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How the stroke led to my divorce



I rarely talk about my marriage, but I feel the need to share my story as a way of therapy. If you're not interested in love stories gone awry, I advise you to stop reading here. Or if you can relate to my story, maybe you would feel okay sharing in the comments.


I was married only a year and a half before I unexpectedly had a massive and devastating stroke when I was 31 in 2008. My ex-husband (whom we'll call Brad) and I were happily married and deeply in love after meeting when we were 28. It was seemingly a match made in heaven, although somewhat unlikely for a pharmacist and an elementary teacher to fall in love. We did everything together. We also lived an adventurous lifestyle. We backpacked 10 days through ANWR in northern Alaska's Brooks Range for our honeymoon in 2007. We rafted, hiked, backpacked, snow-machined, competed in races, and fished across our state. He learned how to fly my family's plane and I learned how to keep up with him on his winter trapline. We were just as passionate about our active lifestyle as we were about our jobs and each other. We eventually went on to win awards in our respective fields. Our next step was to start a family after I got my Master's. Only I never did get my Master's as planned in the spring of 2009. And I didn't have a baby.


What I did have was a massive right hemispheric stroke while I was teaching in my classroom in October of 2008. It came as a complete surprise as I was healthy, young and strong. My students saved my life and it wasn't before long that I was in an ambulance to the hospital where my husband worked. Brad met my parents there and they all came into the ER room with me. A quick CT scan confirmed I had had a stroke. The ER doctor gave me TPA, but to no avail because my right internal carotid artery had completely dissected. The ER doctor and the internist agreed to send Brad and me to a bigger hospital in the state. My parents and brothers met us there the next day. I was in ICU for 6 days with a feeding tube and around the clock care. My brothers were permitted to sit by my side during the night hours while Brad and my parents rested. It was eventually decided I needed the care from a bigger hospital, so Brad and I once again were on a flight with a medic crew, this time from Alaska to Seattle. My parents and one of my brothers made the trek to Seattle within 24 hours, and we were once again reunited. It was there in that Seattle hospital that we learned my personality had changed, although it wasn't all bad at first...just different. The stroke had not only wreaked havoc on my physical and cognitive well-being, but it all but destroyed my emotional well being. When I wasn't crying I was laughing. I was determined to recover and return to my classroom for the spring semester. I was accustomed to hard work, and I honestly believed that since I mastered the art of flying, I could master what was required of me in all my therapies (how wrong I had been!).


Brad, my parents, brother and I flew home on the day I was discharged from the hospital (two months after my stroke). Over the course of the following 2 and a half years, Brad and I argued..a lot. I was so headstrong and honestly couldn't recognize how the stroke had changed my personality. I had stroke-induced ADD, OCD and was extremely impulsive, not to mention was emotionally labile. Brad was equally headstrong, thinking he always knew what was best for me. We went to marital counseling for two years, but in August of 2011, Brad had enough and decided to file for divorce. I didn't agree to it, but I eventually went along with him, naively with the hopes that we would eventually get back together. The divorce was finalized in November. My hopes of spending time with him were dashed when he started dating someone he worked with in December. Between November 2011 and August 2012, I continued my therapies and felt like my heart was starting to heal as my body and brain healed. I had regained control of my emotions, and managed to change all the undesirable behaviors for the better. Then in August 2012, Brad called me to apologize for divorcing me. He also said he missed me, loved me and wished we were still together. I was speechless. He asked for my forgiveness, to which I said I forgave him. I then spent the last year grieving the end of my marriage, because I knew that even though he had told me those things, he couldn't have been serious (his girlfriend was still living with him).


On Sunday, Brad called me to let me know that he and his girlfriend are expecting a baby in January. He wanted to tell me "before I heard it through the grapevine." I congratulated him and told him I'm happy for them (which I am because children are so precious). So I was at the clinic today and saw his girlfriend, happy and pregnant. She was talking to some other medical staff (that I had been friends with when Brad and I were married). I walked by, made eye contact and smiled at one of those former friends. She ignored me. Now, I've chosen to be happy for Brad and his girlfriend. I've got no complaints. I'm pleased with where my life is going, but I'll admit I'm feeling a tinge of sadness. I know the feeling will pass, and I'll continue to move on in this beautiful life of mine. But for now I'm recognizing this sadness for what it is: just another small speed bump.


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How can you not be sad? That seems like a pretty big speed bump to me, yet you're going to have to get over it to reach the other side. I can't believe how strong you are, I don't know if I could say the same for myself. But you, I can tell you will be fine.



But oh, my heart does ache for you, life sure has handed you a few curveballs. Here's hoping for better days soon ahead. You're overdue!

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That is a bitter pill to swallow. I think if you were to count up stroke victims and their caregivers, you'd find more of the men leave and more of the women caregivers stick. I would love to hear more about what your symptoms were and how your class responded, that led to saving your life.


It's apparent you know the magic secret to surviving. You celebrate what you have and don't let what already happened ruin the rest of your life. Sure, I'm not saying there is not that initial turmoil, but you have already brought yourself out of that and are a true survivor on your own. Very inspirational, God Bless You!

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i read your story and realized how blessed i am to have a wife who has loved me, stuck by me, and is my best friend. i'm not an easy person, all over the place it seems, but mostly angry. Frankly your story scares me because it makes me angry. i really have to watch myself because i'd have nothing what ever to do with a partner like "brad" but i don't really know about how bad things can really be be-cause my wife and i have a good relationship, altho she wants me to get a haircut and i don't want one...i need one but i can be really stubborn. i'll go grudgingly but i'd rather stay home and go on line. right now a haircut is a big deal to me; i don't think i'm being reasonable about this, i know that it is no big deal, but i have a stroke brain...things really get to me..i have a tendency to project the worst out of thin air. sometimes i feel as if a part of me has reverted to the little kid i was a long time ago.

you've had to cope with a life change that is not only monumental but cruel. i hope things just keep getting better for you and that your grace and courage in the face of what i would term as callous betrayal will help pull you through and make you stronger and some-how, give you happiness. jf

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Guest hostwill



you are another casualty from this stroke. They will definitely test our relationships for sure. I like your attitude and it will help you immensely as time goes on. I am praying for your comfort and understanding and handling these issues. Things will get better I firmly believe this.



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7 years post stroke and I'm getting divorced and glad about it. My wife had unresolved borderline personality disorder so everything had to be done exactly her way. New job in a different location pointed out I was better off by myself.

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Oh dear! I somehow lost most of your comments from this post! I wanted to respond to each of them, because they were so full of compassion and warmth. I can't seem to restore them. Anyway, thank you very much for your comments. I really appreciate them.


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Veta, I am sorry this happened to you, both the stroke and the divorce. Talk about beating a horse when hes down. I went through a divorce 2 years before the stroke. The divorce definately was the worse of the 2. It took me 20 years to get over it. My new love, Andre has helped me get over it. Though I still think of it occasionaly, it is rare now. Today I thought of it because tomorrow would have been our 38th aniversary. On a good note Sept. 1st was my 8th aniversary with Andre. I know what you are going through but there is life after divorce and after stroke. I wish you all the best. Maybe some day you can put all that behind you and once again look to a brighter future.



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