“A, B, C, D, E, F, G…” I frequently begin my mornings this way. Reciting the alphabet, repeating my address, or just carrying on an audible monologue of what’s running through my head. Hearing my own words gives me courage and assures me that all is well, and I often do this before I even roll out of my bed in the morning.
You see, exactly one year ago today I awoke without the ability to speak clearly. My words were gibberish, incoherent babble. And it was the most frightening and frustrating experience of my 42 years. The words formed in my brain easily and made perfect sense. I knew exactly what I was trying to say. Unfortunately, communicating those words was impossible. No matter how I tried to convey my feelings and thoughts to my husband, what was coming out of my mouth was utterly foreign. I was terrified. My body had betrayed me. I felt locked inside my own head, unable to articulate my fears, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to again.
After convincing my husband I wasn’t playing, that something was truly wrong, he drove me to the local emergency room. It didn’t take long for them to determine that what they believed was going on with me was something I would never have anticipated at my age. Stroke.
After some initial tests and a CT scan, I found myself experiencing another first; an ambulance ride to a hospital an hour away that had better resources to treat stroke patients. Five days of testing and around-the-clock monitoring confirmed it. I had suffered a left-sided ischemic stroke, and quite possibly two of them. The doctors and nurses said I was lucky. They called my speech problem a “deficit”, and thankfully, my deficit had resolved itself almost completely within the first 24 hours of the stroke. But it left me with something much worse. Fear. Fear of another stroke, and of a much more debilitating deficit, or worse. Thus began my daily ritual of reciting aloud the alphabet, my address, the day’s plans, or whatever words came to mind. I even did it this morning.
But I won’t do it tomorrow. And I won’t do it the next day. I refuse to continue to allow fear to rule me. I’ve given too many of my days to the monster that is worry, and to asking “what if?”. Today, I’m reclaiming my life and the peace that God promises his followers.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
So, on this Thanksgiving weekend, one year from the day of my stroke, I give this worry over to the Lord. I praise Him and thank Him for his many blessings and for keeping his promises. Each day I wake up, instead of being filled with anxiety and using my words to assure my mind that all is well, I will use them to praise the Lord and to thank Him because, for this life, I am truly grateful.