Hidden disabilities

It’s been five years since I had a stroke. In many ways, I am one of the lucky ones – I survived. I haven’t had to learn to walk again, nor how to speak. I am not left with any physically obvious legacy of that stroke.

That does not mean that I am fine, that I am recovered, that I am fixed and back to my pre-stroke self. I am left with ‘hidden’ disabilities, that no-one will guess by looking at me, that they probably won’t notice if they meet me to talk to, nor even if you come round to my home and spend the evening with me.

But if you hang round with me for any length of time or if we go out to the pub for the evening, you might spot that something isn’t quite right, although you may not be able to put your finger on it. You might think I’m a bit rude, perhaps nervous, needy, or even melodramatic.

So what is it that’s wrong?

I’m sight-impaired. I have lost the upper left side of my vision. I can no longer drive. When I am concentrating on looking at things, this isn’t a problem. If I get distracted I have been known to walk into lampposts and overhanging street signs. I always forget to look up at the top left hand shelf in the fridge, complaining that we have run out of butter and ordering more, then find there is nowhere to store it because that shelf is already full.

I have face blindness so I don’t recognise people, which makes me awkward when I go out and about. I inadvertently walk straight past people even if I only saw them a few minutes before. It has been translated by people who don’t know my story as rudeness. I can’t learn new places so I get lost easily, even within a restaurant.

My issues have made me more aware that other people’s behaviour could well be due to hidden disabilities also, and I try to be very tolerant till proved otherwise!

But what is more frustrating is the memory problem. Is it memory or is it distraction? A combination of both I think. I have started to record some of what I call my ‘brain farts’, those times when things just don’t work well. (I write. It’s what I do – record all sorts of things.)

I’m going to share the latest one with you. Feel free to chuckle. I do. Laughter is the best way of getting on with things, and not dragged down by them. I think there may well be people out there who could relate to them. So here goes…

For the last couple of weeks when I have been getting dressed in the morning I have rummaged through my underwear draw and in the wardrobe stressing that I don’t seem to have many clothes. Definitely a shortage of knickers and socks, comfy leggings and I was sure I had a warm jumper. Perhaps not, so I finally decided I should buy some more – I hate shopping so I kept putting it off. It was a good job that I did.

My five year old grandson stopped overnight. His mom came to collect him and was getting him ready before they left. She asked if she could borrow the hairdryer. She followed me into my bedroom where the hairdryer lives in the bedside cabinet. Hmm, I couldn’t get to the cabinet. My sewing cabinet also lives in my bedroom – there I can make as much mess and noise as I like and it’s only me that gets disturbed by it.

I have been making red, white and blue bunting for the jubilee street party. It’s taken me a while – I’ve made getting on for twenty metres. The door to the sewing cupboard is open revealing the nest of cottons, the top is open, resting on the door to provide extra work space. It also blocked access to the bedside cabinet.

I closed up the sewing table to discover – nestling behind the door and under the worktop – a forgotten laundry bag. I proceeded to wash the contents and restock my wardrobe.

I am happy to report that I no longer need to go shopping.

Portland jones, disability liaison for Pagan Federation Midlands