"This is me"
by Belinda Medlock
After Belinda Medlock had a stroke at the age of 47, she found her recovery slow and frustrating.
Her fatigue was so debilitating she realised she wouldn't be back at work after a few weeks like she hoped.
It wasn't until a friend suggested she talk to Headway she was able to understand and accept how her brain injury had changed her.
"When I had the stroke in July 2015, I thought I would return to work and be back to normal after a few weeks.
"I never imagined that the recovery could take years!
"There have been definite improvements since then, but they seemed to take months.
"My biggest difficulties are fatigue, concentration and processing.
"My recovery seems frustratingly slow and for a long time I felt like I didn't have much control over it because the fatigue is so debilitating.
"It severely limits my activities from home to social life as I have to factor in journey times and activity in what I do.
"Just four weeks before my stroke I started a new job working with children with behavioural difficulties.
"But I wasn't able to return to work because of my fatigue and was dismissed nine months ago.
"Since my brain injury I've lost a lot of confidence and feel like I rely on others a lot more than I want to.
"My multi-tasking and decision making are affected.
"I even felt like my smile and sense of humour disappeared although it's coming back now.
"So many things like that are affected and it's hard to handle because it's just not 'me'. Well, not the old me anyway.
"It feels like my body wants to keep going but my head shuts down and I get a tight feeling inside my head and tingling.
"I find that I have to completely rest my head and eyes with no noise around me, this can take up to a few days to go. So I pick and choose what I do and accept that I'll have some poor days after.
"The more noise or activity there is going on around me, the more quickly I become fatigued, but I've started wearing earplugs which have really helped.
"I'm finding ways to adapt to the new me who finds noisy, crowded places very difficult places to be. But I'm determined that, in time, I will adapt.
"About 11 months after the stroke, I was feeling very frustrated and I felt I wasn't making any progress.
"A friend, a retired GP, suggested I phoned Headway and told me that a stroke is a form of brain injury.
"That was the best phone call I've made on this whole recovery.
"The lady on the helpline understood completely when I explained how my head felt and the fatigue.
"She explained that others have described the same feeling and why certain things were happening, including the hyper sensitivity to sound and light.
"She suggested using earplugs, that's the best piece of advice I've been given!
"From that day, I felt I understood more and accepted that this is a form of brain injury and I know that I'm not on my own.
"It felt like a turning point, I realised I need to be patient.
"The new me is very patient and I accept that I am a different person.
"But that doesn't mean it's a negative thing even though my life is completely different to what it was before the stroke.
"I'm adapting and will continue to adapt. I will carry on setting goals, no matter how big or small.
"I'm learning to not feel guilty for resting , it's a necessity these days.
"I am learning not to be cross with myself on bad days or if I don't manage what I'd planned there's always tomorrow, next week or next month!
"I'm hopeful that things will continue to improve over time and I will adapt so that I will get to the point where it does not rule my life, which up to this point it pretty much has.
"I'm positive most of the time and realised that patience, baby steps and setting goals are what work for me.
"My family are brilliant and they completely understand how things are as they've seen how I am and how 'thinking', to physical activity or noise can affect me.
"Friends are great , but I think it's harder to understand as it's difficult to explain and they don't always see the effects.
"It would be a lot easier if people understood the invisible effects of the stroke, because sometimes, when I'm trying to explain things it sounds ridiculous, but these changes and difficulties actually have a huge impact on my life.
"Even though normality and work seem a long way off, I'll get there eventually in my own way.
"I understand that every brain injury and every person and every recovery is different.
"This is me, this is my recovery and this is my way."