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I need to know how some of you are dealing with the anxiety and depression that seems to be just part of having a stroke. As if having a stroke isn't enough to deal with! I still feel angry and feel it isn't fair this happened. Then there's the anxiety that often interferes with my physical functioning and can be damn near crippling. Even the smallest distraction or problem sends me to the moon sometimes! I'm scared to ask for or try medication because of the side effects. If you already have balance issues, it doesn't seem smart to take something that could make you dizzy or drowsy. Don't know what to do??? I did sign up for some mental health/counseling services which will start soon.  Hopefully that will help. Any ideas, input?

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Wow!  That is a whole lot on your plate.  I really feel for you.  And yes, it's not fair.  None of this is.  Unfortunately, there's nothing much that any of us can do about the event itself.  Just how we react to it and to the deficits and emotions that come in its wake.

 

You have already taken the first step (or maybe it's the second, or third, or ...) by signing up for counselling.  And one more step by coming here and asking.

 

I'm also all over the place sometimes, but for me things have got easier over time.  There are still very very bad moments, but I have found that they are just that, moments.

 

I find controlled breathing a great tool when I am feeling stressed.  I breathe out as far as I can, wait a few seconds, then breathe in as far as I can fairly slowly. Wait a few seconds.   Breathe out slowly as far as I can.  I keep on repeating that for as long as it takes to calm me down.  When I first started, I had to concentrate really hard not to take short quick breaths, now it is much much easier.  It works really well for me, though your mileage may vary.

 

Probably the most important thing for me is exercise.  I used to run quite seriously, can still run but neither far nor fast, but I do try to get in a  run at least every second day.  Initially, I would run for 5 steps, walk for 10, run for 5, and aim to run two lengths of a city block (out and back again).  Not far or fast, but it helped mood and general stamina.  I try to walk as much as possible, rather than driving or taking transit.  We have a dog, and one of my duties is to walk her two or three times a day, which gets me out into the fresh air.  When my leg starts misbehaving, I just go for as long a walk as I can manage.

 

I was on anti-depressants for a couple of months, and I think that they helped, even with horrible side-effects.   I saw a psychiatrist during that time time, but got little if anything out of those sessions.  I dropped psychiatrist and anti-depressants as soon as I could, and keep them as a kind of threat to myself:  "if I can't work out how to cope, I'll have to start that again" is a great incentive to work out how to cope!

 

Another big thing is to talk to people.  Talk to us, on this board.  Talk to friends and family, by phone of in person.  Persuade them to come and visit, if at all possible.  Chat to the neighbours, say hello to random people if you go out for a walk. 

 

I'm sure that not all of these will fit or will work, and maybe none will.  In my experience, though, the act of starting to do something has a huge positive impact.  

 

"At the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too" -- William Hutchison Murray

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin in.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it" -- Goethe

 

 

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Thank you so much for responding. It is helpful and it lets me know I'm on the right track. I have also started going to a personal trainer but I'm nowhere near running.  I'm not satisfied with my walking yet either but it is slowly improving. My trainer also has been helping with the breathing exercises you mentioned because he can recognize my anxiety and helps me through it. I will try to get on the board more often too. That should be helpful. Sometimes it's a little tricky to navigate though. So, with this board, working out with the trainer, practicing my breathing, and talking with the counselor,  how can it not help? 

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Hi Carrie, Everything helps. A lot of this is deciding to be a certain way and then making it happen. You brain will usually try to maintain what you reinforce with it So make a plan and keep working on it and when you fall off, don't beat yourself up, acknowledge it happened and start again. It gets easeir with practice.  Breathing and awareness of how your body is reacting to what's happening in your brain also helps. Try to override the physical reactions to mental stimuli so you don't reinforce the stimuli. Consciously control breathing and relax muscles that tense up.  Distract your brain with complex but rote tasks e.g. counting backwards from 100 by 3s. or counting out loud by threes when doing something that naturally has a 2 count like walking, can help to let natural rhythms and muscle memory take over a task. Over thinking is helpful for getting started with a "new" movement, but will eventually slow you down.  Remind your trainer that you need to do ballistic and reaction training not just slow and controlled movements. Slow and controlled is a great place to start as it builds patterning and strength, but once you've got the basics you need to also retrain your fast twitch responses as well.  You can do this!

-Heather

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Hi Carrie... I wanted to let you know that many others including myself struggle with post stroke depression and anxiety. I guess I didn't have too much choice but to treat with medication. Just due to the area my stroke was in I am left with a severe anxiety disorder with panic attacks and ongoing PBA. One, well two of the best things I have done for myself is having a wonderful Psychiatrist and a wonderful therapist. I see my Psychiatrist every other month and my therapist each week via video chat. I too had/have serious dizziness. My advice is to work closely with your Doctors openly and honestly. The good news is there are lots of things to try med or not... You don't have to suffer. 🙂 Feel better! 

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Thank you Tracy. I'm hoping the counseling will help once it starts. I've actually got some things going on in life that I have to make some big decisions. My life is going to change again and it's overwhelming. I appreciate the support. I have people in my life who just don't know how to be supportive and maybe don't want to try, but I have some who try to be supportive but they can't fully understand how different my mind set is from before and how much I struggle because my outward appearance seems overall ok. I never bothered people with my problems and I was always good at coming up with solutions for myself and always helped others. What do you do when you were always the "go to" person and now you're the one who needs help? I feel like a burden or failure if I need or want something.

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Also Heather. I just noticed your post. You have a lot of good information in your post as well. And yeah, I am my own worst critic and often can't see the bright side when I'm going through something these days. I definitely need to practice thinking things into fruition. I think some of it's largely because I was already staying home a lot more because of my physical limitations before this covid19 thing started. It definitely interfered with some of the progress I was making when everything shut down. I still went outside with help to get fresh air and what exercise I could get. Still do and making improvements again. It's just tough psychologically to feel like you were making improvements on your freedom and independence just to have it taken away. Definitely set me back as I'm sure it did with a lot of other people too. So between the stroke and then the pandemic it's the perfect recipe for depression and anxiety...

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Carrie I hear you. I really do. I've been right there! When I had my stroke I was THE bread winner for myself, my bf and my daughter. In a moment I went from do it all to - I need help with everything. It was a very hard life lesson to learn that others might not know or understand the truth of that fact. I had to ask for help... It was not easy 😑 I too felt I was letting everyone down. My bf found a good job and my daughter who went to college FT and worked FT figured out how to get us by. My daughter was basically turning over her whole check to help. (I have very little memory but once I began to be more aware that just tore me up). There I was... Unable to do just about anything (it took 2.5 months before my stroke was accurately diagnosed so everyone including me was like what is wrong with you). I was a lost puppy who wanted to crawl under the covers and disappear. I wish you the best in those big decisions look to those who are a good support system...cling to them. When you are in the midst of those overwhelming moments don't be afraid to seek help. Sounds like it's life's turn to pay you back a bit. All my best wishes. 

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That's what my daughter says too Tracy. She tells me I've helped so many other people that now I should be ok with asking for some help. Easier said than done though. Quite a few people I've helped are nowhere to be found now... My daughter helps me a lot but she had a baby in March and again I felt like a burden when she was pregnant and now she has two kids to take care of as well. My son helps me out too. There's just some things I'll have to figure out on my own though. I want my kids to have their own lives and not have me dependent on them. That's what we all want though so I guess I'm preaching to the choir.

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Carrie,

 I can understand how you are feeling. Heck, I was just talking about how I have days when I TRULY can't get out  bed. But it's not so much of depression as is it mental exhaustion. That could be seen as one in the same.

 Much like what was said before : friends, or ones I thought were, trickled off and I found myself going in to counseling and that was a god send. The woman who was my councilor ( for marriage) turned out she had two strokes so she understood my emotions and we shifted to stroke.  I was so self conscience about going to places for I was afraid how I "thought" they were thinking about me and I felt like I needed to use a prop ( my cane) more to justify why I walked funny. But after realizing, this was over the course of years, it was in my thoughts, I began to change my views on things and (frankly not giving a 💩)

 

I also know when I was in that funk, I would hear it does get better but I didn't want to hear it for they didn't get me but luckily , we mostly do, I hope you are able to take a sprinkle of all the advice and make a happy you xx

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It's seriously nice to know I'm not alone and I will take a little of everyone's advice. I really as appreciate all the insight. Getting on here was one of the best things I could do also even though I have a little trouble navigating the site sometimes. Thank you everyone. I'm starting to feel better already.

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I've also gone from being primary (often only) bread-winner to also-ran.  I finally earn as much as Linda does now (if you include the disability payments), which is something that we are both still coming to grips with.  I'm also getting used to her asking a colleague when she has computer problems, rather than asking me.

 

Mick Jagger:  "Time is on my side".  That's the one thing that has consistently helped mood and function.

 

 

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It's seriously nice to know I'm not alone and I will take a little of everyone's advice. I really as appreciate all the insight. Getting on here was one of the best things I could do also even though I have a little trouble navigating the site sometimes. Thank you everyone. I'm starting to feel better already.

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That's another thing Paul. I'm struggling with the amount of my disability income in relation to what I was making before. Big difference. So hard to adjust. My life has changed so much and I'm probably going to have to move soonish. I want to stay in this area but I don't know if I'll find a place that I can afford... I need to stay near the gym I go to because my trainer has helped me tremendously. Stressed!

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Oh yes the first couple of months of lower income than you are used to is hard. I would not have coped if it wasn't for my Mum. She helped me with a with setting up a new budget and working out what were the places I was willing to cut back back. she also lent me some "tide you over" money that let me pay off some bills that had escaped because I hadn't realised how much I was spending vs how much I was now earning. Fingers crossed you can find a place within reach of your gym and budget. The gym has been my lifeline too, a trainer who gets it and is willing to work with your limits makes a huge difference.

For the stress all I can say is breathe.  I found doing the budget and turning the fear and worry into something concrete helped. But that's me, I need a list of things to do and a plan, once I have that I find I can relax so long as I'm continuing to work on the steps of the plan.

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Quote:  Mick Jagger:  "Time is on my side".  That's the one thing that has consistently helped mood and function.

 

Paul... Yes! 

 

 

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I agree with Heather. Disability payments are a blessing. That being said, it only helps very minimal. I'm still not so good at it after 5 years :(. My mom keeps my back pay from disability in a separate savings that she can transfer to my account if needed but it will only last so long. I know in the future I will have to supplement my disability. This is a very ominous feeling fact. After my stroke I am left with severe anxiety disorder with panic attacks, PBA (brain damage - emotional lability and pretty severe), Cerebellar Cognitive Affectice Syndrome (so I have a multitude of Cognitive defecits, extreme executive function disorder and a plethora of Psychiatric issues). Ha ha how's that for using multiple discritive words. LOL So Carrie, I really get your anxiety. Today I am on a cocktail of meds out of need. At first, before I had my Psychiatrist, my anxiety would build to the point that I felt like I was going to explode. I had multiple panic attacks per day. I found a few things helpful (I needed to distract my mind) so my daughter got me a few super easy word finds (they were very easy and kinda mindless) this helped to calm down inside until I could sleep. Mt Neurologist was adament that I see my Psychiatrist because my anxiety was so high she was afraid it would bring on another stroke. Many people see their anxiety reduce over recovery time and feeling more confident. I am just in a weird stroke group (due to where in the brain my stroke was) so for me med control was a must. Now mine will be long term but I can promise you that a ton of survivors have temporarily been prescribed medication to help. Again, the easy word finds were good for me but it can be different for different people. Also, removing yourself i.e. Going into another room, a quiet space, maybe even taking a little rest/nap are great ways to have some control over what may be stressing you. It's not as easy as it sounds... I understand! I also finally just decided I have to put me above anything and everything for my health. Like Kelli said above (I don't give a 💩 what others think... I know me). I'm so glad you are here! 🙂

 

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You guys are great. This is really helpful to me. Luckily I always have had the not giving a sh*t what people think of me part down. I had a stroke. I walk funny and slow still. I'm dealing with it and I'm the one who has to deal with it. Not the general public so... people overall are nice to me though and try to help with doors and such when I'm out in the world. I'm trying to do more things on my own. I've started driving again. That's a big step. I have anxiety walking to and from the car so I struggle with that, walking in parking lots terrifies me. I'm still trying bit by bit to do these things because I miss my independence. I can do stairs fine with a rail but a curb about sends me to the moon. So these little things- parking lots, curbs, doors that close automatically scare me so then the anxiety, depression, anger gets worse and it's hard to find ways to not feel like a failure. I am my own worst critic though...

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I get that fear of the curb and the door closing on you. One tool I found invaluable for a while. was my walking pole. Not a cane that you lean on, but a hiking pole that lets you stand tall, it is a great moving handrail for getting up and down steps/curbs. and you can wave it at door sensors and lift doors. Not to mention threatening little kids who run in shopping centers. I still use it if I'm going to go any distance over rough terrain, although I don't take it everywhere like I used to.

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Heather lol I was already thinking of it's infinite possibilities to send a message. When I had my cane I too got a sense of this is my space and if you encroach upon it then the wrath of the of the stick is waiting to say hello. (Now, I am not and never have been one to pass out cruelty. No I'm not going to bop little Johnny over the head. It is more about how it affected my confidence. Funny how an object can foster that in someone). Last but not least, curbs, automatic doors, wide stairs with just one rail, a crowd, a crowd of walkers, crossing the road and parking lots, and those pesky tiny step up or tiny step down doorway thresholds. I find myself overly cautious and anxious, unsure of my confidence, looking down to either avoid eye contact or to watch better where my feet are landing (maybe both). Ha ha I sort of veer away from other humans instinctively. All these little nuances that I have perfected over time to deal with that anxiety and unsure feeling as I try to conquer the ever changing path we tread on. I sometimes meet kindred survivors with similar coping skills as my own but I am very aware that every survivor at least that I have met each have their own set of skills that help them during their journey. 

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Haha wow you guys. I don't use my cane in the house but I do use a cane out in the world still. I may not really need to but the anxiety gets the better of me and makes me weaken and my foot/ankle starts to turn. I do have better control now though so hopefully with a little more practice I'll get there. Sometimes my foot knows I'm anxious before I can even register it in my mind. It's weird. This conversation is helpful though. Thank you so much. I'm feeling a little more brave each day.  I may try to go visit my son today on my own!

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7 hours ago, HostTracy said:

Heather lol I was already thinking of it's infinite possibilities to send a message. When I had my cane I too got a sense of this is my space and if you encroach upon it then the wrath of the of the stick is waiting to say hello. (Now, I am not and never have been one to pass out cruelty. No I'm not going to bop little Johnny over the head. It is more about how it affected my confidence. Funny how an object can foster that in someone). Last but not least, curbs, automatic doors, wide stairs with just one rail, a crowd, a crowd of walkers, crossing the road and parking lots, and those pesky tiny step up or tiny step down doorway thresholds. I find myself overly cautious and anxious, unsure of my confidence, looking down to either avoid eye contact or to watch better where my feet are landing (maybe both). Ha ha I sort of veer away from other humans instinctively. All these little nuances that I have perfected over time to deal with that anxiety and unsure feeling as I try to conquer the ever changing path we tread on. I sometimes meet kindred survivors with similar coping skills as my own but I am very aware that every survivor at least that I have met each have their own set of skills that help them during their journey. 

That was an interesting read my friend. My cane is usually handy (unless I have once again misplaced it). I don't always use it because I don't have to but sometimes I like to use it. It's my security blanket if I need it when hitting the loo in the middle of the night and other times also. I tease my Grandsons I'll whack them with it. They like to take it and imitate Grandpa walking. Cracks me up! Yep just one railing or at the least something to lean on is always good. Stairs, I can do em' slowly and with a rail. When walking with a group I encourage them to let me bring up the rear. That way I notice I don't feel the pressure to walk fast enough for anyone behind me.  I find looking down very helpful. I do it often here as there are a few step ups and step downs here at home and yes it is great not looking at others sometimes too. You said it Tracy only kindred survivors get this 100% .  Family God Bless them they do their best to "get it" and come close and none of us would wish this on anyone.   

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And I just finished filling out my intake paperwork to start my mental health visits. Taking steps...

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16 hours ago, leolady820 said:

And I just finished filling out my intake paperwork to start my mental health visits. Taking steps...

Carrie!!! 🥳🥳🥳🥳🥳🥳 It's really a good feeling taking those important steps. Occasionally, it might be just a step into my living room to my recliner haha but a step is a step and an accomplishment! OK so your step is monumental compared to that so a super accomplishment! Woo hoo!!! 

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