Recovering Post-Stroke Through Fitness with Angie Burke

AIH 47 | Post-Stroke Recovery

 

Life will knock us down at some point, but it will always be our choice to get back up and redeem ourselves. Bodybuilder and fitness enthusiast Angie Burke walks us through her journey from suffering a massive stroke due to a carotid dissection to recovering post-stroke through fitness. A firm believer of living in the moment, she shares about her “But I’m Okay Now” mindset and how she survived from a small town with no therapy. Also, catch on Angie’s post-stroke struggles and how she navigated mental and emotional healing through fitness therapy.

Listen to the podcast here:

Recovering Post-Stroke Through Fitness with Angie Burke

I’ve got Seany Entin or Sean Entin.

It’s all good. There’s Seany and there’s Sean. I’m good with anything.

When do people first start calling you Seany?

My mother started to as a kid and my eldest daughter did before she called me dad. It was always Sean or Seany. I don’t know if she got it from her Aunt Megan, who’s my sister-in-law. Seany started and it just stuck.

I want to talk about something that is integrated, if you haven’t heard about him yet, the top eleven tips for helping people create a foundation of health in their life and it’s things you can take action on today and every day after that. One of those is movement and talking about making this distinction between movement and exercise. In our society, we get this notion in our head like, “I have to exercise. I need to go and crush it in the gym every single day to be making progress.” Realistically, we need to be making a conscious effort as human beings to go for a walk or move in general because this movement helps the body to heal. Something we got into was yoga. Do you want to share with people what your experience has been like getting back into yoga?

It’s been everything to me. I loved it before my stroke. I love it even more now because it gives me the chance to get outside into my hot yoga, but it allows me to escape, to get away from my cell phone, to get away from the TV and everything else and focus in on me. Through that, I can breathe, I can stretch and my muscles will then open up. They’ll soften and the pain will go away.

We’re not doing anything crazy or wild while out there, we’re getting in the room and moving a little bit, but a lot of times you’re sitting and soaking it all in, stretching, getting into the body and the tissues and allowing everything to open up.

It was so cool to tell it the way you said there too. Yoga works on your own pace and the instructor there is the messenger and she or he’s there to assist you. Everyone doesn’t need to get intimidated like, “I can’t do yoga. I can’t do hot yoga.” You can because you do everything that you want to do on your own pace. It takes time. It took me three weeks to get in there to understand it and to feel it. Once I did, I looked forward to doing it every day. I also know rest is so key as well. Once you start to move, you start to feel better and you’re able to get out of that acute care from your post-stroke, find the time to meditate and find the time to sleep because the body cannot build itself unless there’s proper sleep too.

You hit two more of the eleven tips: rest and meditate. If you haven’t had the opportunity to go over and subscribe, pop over to the website AdventuresInHealth.tv. It’s easy. You drop your email there and all these videos, tips and ways to take action are going to start populating in your inbox and they’re all free, except for I think one of them.

It’s free. Why wouldn’t they want to do it? It’s working for the veteran, Thai Storkovich. He does the eleven tips. He started it up. I want to talk about Angie Burke because I found her again on my Facebook, on my feed, the Stroke Hacker. She suffered a massive stroke and she decided to get back in the gym and not only regain everything, but she became a bodybuilder. If you look at her, she’s yoked up, she’s ripped up and she’s gorgeous. Not only that, it was a transformation for her husband who lost 100 pounds and both her sons are in the gym with her. She’s leading these gorgeous physiques and bodies. She was paralyzed and she’s now doing everything herself.

Angie Burke is our guest for anyone who’s wondering. She’s this prime example of someone who took a situation that happened in life and basically took lemons and made lemonade. Not only fought to get her own health back but brought her husband and her sons and they’re all in the gym. They’re building these beautiful physiques.

They call it the family time in the gym. That’s awesome. Everyone out there who suffered a stroke, brain injury or something else, listen to her podcast and follow her on social media. Follow us because she can inspire you guys as well too. If you’re going to move, you’ve got to improve but keep finding that time to rest at the same time and breathe.

It’s all about finding that balance. If you’re inspired by Angie, please share this with someone else in your community or a loved one that might need to hear this type of episode. This sharing is really how we start to broaden our impact and reach more people who need to hear this amazing content that we’re so fortunate to be able to produce for everyone. Please share and if you haven’t popped over to iTunes yet, subscribe to the show, leave us a review, leave us a rating and we’ll keep growing this thing together as a community. We’ll blow it up. Let’s go hang out with Angie.

Angie, welcome to the show. How are you doing?

I’m doing awesome. Thank you for having me.

You’re so welcome. Thank you for joining us and thank you for coming on to share your story. Seany, how are you doing?

I’m good. This is going to be awesome.

Angie, so our audience can get to know you, would you let them know a little bit about who you are, what you’ve done and we’ll kick off into your story.

My name is Angie and I am 52 years old. I live in a small town in Ontario, Canada. In September of 2013, I suffered a large stroke as the result of a carotid dissection. To this day, we don’t know what caused it. I have to be very cautious of my neck when I’m doing anything. If I sneeze, I have to brace my neck. I was transported from the small town where I live to a major trauma center in the closest city and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. I was paralyzed on my left side and my left side was completely numb. I was having seizures. My vision was profoundly affected. I lost all of the vision on my left side. I wasn’t able to identify what objects were, my speech was affected and my cognition as well. That’s my ground zero of where my journey started.

Who were you before all of this happened?

But you’re okay now. Click To Tweet

I was for 26 years a Registered Nurse at our local hospital. I am a wife and a mother of two sons.

How old?

They are 21 and 26.

Angie, where do you live right now?

I live in Lindsay, Ontario. It’s a small town. It’s about two hours northeast of Toronto.

What was your first reaction after having a stroke? As you came to, what were you going through to get people at that moment?

AIH 47 | Post-Stroke Recovery
Post-Stroke Recovery: Take things one day at a time. Learn to live in the moment and get through the day.

 

Complete and total disbelief. I did not have one risk factor for stroke. I was not overweight. My blood pressure was never an issue. I was healthy and I was active. I didn’t smoke so I was in total, “How could this happen to me?” I played by the rules and I did everything right.

Your story sounds so similar to what Sean went through, in great health and all of a sudden just hit with something out of nowhere. I know with stroke, it’s not something that typically happens to younger people and it can be so blindsiding. You experienced that as well, Sean, right?

Yeah, big time. I didn’t know what a stroke was. I never even understood it until I was at the ICU. It didn’t comprehend. It took a while for it to register.

Angie, you were hit out of the blue. Were you able to get back into recovery mode right away? Did it take some time?

It took some time. Even though I was a nurse and I understood what stroke was, obviously I had never experienced it before. Learning about it from a book in a classroom is completely different than living it. I didn’t understand how big of an effect it was going to have all my life. I thought I’ll be in the hospital for a couple of weeks, I’ll bounce back, I’ll go back to work and everything will be the same as it was before. I had no idea what my journey would entail to get me back to where I am right now.

Do you know Jill Bolte Taylor?

No, I don’t believe so.

Stop living in the past. Dwell on the future and focus on the here and now Click To Tweet

She was a neuroscientist, a doctor who studies the brain. She did a TED Talk about this. She had a stroke and had this interesting experience where she was experiencing her brain in a different way very similar to what you went through. As like you, she understood stroke and the brain but going through it is so much different than reading about it in a book. What would you say to someone who had a stroke and you could be there right by their side at that first moment?

Take it a day at a time. When I looked at the big picture, once it started to sink in, the deficits I had been left with, it became overwhelming. I had to learn to live in the moment, “Let’s get through today. We’ll worry about tomorrow.”

When did you start there? How did you cultivate that mindset or begin to cultivate that mindset?

I talk about this to a lot of people what I call the What If syndrome. I’m sure it has some fancy name, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the, “What if I had realized it wasn’t a migraine? What if I hadn’t had the stroke? What if I have another stroke?” At one point, a neurologist came to me and he said, “We have to move you back into ICU. Your brain is swelling inside your skull and it’s starting to shift,” which as a nurse, I understood what this meant. I was immediately, “What if I don’t make it?” A nurse came to me because she saw that I was distraught and she said to me, “You’re okay now.” I kept repeating that phrase over and over again the entire time I was in ICU, “You’re okay now.” That phrase is what got me through it.

Honestly, a big part of what we’ve cultivated through our show with Sean is this power of having a mantra and having this phrase or word or state of mind that you can keep reminding yourself of. Sean’s, when he was coming through rehab was, “I can, I shall, I will.” It helped him walk again and it’s helped other people walk again. It sounds so silly to think about the power of a word or a phrase that you can repeat, but it is so powerful. Would you agree with that, being able to repeat something as simple as that can be so profound?

Yeah. Even to this day, when I’m having a bad day and I’m struggling and getting frustrated, “But you’re okay now,” to bring me back to the present, to focus on what I’m doing and to stop living in the past, dwell on the future and focus on the here and now.

Many people we’ve talked to have brought this to the forefront and being able to remind yourself, “Everything’s good right at this moment.” I love that you bring that up because it sounds so simple but can be so impactful to constantly create that mindset. How did you take that mindset with you into your early days of recovery?

AIH 47 | Post-Stroke Recovery
Post-Stroke Recovery: One of the biggest mistakes runners can make is start too fast out of the gate and burn themselves out.

 

Living in the moment and appreciating the moment, and even if it was something not so great, if I was having a seizure and coming out of a seizure, “That wasn’t great but I’m all right now. Let’s see what’s next.” The other thing that I learned on my journey was to appreciate things more and to appreciate the small successes. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in, “Someday I want to walk again and someday I want to do this again,” and forgetting to celebrate the small victories that will eventually get you to the big victories. I say it or talk a lot about for example, I remember the first time I stood on my own in physiotherapy and everyone was ecstatic, “You’re standing.” My thought was, “I still can’t walk.” You can’t walk unless you can stand. Every small victory, regardless of how minute it might seem at the time, eventually you add a bunch of those up, it will get to a goal.

When did acceptance come into play? You’re talking about you gained the victories, the small ones. How long until you look at yourself in the mirror and go, “I can set myself for who I am at this moment in time?” I know you’ve accomplished some incredible things post-stroke, but when did you start to accept you and love your stroke?

That took a long time. The mental and the emotional impact that my stroke had on me, took a lot more work and a lot longer for me to get past than the actual physical and cognitive ones. To be honest, I still have to work on those on a daily. Losing my career almost completely destroyed me and it took me a long time to accept that. It’s been a process over the years really to get to that point where I’m okay where I am now, I am okay with what’s happened. That took more work than it did to get out of the wheelchair and all the other things that I’ve accomplished.

So that everyone knows, we’ve found each other on Facebook. I think you posted in the Stroke Hacker, and I see this woman here who’s weightlifting dead weights and running in a fitness model. This happens to be you. How did you go from a small town with no therapy into this fitness model? Talk us through all that and because you’re beautiful and you’re stronger than a rock.

Thank you for that. I’ve learned on my journey that when you force things, it seems to go awry. When you let things happen, they seem to fall into place. Everything that’s happened to me, I worked hard but they happened. I had purchased a treadmill prior to my stroke, which I had in my home. I had no intentions the first time I stepped on that treadmill, took a few steps and start working towards my recovery of running a 5K. I was determined that I was going to walk again. That’s how it started. Every day, religiously, I would get on my treadmill. I loved it because I could concentrate on walking. I didn’t have to worry about my vision and crashing into anything.

I could hold onto the handles. I didn’t have to worry about my balance. I could focus on step by step. Every day I did that. Gradually, I was able to go faster and I was able to go further. After many months, I remember saying to my husband one night when I had finished my exercise, “I want to run.” He didn’t even bat an eye and he said, “Then run.” The next time I got on the treadmill, I pushed the speed a little higher and a little higher and I ran. It wasn’t very far and it wasn’t very fast, but I did it. I did the same thing every night, a little further and a little faster. Somewhere along the way, I got this idea, “I want to run a 5K,” and I wasn’t a runner before. I used to make a joke before my stroke, “If you see me running, you better run too because something bad is happening.” It’s not like I was into running before I had my stroke. What ended up is running a 5K actually started as me trying to be able to walk and walked further.

That’s amazing because it really encompasses that you made slow and steady progress. You never intended to do the 5K, but you went with it. Right at the beginning of that story, you touched on surrendering to the flow of your life and allowing what happened to happen. You found that once you did that, things started to open up and you went in directions you might not have gone before, but you opened the door to possibility. I think that’s a very powerful way to approach life in general. I’m curious to hear a little bit deeper into that. How did you come to that idea of going with it?

Learning about an illness from a walk in a classroom is completely different than living it. Click To Tweet

It’s actually funny because before my stroke I was the complete opposite. I was a complete control freak and organized everything, “This is the way it’s going to be.” I found on my journey, whenever I seem to push or to force things, something would happen that would pull me back started to where I was meant to be. I accept it. I don’t know why I’m running on this treadmill at the time. I don’t know why I’m doing this, but there must be a reason. Eventually, being patient, that reason unfolded and I ended up starting to run outside. My husband would follow me in the car in case I fell or had a seizure. Once it got to the point where I was able to run three or a little bit more kilometers without having to stop, I said, “This is it. I’m going to do it. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is.” I registered for the race. My husband found out what the route was so that I could run the actual route. I had problems with my memory and I knew it would be marked out, but I wanted to know exactly what the route was so I knew how to pace myself. I know one of the biggest mistakes runners can make is start too fast out of the gate and burn themselves out. I wanted to learn how to pace myself. I did that three times a week until it was race day.

How long was it from the stroke until you actually ran?

I had my stroke in September of 2013 and I ran the 5K March of 2016.

Your left side, is that what we’re working still or is that affected? Talk to me about the whole recovery so we can give people an idea of what to look forward to because your journey is amazing.

I did regain movement on my left side. My hand, I can only feel the pointer finger and my thumb. My other three fingers are completely numb and my left foot is probably about 80% numb. I have a lot of neuropathic or nerve pain in my left side, so it feels like my left side is literally on fire. I do take medication for it which makes it tolerable, but I do have nerve pain flare-ups where it gets really bad. I’m able to use my left hand for picking up bigger objects, but my fine motor skills I struggle with. Picking up something small I struggle with or I’ll try and pick up, for example, one shirt and I’ll end up picking up four because I can’t tell how many I’ve picked up and my grip strength is quite weak.

How do you lift weights? I’m so confused because I’m left side weak too. My hand is very weak. There’s not much there at all but I manage and I feel the pain. I used to lift a lot back in my day. I see you all the time, you’re dealing with CrossFit stuff. You’re doing pulley and the pulldowns with the elastic ropes or a band. You’re a fitness model. How in the world are you doing all this? I’m in awe of all of it.

I appreciate that but also remember I’m five and a half years old from my stroke now. I didn’t start doing that. It’s actually funny how I got started after I did the 5K. I enjoyed running but I was having a lot of trouble with my hips. I thought, “I need to find something else to work on and see what happens.” I was doing housework one day, I had the TV on for background noise and a commercial came on for one of those machines that you can buy for weightlifting. I thought, “I should work on my strength. I need to work on my strength next.” I bought a cheap set of dumbbells from a store and some ankle weights. I turned to the internet and I started researching, lifting at home and slowly building my strength.

AIH 47 | Post-Stroke Recovery
Post-Stroke Recovery: Some fairly potent medications help control the seizures, but unfortunately make the cognitive deficits worse.

 

I did that for a long time until I finally got to the point where I realized if I want to progress and go further with this, still not knowing where my journey was going to lead me but going with it. I need to join a gym. I was terrified. I had never set foot in a gym before. I’m 49 years old at the time. I’ve had a stroke, but I worked up the courage to join the gym. I worked a few sessions with a trainer and he did the first session, a complete assessment. He assessed my strengths, my weaknesses, my balance, my range of motion and he designed a program for me to start lifting. That’s where I started. A lot of it when I first started was single limb exercise.

I would work my left arm and I would work my right arm. I would do so much weight and so many bicep curls with my left arm and my good arm only got to do what my left arm could do. Slowly starting to strengthen that weak arm and that weak leg. He also gave me exercises to start working on my balance because it was a big issue for me. I started doing those as well. He gave me a whole regimen to follow to help me to overcome and start to work towards diminishing the deficits I had been left with. I hit obstacles and the one thing you mentioned is the weakness and holding onto the weights. I use a weight strap now, Velcros around my wrist and there’s a strap that wraps around the bar, and I put my hand over it. The strap takes a lot of the weight out of my hand and transfers it onto that strap around my wrist. You can actually get what is called weight hooks. It’s the same idea. There’s a Velcro-padded strap that goes around the wrist and an actual metal hook comes down into your hand, it hooks around the bar and it helps to do the lifting for me to compensate for my weak left hand.

You found the workaround.

She’s determined to make it happen, which is amazing.

What we’ve been doing, Angie, Sean and I, we started going to yoga classes. Sean, can you tell what does that been doing for you?

My mindset. The first time in there I was aggravated. I used to do hot yoga myself. I lived in it. I couldn’t find my rhythm because I didn’t accept myself. We’re supposed to take off our shirts and I’m looking at this body across from my mat and going, “Who is this guy?” I was so angry and so frustrated at the beginning that I had accepted myself for where I am and say, “Each day will get better,” and after three months, it’s getting a lot better.

I don’t have full use of my hand yet or my arm and my leg, but it’s coming. I was lifting my arm above my head, moving to my left to move to my right, and I’m willing and the class was going, “Are you seeing all this?” I’m smiling going, “I see it all.” I’m seven years post-stroke, I’m beyond yield. As you know, Angie, every book out there says, “Eighteen months, give it up and accept yourself.” If anyone gives up or believes when the doctors are saying that is wrong. I go back to my story in yoga. My arm was going behind my head. I was able to move it to the side and it takes work. It’s atrophied. There’s pain in there and it’s swollen. There’s scar tissue but I’ve got a great team around me that would literally beat up the arm daily, my leg and my hip. I don’t run yet, but I’m determined to run as well. My coach over here, we started with a 5K and I remember when I went out there with the track with her the first time, I can barely make it around the track once. The last time we went out to the track, I walked probably six, seven times or however long but now I did two 5Ks, I did a 10K and I’m determined now in 2020 to actually do a marathon or at least a half.

Appreciate things more and appreciate the small successes. Click To Tweet

What you both touched on sharing your stories, you with yoga and Angie with running and weightlifting are showing up each and every day and putting in a little bit of work. Maybe you’re walking across the football field or maybe you’re walking one kilometer but keep building on that, keep showing up and keep going with it. Where can they get these straps and hooks that you’re talking about?

I live in a small town, so shopping for me is extremely limited. I ordered them online off of Amazon. I can’t use my hands are too small, but the weight straps are very inexpensive. You get a set for probably under $20. You get a set, but I only have to use one because my right hand is fine. The other thing I use is I wear weightlifting gloves because they have a texture to them as well. They help with the nerve pain in my left hand. They also helped with my grip strength. Anything I can do to help. That’s another tool that I use to help me with my lifting.

How much weight have you gotten up to in some of your lifts and exercises?

I’m 52, I’m only 5’3” and I weigh just over 110 pounds. I’m not a huge person. I’m little. My best for deadlift is 240 pounds. My best for the leg press is 400 pounds. When I first started with my affected arm, I was using a two-and-a-half-pound dumbbell, so that give you something.

400 pounds, that’s four times your body weight.

Yeah, on the leg press.

You’re stronger than almost everyone I know.

AIH 47 | Post-Stroke Recovery
Post-Stroke Recovery: Instead of letting your thoughts control you, control your thoughts and be aware of how you are feeling right now.

 

I’m actually physically in better shape now than I was before I had my stroke. How ironic is that?

Have you been interviewed on the news? Has the media interviewed you or are you seeing anything?

I’m in the process of writing a book. I have been in local media and our newspaper on several occasions for other things I’ve done as far as starting a stroke mentoring program at the hospital that I worked at. I won an award for determination for extraordinary women for the community I lived in, the 5K. I have been interviewed on the radio and in the local paper. I was featured in the Canadian March of Dimes Newsletter. There’s the magazine photo shoot. My article was into Fine Magazine, which is a fitness magazine for women 40 or over. My story was in there.

Your story is such a powerful one of overcoming and more and more people need to hear this because you’re the living embodiment of the phrase, “Let’s turn lemons into lemonade.” We actually picked that one up from Samantha Harris. You’re embodying that, something happened to you and you mentioned it was tough and challenging but then you said, “I’m going to start showing up every day and I’m going to do a 5K and I’m going to keep going with it.” What you’ve become is the voice, but also the inspiration for people who see you go, “She had a stroke and now she’s deadlifting 240 pounds and squatting 400 pounds.” For anyone who doesn’t lift, that’s a lot of weight for anyone.

She’s 5’3” and that’s four times her body weight. I’ve got to keep bringing that up because I’ve been lifting my whole life and Nick’s over here next to me going, “I know he can’t do that.” He’s 220 and six feet. He can’t even put that up but it’s not the measurable results. It’s showing what the human body’s capable of doing and your brain is rerouting itself. You said earlier in the conversation that your trainer was making your right do what your left was doing. That’s mirroring the brain. It’s focusing your brain to relearn and adapt itself. It reminds me I’ve got to do the same thing again because for it to become so dominant with the strong hand that the weak hand is left behind. There’s always a line I say, “If you don’t use it, you can lose it.” For you, you’ve re-dominated and reclaimed everything, which is incredible. Your deficits right now, anything that you have trouble with? For female stuff like female personal hygiene, getting dressed up, a bra, a zipper, anything there that you get frustrated with or don’t do?

The biggest obstacle I still have is I have epilepsy now from my stroke and I’m on two fairly potent medications to help control the seizures, which unfortunately make the cognitive deficits worse. I struggle sometimes getting dressed. My brain has trouble processing which way the shirt needs to go or I’ll put it on and I’ve got it inside out. I still battle a lot of anxiety. I don’t like being in big crowds of people because of the brain injury. If there’s a lot coming at me at once, I get overwhelmed. For example, going out to a crowded mall overwhelms me fairly quickly. If I’m on a time frame, I know I have an appointment at 10:00 in the morning because I never know how my brain’s going to feel on a certain day, I may struggle more than others. That gives me a lot of anxiety. My key for that is planning and getting as much as I can ready the night before. That’s some of the things that I still battle with. The cognitive issues frustrate me a lot. I still struggle. I can’t really do the math. Numbers have totally escaped me. I have to rely on a calculator for everything. Neural fatigue, my brain gets tired a lot faster than it used to. Physically, I could feel great but when my brain gets tired, the deficits get worse, then I’m done. I have to lay down and sleep. I don’t have a choice.

Angie, the physical side of your healing was much easier than the mental and emotional. Maybe we can go into that a little bit more. How did you start to navigate the mental and emotional component to all of this?

Put your money where your mouth is. Click To Tweet

To be perfectly honest, I did go through a major depression. I hit rock bottom. I had some professional help and a lot of support from friends and family to help me climb out of that depression. Thankfully, I’m not on any medications now and I have found other ways to cope with it. Fitness is my therapy. I go to the gym and people don’t understand who don’t work out. I could struggle with everything. When I go into that gym, I am a different person. I’m confident. I can get through a workout, no problem. I can communicate with people, no problem. I don’t understand it. It’s strange. Even my husband can’t believe that when we go to the gym, he’s like, “You’re a completely different person.” Fitness for me has not only helped me physically, but it helped me emotionally as well.

It’s a state change.

What Sean’s talking about is we’ve been unraveling this in our talks with people and in the conversations we’ve had around the table here is what do you do when mentally and emotionally you get hit by the freight train and you feel like garbage. We called up a friend and he was talking about, “When I get in that space, I read a book,” for you, it’s getting to the gym and doing a workout. What we boiled it down to in essence was if you’re mentally and emotionally somewhere stuck, change the setting. Get outside, go for a hike, lift some weights, whatever it is that really speaks to you or resonates with you. Get out of one environment and put yourself into another because it’s going to shift. It might not make everything better magically, but it’s going to shift you out of that space and into a new one where you can start to approach it from a different perspective.

What opened that door for me was to learn to be more self-aware and instead of letting my thoughts control me, control my thoughts and being aware of how am I feeling right now. If I’m feeling frustrated, then I need to do something about it. I need to listen to music, I need to meditate, I need to read a book, sit outside on a nice day, whatever it is. It’s different for everyone, but in order to be able to break that cycle, you have to be aware of it first. That was the eye-opener for me, is being aware of how am I feeling and more conscious of how am I feeling, and if I am in a negative space doing something to get me out of it.

You touched on the quintessential meditators’ guide to healing which is awareness. I always tell people you can’t change something you don’t know exists. That first step towards any healing is, “I’m feeling frustrated or sad or emotional. I acknowledge it, be aware of it, and how can I work through this? Also, how can I work with this to get me where I want to go?” Thank you for sharing that. Did you always do meditation or did you get into that after as part of your healing?

Part of my healing, I had read so many good things about it. I didn’t know where to start. Once again, I turned to the internet and I started looking for guided meditations and what I needed. Sometimes I do gratitude if I’m feeling sorry for myself that day, if I’m having a lonely day, depending on how I’m feeling that day, get a guided meditation to help me through however I’m feeling. I make time for me now. That was another thing I learned from this journey is for the first time in my life, I’m making me a priority. I make time every day to do my meditation because it’s helped me very much.

I know for many people the idea of meditation sounds weird, esoteric and challenging and all that. What would you say to someone who’s been through a traumatic injury or incident or a stroke in their life? What would you say to them about meditation and how to get them involved as soon as they can to help start to shift that mental state?

AIH 47 | Post-Stroke Recovery
Post-Stroke Recovery: Every stroke journey is different. Every recovery is different.

 

Try it. I wouldn’t have believed it myself until I tried it and I experienced it, and I saw the benefits that it was doing for me. I tell everyone that’s struggling, “Try it. You can’t say this doesn’t work unless you’ve tried it.” Once you’ve tried it, I’m convinced because of my experience, you will start to feel the benefits almost right away. I could feel my emotions changing. Things started happening. It was incredible.

You remind me of one of my good friends who’s also a yoga instructor used to say, “Be as skeptical as you want about anything in life.” You can be as skeptical as you want about meditation, but don’t let that stop you from trying it with 100% of your heart because you never know what you might find if you come at anything in life with that perspective of, “This sounds sketchy or weird or I’m not sure about this.” If you dive in and go for it, sometimes you learn something you never even intended to learn and it takes you somewhere in life that you never thought you would be. That can be, in my experience, a powerful approach to not just meditation but approach to new things that are different from the paradigm you’re used to.

Until you try. You don’t know.

I know Seany started getting into deeper meditation. What’s that been like from your perspective, Sean?

Awesomeness. I love it. I fought it for so long and I had to do it every day, twice a day now. I’m addicted to it now because it calms me down. It helps me to breathe, helps me to get centered and turn off all technology and turn off everything else and focus on me. I love what Angie said she had to focus in on herself. Not many people are even able to do that without a stroke. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through every day, but there’s so much stuff that comes at us being a wife or husband or father or mother, it doesn’t matter where you’re at but if you don’t find the me time, you’re never going to heal yourself. I don’t care what you’ve gone through.

What’s on the radar next for you, Angie? You’ve done the 5K and you’ve become this amazing, powerful weightlifter and fitness junkie. What’s the next big goal that you have in mind for yourself?

I’m working on a book. It’s not how it started, it’s one of those things, I started typing one day. I didn’t know where it was leading me, but as with my other journeys, I let go with it and see what happens. Before I knew it, remember I have three numb fingers, I had managed to type an entire book of my memoir and people were drawn to me through social media. I was able to get their perspective on things they were struggling with and I was able to incorporate lessons that we’ve learned and obstacles that we all face. It’s turned into more than just my memoirs. It’s turned into a voice for other stroke survivors, lessons and tips that I’ve learned that can be applied to anybody because a lot of the things that I’ve learned can be applied to any obstacle because we all face them. It’s evolving.

What advice would you give medical professionals about what you’ve discovered having lived through it since you have this perspective of being a nurse as well as a stroke warrior? What advice would you give in hindsight to the other medical professionals who you used to work with?

What frustrates me when I trained, we were told, “A year or two years post-stroke, that’s it. That’s good as you’re getting,” that frustrates me. The phrase, “You will never be able to,” frustrates me. Every stroke journey is different. Every recovery is different. Many stroke survivors get discouraged because a doctor or a therapist or something has said, “You will never be able to do this.” I can remember doing a speech at a stroke survivor group and five people walked in with canes who were told they would never walk again. You’re almost putting limits on that person and deflating them before they’ve even really started.

That’s so impactful because talking to people on the show, we’ve heard so many stories like that where, “You’re never going to walk again. You’re probably not going to.” Every time, “Prove me wrong.” That’s why your voice and the voice of others is so impactful because it’s showing people, it’s not using words or anything like that. It’s showing people, “This is possible, I’m doing it and so can you.” Thank you for that. I have one more question and it’s a question we ask everybody who comes on. What’s your inspiration?

My children and my husband. I had to show my children that life will knock you down, but you’ve got to get back up and you’ve got to fight back with every ounce of strength you have. I have to be a role model for them and that was my motivation and my inspiration.

Thank you so much, Angie, for coming on and taking the time to share your story with us and connect with us. If you’re out there and you know someone who’s been through a stroke or you have a loved one in your family, please share this episode with them so that they can find the motivation, the inspiration from Angie’s story to help them heal and recover.

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