We all have our own story. You are about to hear mine. What I am doing is very uncomfortable for me since I’m an introvert. I am accustomed to only ever sharing superficial bits of my story such as where I’m from, what I do, what my hobbies are, and the like. However, now you are getting the whole story from me—authentic, bare, and completely vulnerable.
Science supports everything I have written in this book (see endnotes), but it is not meant to be a research paper. It is more of a complete expression of my own struggle as well as a bit of an operating manual about how I survived my two strokes and ultimately got my life back.
I hope you will find helpful wisdom and practical advice with naked authenticity, along with some guidance concerning the emotional and physical stamina that helped me through my recovery. What I offer you, in addition to my story, is a sort of CliffsNotes version of all the books and research papers I’ve read in the past three years, plus my personal observations. My goal is to provide you with a plan for recovery from the bad cards you’ve been dealt, along with my suggestions on how to become a happier and more joyful individual again.
Using my observations, I guide you through the stages of my stroke story, from my life as a businesswoman that “had it all” to waking up in my version of hell, paralyzed on half of my body, unable to make a sound, and wearing a diaper. I was diagnosed with a severe stroke, and doctors doubted that I would ever walk or utter a word again. They also repeatedly told me that hardly any recovery would take place after the first six months.
In this book, you’ll read how I alleviated chronic pain and became able to walk normally, move my fingers, and even run again. And although it is not perfect at present, I also recovered my ability to speak. All of these things were accomplished AFTER the initial six months. How was I able to recover as well as I have so far, despite all the naysayers?
Once I got my overwhelming neuropathic pain under control, I made the conscious decision to ditch my victim mentality forever. Overcoming my pain not only freed up my energy but also taught me the essential lesson that it is possible to rewire my own brain.
I took control of my own biology and improved my body and mind. I became a biohacker.
Anyone who views herself as an experimenter doesn’t get upset when things don’t go the way she wants. She merely collects more data, makes a note of it, and tries to apply that data differently next time. This is how I see myself now—as a somewhat obsessed experimenter-biohacker. I will continue to try everything available, whether proven or experimental, to fully recover. My body and brain are now a running experiment on neuroplasticity.
Before my stroke, I was always searching for something. I don’t know what it was (perhaps wealth and status). But I’m not searching anymore. I have found my “Ikigai,” a Japanese word meaning my reason for being. You will hear about it in chapter 28.
It is my sincere wish that you gain wisdom, practical advice, and most importantly, an abundance of hope from the pages of this book. If not, I think you’ll still find it inspiring and even entertaining!
I am determined to not screw up my second chance in life. I wouldn’t change any of the things that I have learned in the past three years, not a single thing.
As a result of the events I am about to describe, I have become more aware, centered, happier, more appreciative of what life has to offer, and more authentic in my approach to life.
Anything wise that you read within these pages should be attributed to the authors of books and research papers on neuroscience; the experts on neuroplasticity, willpower, habits, health, and sleep; and to the writings of stoic philosophers I have read. Any unwise assumptions can be taken as my error.
If you are a stroke survivor, I urge you to not give up. There is a path to recovery. Take your steps in the right order. Be patient, do not doubt, and become your new, better self.
Stroke Rebel is my first book, but it will not be my last one. I’m going to keep you updated on my recovery!