Five years ago today, my brain aneurysm ruptured. I had a number of surgeries, complications, and after-effects.

I had coils placed, and then an external ventricular drain. I developed Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. I was extubated, and then re-intubated. I developed hydrocephalus that didn’t resolve. I had vasopasms that wouldn’t stop. I had another surgery to inject medications into the aneurysm to stop it from spasming.

I spent an agonizing 36 hours awake, alert, and intubated. The anxiety, panic, and trauma from this experience will live with me forever.

I had surgery to have a shunt placed right before I left for rehab.

After my rehab stay, I had another surgery to put a stent around the aneurysm to divert blood flow away from the neck.

My last angiogram was all clear. I have an MRI in June. It’s always anxiety inducing. This year is no different. I’m having more frequent headaches. I have weird vision changes a few times per day. Flashes of light, mostly. Will there be something on the MRI? I don’t know how I’d live with the anxiety of knowing I have another one. I hope this isn’t the case, but I’m preparing myself mentally in case it is.

I’ve learned a few things since my stroke, and it reinforced things I already knew.

◦ You never know what someone is going through. To look at me, you’d never know I had a massive stroke, suffer from depression and PTSD, or that I have a headache most days of my life. It’s important to be kind and patient with people. It goes a long way.

◦ You don’t have to be grateful it isn’t worse. Being a stroke survivor sucks. There are days i wonder why I lived. While I’m glad I have regained as much function as I have, I’m still dealing with headaches, brain fog, aphasia, and severe fatigue. That’s a lot for someone who also works full time and has four kids.

◦ You don’t get to judge someone else’s trauma. Their feelings about what happened to them are valid. PTSD isn’t just for veterans. Trauma is complicated and affects everyone differently. In my case, the most important thing I did to control my PTSD was to stop numbing it with alcohol. I haven’t had a drink in almost two years. This has allowed me to “feel my feelings.” I’ve been able to work on shadow work, inner child healing, and parts work. I’ve was able to diffuse my biggest trigger.

◦ Sleep is more important than anything. I wish I could stay up late to enjoy some TV. But, I just can’t. I need more sleep than I did before the stroke. I need sleep so I don’t have a raging headache the next day. I need it to decrease the brain fog and, of course, the fatigue.

◦ Being OK with things not being perfect: I have to choose what to spend my energy on. I can’t work, take care of the kids, take care of myself, and deep clean my house consistently, for example. I can’t pull weeds every day. I can’t study to advance my career. I can’t do all of these things. I can do some of them sporadically. So, I have to accept that things are not picture perfect. My house is not as clean as I’d like. Those damn weeds are already taking over my flower beds. I can’t do it all. The risk of burnout is just too high.

I kissed my kids today, and went to work. Live is probably as normal as it’s going to get. The headaches, fatigue, brain fog, and aphasia are things I will always deal with. That’s the price I pay for surviving.