February 18, 2017 Saturday
Our first fight.
I love Chris, but I do not love his stroke. The stroke however, like a serpent, comes in and strikes before I recognize its snake eyes. He looks like Chris and sounds like Chris, until he doesn’t. It isn’t often, thankfully, but that only means that it comes when my guard is down.
Today was the first day I felt awesome. Two days ago I had the flu and it caused me to put myself first, for the first time since January 19th. It wasn’t my choice so much as a default position. I was too sick to do anything else.
He seemed pretty awesome too, taking on the appearance of my pre-stroke Chris. He was paying bills, coordinating finances and making lists. Then he was yelling at me. Telling me that he is overwhelmed and can’t do one more thing. I yelled back, that he isn’t the only one who feels that way.
“But you aren’t the one who had a stroke.” He said.
The words sliced through my heart like a pick axe.
I feel like I took two steps back and doubled over with pain in my gut.
I didn’t have the stroke, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been affected by it. I’m the one who has taken up the slack for what the stroke stole. I’m the one who has to decipher what doesn’t make sense to him and translate it back. I have been nonstop worrying, compensating, planning and caregiving; to have his words discount that hit me deep.
I needed to remove myself from the situation before it got out of control, so I took myself for a drive. By the time I got back we both had cooled down and reset. This is us…breaking things down and moving through them.
I understand his feelings. I empathize and I support him, but I can’t accept yelling at me. I can’t accept him discounting the value of my contribution. I know it was the stroke talking, but the stroke doesn’t get any free passes from me. I know the brain regenerates. I know it grows new connections everyday. So I treat the stroke like I treated my daughter when she was growing her brain, too; unconditional love and direction.
Bad behavior is bad behavior and that’s not who we’ve been to each other. We’ve always been appreciative and loving in our partnership. It doesn’t mean we haven’t had ‘moments’ but it’s usually been a result of stress related to money. This is new.
Thankfully, the stroke has not seemed to affect the way we manage conflict resolution. Chris has had a temper. It takes a super duper lot to set it off, and its always due to an internal struggle and never really about what he blows up at. The stroke did not steal this away. So, we did what we do. Found our respect for each other and talked about how ego-centered that comment was and what was really bothering him. Surprise (not), it had to do with finances and the pressures of returning to work with the expectations of having the same abilities as pre-stroke.
I also too had to bear some responsibility because I had not shared with him my feelings of ‘not being able to do one more thing’ as well as my own hope (not expectations) that things would return to ‘normal’ at some point.
Its really kind of an ugly joke we play on ourselves. Expectations are projections for the future. What a joke! Who the heck knows the future? It is so dependent on so many variables, that you can’t even begin to predict! There is hope, sure, but hope seems to have expectations as an accessory if you aren’t paying attention when it gets dressed.
He has to work on changing his expectations of himself and what he thinks he should be able to do. Progress is not linear, remember? Adjusting his expectations can avoid these kinds of meltdowns. He can’t expect to be back at 100% just one month post stroke (tomorrow). No matter how small and mild the stroke. He is, after all, 66. His brain is 66. His neurons are 66. His nerve pathways are 66. His growth hormones are not surging like they did in childhood when the brain was busy generating daily at 100% speed.
One thing I’m learning is that a stroke will shake out the loose bricks of your very foundation, and its up to you to replace each one with strong mortar. Your survival depends upon it.