On December 1, 2004, on my 25th wedding anniversary, I thought I was having a stroke.
I felt ... odd.
I felt like I was in a dark tunnel though I knew the room was neither dark nor narrow. I'd been in my bedroom and felt a panicky need to find Al. In a way I still can't describe adequately, I felt like I was disappearing. I could feel it happening and couldn't stop it. Terrifying.
My vision was fractured, like the special effects scenes in "The Matrix", where the action scenes speed up, slow down, freeze frame ... fractured. But these were not movie special-effects, these were my real eyes and my real brain.
Researching much later, I read that I had been losing "I" function (yes there is such a medical term). Comforting then, in a way, to know that I was not alone in that ... aloneness. Other people have experienced it. Poor souls.
I remember feeling, No one should ever experience anything this cataclysmic, and be alone. Somebody should KNOW about it. I've never been so scared in my life, before or since. And I've been some scared in my life.
I managed to stagger down the hallway from my bedroom to the livingroom. The walls seemed to move in toward me, I kept thinking I was going to bump into them. The floor seemed to rise up, then down, as I stumbled down the hall. I wanted to yell for help, but words wouldn't come. It was like I didn't really have control over my voice, my words, any longer. I was gasping for air.
I made it to the couch and felt a little relief -- Alan was there. I made it! Oh, thank God.
I sat, breathing hard, and gaped at him. He waited for me to say something, sensing something was very wrong. I can only imagine the expression that was on my face. Big staring eyes, mouth working, trying to speak. Nothin'.
After a minute I managed to ask for water. He got a glass for me and as I held it, the water spilled a little as my hand shook.
Now, I'd often had the feeling I was shaking and yet to the observing eye, there was no sign of trembling. It was all on the inside. That used to bother me, that something could be that out-of-whack and not show. But on this day I was aghast to find that as I sat there feeling like I was shaking, for the first time -- I was. Oh God.
I didn't know before that there are many different steps involved in a brief conversation. That day I learned that there is a good half dozen or more. And none of mine were working right.
First you hear the words someone says to you. Rather, you hear the sounds. That's one step. Then you get hold of the words. Step two. Then you get the meaning of the words. Step three. You have a response to their words. Four. You make sense of your reaction. Five. You formulate the words for your answer. Six. You get the words out. Okay, seven. There are seven steps that I know of.
And that day they were each of them almost impossible for me. And when I could do them the exhaustion from the effort was indescribable.
I was taken to my GP's office and he saw me right away. Alan stayed home with the kids, and my mother (who had stopped by at this time hoping to talk me into seeing a doctor again -- and walked in on this!) was my escort and my translator. She had background as a nurse so we thought maybe this might help. And, ... she was my mom.
She told the doctor, "She thinks she's having a stroke." He pooh-poohed this idea, smiling as he checked my vitals. The smile vanished as he found my blood pressure was sky-high. Scary high. Suddenly he was taking me seriously.
He sent me immediately to the hospital 20 minutes away and had some heart tests done. Results would eventually declare that I was perfectly healthy.
I went home, to bed. I was in bed 24 hours a day, for the first few weeks. Then I'd get up for two hours in the evening and watch TV with the family. I was a zombie. I went nowhere except to medical appointments. Housebound for months. Slept and slept and slept. And looked at the walls. Graduated to sitting in a chair in my room, looked out the window. For hours. For days. For months.