Stroke Survivor blogging

Monday, 21 January 2019

Dealing with disability and stroke - a family tragedy.

For the past 6 months or so I have dropped off the grid almost entirely. Life has been hard and I have experienced something I never thought imaginable. This time, I was not the person with the disability my 2 sons are and I am the parent. Everything became hard, socialising, answering the phone, checking email, opening mail and even looking at social media. My body just shut down and I was merely coping with what came at me.

Why? Although undiagnosed between my twin 5 year old boys the two appear to share behaviours of  ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, SPD - Sensory Processing Disorder, ODD - Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome.
For so long I had fobbed the problems off with "oh they are boys" and "they play off each other". I was once won of those people to say it is a made up illness for naughty kids or an excuse for bad behaviour. Yet this could not be farther from the truth.

 This year my son was smashing china bowls at the fireplace, upturning tables (with our meals on ), kicking in the wall, absconding constantly and running across roads without looking. Hitting, kicking, pushing the list goes on and on. My boys were suspended from their preschools and we were sent to behaviour therapy. The paediatrician  said he was acting out as a result of my relationship break up. As expected behaviour therapy didn't work. He just never responded to any discipline or consequences and no one listened.

Judgemental professionals blame my parenting and blame my relationship break up. I lost friends and people made assumptions without knowing. It was extremely hurtful emotionally and my stress levels soared.

As a parent I found my stress came out as illness like getting the flu. I couldn't cope doing even the most simple tasks , like opening my mail, paying bills or checking on Face book especially seeing friends having a great time.

Without any support I noticed consistent signs meaning well support workers refused to see. My boys became isolated and unable to play with other kids as sound and touch bothered them. Banging their heads, screaming and severely lashing out with any change and transition - even minor ones. Needing sensory stimulation , yet having heightened reactions to everyday stimuli, tip toe walking and more. As a parent I felt confused, alone and ashamed.

I found I blamed my boys for their actions and got angry at them.Our family life became one of anger, stress and entirely out of control. After a moment of clarity I realised the boys have no control over their dysfunctional behaviours.
I needed to STOP the anger toward my boys IMMEDIATELY.

I was quietly wishing everything would go back to how they were as babies. When I thought they were "normal". These thoughts were damaging. Because, what we think about we bring about, and suddenly I started to lose my beautiful 5 year old boys. They stopped growing up. They stopped learning and engaging with others.

My anger, gave me a sense of control over a very dysfunctional situation all be it a false sense of control.It is easy to target the weak, I stopped my anger and blaming and practised acceptance and love instead.

What does this have to do with YOU the stroke survivor?
After having a stroke 31 years ago, I have always been the "disabled one" with my family caring for me. My family members did their caring part, yet also struggled with frustration and anger toward me. Put simply they didn't understand. I was an easy target as a 10 year old stroke survivor. I too blamed my family for victimising me yet I became THE VICTIM.

I get it. Some of you are experiencing real abuse from your care givers that you never had before your stroke. It is hurtful, it stunts your recovery and diminishes your self esteem. It is nasty, uncaring and unjustified. You don't deserve it! Especially after such a traumatic event.

Your family is minimising your pain and asking you to do to much. They don't care that you are tired  and don't understand why you won't just go back to work. They are not helping you through your pain but instead criticising and blaming you for the stroke.

Yet here's what I learnt through my experience as the parent of two boys with additional needs
This cycle of immature anger and blame from all involved holds you back from independence and freedom. Because you FEEL you NEED them.

Talking as a parent who has children with additional needs, this is what I learnt:

- When your family is being unkind, it's not because they don't care, it's because they DO CARE.

- They are frustrated and just want everything back to normal, they want the "OLD YOU" back.      

-  Remember we are creatures of habit and CHANGE for anyone can be hard.

Our caregivers don't understand why they are behaving this way. Yet it is our responsibility to RISE ABOVE IT.

So, how do I "rise above it" when my family has changed so much toward me?

Shift your mindset and put yourself first. Well that's easy for you to say, I hear you saying ......but.

- Firstly realise they are doing this because of their pain. There is no rule book on how to process grief after as stroke and all of us just fumble our way through the mess - some better than others.

 - Second, be the person you want to be treated as. For example, if you are passionate about wearing jeans. Wear them and don't wear shorts because someone else tells you to.

 - Third, DON'T react back with anger and blame.

 - Know that their anger and frustration is normal and is only temporary. 

- Stroke is a journey of recovery for everyone.

You are a miracle. You have survived a stroke. Learning to thrive beyond stroke makes you amazing.
Learn to become a Thriver. You can. 

To find out more about Kate Elizabeth

and find us on face book @stroke thrivers group and and linked in @Kate Elizabeth

Since writing at the beginning of this blog, although my boys are still not diagnosed, I have received clarification from 4 professionals that they are on the autism spectrum. What a relief it is to be heard and valued. I am over being judged for being a "bad parent" and judging teachers saying "they need discipline". To be heard, to know their condition is NOT MY FAULT and to love them despite their disability is an absolute privilege to me. As a parent, to know I am not alone after months of being told I am the problem is a relief. From heartbreak and despair we can move forward with our lives.

The opportunity to move to a happier place with your family is on it's way.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Teaching One handed skills from a Two handed mindset - Right or Wrong?

So as health professionals we want to support stroke survivors to live their best life possible right? As humans we care, we are generally compassionate toward others and want to support an individual through their stroke to live with ease and to live with as much discomfort as possible, right? This will make their recovery and transition back into the real world quicker and streamlined. They will live a life with more freedom, independence and dignity, right?

Well as a stroke survivor of 31 years now and a professional in the area of vocation care, disability right, advocacy and inclusion. Also having experienced many OT’s and physio’s flow in and out of my life during the last 31 years  (since my stroke), I feel sympathetic to this topic.

Well I think and feel differently to the above remarks and see new and more efficient ways for developing independence, dignity and freedom in the stroke survivor. Ok here is the good news IT’s EASY! Here’s the bad news, you have been doing it all wrong and need to change your thinking. YES, sorry for the kick in the guts but that’s all, now here’s the sweet spot the answer to all!

How do you change your thinking?

If the person can only use one arm; Switch your thinking to think as a one armed person. DO NOT provide solutions to one handed activities with a two handed perspective and method.

If the patient cannot use their legs; Sit in a wheel chair and ignore your legs for an hour. Feel what it likes to not feel them.  What does it feel like to be isolated in your own home?  Appreciate what it’s like to fall over when you lose your balance.

Then develop constructive alternate tools for doing daily living skills. So that the patient may live a life of dignity, independence and happiness.  Life skills must be developed on a holistic level. Rather than the traditional methods that limit a consumers ability to thrive beyond the rehab. stage.

Holistic rehabilitation means incorporating not only the patient’s physical disabilities and abilities. Include their emotional ability and their willingness to change. Is their family a positive or negative support. Incorporate all these factors into awesome interplay of physical aides or activities that support the consumer long term to grow and maintain a healthy well- being. The long term primary aim for the consumer is to be independent. The short term primary aim is educate, support, give hope and skills.

This article may raise a few eyebrows and get a few tempers flaring, however it is an honest and frank reflection of how simple change can make a big difference. Yes, mindsets may need shifting and work restructuring, and new learning to take place. However in such an ever changing world, a new platform of innovative rehabilitation is worth exploring.

Kate Elizabeth is a stroke thriver who provides key note speaking and training in your workplace. Please take a look at her website for more information and contact

You can find my book with stacks of one handed ideas for life ‘Beyond Stroke: Living Independently with One Arm’ on

Kate gives daily videos and articles on doing daily tasks with one hand, such as tying shoelaces or opening a jar with one hand. Aswell as strategies for managing emotions & grief after stroke. How to manage grief to create a brand new life filed with independence, dignity and happiness. Find this on Kate’s Facebook group

Kate’s Facebook  page

 More great videos with one handed ideas are posted on my You tube channel. That is ‘Kate Ryan Stroke’.

 Become a Thriver too!

Monday, 26 March 2018


One of the biggest traumas I experienced after my stroke was losing me. I once took my happiness for granted. I took for granted simple pleasures like dancing, playing sport and playing the piano and flute. I was a social person who was full of self-confidence.

When I had a stroke everything changed. No one wanted to visit me anymore – the days were silent at home. I was busting to get back to school yet my physical body was just not strong enough yet. I wondered what my friends might be doing and longed to return to the dance class with all my old friends on a Wednesday night.  My piano sat unplayed as I sank deeper into depression.
Now life was different, I had lost my old self. This is how identity is lost after a stroke. Your life is gone before your eyes. Your best friend (you) dies and that’s trauma.

Let’s explore this further. What happens when you lose your identity? What goes with it? Well what’s now formed is an “old me”. The old me refers to your life pre stroke, I know you know what I’m talking about. The old me had the friends who stuck around, sometimes they weren’t there but mostly you could count on them. In your old life was work and the stuff you did, an executive job or not and full back in the footy team etc. etc. etc. Your story is your own and you know it.

So after a stroke where are you? Without your job you feel lost. Now you have nothing to give and you are left feeling empty. The friends you always had now seldom came by. Doing anything was an effort for feeling so physically tired and you began to feel comfortable in isolation and depression. You knew it was wrong and didn’t feel good but without your identity, the old me, with abilities you took for granted – why bother.

I hope by now you can see why perhaps why you or a stroke survivor you support may be feeling angry. Life has cut them the raw end of the stick and in the moment it hurts. In the moment, the easiest thing to do is to hide and be angry. Cut yourself a break and ask others to give you a break too.

Check out more of my articles on similar topics

Stay connected with me and others on the Thriver.Global Facebook group

Allow yourself to be made, allow yourself to be frustrated and sad it’s all part of the healing process. Don’t force yourself to be happy even when you’re not. The reason for this is simple; your internal emotions will be in conflict and will not heal.

If you are experiencing all these effects; anger, sadness and frustration, here is good news. You are in the process of finding a new you. Claiming a new set of interests or using your old interests in a different way. Finding your purpose using the new empowered you to help millions of people. Finding your purpose doesn’t take months or even a year or so. It will take the time it takes.

In the example above with the football player, he became a counsellor to football players suffering the effects of the game and drug and alcohol dependency. A worthy position where he is much more fulfilled than he ever was before his stroke.

For me, it took me 30 years to reach acceptance of my stroke. Acceptance being the final stage of grief. When I did I wrote a book giving people knowledge on how to live independently with one hand. Surprisingly it was a global success and that fills my cup up with joy – to help other stroke survivors.

My book is Beyond Stroke: Living Independently with One Arm and it is at

Your new life is out there. Take time to uncover your true life purpose and an amazing life awaits you post stroke.
Best wishes and love to you all.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

My Top 5 - Stroke Thriver To Do List

1.  Find your inner strength. Nourish it and grow it as you will need to call on it more and more with every knockdown. Inner strength is your key to handling judgement and negative opinions of others, and their misunderstanding toward your current situation. Inner strength gives you the ability to try and try again.
Mahatma Gandhi said, "Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
2.  Give up. But not on hope. In my opinion, against all popular opinion, it’s ok to give up. In fact it’s a healthy part of grief.  The feeling of giving up usually occurs in early stroke recovery but can sometimes rear its head throughout your stroke journey.  
Stroke is a grief process, grieving the loss of your life.  Giving up for a while to set a new course on life is healthy for your body and mind, rather than forging ahead on unhappy and rocky road. It’s a bit like taking a rest to reset and recourse, and that’s okay.

3.  Stay connected for your mental health. I had a stroke in 1987, back then there was no social media connection other than the landline phone. Being a child with a stroke was very lonely that’s for sure. So use what you can, Facebook, twitter etc. Nothing beats human contact so get to a local support group. If there isn’t one, why not start one!
Wikipedia states, “Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people. Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association.”
Check this great article out about the importance of social connections

4.  Make independence your goal.  Why? Independence gives you strength and courage to face the hardships. It gives you the ability to survive again without relying on others. Independence gives you back your FREEDOM and DIGNITY with the ability to make your own choices and provide for your own needs and wants. You can GO places YOU want. You can DO things YOU want.
How do you achieve independence after a stroke? Get my book, Beyond Stroke: Living Independently with One Arm with awesome ways to claim your life back. Unique ways of achieving two handed skills with one hand.  
Go into my website and book me for a talk in your area or via video link.
Check out my you tube channel on living independently beyond stroke –search “Kate Ryan Stroke “or go to

5.  Become a thriver! Remember your journey through recovery is at your own pace. Mine took 28 years and is still going. You can be more than a stroke survivor you can be a stroke thriver! As a thriver you form “new life” and are release from the survival stage of your “old life”
Give yourself the opportunity to grieve, cultivate your inner strength, take your time – giving up is okay. Stay connected for your mental health and make independence your goal.  Live with prosperity and joy.

Lots of love to you. Stroke thrivers! Believe in yourself!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Giving up after stroke.

Well right now you’re probably thinking "she has no idea what she's talking about”, but hear me out. When someone has a stroke, they experience an extreme turning point, usually for the worse. Following this experience a person must take a series of steps in a journey of self discovery. The journey if successfully completed takes a person to acceptance of their stroke - the last and most freeing stage in the grief process. Ok let’s be clear giving up is an interim thing. I don’t mean losing sight of the good in life. I mean, give yourself a break. If you can’t do it now, don’t worry, try again and soon you can. Giving up means, focussing on the now. I don’t advocate for giving up on your whole life entirely. Living with no hope is no life at all. To the stroke survivor - go through this process in full and I promise your hopes and dreams shall be clearer and more exciting with the strength you have gained in entering your “new life”.

What is giving up for the stroke survivor? Giving up on your usual values and beliefs in life. Giving up on work, friends and family. Giving up on goals or on regaining lost function. So now we have identified some examples of how the stroke survivor gives, let’s discover why it is important. Giving up can be a way of letting go of old bad behaviours which didn’t serve the well.  Giving up gives the stroke survivor time to rest. Giving up is a healing time to reset your mind from "old life" to "new life". Old life is the time a stroke survivor typically refers to as before their stroke, "new life" refers to the time post stroke. Giving up gives the survivor time to reassess their goals.  Giving up is the opposite of a success driven mindset, and can be hard to adjust. Our society follows this "success at any cost" and can be judgemental of those who don't keep up. However if you are a survivor who want to return to life, the most direct to route is giving up. Give yourself a break – a rest. Getting through hell is hard enough.

You can find so much more on my Facebook page   check out loads of previous articles on blogger and one handed ideas on my channel 'Kate Ryan Stroke'

 See my website at

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Thank you for 2017. Launch of Thriver.Global

I was going to shout my blog down but now I see that I have plenty of readers. I apologise to any comments I haven't responded too. Something is going wrong with my comments and some blogger things - trying to get it sorted so I can get back to you of course.

So I've been absent for a while. But I'm back. I want to than each and every one of you for reading my blog and supporting me on my journey since creation in 2016  I think. On facebook this week I launched Thriver.Global an interactive platform for stroke survivors.

Join me as I unleash an interactive library of powerful resources which cuts to the core of these challenges. Not only helping you to deeply grasp what you are experiencing in different areas of your life and understand why such challenges are occurring on a holistic bigger picture perspective. If the emotional and mental pain is arrested early in the stroke stage a physical recovery is much more attainable. Thriver's goal is to provide the tools to do this. Recovery from stroke is a lifelong process yet I believe we are not here to merely survive a stroke. Wherever you are in recovery that's okay. Stroke is a lifelong journey. 
#strokerecovery #strokejourney #strokesurvivortothriver

Because I know that you are here on this earth to THRIVE!. We are not merely "stroke survivors". As much as I have always disliked the word "stroke" and hated the tag line "stroke survivor" even more. Living beyond stroke doesn't limit you to survival. Life is about prosperity, love, joy & hope. Become a thriver.

I have awesome articles and links on my linked in page stroke articles

And check out you tube for loads of one handed living ideas and more Kate Ryan Stroke

More to come my story.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

A real life reflection on Neuroplasticity. Brain change in action.

This blog is all about. challenging ideas of Neuroplasticity. does it work? How easy it is? How long does it take.Can the brain really make new pathways? Is this reality or just hope? Are scientests and doctors right or are they still researching. Well I aim to answer all these questions and more. Specialists have been understanding brain science for decades now, infact it is only in very recent times it has come to public awareness with media appearances and game changing book such as "The "Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge.
Although we believe neuroplasticity is a recent phenomena, it was about 120 years ago when William James was the first to suggest the theory of neuroplasticity in his work priniciples of Psychology.

"Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain” Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1)

As I reflect upon the last 30 years. Although it was my neurologist that stated my brain was a machine and once damaged cannot heal, it was my physiotherapist that  did repetitive excercises of the same movement. The physio's asked me to visualize the brain neurons rewiring and connecting. They asked me to visualize the brain making a connection with that movement. For example moving my wrist or finger. This was in 1987 and the results were minimal to none. Now in 2017 I am filled with new hope and energy. With new advancements in technology I should be able to develop new pathways and I want a full recovery.

Since mid 2016, I have been doing hundred of repetitive exercises 100 to 200 at a time to improve wrist function. The question after 12 months, can I use my wrist now? 
Well, the answer is, yes it is stronger but the struggle to move it is the same. This tells me it takes more than one year to develop new pathways. Yet how long and how it is done is unknown. Wishing for a fast recovery is futile.

It is my general opinion that although doctors are well intended they do not take into account the plight of the stroke survivor.
Sure discoveries in neuroplasticity tell us that that full recovery is possible and health professionals are eager to release this exciting information. Not all people do recover and this is frustrating. After hundreds and thousands of wrist exercises my brain just isn't making new connections. I wonder if I share dissapointment with other stroke survivors.

Neuroplasticity gives us hope after years of lost hope in the medical industry and dashed dreams among us individuals. However in my case and others hope has turned to despair again as what I was promised is not working.

It is my request that health profs be realistic. Be transparent about time. Be clear that recovery varies, it could take 20 years or 2 years, for example.  

 I am blessed to live during a time of such huge medical & technological advancements and will hold on to hope and I have a vision of a full recovery one day.We are the healthiest civilization we have ever been, we are living longer and recovering quicker. Ailments are not life or death anymore.
I will continue to do my hundred of wrist exercises and cling to hope that one day I will physically recover from stroke too.