40, and all Stroked Out!

40, and all Stroked Out!

I have started this article 1000 times on “paper” and a million times in my head. I know if I wrote this, it would upset people and there will be consequences (emotional ones only) but I need to get it out of head and onto “paper”.


Almost exactly a year ago, I suffered a stroke from the AZ vaccine and I was seriously unwell for over a month, critically unwell in ICU for 3-4 weeks of this time. I remember having a terrible headache the week leading up to the stroke and having a seizure at a work conference (in Newcastle, NSW), but my memory from then on is very sketchy, until I woke up 4 (ish) weeks later surrounded by a medical team and some of my family. It was sensory overload to say the least (it still haunts me in flashback to this day), I felt like I was being told a million things but couldn’t even remember one of them. It was very bright, my neck was incredibly painful from not moving for a month, I couldn’t move my legs, shrug my shoulders, touch my face or feed/toilet myself and at that stage I didn’t even know if I would ever regain these functions.


As days progressed, function slowly returned but it was weeks/ months before I could go to the toilet or have a shower unassisted. I was able to talk and feed myself, but I wasn’t able to stand without support until I was transferred back to Melbourne, I was determined to get better and not be a burden on my family (which now is almost laughable, as that’s all I am).


During the acute phase of my hospital stay, my family endured hell, and I can never make that go away for them. They said their goodbyes and were faced with decisions no one should ever have to make.


But, against the odds, I did come home, I can walk, talk and function physically well (albeit a few balance and leg spasm issues left). But my recovery has been remarkable, and I know just how lucky I am to have only spent a few months in hospital, unlike the 12-24 months they prepared us for. During my stay in hospital (I won’t go into details) but rehab was hard, really hard. I was the sorest I have ever been in my life. My muscles felt like they were ripping off my bones, I had headaches I can’t describe the severity of, I was tired – more tired than I have ever been ( even with a newborn). When I look back on this time, a part of me broke in that hospital bed. It was Covid {in Melbourne} so no one could really visit, I went weeks without seeing my girls and had many assessments in there that highlighted that things would probably never really be that same for me.


Prior to my stroke, I had a fabulous career and prospects and now I was having conversation about quitting my job and bringing someone in to replace me (which I totally understood and would’ve made the decision if I was in that position too. I [genuinely] loved my work, I loved that I was good at it, that people sought to engage with me because I was good at what I did, it felt good to be wanted and needed and rewarded for putting in effort – and in the blink of eye all that was gone. I became a stay-at-home mum, who couldn’t even drive herself overnight – completely reliant on others to live my life.


We had lovely home in Melbourne, plenty of room for the girls and my husband to live their lives and me able to work-from-home without any major issues (apart from a few naked little girls running on the screen during Zoom meetings). I recruited and built a full new team via Zoom and felt this team developed a connection that was second to none – even though it was virtual. I was proud of what we had achieved, it was [is] a great team, and although we didn’t get to move forward to an in-market launch – they [the team] were simply incredible! This wasn’t done by me alone, I know that it takes a village, but I feel proud of how we navigated uncertainty and challenges and came out with lifelong friendships I will forever be thankful for.

Now we live on the Gold Coast (so I can be nearer to family as I can’t get my girls to & from school etc), in a very small townhouse, no backyard. We had for get rid of a lot of furniture - so it just wouldn’t fit in this place. It’s depressing to think that only a few short months ago we were living relatively stress, but now without my wage my husband has been forced back to full-time work so we can pay bills and rent etc. It’s a far cry from how we were living in Melbourne, but we are together and thankfully he got employment - we will be fine I’m sure. 

Back to my hospital stay, it was wake up and repeat every day – I was stuck in the most bizarre Groundhog Day with people getting excited by my toilet habits and the fact I could pick up my shoes from the floor. As a high functioning adult (prior), being reduced to a child-like person was hard, really fucking hard, but I tried to get on with it as best as I could but I’m not as strong mentally as I wanted/ needed to be, and I still am not and it’s causing me (and those around me) intense grief and frustration.


Then I was discharged, I literally could not wait to go home, sleep in my own bed, see my girls and husband often – feel loved again. But it wasn’t all roses and good times when I was home. I quickly realised my mood was different, my fuse was shorter, and I was seriously struggling with not working and not being productive. The challenge with head injuries, like mine, is I looked normal and spoke normal, so everyone though I was ok, expected it really. Completely unlike a physical injury, like a broken leg etc,people instantly make accommodations for those who have “visual impairments”. I feel that the tolerance for me and my mental issues was/ is low. I was in constant conflict with my sister who in truth, is my best friend, but it was [and is] so hard for her to understand that while I am trying to be better, act better, but I’m just not where she wants to be ( and may never be). My family don’t deal with mental health issues overly well because it’s hard and confronting – and I get that, I really do.


Fast forward to now. my weeks are really difficult for me to get through and I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about the fact I had the opportunity to switch me off regularly, I could’ve died and they could’ve grieved me in “normal” way but now they all have to deal with me like I am now and I feel like they resent me, a week doesn’t go past without me wishing I actually had been switched off. I am a shell of who I used to be and it’s breaking me because I can’t seem to get out of it on of my own and I think it might be better for them all and for me if I wasn’t here. I’m constantly unhappy and feel like I’ll just never be good enough, well enough, happy enough to be a part of their lives like I once was. I am being told that I’m “so rude to everyone in my family”, that I’m “acting like a spoilt child”, that “I abuse my husband and if his family knew they would they step in”, that my “behaviour is out of control and that I want to be treated “like a Queen”. The truth is, in my work I felt a sense of achievement and acknowledgement I can no longer have in my life. My kids, who are too little to be able to, don’t give a shit about how Mummy is feeling, my family just want me to “behave better”, and I feel helpless and like I just can’t win.


I know in writing this, my family are going to be upset and angry at me, but I needed to get this “off my chest” so to speak. This week has been particularly hard and I wish I could “check out”. Suicide in my family is seen as a selfish act, and I (ashamedly) used to share this sentiment but now I know it’s actually about leaving people so they don’t have to deal with your issues as you know you’re causing so much heartache constantly and if you were gone you wouldn’t be causing anyone pain anymore. I am not suicidal, I couldn’t do that to my girls, but I do “fantasise” about leaving this world and being free from this pain, this guilt and this sadness. I can’t see the road to happiness at the moment, but maybe I will soon.

As always, thanks for reading. Comments welcome x


Alyssa Kent 

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