area of executive functioning:
“Executive function describes a set of cognitive processes and mental skills that help an individual plan, monitor, and successfully execute their goals. The ‘executive functions,’ as they’re known, include attentional control, working memory, inhibition, and problem-solving, many of which are thought to originate in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.”
My brain, my most precious commodity, had been damaged. I plummeted into a depression, believing I would no longer be able to work or write. At the rehab, I started working with a cognitive therapist and when I was discharged sought out a private rehabilitation neuropsychologist who specialized in working with people with traumatic brain injuries.
At first, I denied this change was permanent, that my old brain was irretrievable. Whatever went on in my brain, that mixture of neurons and cells that made me me, had misfired.
I needed to accept that Andrea’s brain was no longer the same. It was so hard at first.
I dug in and started practicing radical acceptance. I didn’t get anywhere initially as my new brain kept interrupting and mocking me. “You’ll never be as smart as you used to be.”
“Radical Acceptance rests on letting go of the illusion of control and a willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging” – Marsha M. Linehan
I had a team of great physicians; my neuropsychologist; my psychiatrist, Dr. Lev, to whom I returned for therapy to treat my post-stroke depression; my neurologist; and my headache specialist, who is also a neurologist and with whom I have a great relationship. They all assured me that the brain is capable of forming new neural pathways to compensate for the ones that died during the stroke.
Their assurances helped and I started visualizing a new path being cut in a forest through a thicket of lush trees and brush that I imagined to be my brain. I continued to practice radical acceptance, trying with difficulty to come to terms with the fact that the brain that had produced all that writing and had been behind that compassionate social work had been turned sideways.
Source: © D. Rosenhaft
Three years later, my life has taken a decided upward trajectory:
- I have a semicolon tattoo. (“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to.” – Project Semicolon)
- I rescued my dog, Shelby.
Source: © Andrea Rosenhaft
And I continue to practice radical acceptance.