I was watching Pride and Prejudice the other day and the part where Elizabeth asks Mr. Darcy if he thinks pride is a fault or a virtue really stuck out to me. He responds that he cannot say and this got me thinking about the subject of pride and whether it has helped me or harmed me and for me, I’m going to have to say that it’s a fault. My pride has gotten in the way of too many things over the years for me to even pretend it is a virtue I possess and now I’m recognizing a need for me to swallow it and own up to a few things.
I had a stroke 3 years ago in my visual cortex. I have always discussed how fortunate I was that the people I was with got me to the hospital so quickly, as I did not seem to have any permanent damage. I did lose a little vision in my right eye, but it never was enough to really affect my daily life. Initially I mostly struggled cognitively, which I believed (and still do) was far worse. For a while I would find myself unable to find the words I wanted to say, or mid-sentence I would completely forget where I was going with it. For someone who has always prided herself on being extremely articulate (I was a high school English teacher for crying out loud), this was tremendously frustrating and really hit my ego. I could no longer read for long periods of time, which let me tell you made grading essays for 180 students very difficult. However, I gradually improved and felt that I had made an almost full recovery (I have glasses for when the pressure builds up behind my eye)… until recently.
Lately I’m realizing the impact that stroke has really had on my life and who I am, or even more so, I’m finally admitting it. I feel like I’m looking through cotton in my right eye at almost all times. It feels as if there is a fuzz over my vision that I can’t get out. That eye is always tired and feels like it is working so hard. But even more importantly, I can’t remember things anymore. When making plans to go kayaking last weekend, we were discussing where to go and it was suggested to revisit the lake I kayaked on the very first time. I didn’t remember it. I remembered kayaking that first time, but had no recollection of the place by name or description. It wasn’t until we drove up on it that I recognized it. I’m working on a Masters degree and right after completing my weekly work I have difficulty discussing it with any degree of confidence that I’m not mixing things up- I just can’t seem to retain information. I watch a movie and quickly forget major parts when I used to be able to recite entire films. So much sounds familiar, but I have difficulty placing it. I have trouble thinking quickly on my feet. I’ve grown quiet and introspective through this because I have to take everything in and then spend time processing before I can respond. Unfortunately, too often the moment has passed and my response is no longer necessary, fruitful, or even wanted.
I’ll be very honest- sometimes I’m scared of what is happening to me. The problem at the root of all of this is that I haven’t told anyone what is going on. I’ve let my pride get in the way, not wanting anyone to know that I’m struggling. I never wanted to use my stroke as an excuse for being less than what I believe I’m capable of, never wanting to seem weak or incapable. But at what point do I admit that maybe I just can’t do or be what I once was to the same degree? And that it’s ok! People that didn’t know me beforehand have no knowledge base to work from so therefore have had no reason to question why I am the way I am, but I do. It hurts me to see the difference in myself sometimes knowing that there really isn’t much I can do about it, but I don’t think I will be able to hide it any longer.
All I can do is keep moving forward, keep trying, and never give up.
So I keep reading even if I have to rest my eyes every 20 minutes. I continue to write even when I can’t see the words at times. I do it because it’s who I am and what I love, so to me it’s worth the fight. I do my best, and that’s all I’ve ever asked of myself. But now I have to ask myself to swallow my pride and admit to the people in my life that I’m scared, that I’m struggling, and that I need their patience, love, and understanding. And honestly, maybe that’s what I really need from myself more. I have to own up to my imperfection and accept it about myself, continuing to love myself just as much as ever without judgment.
So what’s my point in sharing this? I guess first it’s to acknowledge the situation and, instead of hiding it behind my pride, start looking for ways to help myself through it. Second, it’s to remind anyone who is struggling to keep going, keep trying, take those baby steps, and do the best you can with what you have. It’s all we can do. And lastly, to stress the importance of owning your obstacles and allowing others in to love you while you overcome them. Don’t let your pride isolate you to fight alone. And be patient with yourself. Sending love…