Can it be that seven years have passed since the second brain bypass operation and the stroke that accompanied it?
Here are the lessons that I have learned since then.
1. Faith is very important. Faith in God, in myself and in others. Other than my own training as a Psychologist, faith was and is the keeper and sustainer of my life. When the future looks bleak, faith reminds me to hang on just for another day. And faith has not failed me.
2. Opportunities present themselves when one dares to take risks. Since young, I have always been fearful of failure. That has prevented me from taking risks and it perpetuated itself like a vicious cycle.
In 2011 I decided to overcome my fear by embarking on a big project, my happiness project so to speak. I combined two of my loves - sharing and writing and that brought about the birth of Winifred & You: Flourishing Together.
I was filled with terror in the weeks leading up to the launch and the following few months. Putting oneself out there was very hard to do and when I did not get the response that I desired or the statistic showed a super low readership, I was disappointed and doubted myself.
It was truly an exercise of vulnerability; putting myself out there simply because I believe my voice and the messages that I like to share are important.
I persisted. I took it as a lesson in "enjoying failure", a concept that I was reading about. The journey was still hard but it did get better.
Three years on (happy anniversary to me!) the rewards for putting myself out there have been gratifying. I managed to reach out to other Moya Moya Disease patients and offer my help and support, which was my primary goal.
I have also been approached to be a Wizpert. Even though I haven't had much bandwith to update my blog regularly, I still receive emails from readers from time to time. Recently, theasianparent.com offered me the wonderful opportunity to sit on their panel of experts. I feel immense gratitude at the opportunties given to me.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained is absolutely true.
3. Nourish your tribe because they are the people whom you can draw support, love and help from no matter where you are and what life circumstances you may be in. I am thankful that I have always been dilligent in keeping in touch with my friends. In return, I have received so much more.
4. The attitude of gratitude does work if you bother to practice it. The power of positivity should not be undermined. With God's grace I managed to keep my spirit up and I was pretty positive throughout the entire ordeal. I believe that was one reason why I had the presence and clarity of mind to make the necessary decisions even though they were difficult.
5. Man proposes and God disposes and life is full of surprises. We planned and tried for a baby for couple of years and nothing happened. When it did, we were consumed by a myriad of feelings - joy, anxiety, fear of the unknown, hope. On hindsight, we acknowledge that man can only proposes and it is up to God to turn it into reality at the right time and place. This theme has repeated so many times in my life that I have no choice but to be convinced of it.
6. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Truth truth truth! Prior to my brain surgeries, what I feared most was getting a massive stroke. The thing is I did get a stroke (multiple strokes actually) and it was massive enough that it affected my cognitive functioning.
Yes, the rehabilitation was painful and till date, I am still impaired in my right peripheral visual field. It's hard for me to do basic math and calculations and I can't retain new facts very well.
The challenge that I face is that I look perfectly normal outwardly and yet whenever I find myself in situation where I am unable to function, I feel handicapped.
I never expected myself to be a stroke survivor (no one does i guess) but I am proud and thankful of how far I have come.
7. One needs to practice kindness and self-compassion. This is so important because life is full of challenges and we can't always be perfect. When we fail, it is important to learn to forgive and be kind. There are also many situations where we feel helpless as our loved ones go through suffering. In such moments, the only thing that we can do is to extend compassion for the frightened child within us.
8. The world is so so Big! In the 5 plus years where we made United States of America our home, we have travelled extensively, visited so many different places and experienced so much. Our life was enriched by what money cannot buy. It inspires us to pursue our love for travelling and to share it with our daughter.
Happy 7th anniversary to me! All glory and praise be to God.
P.S. As I write this post, my thought turns towards someone who is going through what I did 7 years ago. I hope this piece brings you hope and I wish you all the very best.
To all Moya Moya and/or stroke patients everywhere, you are not alone.
P.S.S. To all my faithful readers, thank you so so much for your support. I hope to get back to writing soon and I'll certainly appreciate your continual support. Come, let's flourish together!
What I have learned: