Sometimes circumstances beyond our control change how we are able function. Everyday activities can become seemingly impossible challenges. Some diseases, ailments, and tragedies, such as a stroke, can happen without any rhyme or reason.
All at once it is as if you need to reinvent yourself in ways you never dreamed of before. As difficult as it may seem, this may be the most important time to incorporate a hobby into your life. Hobbies can be more than just something to de-stress: it can be a lifeline to getting your life back into gear.
August 18, 2013: Jenny (name changed to protect individual) was on top of the world. She was finally able to put her drafting degree to good use and had obtained her dream job. She had just moved into a great little house in the country for her and her dog.
Life couldn’t be sweeter.
On the fourth day of being in her new home she woke up late with a stiff neck and a bit of a headache. Nothing a hot shower and a fresh cup of coffee (courtesy of her new coffee maker) couldn’t fix. She started the coffee and reached for her favorite coffee mug in the cupboard. Suddenly, she had a dizzy spell and gripped the counter tightly. Eventually her legs went numb and she fell onto the kitchen floor.
The text to her boyfriend a little while after that read, “Help help”
Jenny eventually made it to the ER and much later that evening was diagnosed as having Basilar Thrombosis with a Pons Infarct. She had a stroke at 29 years old. The doctor told her family that only 4 other people were known to have come out of this type of stroke with any resemblance of their former lives. Most likely she would be “locked in” unable to move anything but her eyes.
With the support of her friends and family, Jenny is walking well today. She is even speaking well enough that she can be understood. Her balance is not perfect but she doesn’t need assistance to walk on flat ground. She even was able to have her driver’s license renewed!
Jenny really is a walking miracle in her family’s eyes. But it took a year of pain, struggle, determination, and sacrifice. She had to reinvent who she was along the way, and adjust her daily routines. She was sent home from rehab with a long list of exercises she needed to do in order to retain some physical strength.
Jenny used things she enjoyed as both hobbies and opportunities for physical and occupational therapy. She played Connect Four with her nieces which helped her fine motor skills. She was given an iPad and she was able to go shopping, which also helped her hand-eye coordination.
Her brother-in-law even bought some Styrofoam pool noodles for fencing matches. To make it even, he sat in her wheelchair while she sat in her special recliner. Jenny still loved cooking, and was able to help pour the pumpkin pie filling into ready-made crust she’d rolled out.
She loved reading but her vision was not always good and she would get headaches. So, she used audiobooks along with the physical book for when her eyes got tired. She had never painted before but took it up in hopes of getting her dexterity back (this also piqued her interest in abstract art).
The basic message is this: don’t give up. Maybe you can’t do things in the same way as you could before, but it is never too late to reinvent the activities you enjoy. It’s never too late to find new hobbies and incorporate these hobbies into your healing process.
You may not have the abilities you once had, but you don’t have to stop living for today! Jenny was never expected to get off her ventilator. The experts told her, she was never going to walk, write, or speak again… She proved them all wrong by reinventing herself each step of the way – and will be using her newly refined abilities to walk down the aisle this September.