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It's been an interesting couple of weeks. Like most stroke survivors, I have holes in my memory, great, big, gaping holes that have eaten up large parts of my past. Most of my high school and college memories are gone. Well, they tell me they aren't gone, I just don't know how to access them any more.Not sure I believe that, but that isn't the point. Point is, I don't remember most of high school or college and what I do remember is, mostly, fleeting. So, here's the interesting part.....


Through a friend that I do have from high school, and the "magic of the internet," an old boyfriend, from high school, contacted me. Well, he was pretty much THE high school boyfriend. We dated until I went to college, the year after he did. He sent me a friend request over Facebook, and after a little talking to people, I could place him and accepted the request. So, we've chatted, emailed, talked on the phone. When I explained about my stroke and what I'm left to work with, he understood. He even understood what I meant when I told him I was "face blind," and wanted to know my baselines, so he had a point of reference. He's a school counselor for special needs children. It felt good not to have to explain every little detail about my challenges.


Anyhow, we got to talking, him trying to fill in as much of high school as I could handle, 1 conversation at a time, so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed. Believe me, I appreciate that. There is a whole lot to take in. He even sent me pictures from prom, his 18th birthday, a couple of dates to the beach, etc, and with them, he outlined who everyone on the pictures was, so that I could label the people. Then we talked on the phone (we live in different states), about the events surrounding each of the pictures, and he did his best to answer all of the questions I had. It was great that he was trying to help me regain some of my memories, but it was also exhausting. It also made me think about the person I was back then. I'm not sure I really like her.


I wasn't a bad, or mean spirited person. According to him, I have always been loving, kind, and fiercely protective of the people I cared about. None of that has changed. But, he described me as always beeing a little "larger than life," a little "running several steps ahead while everyone else walked," and even, sometimes, a little " too adventurous for my own good." According to him, I was the girl that everyone wanted at their parties because I lit up the whole place and never let there be a dull moment. He also seemed to think I was a little unstable, emotionally. I was a little (well, more than a little) wild, but in a "mostly harmless" sort of way. I don't know, it just didn't seem to sit well on me. He wasn't trying to make me feel bad about myself, nor was he trying to make me out to be anything negative. I guess I just didn't quite know how to handle being face to face, so to speak, with part of who I was pre-stroke. It's been hard for me to reconcile Lydia then and Lydia now. Of course, there is a Lydia in-between, between college and the stroke, that I haven't met yet. But we're working on that.,,,,and I'm a little apprehensive.


It's been 4 years since my stroke, or will be in about 5 days, and I've gotten used to who I am now, comfortable with who I am now; and while I am curious about who I was before, I don't want to be her any more. I want to be who I am today and who I will be tomorrow, not who I was. Then, too, I know that nobody is ever perfect, but I'm a little afraid of how imperfect I may have been. I know I've wronged people and that deserve for me to own that and apologize. But when it happens, it doesn't seem to make anything any better. I get upset because I can see how much something I did or said affected them, but I don't really have a memory of it, sometimes, and when I don't, my apology seems, somehow, hollow, which just upsets me because it doesn't come off as sincere, and them, for the same reason. And I know people get tired, easily, of hearing "I'm sorry, I guess I lost that memory in the stroke." SOmetimes, I don't think they believe me, thinking, instead, that I'm using the stroke as a convenient excuse.


Then there is the second hello. My mother moved us to Tampa 30 years ago, this year. We left behind my mother's family and moved to a state where we knew no one. Back in Ohio, in the mean time, my uncle's marriage was breaking up, due to his substance abuse issue; his way of self medicating to deal with mental and emotional issues, I've been told. Anyhow, 29 years later, we get word that he passed away. Then, a couple of nights ago, I got a call from his ex-wife, my aunt. I haven't spoken with her in those 30 years. We talked a lot and had a lot to "catch up" on. It was nice to talk to her and I promised I call her again, after a business trip I'll be taking right after the new year, to tell her how it went.


It was actually more comfortable talk to Aunt Kathy than it was talking to Michael, because she didn't really know who I was between my sophomore year of high school and now, so the focus of our conversation was centered more in the present or present and only recent past, basically, only in the time after the stroke, mainly. I handled that much better.


I guess "they" are right. You can't live your life going in any direction but forward. Trying to go in any other direction, you end up exhausted, bruised and just wanting to got back to going forward again.


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Very interesting and highly reflective posting. I enjoyed it. I also went back to your profile and learned a bit more about you. I had heard about "face blindness" but knew almost nothing about it nor had I pondered the implications of having it. I am sure the psychological adjustment must be excruciatingly difficult. Yet you seem to be coping reasonably well and even survived a marital crash and burn. You must be a very strong gal. I'm betting that you will continue to rebuild your life and yourself. And now you've been reunited with two people from your past, which should help with whatever rebuilidng process you are engaged in. That strikes me as a promising development.

I guess you wrote this post in hopes of testing the waters here and there to see how others might react. So let me share a couple of my reactions. for whatever they may be worth. The first is that you should neither like nor dislike the old you. That person is gone and there is nothing to be gained from judging her now. It's as if she never really existed, or at least that is how I see it. So I think a better course is to concentrate on getting to know the new you, the intelligent and thoughtful person rebuilding her life and identity today. That person seems to have great potential. Who knows, she may even be luckier in love than the old version was. The beauty of your predicament, if there is beauty to be found in it, is that you have the opportunity to start anew from a blank slate. There is great promise in that. Some would even wish for it.

I've often wondered about the purpose of death and one answer I've come up with is that it purges our memory of all the pain and clutter that has built up over our lifetime. It seems to me that our brains are a bit like a computer's hard drive and eventually they become overloaded and fragmented and infected with viruses and malware. If we didn't die we would probably go insane in one form or another. Your stroke, awful though it was in so many ways, has wiped your hard drive clean but left the rest of the computer intact. So it is now ready to be re-loaded with new programs and applications.

That sounds  a lot more pollyannaish than it ought to and I am in no way tryiing to trivialize your stroke and its lingering aftermath. I'm just suggesting a somewhat different perspective on it. An outsider's perspective if you will. Perhaps with a different perspective you can find the courage you need to build a new you without running from the old you or being held back by her. That high school boyfriend seems like a treasure for you right now. He understands your situation better than most would. Better yet he obviously has an emotional attachment to you, even now. So let him help you find some of the answers you are seeking. And let him tell you about the person you used to be, warts and all, if that is useful to the rebuilding process. To me a bit of understanding and insight might go a long way toward allowing you to break free of the person who was destroyed by the stroke. And that, in turn, can help you go on. You are a young woman. You have a lot of life to live. Maybe this one will be less painful than the old one was, or at least than the old one that you think previously existed. 

Good luck in continuing your journey, Lydia. To my eye you've made a lot of impressive progress already, which may or may not say anything about the person you were but speaks volumes about the person you are now. 


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OMG what old boyfriends, old friends, and old missing relatives who have only known me through the grapevine would say to my face or behind my back ! You are brave girl! My point is that their perspective isn't the entire picture of who I am any more than the stuff my mother or best friend would say about me. I guess somewhere in the middle may be an honest picture of myself if I needed to put one together. I understand your need to know who you have been in order to understand who you are today. I doubt that most of us are the same person we were in high school and teens are in the business of changing so that isn't any big surprise.  If it were me I would just love me for the person I know now because that is all that is fully real and not skewed by someone's own emotionally rewritten memory.  In fact I admire your desire to right all wrongs and I envy that you can say truthfully you don't recall so you get a "do over" in life if you want to see the positive about it. I would not like to think that you are stuck in guilt for things you don't remember and don't know the full story about and well shoot I don't like to think of anyone stuck in guilt for things they do know about. I get it that you want to make things ok so you can be proud of you now.


I think you pointed out that you still "feel" from the past and that is so interesting that when all else is gone the emotional radar is still going. Wow.


Your posting is a blessing because it makes me reevaluate my own feelings about the past and any guilt I carry and even how I view myself now post stroke. Thanks for sharing this. I am who I am (and who is that) and I don"t even see myself in the same way others do. Who cares. I probably don't see them in the same way they see themselves. I have wasted so much time trying to impress them and myself and now sitting here in fuzzy pajamas in the middle of the day I am only concerned with what is now and what is next.


I truly believe that you must have been a good person if old BF is talking to you and hey you sound like a typical interesting teenager who didn't care too much about what others thought then so why start now I say. Anyway there should be some time limits on what we are allowed to worry about lol.


Reading your post now I am resolving to start this new year not feeling guilty for the past which in my new brain I feel so emo about so much stuff that guilt gets full speed ahead of me sometimes.  I want to keep all that I like about me and continue to accept what I don't like as a work in progress.


Ron I like your reasoning about how we are going to get a second chance in a new life.

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I agree with all of the above except if the person who is talking to you has the same old hangups and grudges that they had back then,  If you talked to a friend of mine from the last twenty years and then talked to my sister you would get a very different picture as she has always been a grudge holder and would let that colour how she sees me now.  You do need someone with an honest, clear-eyed view of you, and preferable someone who likes you just a little to get accurate information.


I agree with Ron, you are doing very well.  I've enjoyed your blogs right from the beginning as you write not only with honesty but there is also a lot of love and joy in your blogs too, particularity the Cookie Monster ones. Peace and Joy to you Lydi.

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Lydi :


all the above commentators gave you great feedback. I feel there is no point in looking backwards on what you could do now to wrong you have caused in past. I feel life is all about moving forward & making best in your current situation.  In life we all have erred, we have to forgive ourselves & move on. I think you make a decision in life to do something based on information you  had at that time. you are doing amazing in your post stroke recovery.  have blessed holidays with your family & friends.



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