Tag Archives: stroke

Stop Sign – Friday Fictioneers 13th July, 2022.

“Stop, Jane! You’ve gotta stop!”

Yet, Jane couldn’t take her foot off the accelerator. She’d said nothing to anyone, but lately she’d been considering driving over The Gap.

“What do you do for self-care?” Her therapist asked, knowing she was on the brink.

“Self-care?” Jane exploded. “@#$%!! I don’t even exist. I’m squished in between Stuart, the kids, work, Mum’s stroke, Dad’s cancer. I’m driving to appointments, soccer, ballet and then there’s church. Busy, busy, busy!”

“I’m prescribing you a week’s holiday. Before you say you can’t go, please consider what will happen if you don’t. You matter too!”

“Do I?”

…..

100 words PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

For so many of us, it’s impossible to stop and get off the treadmill, but there can come a point where too much activity and no rest reaches breaking point. It’s important to consider things the rests which are inserted into music, full stops and commas inserted into sentences and if you think back to when you were first learning to write, putting that all important finger space in between the words.

The Gap, Watson’s Bay, Sydney.

I hope my story this week isn’t too triggering for anyone. If case you haven’t heard about The Gap in Sydney, it’s an ocean cliff at Watson’s Bay which is infamous for suicides. So much so, that if someone’s going through a rough time or having a particularly bad day, they might say: “I feel like jumping off The Gap”. However, it’s generally used to let off steam, and not as an expression of intent.

The flipside of this story, is that much has been done to try to reach or help those wanting to take there life. In particular, there was Don Ritchie, who was known as the Angel of the Gap. I encourage you to read his story and it’s interesting how far a smile can go towards saving someone’s life. It’s really something to keep in mind!

Personally, I see this as a good news story, because Jane is very overstretched but she is seeing a therapist which is a help and she is releasing much of the inner tension she’s been holding back.

About a month ago, I actually did a two day course in suicide intervention run by Lifeline who run a telephone crisis line here in Australia. I have been a first responder and I was surprised at how well I actually handled the situation. However, I wanted to skill myself up. Be prepared.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st November, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, it feels like I’m needing some kind of snorkel or perhaps a kayak to connect with you through the heavy rain which is besieging us at the moment. I’m not complaining yet, because I’m probably so used to being in lockdown that being indoors due to the rain doesn’t feel like such a big imposition as it used to. I am also older, and finding the comforts of home much more alluring than I used to.

How has your week been?

I hope it’s gone well!

Geoff with his birthday loot including the five free McDonalds apple pies our daughter brought home from work after working the closing shift.

Yesterday, was my husband Geoff’s birthday. We had a very low-key day, after a stressful week and ordered Indian takeaway, rather than braving the crowds and potential covid risk at the restaurant. That, however, meant clearing the kitchen table for us to sit down. OMG!!! That was an effort. I don’t know how things are with your kitchen table. However, ours seems to fill up with all sorts of detritus, which on a good day might be stacked carefully into neat piles in descending height order. However, on an average day, stuff just gets pushed up the other end, and the sedimentary layers buckle to form unstable mountains and inevitable avalanches onto the kitchen floor below. Just to compound the chaos, our cleaner had to stop coming because she hasn’t been vaccinated and they couldn’t provide a replacement. That certainly hasn’t helped.

A miracle- a clear table

Anyway, by the time the takeaway arrived, the table was clear, cloth in place, and table set. What more could he ask for? Presents, of course. Well, I had them sorted too after wrestling with the crappy wrapping paper which wouldn’t allow the sticky tape to stick and so I had to use the stapler in the end. You can just imagine how that turned out. Indeed, it reminds me of when I managed to end up sideways on zoom during the week when the dog pressed a few buttons on the keyboard. Boy, was that humbling. I was asked to mute myself while we went in to watch the video and I had to apologise. Can’t find the mute when I’m stuck sideways like this and the host kindly muted me instead. Welcome to my chaos.

In addition to the chaos, the last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for some people close to me, and I absorbed their tragedy very personally. Indeed, the shock hit my physical body like being rammed by a truck. Since then, a different friend has has a micro-stroke or what is called a TIA, another friend has a tumour in his colon, and another friend who had gone off the grid has resurfaced which brought me absolute joy, although her harrowing tale was very distressing. My husband half-joked to stop answering the phone. I didn’t but Friday was a busy day, and I’m not in the psychology business or a doctor. I’m just garden variety me.

I don’t feel that I’m of an age where your friends start dropping like flies, and I certainly recall my grandparents telling me that all their friends had died, or they were going to funerals all the time, and the reality of that didn’t really sink in back then. However, there is that progression through life…children’s birthday parties, 18ths, 21st’s, weddings, births of kids, for some divorce, and as the zero birthdays start to add up, it’s inevitable that we’ll end up at funerals…the last stop on life’s journey. Not that I intended to get all morbid on you. After all, my friends are doing well. One is recovering and the other off to surgery so nothing too worrying there at this stage. It’s just that all of this has made me think.

flannel flowers

Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep myself on the straight and narrow. That’s involved trying to ensure I get regular exercise, and extricate myself from my writing/research to get outside and absorb the expansive coastal landscape right on my doorstep. I went on a walk to the Mt Ettamalong Lookout. The flannel flowers were still out and waving their pretty faces in the wind while I was there. There was quite a blanket of them, and they just looked magnificent. I continued on to the lookouts, which I found so healing after recent events. I don’t know what it is about looking out over a steep cliff and across the water at an expansive view, but it was absolutely breathtaking.

The view across to Pearl Beach

I also went on another walk at the Mt Penang Gardens up the hill at Kariong. The garden here have quite a mix of native and overseas plants, and so much to scintillate the camera lens (or my phone in this instance). I didn’t come across too many labels identifying the various flowers and so you’ll just have to enjoy their visual appeal without knowing exactly what they are.

Since I missed last week, I’ll also mention that Geoff and I went out for dinner at nearby Terrigal Beach last weekend, while we were taxiing our daughter and her friends around.

Anyway, that about sums things up. How has your week been? I look forward to hearing from you.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

Weekend Coffee Share – 25th January, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, you’re in luck. This week I can offer you some banana cake mini muffins with luscious passionfruit icing, which I whipped up for a picnic with some friends, but it was too hot to go out and so we’re forced to eat them ourselves. Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

How was your week? I hope it went well.

Camp Tahlee, North of Newcastle, where our kids went to camp.

My husband Geoff has just finished two weeks of annual leave, and heads back to work tomorrow and the kids head back to school on Friday for the start of another year. I feel we’re better prepared for the start of this school year. However, the unfortunate key to this improved organization has been staying at home and not going away on holidays. I’m not sure that the end justifies the means, but we’re blaming covid for staying home. After all, you can blame covid for just about anything atm, except having a good time.

However, the aim of the game is find ways of creating joy, pleasure, excitement in the midst of whatever covid or any other significant problem throws across our path. So, while driving about 500 kms in a day transporting our daughter from one camp to another, Geoff and I headed into Newcastle for lunch and caught up with my cousin and family, which included her 3 year old and new baby (I got a cuddle!!)

Said daughter, didn’t like camp and so I picked her up a day early, but not without warning her we weren’t coming straight home. We were going on a detour via beautiful Norah Head, with its iconic lighthouse which I decided was having to be a surrogate for our anticipated trip to the Byron Bay Lighthouse, where we usually indulge in an ice cream cone and if we’re lucky, watch the dolphins diving through the waves down below.

Norah Head Lighthouse, NSW.

That’s the thing about lighthouses. They’re usually stuck on top of very steep rocky precipice overlooking some particularly rough and powerful surf not to mention rocky reef outcrops which would do nasty things to ships especially in the night. So, all of this makes for spectacular scenery and stunning photos, even better if you can chuck in a sunrise, sunset or a stormy sky. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to pull any of those rabbits out of the hat, but at lease it wasn’t dull grey overcast and we had sunshine, blue skies and it was postcard perfect.

The Rockpool, Norah Head.

If you’d like to read more about our Norah Head experience, you can check out my previous post.

I was due to go out on a picnic with friends today. However, it was 35 degrees celsius and incredibly sunny and I ended up falling asleep. Exciting, I know, but it was like being under a griller out there and it really felt too much, especially as the heat or perhaps it’s the humidity which is causing troubles with my breathing. It’s annoying because one minute you’re on top of things and the next, they’re on top of you and you really didn’t see it coming.

Speaking of sudden changes, a friend of ours had a stroke yesterday, and one minute he was seemingly okay and the next his face was dropping and he couldn’t move one side of his body. I’ve had some serious health issues myself where my body hasn’t done what it’s supposed to, so I have at least some insight into what it’s like when the tried and tested doesn’t do what it’s always done before. We ended up driving his wife to the hospital to drop off some things, and while she was there, we ducked down to the Gosford waterfront and were struck by the stunning city lights against the night sky. It was a moment of much needed peace and beauty at a troubling time.

Anyway, I’d better head off because it’s well past bed time.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Different Perspective – Friday Fictioneers.

“At least, you’re consistent at something,” her husband smiled. “Even when you photographed your shoes, the horizon’s drunk.”

“Huh?” Julie sat up, peering over her book.

“Look at the angle on those books. They’re completely out of kilter and that urn’s about to commit suicide.”

As much as she started to fume, he was right. No matter how much she jiggled the camera, she couldn’t get that damned horizon straight. Still, she posted the photo on eBay. After all, she was selling the shoes, not the books.

That’s when the penny dropped.

“Hey, Dave. I can’t touch my nose…”


This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and thank you to © Magaly Guerrero  for this week’s photo prompt. I highly recommend you check out the wide diversity of responses to the prompt. It’s more than interesting. It will open your eyes. Here’s the link

My take on this prompt is personal. I was born with a dormant form of hydrocephalus, which was largely asymptomatic until my mid-20’s when it pushed the accelerator to full throttle and I was thrown into a dreadful chaos from within. The horizon bounced up and down as I walked. I fell over a lot and the room used to spin. I also lost my short-term memory. Thinking it was stress, I moved to Western Australia and when I came home for Christmas, I went back to the GP who’d been treating me since I was 11 and I couldn’t touch my nose in what was a basic neurological exam. I had a battery of tests includes a brain scan, which showed what I refer to as “the harbour in my head”. I flew back to Perth and deteriorated very rapidly and had a VP shunt inserted 6 months later. That put an end to me living in Western Australia and I moved back to my parents’ place in Sydney and underwent intensive rehab for six months. It was a long road back with many stop starts. I have largely recovered from it, unless I’m under a lot of stress and I can’t really multitask or manage time well.

Despite being good at photography, I have great trouble getting the horizon straight. I don’t believe it’s related to my hydrocephalus and quite often I like a quirky angle. Yet, my husband always notices the horizon and even in a creative shot, he’ll comment on it saying: “the ocean doesn’t do that”.

On that note, I’d better get back to the real world. I don’t even have a list of what needs to get done today.

xx Rowena

N is for Neuroplasticity: Changing Your Life.

Welcome to N for neuroplasticity on the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. My theme for the challenge is: A Few of My Favourite Things and while neuroplasticity might seem left-field, I really want you to follow me on this journey because the power of neuroplasticity has radically changed my life and understanding how it works, can help you as well. You can read an overview of my journey in my About page here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/about/.

While I can appreciate that neurplasticity might sound intimidating and be a trigger to flick to another blog, it is not as complex or mentally challenging as you might think. Nor is it some wafty, unproven fad. It’s a proven, scientific process, which has been championed by Canadian psychiatrist, Dr Norman Doidge through his two books: The Brain which Changes Itself and The Brain’s way of Healing.

In other words, it’s not a fairy story.

Neuroplasticity is really quite a simple concept when you explain it properly and when you harness its strength, you like me, will experience absolutely miraculous change. Unfortunately, you will still experience those “stubborn mules” which prove stubbornly resistant. However, at least, you know you’ve done your best to try and move them!

From what I’ve learned about neuroplasticity, we shouldn’t just be teaching kids the 3Rs but also how we learn. Some basics on how the brain works such as “use it or lose it” and how “practice perfects”. That our success or failure is based less on innate talent than hard work and that it takes a lot of hours…at least 10,000 to be precise, to even have a chance of making it to the top of our field. That success just doesn’t arrive on a silver platter.

Of course, some people have been blessed with bigger, faster engines but if they leave them in the shed, they’ll soon be overtaken by apparent snail power and left behind.

If you and your kids can get a grasp on how this works, you’ll never look back. You’ll still have ups and downs but you will be more empowered and skilled-up to tackle them more effectively. There’s little doubt you’ll be working harder but I guarantee you that whatever you apply yourself to, will see results. It’s as simple as:

1+1 = 2

It’s not rocket science.

Perhaps, the simplicity of it all is what stops people from having a go. We’d much rather put our faith in a much more complicated, mystical route than sticking to potentially tedious, repetitious practice and hard work…going over and over and over our mistakes until we have overcome them and “got it”.

Diagram showing brain activation while playing the violin.

Diagram showing brain activation while playing the violin.

As a musician, I’ve experienced this first hand. Instead of playing my favourite sections of a piece over and over again, my teacher gets me reworking the rough bits and playing them over and over again. She doesn’t say: “Play it again, Sam”. Being somewhat of a slavedriver, albeit a very nice one, she says: “I want you to play that section 10-20 times a day to get it right”. This sort of detailed practice is quite foreign to me as I just want to get up there and play, especially to an audience but you can’t do that straight away. It might be a year’s worth of practice on that one piece of music to bring it to the level of perfection where it can be performed. That’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes. However, once I have reached that long-awaited moment of victory, it’s like nothing else. A real eureka moment and I’m running down the street naked like Archemedes carrying my violin. Well, not quite but you get my drift!

What is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. He writes “that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!” Indeed, our brain is constantly remoulding and fine-tuning itself.

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

Neuroplasticity and Acceptance.

At the start of 2012 after a serious health scare, I set a personal challenge. I applied neuroplasticity to the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

-Reinhold Niebuhr

You see, since forever, people have been telling me to accept things and quoted that prayer. Yet,  the trouble was that I simply didn’t know what I could change and what I had to accept and that’s what I decided to put to the test. I didn’t really set out with any clear cut goals but I was needing to lose some weight, which is a tough call when you’re taking prednisone AKA the “fat drug”.

It was during this time that I heard about brain plasticity and also the 10,000 hour rule and so what I was starting to appreciate was that I wasn’t set in stone. That all these words I used to describe myself, both the good and the bad, weren’t indeed words tattoed on my forehead which couldn’t be changed. They were more like stepping stones or train stops on a journey. I didn’t have to stay there. I could apply a bit of elbow grease and I could move on. Indeed, I was now in the driver’s seat and with the accelerator pushed to the floor, I was flying.

That was until I drove straight into pneumonia followed by a flare up of my auto-immune disease, which really was attacking my lungs this time and threatening my very existence.

Yes, neuroplasticity couldn’t fix everything.

However, my lungs have also responded to the same kind of repetitive practice and hard work which I’d applied to practicing my violin, except in this case I focused on building up my healthy lung cells instead of focusing on the damage and limitations. My lung volumes have since increased from a recorded low of 43% to 62% and are currently stable. In a sense it was a miracle and also the result of medical intervention but it also takes ongoing hard work.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to start walking before that all important tide comes in and puts me out of business.

Living in a tidal zone really reinforces the need to carpe diem seize the day because “the tide waits for no (hu)man.”

Xx Rowena

PS When school goes back next week, I’ll be having to reacquaint myself with my violin. It has been rather neglected of late and I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made!!

Sources

http://www.normandoidge.com/

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.