Recrudescence – to become raw again


(Please follow me at the new and improved site  http://redoable.co.uk)

 

I haven’t on the blog for awhile because I’ve been on holiday.

Well, if you count 365 plus days of time off as holidays.

Relaxing on remote beach

Truth is, I’ve been lazy.

Every day some topic would enter my mind and I’ve thought: that would make a good blog. Then it would exit my mind just as quickly, like some stray leaves blowing about in the wind and I did not rake them up and deliver them to you.

 

Then this week, there came fluttering into my inbox a personal message from Anu Garg, [wsmith@wordsmith.org] my personal word guru. He said unto me: Recrudescence.

 

And he did not just it leave it for me to look up. No, he explained that it was from Latin recrudescere (to become raw again), from re- (again) + crudescere (to get worse), from crudus (raw).

 

And this wasn’t one those trendy ‘new’ words entering the English language that suddenly is uber cool to use. Nor is it known to Russell Brand to obfuscate you with. No, Abu went on to explain the earliest documented use of recrudescence was in 1665 the year before the Great Fire in London.

 

The word recrudescence is a noun, meaning a renewed activity after period of dormancy.

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What I think Abu was saying is: get off your ass and start writing again, in the nicest way possible way of course.

 

That is what I am doing.

 

I should mention that the effects of my stroke haven’t gone away in the past year. I still can’t talk properly (that’s called aphasia for the new kids on block), still weak on the right side (Left partial anterior circulation stroke – May 2010. It means that the right side of my body was affected ­­­ – I veer to the right when walking. My mouth doesn’t work properly on the right side, my right arm doesn’t have the strength it used to, I can’t lift my right leg far enough to get my trousers on. All this and I still exercise the dogs every day.

And typing. Whereas I used to be able to bang out a 5,000 word story in about  45 minutes, it now takes me 90 minutes to get this far in blogging. And that I’m sure is part of reason I put off blogging, because I felt  ‘re-doable’ wasn’t working for me. All those health professionals at the time of my stroke were saying if you work at rehabilitation you can get your life back – it’s another lie.

To quote Kevin the Teenager: It’s not fair.

But to quote Oscar Brown Jr:

Ooo shhhhiiiii ooow ooow ooow
What? Oh what are you gonna do with me?
Ooo wow uh
But I was cool

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dheVr7Wdrro

 

“Strange how some charities find it hard to let service users in.”


It still just sticks in my mind like a bad dream, or toffee that gets stuck in your fillings.

“Unfortunately, not everyone can become a media volunteer because of the sheer volume people.”

All I asked for was a chance to contribute my talents to The Stroke Association – free! I wasn’t asking for pay or commission. I was just glad that my brain was functioning again (almost) although my hands were not. I wanted to contribute to the organisation that was set up to make people aware of strokes. Possibly I could contribute. If only they would talk to me.

Yet she said: “As you have not used our services.” But I had, and paid £2 for the service, and the editor came to us to ask what should be in their magazine.

She added: “due to the demand, I regret we are not able to take your request further.” Did she even read my email? Well, better yet, did she understand it?

She added: “Unfortunately, not everyone can become a media volunteer because of the sheer volume people.”

I didn’t ask to be a volunteer. I wanted to contribute.

Jo, a speech therapist who follows me, recognises something in my writing. She wrote: “Reading these blogs is the closest you can get to understanding aphasia from the inside.”

A former work colleague, Jane, who follows my writing said: “Strange how some charities find it hard to let service users in.”

Then, I found this unattributed quote:

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Now I’ve got find a 150 watt bulb.

At last a way back – I could help The Stroke Association with this creativity creeping back in my blood


Courtesy: New York Public Library

Now I felt I was ready. I could conjure up words, mostly. Occasionally I got stuck on remembering the odd word, or spelling, but this is when my crosswords habit came into play – I could think of a synonym for the lost word. My speech therapy resulted in me finally be able to write. I felt the creativity back in my blood. Welcome back. Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.

Now my client was The Stroke Association. The editor of the Stroke magazine Zoe Beer came to a local Stroke Association meeting and asked what we’d like to see in the pages. I’m sure she didn’t expect it but I would give her the full treatment, falling back on my reporter/photographer days, and public relations days and work up a whole media campaign.

It’s what I felt I needed after the stroke swept the foundation from my life. It would give me a purpose. It would give me a way back. I still could not speak properly, but I could write.

I thought what I could do. I cold interviews and write them up albeit slowly. I could take photographs (I wasn’t using my high-spec wedding photographers kit, another casualty of the stroke)

I thought that the celebrity factor would help them out. As much as I hate the whole celebrity culture (do we really care that Cheryl Cole visits poor people in Africa while the BBC films it for Comic Relief/Children In Need? She goes back to her 10-star hotel every night and puts up her 8 inch Jimmy Choos Safari Boots™) but they have a way of getting people’s attention; getting people to listen.

More than that some celebrities have had a stroke

 – the character Jim Branning in EastEnders (Dot’s husband) had a stroke in real life and it was made a part of the story.

The author, Jilly Cooper has done interviews about her TIA.

The singer Jesse J had a stroke at 18.

Now I’m from the old school. My initial thought is celebrities are not experts, so why would you ask them anything than the facile dross they are adept at, performance, luxury lifestlyes and fashion. But research shows they reach audiences. There’s this article by Weh Yeoh arguing for non-disabled people to front campaigns because they reach people.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

“We want to change the world, but we rarely talk about how best to do it. Courtesy of a recent study cited in New Scientist, here is one way in which we can better advocate for equal rights in disability – have more non-disabled people as the face of disability advocacy. This might come as a surprise to you and may even provoke reactions of defensiveness. How on earth could I be suggesting that it should be non-disabled people, rather than people with disabilities, as the visible advocates for equal rights? Primarily, it is because research suggests that it is the messenger who is crucial in creating change, perhaps even more so than the message itself. ” Full article

So I drafted an email to Zoe telling her what I thought I could do. Just to be safe I copied in the all-purpose address at The Stroke Association and sat back and waited.

I had some ideas that I thought could help.

Put me in coach.

An exile from the past with a window on the world


I passed him every day in the car taking my daughter K to school.

It was an instant flash of reality that hit me as the car went by – three seconds at the most – as I watched from the passenger side (I still don’t drive since the stroke;  Amoret has the chore).

I saw an old man sitting in his upstairs picture window, dressed in his bathrobe, looking straight ahead with sort a half-smile as though he were amused. His hair was snowy and combed in a Brylcreem style that men
used before and just after WWII. He never moved so I didn’t get a profile look at him, nor did I ever see anyone with him.

After about three weeks of seeing him every day Monday to Friday, at 8:02am, (he was gone when I
came back from walking the dogs, and he wasn’t there when I picked my daughter up in the afternoon) I decided to take a picture, specifically to photograph the situation he was in. It was a hasty photograph because I didn’t want him to see me.  I tried to pre-focus the lens and got this image shooting from the chest.

Now, take a look at the man, staring straight ahead like he’s window shopping for dreams.

Or it could be he’s dragging memories like a ghostly ball and chain, Marley-like, through the rest of his life.

Maybe his world has stopped and he’s just looking for an opportunity to get back on.

Or, he can’t get back on.

Life punctuated by a question mark.  A life now sitting in a picture window, staring straight ahead. An exile in bed clothes from the past.

I wrote this because it was an exercise in writing I wanted to explore.

It’s something that engaged my mind for long a time.  I had to think about the man’s circumstances
and what could possibly go through his mind; how it looked to the outside world; the possibilities of his existence.

I stayed away from commenting on how this situation affected me.

It was a test of my mojo that had disappeared, and was making a comeback.

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. -Annais Nin

Time÷2 = Before this and after this: doh!


“There are moments which mark your life – moments you
realise will never be the same, and time is divided into two parts – before
this and after this.” – Fallen

I wrote that down several years back in my writer’s diary as
something that meant something to me. It only emerged now to stare at me with
the glaring high-beam of realisation that I could say this about my stroke. For
there is a “before this,” and “after this” about my situation.

Before this stroke I could talk intelligently and think
straight. “After this” I’m virtually mute, struggling to get vowels out with
scrambled eggs for brains. Thanks to whoever that writer is (I can’t name them
as a source but I’m working on it. I’m thinking possibly Dean Koontz or James
Herbert) but they put my current life into a compact phrase. I may even get it
made into T-shirts.

“After this” I’m relying on my speech therapist Catherine to
help change that gloomy, but accurate outlook. I have weekly appointments and special
exercises to practice.

When I first went in I couldn’t blow up my cheeks. (It took
two weeks of trying)

I couldn’t coordinate my sticking my tongue out of my lips
from left to right repeatedly. (Although I practiced for several weeks, indeed
months, I still can’t do it properly and I’ve dismissed it as something I don’t
really need on my CV)

I had problems with remembering words – I’d just come to a
spot in a (very short) sentence and I couldn’t remember the word I needed and
I’d spend five minutes trying to find it, or a synonym, or even the first
letter of the word I was searching for. I sounded like a sound track of King
George VI just starting to practice for the King’s Speech.

And I learned to break a word up into syllables (sy-al-bles)
if I stumbled over it. I was getting better at Catherine’s sight games – naming
a picture such as a car, or bee, or train. So much so that I was graduated to
the game where it’s a word and you have to come with a synonym – sometimes I
could even come with four or five synonyms.

Reply=retort=answer

Quiz=questioning=test=interrogation=interviews

(Taken from the synonym test, exercise two)

It sounds simple, but looking back on the exercise, this,
more than anything, got me back to a balanced brain, or least one I could work
with. It enables me to have a voice (albeit silent) in writing re-doable. It
let me think the orderly thoughts that came up with the name “re-doable” for a
blog title – that the brain can be re-doable, re-loaded, refreshed after a
stroke.

As creativity started flowing into my brain, trickle is
probably a better word as it wasn’t a tidal surge, I no longer had an image of
my brain like this one.

And I quit using the phrase “doh!”

Epiphany: I will illustrate the effects of a stroke through photography starting with clichés and working upwards to bromides and banality


Away from my own fears and concentrating on the dog walks, I
thought I could illustrate what’s it’s like after a stroke through my
photographs. So I loads took of photos of stormy dark clouds – this is England
after all – with a little light shining through (where did those birds come
from?).

Nope.

Then twisted trees and vines and barbed wire, relying on
clichés for inspiration.

No way.

My stroke felt like all those things and more. It felt like a marasmus of the mind. The stroke brought dark clouds over my brain with only
occasionally slivers of light. Twisted brain channels felt like a wooden presence on my skull and my coagulated arteries lay like iced barbed wire in my neck.

When I was taking the photos, each felt like an epiphany at
the time. This is what it’s like! Having a stroke is just like this. But the
feeling evaporated when I saw the pictures on my computer. They looked just
like pedestrian images in search of a cause. Too often in the photographic
world people are inflated by their own egos. Every image they take is imbued
with (they and certain critics say) is a certain creativity (bullshit).

Then I remembered my theory that stroke is a designer/bespoke affliction (bespoke stroke?) with a million different interpretations, so what would a definition of my stroke others might not agree with it. I didn’t want to appear a
sententious knob so I gave up on the idea of illustrating the effects of a stroke
and slowly the essence of Ansel Adams and EJ Bellocq left my body, and I felt so did most
useful things.

But I am still drawn to my camera. Somehow my brain is still functioning and I have motor skills to raise the camera, frame a shot and trigger
the shutter.

Somewhere in this world are pictures worth taking.

Lost: one mojo. Last seen before a brain attack. Reward for return.


I find in the first two weeks after my stroke that I’m starting to take stock of my pluses and minuses.

After the brain attack there’s my physical and mental fitness:

 I’m suffering partial paralyses on the right side. The head (I drool a lot), and the
right side of my face is less animated; the arm; and to lesser sense the feet.  I’m working on that with self-regulated
therapy since I fired the Intermediate Care Team because they were insensitive
to me (read Mrs Doubtfire tries to cure my aphasia). They did leave me with
detailed instructions on photocopied sheets on their recommended exercises. Plus,
I commandeered my youngest daughter’s weight set and started reps with those (two
wrist straps with .5 k each and a dumb bell of 2K, whatever that is in Imperial
weights or pounds. K had used them a total of three times in some girlie quest
behind closed doors before rendering them useless in the back her closet).

Then there are other deficiencies and one that bothers me the most: not able to write.
You’ve heard the joke about the one-armed paper hanger…well, imagine a half-brained
writer. It’s more than just a half-brained writer – it’s a writer who has to
teach himself to write again. Start all over again from pre-kindergarten/reception
age, getting a feel for a writing instrument in your hand, and have it go
through all the motions you need to form a letter on the paper. Just one
letter, then you have to start all over again with second letter, then the
third, making a simple word an exercise of Nautilus equipment exertion, and
sentence is a full work-out in the gym. They don’t have that on the suggested
exercises from my Intermediate Care Team (redundant).

It isn’t that I’ve forgotten the movements; I remember them – it’s that the blood clot in the
carotid artery on the left side of my neck during my stroke erased the ability
to reconstruct them, as though I was to start again as a toddler in a
full-grown body learning the physical movements needed to form letters.

Now each letter is formed with the dogged determination of the first time I had to learn
this exercise in communication. I can see it in my mind, but there is a short-circuit
between my brain telling my hand to make a letter, and the physical implementation
of the hand performing the act.

(I am taken back in distant memories to the time in my life growing up when my great-grandmother
Lillian watched me playing with crayons – we were at my grandmother’s house in
Toledo.  I remember how the furniture looked, all dark wood with highlights of the white doilies on the arms of the upholstered
sofa and chairs. Sweet image isn’t it?

 Watch closely then and see the old crone pick up my hand and slap it because I had picked up the crayon in the left hand –
sinister. She put the crayon in the “right” hand for emphasis and there it stayed for life. It’s so Victorian. It’s a memory I recounted once to my mother when I was in my 30s and she said I couldn’t have possibly remembered that, Iwas only two years old!

I had revenge though on Lillian; my daughter K is left-handed and proud of it.)

Then I had a sudden idea: if the stroke affected the right side my body, why not try writing with my left hand.

Same result – childish scrawling, barely recognisable.

Add to this physical side that I’m tired. It’s as though this stroke took some effort,
when all I remember is sleeping through it. The fatigue is such that I have
been forced to take a nap around noon to make it through the day.

And mental – there’s a problem with my thinking. I know I
said I’m thinking straight, but not 100%. I don’t come up with original ideas,
and those I had before, I can’t add to. I’m thinking now of my novel. Since the
attack on my brain I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, time I would ordinarily use
to refine plot and character and descriptions. Nothing. In fact I can’t
remember words like “anxiety” let alone spell it or write them down. I’ve never been at a loss for words until now.

I try pecking at a keyboard on the laptop and it takes me
seven times to type in my password for email after taking 10 minutes to
remember it.

I mention my multiple deficiencies on the next visit to
speech therapy with Catherine – I tell her I’ve lost my mojo, but my
pronunciation of it took about four times in four minutes.

One thing I have learned from Catherine (if I remember the
word) is to break the word up into easily speak-able bits. The trick is that
you have to pronounce little bits correctly as in: Ma-jo, Me-jo, My-JO, MO-JO!

By this time, I’ve verbally staggered around so much, I forget what I’ve lost.

So then begins Catherine’s quest to unlock my need for words. She’s got a synonym sheet. She shows me pictures, like a cow and I have to say the name (Elsie – I interviewed her once) and add some other farm animals.
Then, a picture of a car and go on to name other forms of transport. (I’m good at this!)

Then there are just words: furious. (Let’s see. Furious.
Fury.) Anger!

Tardy: (not on time; behind time) Late!

And on and on until I reach scowl. (Bird, night time. Big eyes.
Harry Potter movies. Admit defeat.)

Not every word comes to mind. But it’s a start and Catherine
suggests I try crosswords and word puzzles for next week and find ways to talk
aloud.

I would have given me a gold star, such was the effort, but Catherine didn’t offer one.

Wait, you got gold stars when you were young and needed a reward for doing well. Well the effort was elementary in style, but you’re old
now and the only incentive you need is to get your brain back.

And your mojo.