I’d like to introduce you to Paul, a virtual friend who I had the pleasure of meeting in the flesh this summer even though we live 3,000 miles apart.
When I joined Paul’s Facebook Stroke Support Group, Stroke Recovery Trials & Tribulations (what a great group name!), I quickly realized he lives the way I have always strived to live. Discovering the good in the bad and making the best with what life hands you. This viewpoint has enabled me to survive many devastating experiences. That is………… until the stroke.
Finding Paul and reading his posts reminded me that I DO have a Choice! I am the only one who decides how I approach my life & current situation.
Silver linings can be elusive. However, seeing the ones other stroke survivors find can be extremely helpful in finding your own.
Paul has graciously agreed to share his basic approach and personal experiences with us.
Thank you Paul!
Twice in my life, I hit very deep lows. Both times almost fatal. Attitude pulled me through both.
Rough Teenage Years
The first as an overly sensitive teenager. My family loved and provided for me. Never abused me. They had high expectations and decided almost every decision for me. But I was small; teased and bullied at school. I was miserable. I now know I was in a deep depression, but my family only ever threatened to send me to a headshrinker, they never actually did. (To them the thought of going to any mental health pro was only for really “crazy people.”) I wish they had sent me.
If they knew how close to a brink I was, they would have. Yet all I relate here was on me…not on them. I came close to suicide. How close? I picked the lock on a gun box, gun loaded, cocked, in my mouth. One can’t get much lower than I was when I was about 14 or 15.
The second low was when I was 60. I had a massive stroke and found myself a few days later paralyzed on my right side, unable even to swallow properly, on a feeding tube. Even before my condition worsened to that point, my attitude was improving. By thinking back to how I bootstrapped myself into happiness 45 years earlier, and applying the same homebrewed silver-lining mind games again.
When I was close to pulling the trigger as a teen, I decided to take a different path. I was going to ignore the demands and wishes of others, of my family. I was going to CHOOSE to be happy…to focus on things that I liked, that made me happy, no matter how small, trivial, and unimportant to the general life I found myself in.
If it didn’t work I could commit suicide another day.
My school grades plummeted. I ended high school with the highest SAT score in the school, yet ranked in the bottom half of my class. Eventually I dropped out of college, being handed to me by my not understanding parents, and got a job I loved. I had chosen to be happy, and I was.
Silver Linings Approach is Born
The key was I hit on seeking out “Silver Linings” in the dark clouds I found myself in.
I would think of one thing related to my situation that could be considered good…and I would focus on that. It meant turning a blind eye to a lot of things, which sometimes perplexed and sometimes infuriated my family. But I was better off seeing the good in situations, the silver linings. I don’t remember my fledgling silver linings from my teen years.
But I well remember my first, on the morning of my stroke. I had realized I was having a stroke around 1:30am. At that time, I had not expected to live until morning. When I was still alive in the morning, it was time to find a way to survive emotionally, and the silver linings approach came flooding back to me.
I had been under a lot of pressure from a new boss at work and had started dreading, rather than loving, going to my job. My initial silver lining was that for a while I was not going to have to return to work under the guy!
As I steadily deteriorated over the next few days, I focused on not having to go to work. The alternative was to focus on wondering how much functionality I was going to lose…would I even make it to the weekend. I did wonder, but chose not to focus on that unanswerable question. And as it turned out, I never again worked under the guy.
About a year later, I found out about 100 Days of Happiness Groups. Their premise is one can choose whether to be happy or miserable, independently of one’s specific circumstances… and it can be a learned behavior.
By thinking of and posting one happy, no matter how small, every day for 100 days, one will be in the habit of seeking out the good rather than the bad, and improve one’s overall attitude. This is to me another version of the silver linings in dark clouds I came up with on my own in the 1960s.
I am truly a happy person now, with a much better attitude than before my stroke. I still can’t do a lot of things I loved, but I can do more and more as time goes by.
Grateful Every Day
Every day is an extra, a bonus. I have met and love 4 grandchildren, none were born yet when I had a stroke. I run a Stroke Support Group that people tell me help them through their own dark days. I also run a small 100 Days of Happiness group. All that wouldn’t have been had I not lived and found my own way to improved happiness through Silver Linings. I am better off than pre-stroke, in all but some relatively minor physical ways.
Use one method or the other, or both…they work great for me, and I hope for you too.