Photo Credit: Eugene Taylor, Unsplash.com

My life had changed dramatically.

After my stroke, caused by a cerebral hemorrhage one year, and then brain surgery to correct the problem the next, almost nothing was the same–even the way people looked at me. My left side had recovered from weakness after the stroke, but the surgery was in the same spot and had plunged me back into left-sided weakness again. I was tired of being handicapped!

I had plenty of time to sleep and even created imaginary characters that represented iPEC Coaching’s seven levels of self-perception in my own personality. Velma was the victim, who wouldn’t have had any luck at all if it hadn’t been for bad luck. In my mind’s eye, she was overweight and under-active, soft and happy in her complaints. She was the icon for depression.

I wasn’t going to succumb to depression!

One day, when my live-in home health aide was shopping for me in neighborhood stores, I decided to make myself a snack. I excitedly rolled into my small kitchen for the first time since my hospital admission for surgery. The aide had been gone for an hour, but was only shopping for five things and would be back any minute. I wanted to do something myself.

An apple and peanut butter would be delightful and manageable. The apple slicer wasn’t in the drawer where I kept spoons and gadgets. I looked in all the drawers and found it in the drawer where I kept extra house keys and note paper. It was next to the kitchen shears. Why?

The apples were in a moisture ridden bag instead of the humidity controlled refrigerator bin labeled “fruit.”  There were lots of small, aluminum foil-wrapped bundles. I keep my leftovers in Pyrex containers with matching lids. I couldn’t roll the wheelchair to the cart where I kept peanut butter. Reluctantly, I got some cheese to accompany the soft, wet apple.

I hadn’t thought through the whole plan.

My weakened left hand had trouble holding the apple for the apple slicer. I wanted to have pretty slices, but that was not to be. I got a knife to cut up the apple and some cheese. A paper plate would’ve been good, but I settled for a napkin for wrapping my snack into a ball, which I could put in my lap. As I rolled out of the kitchen, the little bundle slid between my legs onto the floor. Depression was hovering around my head . . . then surrounding me. I could see the Velma victim part of myself nodding, telling me how she’d told me not to try anything myself.

The aide had been gone almost two hours and I was hungry. 

I transferred to my walker so I could go into the bedroom and hoisted myself onto the bed. My strong leg came aboard easily, but I had to grab the other one to pull it up on top of the covers. Then I collapsed onto the pillows. I couldn’t straighten myself on the bed. I felt as though Velma, with her huge body, took up all the rest of the bed, complaining constantly. For me, this was really strong depression.

I felt helpless and hopeless. The aide had been gone too long. I felt hot and I hadn’t turned on the fan before I got into bed. I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed to turn it on and then climb back again. The Velma in my head said this would be the story of the rest of my life. I hadn’t been able to put things where they belonged or to explain to the non-native-English-speaking aides where I wanted them. They were cluttering my bedroom. Other things had just been more important than the arrangement of the pictures on my bedroom dresser.

I’d never have what I wanted again. Depression was swallowing me.

Velma assured me I’d be waiting for other people to help me do everything for the rest of my life and they wouldn’t be able to do it. Nothing in my kitchen would be where I wanted it. I was hungry, just waiting to pounce on my aide when she returned. Suppose I’d fallen? She’d have returned to find me sprawled on the floor. Velma agreed.

Then I looked at Velma the victim, the level one self-perception in me, and realized that I wasn’t sprawled out on the floor.  I was lying in a very comfortable bed. I was hungry but I’d gained weight, so if I lost any ounces it would only be good for me. Rebecca, the straight-shooting level five part of me, had come into my consciousness. It was as if she’d come into the room and asked Velma to get out of the bed.

There’s always another way to look at any situation.  

The aide had tried looking in two additional stores to find what I wanted after she couldn’t find it in the store across the street. If you find yourself in depression, you can find another way to think about it and give that depression back.

Photo Credit: Eugene Taylor, Unsplash.com