Before I had a stroke at 28 from hormonal birth control (you can read my story here), I didn’t really know what a stroke was. And I certainly didn’t understand the implications or ramifications of what it meant to have an “insult to the brain.”
I knew I had physical and mental limitations, that I needed to learn how to walk again, to put on my socks, to bathe myself. But they also told my family that I may have an entirely different personality. Can you imagine? You wake up one day, have a brain injury, and your personality is completely different? And would you be able to recognize how your own personality had changed or would it be something people would whisper about when they thought you weren’t listening? My sister must have been particularly worried about my personality. I remember one morning she had to butter my biscuit for me after I had tried unsuccessfully several times. “I’ll butter your biscuit for you for the rest of your life,” she said. “I’m just so glad you’re still in there.” At least most of me was. That is to say, I still had my struggles with who I was and who I had been. But really, who doesn’t?
The interesting thing about surviving a stroke is learning what you can and cannot do. To others, even others that are informed about brain injuries, you may look so similar to your pre-stroke self that they take for granted you are the same. But you may not be.
So as a public service announcement for Stroke Awareness Month, here is a list of 5 things not to say to a person who has had a stroke (or any brain injury).