It’s been Four Months since Everything Changed.

It’s been Four Months since Everything Changed. February 15, 2024

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles

It’s been 4 months since everything changed. 

I woke up. It was around 3 am. I got up and had no sense of balance. I toppled over like a doll. I hit the bureau beside the bed and caught myself with my hands.

My arms and hands were working fine, but I had absolutely no sense of balance. I wasn’t dizzy. I’ve been massively dizzy in the past from inner ear problems caused by allergies. This wasn’t that. The room wasn’t spinning, my head wasn’t woozy. I simply had no sense of up/down or my relationship to place in the spatial world. It just wasn’t there; a complete blank; like I was hanging in space.

I pushed myself back onto the bed in a sitting position, and fell over backwards. 

I tried to wake my husband, but, even though he roused, he was too sleepy to understand what I was telling him. 

I had never felt anything like this before. It didn’t hurt. It was more dreadful than pain. Pain is familiar. This was alien. It was really, deeply unpleasant. I thought it might be a stroke. I also thought, “if I just lie here and go back to sleep, will I die in my sleep?” 

Then, after about 10 minutes or so, it began to fade. It just went away. 

The next morning, I called my primary care doctor and described what had happened. She told me to go immediately to the emergency room to be checked for stroke. 

I had had what is called a “TIA” or “transient ischemic attack,” or, as my mother used to call it, a “mini stroke,” or as I think of it, a warning of a cataclysm. 

The many scans and tests I had during my two days in the hospital turned up lots of little spots of plaque in my brain and one very ominous plaque deep in my brain that, if a blood clot stops it up, would take out about half my brain. This plaque can’t be reached to put in a stint. It is a set up for what the literature terms “a catastrophic stroke.” 

Ironically, the TIA I had was not related to this bad boy. It was from another part of my brain altogether. What the TIA did was sound an alarm that led to them finding it. 

I had some “deficits” from the TIA. When I sat down to play the piano, I found that coordinating the left hand, right hand and the foot playing the peddle was a muddle that it hadn’t been before. I’m working through that. The most dramatic thing was that the notes on the page looked like random marks that didn’t make any sense. I had to find my way back, and the only thing I found that helped me do it was the sound of the notes when I played them. 

I am blessed that when I hear the sound of a “c” note (as a for instance) I know it’s a “c.” Ditto for a “d” or a “b flat” or whatever. I used that to put the meaning of the notes back together. I did it by just going over it and over it. Now, 4 months later, I’m slowly getting it back, although my coordination when I’m playing is still clunky and off. 

It bothered me at first because I couldn’t really play. All I could do was plunk around through a piece of music. Then I decided, “I’m not doing this for a competition. I’m doing it because I enjoy it. As long as I enjoy plunking around, then I’m going to just enjoy plunking around.” 

It’s working. It’s slowly coming back.

The other place where I noticed the TIA difference was sewing. I had a couple of moments where nothing made sense. The worst was putting snaps on a Halloween costume for my granddaughter. 

This was less than 2 weeks after the TIA. Each snap has a bottom and a top, and each bottom and top has two sides. Either side of each piece can fit together with either side of the other piece and they can also fit with the pieces of the other side of the snap. You have to get the correct combination of side to side and piece to piece to make a snap. The snaps I bought came in a plastic sack with no drawings to help me figure it out. 

I have shirts I’ve made where I used snaps instead of buttons and put them on — all 10 of them — just zip-zip-zip. But I spent four hours trying to figure out how to put two snaps on a little girl’s costume. I reached the point where I was actually crying and pounding the countertop. Finally, I drew a diagram of the two sides of the four blasted pieces and wrote instructions of my own of how they went together. That’s the only way I could get them on.

I’ve done quite a lot of sewing since then, including quilting and making a tailored winter coat. Early on, I had moments, but that seems to be past. 

I haven’t tried snaps again and I kind of have a fear of them. I know how odd that sounds, but it’s true. I’m kind of afraid of putting on snaps. But writing this sets me on that course. I’m going to get out some fabric and snaps and see if I can do it.

The bottom line is that I got out easy with this stroke. I can talk. I can walk. I can do whatever I want to do. I regard the TIA as a blessing, since without it I would not have found the bad plaque in time to do anything about it. 

My neurologist yesterday told me that I may be able, with the changes I’ve made, to head off the catastrophic stroke that is hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles. It’s the first encouraging word I’ve heard from a doctor in 4 months. 

I’m not running around in a panic all the time. But in 8 years I’ve had cancer, a heart attack, heart failure and now a TIA with promises of much worse that can follow. I have a friend who is dealing with similar issues. When we work out at the gym, we call it “beating the reaper.” 

But the truth is, nobody beats the reaper. Sometimes, you can delay him. But you can’t beat him. 

At the same time I’ve been dealing with health issues, I’ve also been living through a deeply traumatic loss of faith in my Church. I feel betrayed by my Church, and I feel like a chump and a fool for having been such a trusting Catholic. That has hurt me far more than any of the illnesses ever could. 

Losing my Church made me turn more deeply to Jesus. My faith in Jesus Christ and Him Crucified has grown and my relationship with Him has deepened. I love Jesus. And I am so grateful to Him. 

These are the reasons I haven’t written much on this blog. I didn’t want to harm anyone else with my crisis of faith and my pain and sorrow over the Church for its seamy worldliness, callous manipulation of the faithful for politics, arrogant abrogation of basic morality and indifference to human suffering. 

I am sad because I was such a naive fool about the Church. At the same time, I was gobsmacked by the changes in my own life, by the emotional bloody nose I got from my tussle with mortality. 

It’s not easy, dying day by day and fighting back to life, then dying in a new way another day. It’s not easy, finding a path of living and enjoying life in the middle of all this. But it is the most mortal and human thing we do. It is the universal constant, the great equalizer, that makes us all the same. 

I haven’t written about all this because I didn’t want to hurt you with my doubts and I couldn’t find the words to write about mortality while I was in the process of coming to terms with it … again. This process of failing health is like a ball bouncing slowly down a long staircase, and each step is its own revelation of many things you never even considered or knew existed before. 

The one thing that never changes in the slow moving transition I am undergoing is that Jesus is there and I am becoming closer to Him and knowing Him more personally. I experience the Presence of Christ in a more immediate, human and deeply comforting way with every step down. At some point, Jesus became my friend that I could just talk to and rely on. 

Not for me these visions and revelations and long dry periods the mystics talk about. Jesus is my friend who understands and loves me, who I trust and talk to without fear. 

I don’t know if it’s worthwhile for me to write about all this. I don’t know if it will help you or hurt you to read about what I think about the Church of late. I’m still wondering if it will serve a good purpose for me to say these things. 

But this post is a beginning. We’ll see where it goes from here. 

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