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I Cried The Day I Stopped Hiding That I'm A Stroke Survivor

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WOMAN HIDING FACE SWEATER
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When I watched my TEDx videos, I cried. But it's likely not for the reason you might think.

Doing a TEDx talk involved me SHARING my story with the world -- the exact opposite of what I did for close to three years after my stroke and brain surgery. I desperately tried to HIDE my story.

After my stroke, I hated the attention I received. I was lucky to have had a successful recovery but I did not understand why it was such a big deal, why newspapers wanted to write about it and why every single person I saw would make it the focus of a conversation.

I was raised with the belief that sh** happens. And you deal with it. Therefore, in my eyes, nothing I did was abnormal or deserving of any praise or recognition. Anyone else in my situation would have done the same thing. You just work your as* off and get better no matter what you face!

I hated being a "stroke survivor" so much that without even realizing it, I completely blocked it out of my mind.

When I had conversations, I deflected the attention I received at every opportunity -- I'd find a smooth and quick way to talk about the other person, their life, even the weather. ANYTHING I could think of to talk about -- except me! I just wanted to be a normal 29-year-old. I hated the idea that I was a "stroke survivor."

I think living in the hospital -- more specifically, in the "stroke unit" -- scared the living daylights out of me. I was the ONLY person under 70 years old. I think that might be one of the reasons why I worked SO hard to get better, so I could leave the hospital and finally start living as a young adult.

I hated being a "stroke survivor" so much that without even realizing it, I completely blocked it out of my mind. When I'd meet new people, I'd conveniently leave that part of my life out of any conversations.

When I began dating again, I'd always order salmon. Why? Due to the stroke, I didn't have the dexterity in my right hand to use a knife without looking silly/clumsy. Since salmon doesn't require any knife skills, it was my go-to meal.

I wore lots of jewellery to cover up my MedicAlert bracelet -- that darn bracelet always invited too many questions for my liking. I'd part my hair differently so that no one could see the indentation on my skull from my two brain surgeries.

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I'd make up stories as to why I had so many bruises on my arms and my legs. The real reason is that I was (and will always be) on blood thinners, so even a squeeze on my arm leaves me with one nasty-looking bruise. But there was NO way I was going to tell anyone why I was on these meds.

So the reason I cried when I saw this video is that I FINALLY stopped hiding. I allowed myself to be proud of what I have achieved after the most challenging ordeal of my life. Hiding a part of your life takes a lot of mental and emotional energy.

Now, that huge weight is lifted. I happily tell people about my WHOLE life and it's a feeling of relief. I now wear my MedicAlert bracelet like a badge of honour. I now use my right hand regardless of how silly I look.

Sharing my story with the world has allowed me to be me! A woman who is now incredibly proud to be a stroke survivor.

My TEDx Talks can be found here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4qzMFiFxe8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY-Wir-_F1I

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