Embracing Valentine’s Day Alone

Valentine’s Day is a few days away and for the first time in seven years I am not celebrating with a significant other. And I am totally and completely okay with it.

I spent six and a half years in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship, that in my gut, I knew was wrong. I knew it wouldn’t work out. I knew he wasn’t the right guy for me. But I stayed anyways. I stayed because I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I stayed because “he’s really not a bad guy and he really does love me”. I stayed because I didn’t want to to be alone. But mostly I stayed because I was led to believe that I was worthless and no one else could ever love me.

I stayed until things got so bad that I couldn’t take it anymore. It didn’t matter if I ended up alone and scared; I left and it was the best decision of my life.

Sure, walking away was hard…for about a week (if that). Then I was incredibly happy. Of course, I missed my dog, my hometown, and the $5,000 that my still ex owes me, but I was happy. Like deliriously happy.

The freedom I experienced was exhilarating. 

As selfish as it may sound, I love the fact that I no longer have to compromise. I no longer have to ask permission. I don’t have to tell anyone where I am going or when I’ll be home. My schedule does not depend on another person. I literally can do anything I want and it’s awesome. 

Since being on my own, I have done more things in the the past six months than I did througout the last seven years. I’ve become a “yes” person, gladly accepting most invites because why the hell not? 

Impromptu happy hour with the girls? Sure. Concert down in Richmond? I’m down. Paddleboarding on the Shenandoah? Absolutely! Bar Crawl in Arlington? No problem. 

There is nothing holding me back and that is a beauty thing. 

Rediscovering myself was amazing. 

I lost who I was when I was in that relationship and I didn’t realize it until I got out. I had become an empty shell who stayed at home channel surfing yet dreamed a more exciting life. Once I was on my own, I realized that I could create the life I dreamed of. 

As much as I like good Netflix binge (highly recommend Santa Clarita Diet), I’ve realized that I’d much rather be outside no matter what the season is. I enjoy hiking, snowboarding, paddleboarding, etc. and would really love challenge myself with three day backpacking trip. 

I’ve caught a travel bug. I just spent the weekend in Snowshoe, WV where I snowboarder all day and listened to a raggae band at night. I have a trip planned to Reno, NV and San Francisco, CA. While Northern Virginia will always be home to me, I can’t wait to discover what else is out there. Heck, I’ve even contemplating making a move out West, because when the mountains call, we must answer. 

The strength I realized I had within myself was empowering. 

Walking away from an abusive relationship and being alone made me realize how strong I truly am. 

Soon after settling in to my new digs, I began working on a post-relationship bucket list. I planned on doing everything that he refused/unsuccessfully promised to do – even if it meant venturing out alone. The first time I went snowboarding  by myself, I cried. I cried tears of joy because I felt so liberated and so empowered that I got over my fear of being alone.

In the past had I ended up in the hospital (i.e. my stroke in November), I would have called my significant other right away seeking comfort and coddling. Despite the fact that I was casually dating someone at the time of my stroke, I didn’t reach out. Would I have liked him to be there? Sure. Did I need him there? Nope. I had my amazing family and rad friends by my side and that was all I wanted. 

Speaking of friends, I lost many due to my break up and that’s okay. The friendships I have forged since then – making new ones and reconnecting with those long lost – has made up for it ten fold. 

For the first time in a long time, I’m completely happy. 

I have no clue what the future holds for me and I’m okay with that. I’m just taking it day by day, living by the words of the late, great David Bowie…

I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.

A Little Stroke Update

It’s been a little over six weeks since my stroke and I’m happy to say that despite a plethora of  doctors’ appointments (neurologist, speech therapist, hematologist, etc.), life is almost quazi-normal.

My first meeting with the speech therapist went incredibly well. In the week between my hospital stay and appointment, my brain was 90% healed. I didn’t need speech therapy, but I was told to slow down and rest. Okay, done and done.

My neurologist couldn’t find an explanation for cause of the stroke so she sent me to a hematologist to run some tests for genetic and blood clotting disorders. All the tests came back negative; everyone is still clueless as to why this happened.

The appointment with the gynecologist was fun. I was told that if/when I get pregnant, my chances of throwing a clot increase by 15% so I’ll have to inject myself with a blood thinner similar to heparin daily. Apparently, it NOT that big of a deal so we’re good there. He also agreed that there is no legit explanation for stroke and called me a “medical phenomenon.” Yay?

Things are looking up – the side effects of the stroke have only begun to dissipate. My memory,word recall and stuttering has improved. The numbness in my arms and legs has faded away slightly and my fatigue is much better. In fact, I can now go most days without a nap and have become more active. Super stoked about that.

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Nexplanon implant. It doesn’t have estrogen which is the hormone that’s been known to cause blood clots so it’s a safe birth control alternative. PS: it shouldn’t bruise this much, but I’m on a daily aspirin regime. 

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Huntley Meadows Park. Working out is a little tough for me (I could only make it 45 minutes of a yoga class) so I’ve been getting out and exploring Northern Virginia.  

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From the lift at Whitetail. Getting back on the board was a major accomplishment for me! Usually I can last the whole night, but after three hours and falling numerous time on my last ride, I had to call it quits.

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Great Falls, VA. It was an unseasonably 60 degrees in December so I just to get out there and enjoy the weather and the views. 

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Great Falls, VA. Sitting on a mountain top and enjoying the day. 

So far, I’m pretty happy with the strides I’ve made. But honestly, I couldn’t have done it without the support of friends and family and long-lost Facebook friends. The amount of positive vibes, loving comments and well wishes I’ve received has been a-mazing. I cannot thank everyone enough!

Cheers,
Crystan (1)
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I’m 31 & I had a Stroke

November 1, 2016 was the last normal day of my life.

I spent it complaining because I had an early morning meeting and a late afternoon team bonding.

November 2, 2016 started out like any other day. I had a team meeting to go over logistics for a large upcoming holiday event; the rest of the day was to be copacetic.

After the meeting, I ran over to Target to pick up some headphones for a toy drive that we were doing at the aforementioned holiday event. As I pulled my keys out of the ignition, I noticed that my right hand felt numb – not like it had fallen sleep numb, but completely numb. I remember holding my car keys in my right hand as I flopped my wrist back and forth thinking how weird it was.

Then I walked into Target.

After about 15 minutes of unsuccessfully searching for headphones, I left the super store to drop some event linens off at the dry cleaners. As I drove there, I remember wanting to text my friend to see how his day was but I couldn’t remember his name. “Strange”, I thought, “I must be tired” and continued to try to recall his name to no avail.

Two minutes later, I pulled up to the dry cleaners with 15 table cloths in tow, dragging behind me as I carried them in a heap through the front door.

“Phone number?” the clerk barked at me.

I suddenly felt paralyzed even though I wasn’t. I dropped the linens to the floor and knew without speaking that I couldn’t say my phone number. I just grunted.

The clerk came around front to pick up the dropped linens and handed me a slip of paper to write down my number.  My hands were shaking as I started to write my name…

“Crys-”

“No, that’s not right!” I thought as I motioned for more paper.

This happened over and over. The clerk stared at me, flabbergasted. I’m sure she thought I was on drugs. I paced back and forth trying to gather my thoughts and words. At one moment, I thought back to that reporter who’s segment went viral because she butchered her words beyond recognition. They said she had a stroke. Then everything clicked.

Holy shit. I AM HAVING A STROKE.

A few minutes later, I decided to call my sister who works about five miles away and who’s boyfriend is a firefighter. As I searched for her contact information in my phone, the names all looked funny to me. I found it based on the dancing girl emoji I put next to her name. She didn’t pick up and I was irrationally mad. I called my mom next.

Talking to my mom was a blur. I still couldn’t speak well, but she knew something was seriously wrong. She kept asking where I was and what was happening. As hard as I tried to get out words, any words, all she could make out was “I don’t… I don’t…I don’t… I don’t…”

Thankfully, I could understand my mom clearly, who gave me instructions; “go into a store where you know someone (I do the marketing and events for retail centers) and hand them the phone now.” I stumbled, hyperventilating, into Zinga and literary shoved my iPhone into the manager’s face.  I could hear my mom on the other end, panicking, saying “the girl who just walked in is my daughter. She needs you to dial 911.”

Within the three minutes that 911 was called and the ambulance and firefighters arrived, I fully regained my ability to speak. A few minutes later, while being examined by the EMTs, I lost it again.

The EMTs said they couldn’t find anything wrong other than the fact that my blood pressure kept jumping up and down. Based on that information alone, they took me to the hospital.

The ride was nauseating. I remember being surprised that the driver ran lights and sirens; I didn’t feel critical. In fact, I felt fine. I wasn’t in any pain at all. I was mostly annoyed that I couldn’t speak or recall my birthday, addresss, etc. 

Once at the hospital, I was rushed in for an MRI and two different CT scans. Back at the ER, I was given fluids, oxygen and poked and prodded with a ton of other stuff I don’t know the names of. I was given speech tests and asked to pronounce words like “feather” and “huckleberry”. Still stuttering, I kept asking what happened and if my family had arrived. 

My mom and dad were finally allowed into the room just as the off-site neurologist was dialing into the video chat. Thank God because I was about to have to make the most nerve wrecking decision of my life…

Without seeing the MRI yet, the neurologist surmised that I had an acute ischemic stroke and offered the medicine, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Here comes the fun part: tPA should be given within four hours of the time symptoms first started so according to the neurologist “we’re facing a time crunch. You have 30 minutes to decide.” Thanks, doc. But wait, there’s more… one out of 20 patients receiving tPA, bleed out. Nearly half of those patients who experience a hemorrhage, die. 

I sat there quietly, fighting back tears, in absolute shock of the decision that I faced, as my dad asked the neurologist and surrounding nurses and ER doctors all the questions I wished I could ask. After getting the answers, he looked at me as if I was defiant pre-teen about to be scolded and said “you are not getting that drug.”

“Okay…I don’t want to bleed.” I managed to blurt out in agreement. 

Everyone chuckled and it was decided –  I would take my chances without tPA.

Soon after the video chat with the neurologist ended, a hospitalist came in to inform me that he believed I didn’t suffer from a stroke, but rather anxiety. My dad and I looked at the each like “anxiety? Who is this guy and WTF is a hospitalist?” By the way, a hospitalist is a general practitioner that works in a hospital opposed to an office.

Later, the hospitalist came back with his tail between his legs saying, “Welp. I was wrong. Turns out it was a stroke.”

No shit.

“And we’re going to admit you.”

Great.

As I was waiting to be admitted, bored out of my mind, the ER doctor pops her head in casually and says “Oh, by the way, you should stop drinking water because we may transport you to Alexandria for surgery to remove the clot.”

I’m sorry. What?

Surgery?! You cannot just drop a bomb like that and then walk away, but she did.

An hour slowly ticks by and then then ER doctor strolls in, “yea, we’re going to admit you now.”

Okay, so no surgery? Just a night in the hospital? Sweet.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Up on the third floor of the hospital where I spent the night, I’m hooked up to more IVs and these leg compressors to prevent clots (that also made sleep impossible). I’m given heparin shots in the stomach to break up to clot in my brain. Three weeks later and I still have the bruises from the injection sites, but, hey, I’m not complaining.

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I’m told to “relax, get some sleep, no more freaking out” by the nurse.

In my head I’m thinking “you’re bananas.” If I could I speak, I would have to told her to kick rocks, but I couldn’t speak without severely stuttering, so you know, I just kept my mouth shut and gave her the evil eye. 

After five difficult hours of sleep, I’m woken up by the nurses who want to take my vitals and about a gallon blood for lab tests. 

A speech pathologist comes in for an assessment. I need therapy. Duh. Next the occupational therapist and physical therapist stop by; I get a gold star (their words, not mine).

A tech comes in to do the echocardiogram and bubble test. It’s painful. Everything comes back great.

A few hours later, I’m released with a couple of prescriptions in hand and not a clue as to why this stroke happened in first place.

I’m thankful to be alive as stoke is the fifth leading cause of death in the US. I’m lucky to have recovered so quickly even though I still deal with some side effects, such a fatigue, issues with memory and word recall, and numbness in my arms and legs. But I think the worst side effect of all is the fear that comes with not knowing the reason or cause, because that’s something I think about every day, no matter what I am doing, where I am, or who I am with. 

 
Crystan (1)
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