Friday, November 21, 2014


Bravery: noun \ˈbrāv-rē, ˈbrā-və-\
: the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening : the quality or state of being brave.

I've had three years to think about this word and what it means, in general and to me; After the initial shock of the stroke wore off and I was in a more stable state of mind, I signed onto Facebook, what I found there was completely unexpected; So many messages of hope, support and motivation with lots of words in them like inspiring, brave and strong.

What?! Now, let me be clear, while I was in rehab, I still couldn't turn over in bed on my own, I had to call someone in to do that for me, I had to have someone help me get out of bed into my wheel chair, roll me into the bathroom and help me out of the chair onto the toilet and to top things off, I could't wipe myself when I was done in there. So, brave, strong and inspiring were not words that I would have used for myself, in fact, scared shitless, lost, confused, defeated and over-anxious would have been the perfect words for me at the time.

So what does brave mean? At the time, when I thought about it, brave was something people label someone as when they are facing something the general public wouldn't want to face.

I have waged many a battle with my bravery over the course of three years, the world can be a scary place when your body suddenly doesn't work the way it used to, staircases, curbs,and bathtubs were fearsome things for me for a long time, then I thought I had those fears beat...until about two weeks ago. Due to a couple of falls, one of which happened while I was holding Charlotte, my worst fear realized, the other due to me not paying attention where my stupid left foot was, my old anxieties crept up again, at least I think the falls are what sparked a relapse of Stair Fear, as I call it, suddenly, after a year of doing the stairs in my home confidently, dealing with them and knowing I was safe and knew what I was doing, this old, stupid terror crept back into my life, practically paralyzing me yet again.( not to mention pissing me off). I've been battling this fear for a good two weeks now, but I dug deep and found that bravery everyone kept saying I had and barreled through as best I could, now the stairs, whatever, they're not going to bite me. I know how my body works now and I can handle any weird obstacle that comes my way. It is only through this journey that I have discovered my bravery, and what being brave actually means.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Plan Change

Yes. This is another post about the Co-op, I would stop writing about it, but it continues to amaze me with it's awesomeness:

Like many expecting and working first time moms, I had a plan:

While I was incubating my precious cargo, I was working a 45 hour a week job that I loved, at The People's Food Co-op of Kalamazoo, for those not in the loop, I was the Front End Manager/HR Coordinator during the co-op's expansion into a new, shiny and bigger space, while busy with making a person, I was 100% consumed with ushering the Front End staff, new and old alike into the new space as smoothly as possible. Suddenly, I found my voice as a manager and I was hella good at it, I loved what I was doing, it was important, it mattered, what I was doing made a difference to people, more so than all of the jobs I had worked slinging over-priced coffee drinks at people who barely noticed I existed. So, my plan was this: I was going to take a paltry five weeks off after Charlotte's birth and then jump right back into my 45 hour work week and Matt was going to be a stay at home dad. Yeeeaaaahhh......the Universe slapped that plan right out of my hands, big time. I loved my job so much, I was begging to be let out of the ICU for an All-Staff Meeting.So, when I learned I was FINALLY going to be released from rehab, I immediately began planning my triumphant return to work . Until my OT, Erica sat down and gave me the reality check I needed; No. I couldn't do that job anymore, absolutely not.

Well, in my muddled brain, nothing had changed, there was no reason I couldn't jump back in (I believe this was my denial stage of grieving), until Matt came through with his usual dose of much needed tough love:
"Liz, you can't even go to the bathroom by yourself, how are you supposed to do that job?" Shit.

Three years later, I can safely say there is NO. Way I could have done that job at that point but,  I was devastated. Later that day, my boss came to the hospital and I stepped down from my position, hoping that some day I'd return to the co-op, somehow. So Chris, my GM and I made a point of getting together a few months after my release to discuss a possible return, he essentially made up a new job for me, that wouldn't be too taxing on my feeble stamina and limited physical ability; I was essentially a greeter, I answered phones and rang up customers when needed. Going back to work was hard, it was physically taxing, exhausting and, at times, overwhelming. I had to relearn EVERYTHING from scratch and the hardest part of that was hat I was being retrained by people I had hired and trained, this rubbed my pride the wrong way, I was often embarrassed as the current Front End Manager,Simon,  helped me fix any mistakes I had made as I was relearning to count drawers, but, even though I was embarrassed, he NEVER treated me like I was stupid for having to learn all of this again and I was treated as a new trainee and a respected member of the Front End team. Once I finally came to terms with the fact that I had to learn how to be a cashier from the beginning, I began to get over myself, started seeing Simon as my boss, not that kid I hired all that time ago, my pride stopped being an issue and everything suddenly began falling into place

Currently, I cashier at least twice a week and as we approach the holiday season, I'm hoping I can work more.

I may not be a manager anymore, but I am grateful work at a place that embraces me for who I am now ,that did not toss me out with the trash when I wasn't able to perform at the same level as I had before stroke touched my life. And working as a cashier gives time to spend with my daughter who delights and amazes me everyday, plus cashiering fun! It is, I promise.

Working has not only increased my physical stamina and ability, but I believe working a register has improved my cognition greatly, every shift I work challenges my focus, improves my confidence and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, because as I work, I am amazed at the strides I have made since that life shattering discussion with Erica.

Thank you Universe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mind Your Meds

Note: the opinions expressed in this post are based on my experiences as a stroke survivor, I am NOT a medical professional, any and all decisions about medication should be made with you physician.

Due to the traumatic nature of stroke, it's survivors are often put on a battery of drugs after the event, in the last three years, since my stroke, I have been on powerful opiates, blood thinners, anti-seizure medication, blood pressure pills and threatened with anti-depressants, which I flat out refused to take.

Many of these medications cause drowsiness, exacerbating a post-stroke state of being I refer to The Fog; Now. imagine, you are in a large field, surrounded by a fog so thick you can't see two feet in front of you, you lose you bearings, can't focus on anything and fall over easily, this is what The Fog feels like, it is a state of being I lived with for a year after the stroke, I believe  contributing factor to that were some of the medications I was on at the time. As I recovered, my doctors and I began to slowly take me off of my medications, my blood pressure improved greatly, so the blood pressure meds were the first to go, then the DVT that had developed in my leg resolved itself, so we then threw the blood thinners in the trash,then my physiatrist put my on muscle relaxers, to try to inhibit the muscle spasicity that was affecting my ability to move easily.

Whoa. those muscle relaxers helped a bit, only thickened the fog; I was tired all of the time already, but that medication made it next to impossible for me to stay awake or attentive for any stretch of time. After two post-stroke seizures, which Matt and I believe wer caused by my muscle relaxers: Baclofen, Matt and started to talk about the possibility of my getting off of the dreadful Baclofen, not an easy task, as going off of a medication like baclofen cold turkey can cause seizures and other nasty side effects, but I talked to my physiatrist about it anyway and we ddevised a plan to slowly ween me off of the baclofen, as I gradually came off of it, I gradually began to wake up, The Fog began to clear, I could focus on people, things and lines of thought, I began to feel human again. Once I had been off of it for about a year, it's been close to twoyears now, I found I was able to retain more information that I had been able to since the stroke, nowadays, my mind is working quickly again, and I feel my cognitive abilities have improved a thousandfold, now I am down to only one medication, the anti-seizures, more for my peace of mind than anything. 

Being almost medication free is a good feeling, but, please do not start or stop a medication without first talking wand working with adictor you trust and do your best to understand what you are taking and why.

Monday, September 15, 2014


The more I talk to people about my stroke and the more I talk to other stroke survivors, I become more convinced of how important it is for me to never shut up about it. It has become my job to show anyone asking about or apologizing for my stroke that life does go on after a "traumatic" health incident; That stroke survivors are not only old men, that we are not all confined to wheelchairs, drooling on ourselves. When some one tells me they're sorry that this happened to me, it is my duty to stand up and say that I'm not sorry. Ever. And to tell them why: I love my life more now than I did before, I see the beauty in people and things more clearly than  did before, I get to spend more time with my daughter than I would have and I accept myself more fully and lovingly than I ever have.

My hope is that The more I flap my trap about this, that someone will remember talking to me when facing a seemingly hopeless situation and drag themselves out of the depths because of something I said to them, or, maybe my words and the lessons I've learned through this experience will reach someone who is in the same place I was three years ago and maybe, just maybe, they wont give up on life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

That awkward Moment....

When someone asks me why my arm is in a sling and I tell the truth.

I think most people assume I was in a car accident or something of the like, so when I tell them, I watch them search for words
"I'm so sorry." Is usually what slips from their lips.

"Don't be, I'm fine." Is my response.

And then sometimes something happens between us and we start talking about how this experience has changed my perpective so dramatically that I'm glad this happened.

Then, it's not awkward anymore and we end the conversation with both of us smiling.

Monday, May 12, 2014



This is not a blog entry about stroke recovery, but it is an entry about recovery, so I hope the themes I touch on in telling this part of my life's story will be harmonious with the themes  that echo throughout this blog. This is a long story, so let's dive in, shall we?

My name is Liz, and I'm an alcoholic. Those words are still extremely hard for me to say/write.

But, Liz, how did this happen?

I've thought long and hard about that, so this may be part of an answer:

In 2004, I underwent a serious health scare that at the tender age of 24, I was ill equipped to handle rationally nor could my 25 year old live-in boyfriend, due to this health complication, our relationship went downhill, fast. And I mean straight down, vertical, things did not go the way I thought they should have gone. He did no act the way I thought he should have acted under the circumstances. Because I liked getting my way and was completely incapable of seeing things from other people's perspectives, I believed he was mistreating me, and began acting out and treating him, and myself, like shit which, obviously, made our home less than peaceful, serene and harmonious. So, in stead of heading straight home after work, I would go across the street to "one" drink at the bar across the street, well, ans any person with a substance abuse problem knows, one drink would turn into two, three , then it would be 10:00PM, I got out of work at 5:00PM, an, yes, I would drive myself home. Drinking became a way for me to avoid the uncomfortable conversations I did not want to have with my partner, we wouldn't discuss anything important if one of us was drunk. So getting drunk after work simply became a habit and a way of avoiding reality and the hard stuff that life throws at us. I loved the way I felt when I was drunk, I felt invincible, as unsure of myself I felt when I was home, I KNEW I was hot shit when I was drunk.....

Then, I moved to New York City, THE WORST place a blossoming alcoholic could possibly move; You don't have to drive anywhere if you can't, so you don't have to worry about that, the bars stay open almost all night and you can pretty much always find a bodega that is selling alcohol at any time of day. After I moved I dug myself into a trench of righteous anger at my, then ex-boyfriend,
I lined this trench with bottles of Jameson Whiskey, I drank everynight and every night, I felt horrible, miserable and angry, at myself, st my ex, ant anyone who I felt hads wronged me, I took my anger out on anyone who was unlucky enough to cross my inebriated path.

Then, Matt moved to New York to be with me, asfter six months of talking on the phone and talking about getting married, we decided to take the leap, so he moved to the last place he ever thought he would live and he found a version of me, he didn't recognize; an, angry, self-involved, self-righteous drunk, parading around as the woman he loved, I'm surprised he stuck with me long enough to make me stop:

On Cinco de Mayo of 2007, we had a party at our apartment and, as usual, I was wasted. When the tequila bottle got passed around one more time, there was onlu one shot left for Matt and I, he took the last shot, I demanded it, he told me I didn't get it because, unlike me, he knew his limits. I got mad at this truthful comment and fumed my way into the bath room, Matt followed me in, locked the door and proceeded to inform me that I was acting like an asshole, that I was an alcoholic and had to stop, because if I did't, he would leave. I can honestly say now, that, at that point, if I had three more months of drinking like that, I probably would have said, fine. Go. Being drunk felt safe, comfortable and easy. Did I stop that night? No.

Afew things happened in the following week that made me realize that I did, indeed have a problem with alcohol. The first occured at a party, after all of the guests had left at 2 or three in the morning, I spent the rest of the evening finishing off the half drunk beverages that had been left behind, disgusting, I know. I passed out oin the couch and did not call Matt to tell him where I was, it was the one year anniversary of when we decided that he should move, so, basically, our one year re-anniversary. He sat in our bedroom window all night, waiting for me to pop out of a taxi, which I didn't do until that morning. A few days later, Matt myself and our roommate interviewed a girl to be our fourth roommate, it was May 12, 2007. It was a beatiful spring day, we sat outside on our patio and talked, so, I cracked open a beer and Matt, sticking to his guns, as usual. Informed me that we would be sharing that beer, I did not get it all to myself.

As the afternoon wore on, I found myself getting increasingly angry at the fact that I was not allowed to have a whole beer to myself and at one point. I stopped and thought about what was happening,

" I shouldn't be this mad about this, a normal person without an alcohol dependency wouldn't be mad about this. "

That scared me.

May 12, 2007 was my last drink, it's been 7 years today.

Being sober is hard, when I first quit, my emotions were raw and extremely sensitive because I had lost my coping mechanism. So, any negative emotions that  emerged were not easy to handle or process.

I would be lying if I said that I have not yearned for the safe, warm embrace of alcohol during my stroke recovery process.

It is through the grace of many Gods, Matt and Charlotte that I am here, clearheaded and sober for seven years, and it feels great!

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Damn straight.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Comeback Kid

When I was first wheeled into Western Michigan University's OT clinic in the spring of 2012, I was completely unaware of what was going on around me, I was a shell of my former self, scared to death of this new life thast had been flung at me and completely lacking confidence in my ability to do anything.
Today, I walked out of my session with a spring in my step, head up and proud, happy, tired and confident.

Thanks to the efforts of  five young student OTs, I have gradually regained my life back, these past few months have brought about tremendous changes in me, physically, mentally and spiritually. I find, these days, I have more self-confidence than I had pre-stroke, even though I pretended otherwise, as we all do.

Today, my Ot, Stef(who is Amaze-balls as a good friend of mine would put it) and I did some challenging things, successfully.

W (I) play Wok and Roll. a kids game, that involves small colored beads, colored bowls an ::gasp!:: tweezers!

Th idea is to pick up the colored beads with the tweezers and put the beads into the corresponding colored bowl. Well, Stef has me hold the tweezers in my LEFT hand, yes, you heard it right, we are challenging Larry to grasp and pinch. I finished this task today in about half the time it took me the first time I attempted it, what I have found about activities such as this lately is that they do not frustrate or terrify my as much as they would have a few months ago, my focus has become so laser-like when I am doing something hard, I can now get through it without too much difficulty or frustration. I also decided a few months ago, to never allow Charlotte to witness me give up on anything or to get frustrated, and this informs my behavior lately when I'm faced with something fearsome or hard, because, really, I'm noticing I can do anything as long as I try it and stay calm.

One of my goals for OT this semester has been to recreate this picture:
Stef and I have been working on gutting that arm out and up to do this, we play ,Zoom Ball, which really challenges my shoulder, but, today, as Stef and I were zipping that ball back and forth and I was exerting almost no effort in getting my shoulder to participate. I almost burst out in tears.

All I could think abnout was that poor, broken down, hopeless woman who rolled into that therapy room all of those months ago, she wouldn' have believed for a second that any of this was possible, or that she could be at peace with her life and herself as much as I am now.

Watch out, world, Lizz and Larry are making a comeback!

Monday, March 17, 2014

In My Skin

It's been a tough winter here in Michigan, with freezing temperatures, way too much snow and not nearly enough sunlight.

While we were in the thick of it I couldn't help but think that something deeper was going on this winter, it was hard for everybody, not just weather speaking, but personally and spiritually. I started to get the feeling that we were all doing a lot of hard work this winter, when I say we I mean us humans and the earth. I believe that we all were doing a lot of hard work, healing ourselves both physically and spiritually and that we were all going to come out of this winter better than we went into it. Now that some grass is starting to peek through the layers of snow and ice something has happened to me. I feel the lightness of spring in my heart and soul. During this harsh winter hibernation, I have become accustomed to who I am in the face of all of this and I am finding I now have more self-acceptance and self-love than I did pre-stroke.

The person I've discovered on the other side of this neverending winter wasteland is a survivor who hopes for the best, she is strong and perseveres, nor does she give up. She is a determined person, who works everyday to be the best person she can be, in other words I believe I am now the person I was supposed to be without all of the bull shit tascked on that I thought I wanted to be.
I find myself becoming more comfortable with who I am daily and I become more snug in my skin than I've ever been before. I know who I am now: Liz, Stroke Survivor, Mother to Charlotte Marie, wife to Matthew,outspoken advocate for brain injury survivors, silver lining seer, hope giver, faithful follower of the path the universe lays out for me, and many more things, I don't want to bore you with. I am who I am and if you don;t like it, that's fine, 'cuz I do.

On my journey, I have been honored to help other people through their personal struggles, as an outspoken survivor of health trauma, many people have reached out to me for inspiration and motivation, I am truly touched that these individual look at me as someone who can help in some way, so, here I am helping my new friend, Heather, her story touched me and her perseverance moves me. Please take a look at her website, she will move you to your core:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Healing? What?

If you had asked me what healing meant at the beginning of all of this, I would have responded like this: "To be normal again."

Normal? What's that? Well, two years later and I'm still walking, thinking and talking a little slower than normal. But that's normal now, and that's ok. Does my left arm function the way it used to? No. Does my left hand work? No., and that's ok. I'm finding I don't need it, a second hand is a luxury at this point.

So. Here comes the big question: Am I healed? Yes, I am. My body has healed wonderfully in the two years since my stroke, as has my mind, heart and soul. Does it matter that I'm not the way I was before? No. I'm better. So, what is healing?
Healing is seeing the spaces that need to be filled in your life and heart and filling them until you feel like you may burst. Healing is owning up to your weaknesses and fixing them so you can be the best version of yourself you can be, healing is never missing a beautiful moment of life due to self-pity, healing is faith that The Universe knows what it's doing and that everything works out for the best.

Am I healed? Yes.