I knew what was going on the moment I rushed up two flights of stairs and found him. The kind of stroke my husband Roland had that morning, basilar artery ischemic, is not the sort of thing you want to be googling. It has a high mortality rate in cases where the victim (and yes, you are very much the victim, a stroke attacks cruelly) is not given prompt medical attention—if, for example, they are home alone. Somehow, in another (ahem) stroke of luck, we happen to live just a few small blocks from the best stroke hospital in the country. Roland was at the hospital very, very quickly.

Obviously everyone’s stroke “journey” is different and some people make fast(ish) and almost total recoveries, but that has not been our experience. Even though Roland had the stroke, I very much think of it as our experience, because when you live with someone and love them and are also in some ways a caregiver, you are very much in it with them. This can be incredibly isolating, not just in a practical sense, but in a way that makes you feel as though no one can really understand, unless they’ve been through it.

I started describing a stroke as a twenty-car pile-up on the highway of your brain’s quickest route. Recovery is the next car getting off the highway just before the devastation and twisted-up metal of cars blocking the road, except it’s night time, and the power is out, and it’s a thunderstorm and actually, turns out there is no road. So one car slowly and timidly draws a new path where there never was one. Your brain is resourceful this way, but it’s slow going. After a while, all the cars start taking this newly formed exit and your brain learns a whole new way of communicating with your body. It isn’t just the slow mobility or plodding “stroke walk” we are always fighting against to ward off permanence. It’s waking up feeling shitty most days and knowing how hard that is as a constant and working to try and bury that feeling, which in itself is effort. I remember assuming there was going to be a moment where everything would feel like it was going to be okay and I’d cry and it would be like this sappy TV show snapshot, but that has never happened.

Read more in Hazlitt.

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