The Stroke Network, Inc )
Fuel for the Journey

By Lin Mouat


Knowing When to Let Go

Recently on the message boards the topic of "do you consider yourself disabled?" came up. Do I consider myself disabled? My parents came from a generation where people just toughed it out.

A few years ago, when I developed fibromyalgia, I tried to just "tough it out.." I got my first disabled placard when my fibromyalgia got so bad I could barely walk around a store. But I didn't think of myself as being disabled, just a bit challenged.

Following the strokes, I got a handicap license plate which felt like admitting I was truly disabled. I can walk, but must look like I am drunk. The people around me always seem ready to catch me if I fall. It takes all of my strength to go a block. I long for the years, when I was young and walked wherever and whenever I wanted.

For a long time I felt guilty about parking in those precious handicapped spots. And then I had my strokes.

Do I consider myself disabled? The facts say that I am. Learning to walk again was difficult but I fought my way through it. I walked until the agony in my back and hips became so great I could barely walk one block.

X-rays revealed that I have osteo-arthritis in my lumbar spine and there is no padding left between the last five disks. I went through more physical therapy, pain medication, and shots in the nerves in my spine in an attempt to short circuit the ever present pain. I started using a cane, and then a walker but still, I didn't consider myself disabled.

With an ever growing list of medications, something happened one day that further changed my life.

I worked so hard to get my certificate to drive after my strokes. Using the driving simulator, I discovered that I have a significant amount of left side neglect. To over come this, I learned to drive with a constant awareness of that side.

An accident on a local freeway caught my attention. While it involved only one car, the driver got a ticket for DUI. Was she drunk? No! But, she had prescription medications in her system, meds that could affect her ability to drive. My regiment of drugs includes a number of things that can affect my ability to drive.

Over the next few months, I realized that my driving might be the cause of someone else getting hurt. So I choose not to drive anymore. My husband is wonderful and is my caretaker and chief driver.

Letting go of my wheels has been hard. But I know it was the right choice.
My husband has just retired and we'd planned to travel. But after the first couple of adventures, I found that my ability to get around, even using the walker, was severely restricted and exhausted me. Only after realizing that the quality of my life was slipping away, I admitted that I am, indeed, disabled.

So I got a travel scooter. I named it my Free-Scooter and it has opened my world back up! My Shi-Tzu dog, Bree, loves riding on my lap with the wind in her face.

It is hard, I think, for any of us to admit we are disabled. I use my scooter for close-to-home spots and to travel and I love it! In some respects, I believe I am significantly mentally disabled in areas of my brain. I am just happy most people will never see those hidden disabilities.

I really like what Ann Rogers, Stroke Network Human Resources Director, shared on the Message Board. Talking about her husband's disabilities, Ann writes, "His disabilities do not make him unlovable, disrespected nor is he devalued as a human being. He is, however, less able to function as he once could."

I will use my energy to fight for the things I can attain and let go of those things that are beyond my grasp. This is my life and, yes, I, too, am in many respects "less able to function."

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Copyright August 2007

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

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