He asks me where I am. 

“Uh. Castle ER.”  

What’s the date?

“January 30.” 

“And why are you here? 

“I think I had a stroke.”  

It’s my new neurologist assessing my condition while I tearfully assess how the new me is going to be different. I can’t feel the whole right side of my body, although I can move it, but it feels weird. Turns out my small stroke is in the thalamus part of the brain, which controls feeling, but can spill out into affecting movement too. I’m admitted to ICU and given the clot busting medicine. Over the next two days I’m told countless times how lucky I am because I can walk and talk. I’m grateful also, but I need my right hand and foot too, I tell them. And I’m in a lot of pain.

I’m discharged with a few extra pills and orders to take it easy and start the long wait for my damaged brain and nerves to get better. Thus starts my personal shelter in place timeline, not knowing that the loneliness and isolation I feel, in six to eight weeks’ time, will become part of the social landscape.

I’m a friendly introvert. My social life is minimal. I use my many paid extracurricular lessons and activities as the base for my daily people interaction. I take a lesson in something every day of the week and it’s enough to satisfy my socialization needs. I love them all and they are my life. Except now I can’t do any of them. I cancel them and settle into a life alternating between my bed and the lanai couch. It’s not so bad at first, since I sleep so much and my brain is too fuzzy for conversation or reading or TV. I need isolation. It’s good for me. But I do attempt to keep up with a few friends via text, which is very hard to do when fingers are numb and the hand is too weak to hold a device.

February is a complete blur. But I’m painfully aware that regular life is passing me by and I’m in a spot even hardcore introverts don’t want. I only leave the house to go to my occupational therapist. And boy do I dump on her. Poor thing doesn’t know she’s the only person I see other than my husband. These visits end up being emotional counseling sessions more than hands-on therapy, and she’s a champ at it, saving my spirit along with my muscles.

By now COVID-19 is in the news. It’s a topic of concern for “people out there” as I call them. By mid February I’m up and around the house but weak.  I’m missing my classes. I want to go out but I’m not strong enough. I don’t have visitors. I finish out the month looking back at the progress I’ve made but also feeling resentful at how hard it’s been to back out of life so suddenly.

By the time COVID-19 really rolls in enough so that classes and events are slowly being canceled, I’m thinking, “Well, welcome to the club.” I know it sounds ugly, but it’s said from a position of “been there, done that.” People are now coming into my realm of daily life, also experiencing disappointment and loss. I KNOW it’s awful out there, but I feel my mood start to lift. It’s the feeling of not being alone in upheaval, no matter the cause. I’ve been isolated for quite a while. Now we have some things in common.

When David Ige closed the state and ordered stay-at-home for everyone, I felt at peace. Like that internet joke about introverts waiting for this their whole lives. I know I’ve made great progress in my recovery during all of April because I’m more relaxed. Not stressed at how much I’m missing out there. I’m now enjoying my bed and lanai couch. I fall right in place with what the virus is causing socially, and Zoom is now my favorite thing. I finally get to feel some involvement and have started some online activities and socializing, as many of us are also doing.

The reopening of the state will be another adjustment for me. When everything starts back, I’ll still be home a lot. I’m not looking forward to dealing with that again. Maybe it’ll be easier. It has been three months since my stroke and my own long, forced participation in flattening the curve.

I’m used to it by now and just want to say be careful out there. I hope to see you soon.

Katherine Finch

behindthemask mask

  1. Your sharing of your story is beautiful and moving. Your progress is remarkable! I am very happy for you. Looking forward to seeing your art and movement posted again! Love and blessings, Jeannette

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