Lessons I’ve Learned from my Aneurysm

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

lessons to overcome illness

I’ve learned so much since having my aneurysm, and I’ve been trying to put it in writing. But when I read this article on Positively Positive, I realized that someone else had done it. So instead of recreating the wheel, I thought I’d share what I read. I edited the list to include the lessons that meant the most to me. I’ve added a few comments and lessons of my own; my additions are in italics.

CHEER YOURSELF ON: Ultimately you must learn to comfort yourself. No matter how many people are around during the day, reality can be very hard to face in the loneliness of the night.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF: Don’t think of yourself as worthless, or worth less than you you were before your diagnosis. It’s okay to be sad, mad or feel bad about things, just not all of the time.

DON’T BE PASSIVE ABOUT YOUR MEDICAL TREATMENT: Let your doctors and nurses know what you need. And don’t be shy about your needs. Yeah, it sucks to get help to go to the bathroom, but these people have seen worse. Get over it, and if you need help, ask for it.

LEARN TO CHERISH YOUR VERY EXISTENCE: Don’t feel guilty if you’re too sick to do something. You have value simply because you exist, even if you can’t be productive in the ways you were before.

CONVERSELY, REMEMBER THAT ATTITUDE ISN’T EVERYTHING: Having a good attitude can help you make the best of every situation, but it may not help you change your situation. You can’t control everything, only some things.

SET GOALS FOR YOURSELF: No matter how small, reaching any goal helps you feel a sense of achievement.

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE: Social media is awesome. You can share your story and get support from others.

KEEP SOME NORMALCY IN YOUR LIFE: If you’re able to use your energy in some capacity, do it, even if you have just five good minutes a day. If physical limitations prevent you from doing usual tasks, try to devise new ways to do them.

DON’T LOSE YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR: Learn to laugh at yourself and enjoy life. People often experience personality changes after an aneurysm/stroke. I’ve noticed that perhaps out of necessity, my sense of humor has gotten better.

BE THANKFUL FOR EACH DAY AND GREET IT JOYOUSLY: Live your life to the fullest. I wasn’t expected to live and was unconscious for over two weeks. Every day is a gift.

DECIDE WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN YOUR LIFE: I’m learning to say no to people. I don’t want to fritter away my life letting others tell me how to live. For me, being with my loved ones is most important. And I make a point of telling these people how I feel about them often.

ACCEPT THE SUPPORT OF YOUR FRIENDS: The strong support of everyone who loved me and  prayed for me kept me going through my darkest hours. Don’t be afraid to let others know how vulnerable you are; it’s not a sign of weakness to accept help. It surprised me to see that my friends from high school were amongst my greatest sources of support, especially since I haven’t been back to my high school town since graduating and stayed in touch with classmates outside of Facebook.

SEARCH FOR MEANING FROM YOUR ADVERSITY: We can find meaning and hope even in our darkest days. I didn’t ask for this painful experience, but I can choose to grow from it and shape it into a positive force in my life. In a way, this created some stress for me. So many people said that I must’ve survived for a reason, and that I needed to find and fulfill that reason. My reaction? Let me re-learn to walk again first.

DON’T KNOCK THE POWER OF PRAYER:  I’m not the world’s most religious person; in fact, I have a lot of questions about matters of faith. But I’m convinced there’s something to it. I’m thankful for all of my praying friends, and I never turn down a prayer. A lady recently approached me in restaurant and asked if she could pray for me. It was an odd experience, but I was thankful for the prayer.

SEND CARDS TO PEOPLE IN THE HOSPITAL: Emails and social media messages are great, but there’s something special about a card. It means someone cares enough to pick out a card and go to the trouble of mailing it. It meant the world to me to receive as many cards as I did. I’ve saved each and every one.

BE FLEXIBLE AND WILLING TO CHANGE YOUR PRE-ILLNESS PRIORITIES: I was just starting to date again when I had my aneurysm. One of the guys I thought was the coolest never reached out. And one I thought wasn’t a good match was one of the sweetest. I wasn’t given a second chance to squander it on the wrong men or anything else.

PEOPLE ARE GOOD: I received visits, cards and calls from people from all parts of my life: work, high school, college, social media and more. I received motivational books, coloring books and markers, flowers. Friends have walked my dog and done work around the house. Someone I know primarily through social media even started a Go Fund Me account and raised $10,000 to assist with expenses. I have always felt like a square peg in a round hole world, but judging by the love I’ve received, I’m doing something right.

Read the full article, “Hanging on to Hope Through a Serious Illness.”

3 thoughts on “Lessons I’ve Learned from my Aneurysm

  1. Mary Pat, I adore and admire you so very much! This blog entry is gold, pure gold. I want to print it out and post it on my wall. Such incredible life reminders – that I should read daily! Thank you for sharing this treasure of yours, I appreciate it immensely. And know that you will continue to be in my thoughts, prayers and a part of my flow of positive thinking!

  2. Thank you for sharing. My mother had a major stroke 13 years ago and then she came to live with me. She made so many changes listed above to her life, all with no complaints and a cheerful heart. She is 91 now and she still sets an amazing example of determination for me. You, too, are an inspiration to many in your life and through your blog. My God continue to bless you!!

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