3) Karen

Q. How have others reacted to your stroke (stigma)?

My mum has been great, she’s always been there for me, she listens when I talk and is always there at the end of the phone. My husband Barry was good at first, but I think he is struggling to accept that things are different. I get tired really easily but he just wants me to get on with things, like I always did. My oldest son found it hard to come to terms with – I think he worries about me. He’s reliant on me but I felt really guilty at the start that I couldn’t take care of him, but we’re working on that. Luckily, mum helped out a lot at the start.

Q. What about friends?

Some of them have been great and encourage me to go out and meet up, but I don’t really think they understand. I meet them for half an hour and they think I’m fine, but they don’t see me when I’m really tired and get my words mixed up. At first, I used to avoid them, because I felt stupid when I forgot my words.

Q. How has your stroke affected your relationships?

My relationship with mum is much stronger, but I feel like my relationship with my husband has changed. He wants me to be how I used to be and gets annoyed when he has to help more about the house. I always used to be busy and on the go, but now I’m not like that, I get tired really easily. To be honest we argue more, he thinks I’m grumpy, and we’re not as close as we used to be. I feel like I can’t talk to him anymore, or maybe he just doesn’t want to listen. With my friends, I don’t see them as often now, maybe I am pushing them away, because I’m worried about what they will think about me. But I made a point of meeting up with my good friend Gayle for a coffee every week and that helped.

Q. Can people see the effect of your stroke?

Not really, I tend to forget words and get tired, but if I look in the mirror I look the same as always. At first, I wanted to scream when people said how well I look, because on the inside I felt totally different. Now, I know they were just trying to make me feel better.

Q. What’s your take home advice?

It’s easy to want to avoid people at first, but I found that spending time with my mum and Gayle and talking about how I felt actually helped. I realise that my life might not be the same again, but I think my husband Barry has not come to terms to with that. He could probably do with having someone to talk to about how he feels about things. It’s still less than a year since my stroke so hopefully he’ll come round.

Key points

It’s important to:

  • spend time with close friends or family and talk about how you feel
  • accept that life might not be the same again
  • realise that change can take time and this will vary from person to person