It was a bright and lovely Sunday afternoon.
The date: 28th July, 2019.
Time: 12:30 p.m.
I was in the shower, whistling happily to myself with the knowledge that soon I would be in a movie theater with a friend of mine.
Then lighting struck. Well, it definitely felt like that. A severe stab of pain shot through the right side of my head and I buckled down on the bathroom floor, the shower still running.
I instantly knew there was something seriously wrong with my brain and needed immediate medical care. I tried to get up but failed. My body was absolutely devoid of strength, legs felt like jelly and arms like noodles. Somehow, I managed to open the door latch and crawled out, naked.
Here, I wouldn’t mind claiming that I am a fitness enthusiast, and quite healthy for a man of 48. No hypertension, no blood sugar, no heart or lung disease, no nothing.
But, here I was, crawling on the floor like a disgusting lizard, my legs in absolute betrayal mode.
I was helped onto a bed by my family members, who by now were in a state of shock, and I indicated to them to rush me to a hospital, pronto.
By then, my vocal chords were also gone. I couldn’t speak.
My friend, with whom I was supposed to go for a movie, was informed, and he dashed down to accompany me to the hospital. In spite of my condition, I found this mighty hilarious. A movie theater and a hospital don’t quite match, do they?
Thankfully, I passed out on the way to the hospital, as the pain was unbearable.
My eyes opened the next morning, and I found myself in an ICU with all kinds of tubes and needles punched into my body. I was surrounded by a few men peering over me like I was from outer space. Realization dawned that they were doctors, supposed to save me. They asked a few basic questions to which I answered satisfactorily, making me very happy with myself. I could speak and my cognitive abilities were intact.
A series of tests were conducted and I awaited the results with bated breath. The verdict was out the next day. I was suffering from a congenital condition of the brain known as an arterio-venous malformation, and a procedure called embolization needed to be performed on an urgent basis.
I nodded my consent and it was performed. Whatever went kaput in my brain was put back in order. After four days I was discharged from the hospital.
Now, laid ahead was the long road to recovery.
Here’s how I traversed the distance.
1. My bed became my best buddy.
It was total bed rest for the time being, as advised by my doctor. Frankly speaking, even without his advice I wouldn’t have dared leave my bed, I felt so weak and wobbly. I couldn’t even stand upright. Whenever I attempted to, my legs shook, head seemed to float resulting in loss of balance and equilibrium, which made me plonk back onto bed.
All my regular activities like eating, going to the toilet, shaving, bathing etc., needed assistance. There was near total lack of neuromuscular coordination. Heck, even my vision was impaired. Everything was a blur. Couldn’t keep my eyes open for long. Couldn’t even manage to sit on my bed for long.
I was left with no option other than lie down and wait. Wait for my body to recover on its own. It needed time to heal.
My bed became my home within a home.
2. Switched off the phone.
My phone became an irritant after a certain point of time. My well-wishers (fortunately, there were quite a few) kept on calling to inquire about my health and how and why it all happened.
I could understand their concern, but I grew tired of explaining the same sequence of events over and over again. The unending stream of telephonic inquiries and good wishes aggravated my exhaustion, giving rise to immense irritability.
I realized that answering phone calls from morning till night was proving to be detrimental to my condition. There was no option other than switching off and disconnecting myself from the rest of the world.
This proved to be a master stroke.
I was at peace all by myself, which helped me focus on the recovery process.
3. Preferred physical interactions instead.
As an immediate result of switching off my phone, more people started visiting me, which somehow made me feel good. I was meeting many of them after a long time. My illness made them come down to visit me, which was quite ironic, but nevertheless, getting to see them after so long exhilarated me.
In present times, we all rely and thrive on virtual interactions, sometimes shunning physical mode altogether. So, the intensive social interaction of the physical kind, which I was experiencing, immensely helped in upping my spirit. And, of course, the get well soon gifts I was receiving from the flow of visitors made me feel right on top of the world.
Without doubt, my recovery was receiving a huge boost.
4. It was me against me all the while.
This was the toughest part.
My mind kept on playing games with me. It kept on trying to trick me into submission. The tug of war between both of us went on 24/7. Sometimes my mind had the upper hand and at other times I enjoyed an advantage.
Lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, I used to wonder whether I would ever be physically normal again. Would I be able to walk again? Would I have to move around in a wheelchair? Would I be able to work?
Would I be able to do this… or do that…the torment was incessant. So much so that I even contemplated suicide. I used to weep at night. The situation seemed hopeless and I felt absolutely helpless.
There were two stark choices in front of me. Either I fight and win, or I surrender and end my life. There was to be no middle path. I was determined not to spend the rest of my life as a physically handicapped being.
Finally, early one morning, I sat up on my bed and removed the curtains from the bedside window.
I looked out at the first rays of the rising sun and promised to myself that I won’t go down without a fight.
5. What is a man without his work?
The massive itch to get back to work was always there, but I couldn’t, due to my physical disabilities. Once I tried to type something on my home computer, but to my horror saw my fingers trembling on the keyboard, which made me give up.
Once I was able to exercise and feeling much better, I decided to give it another shot. And, lo and behold, my fingers were steady and flying across the keyboard like a breeze.
With my doctor’s permission, I resumed working from home. This development was like a breath of fresh air, and a sense of relief flooded over me.
I decided to pay a visit to my office one day, unannounced. The day I did, my colleagues and my boss couldn’t believe their eyes. They kept on staring at me like I was some creepy character right out of a horror flick. But, after a few moments they all burst out with joy and we bear hugged and back slapped.
It is just not possible for me to express how good I felt, but yes, now there was no looking back.
6. Took care to look good.
Though seemingly very insignificant, this is a vital aspect of recovery from any kind of physical or mental distress.
During the initial phase of recovery, I was so distraught with my condition that I just didn’t bother or feel like looking at myself in the mirror. Self-grooming was the last thing in my mind. Even basic cleanliness like brushing teeth and proper body wash were right at the bottom of my priority list.
I was so haggard and dirty that a friend of mine, who paid a visit, was shocked and livid to see me in this condition, and I had to digest a thorough dressing down. This shook me up a bit and I had a tentative look at myself in the mirror. Now, it was my turn to be shocked. Just hated what I saw.
“This couldn’t be me,” I felt. First thing I did was trimmed my nails, and after that, trimmed and primed everything else.
Decided to give my look a good polish and even changed into a better set of clothes.
It was time for another look at myself in the mirror, and this time I guess I received a compliment from the mirror itself. There was an immediate change in mood for the better.
7. Trying to smile, always.
Ok fine, the whole world knew I was not keeping well. So, was I supposed to go around with a gloomy face? Should I try to spread a little cheer or make the atmosphere all the more like a graveyard?
All of us have our own set of problems and issues, therefore, if all of us decide not to smile, the planet will be full of zombies in no time, which I’m sure we don’t want.
So, what is the alternative? Just put on a cheerful smile, it’s as simple as that.
The power of a smile is such that even if it’s a forced one, you are bound to feel a surge of positivity after some time, provided you don’t stop smiling. I realized this soon enough, and thankfully, my initial forced smile eventually turned into a spontaneous one.
I could actually feel the positive effect, which was very real and very effective in pulling me out of the abyss, into which, at one point of time, I seemed to be sinking.
8. Trying to give, always.
How does it feel when somebody gives you something, without you asking for it?
Aren’t you pleasantly surprised? Aren’t you gratified? Don’t you feel that, yeah, here is one guy who genuinely cares?
The warmth of loving and caring acts like a soothing balm for both, the one who is receiving, as well as the one who is giving.
When I was mired in hopelessness, and all seemed lost, there were people around me who kept on blessing by placing their palms on my head. They were elderly people who themselves were suffering from age related complications, but they took the trouble to come to me and offer their blessings.
I was massively moved, and the will to fight against my condition, and also to fight against myself, resurged.
This is the power of selfless giving. And, this is how I learnt to give. So, my dear friend, that’s how I did it. That’s how I pulled back from the brink. I hope my experience, which I decided to share, proves useful. We all have our own inner demons, which we need to fight against all the while. If I can, so can you.