I woke up in a cold sweat the night before my flight to London. There was a lot on my mind: what if I couldn’t manage traveling on my own? What if I got lost in the city and couldn’t find my way back? Since having a stroke, I had never traveled anywhere without my parents, and I definitely hadn’t so much as left the country in over two years. This trip would be a big test, an experiment for me to see what I could handle and do on my own.
The next evening, my brother and I would be heading to London for an eight day holiday to visit our younger sister (who was studying a semester at Kings College), and my best friend from Georgetown. I would be spending the week at my friend Freddy’s house in West London, and my brother would be staying with some coworkers who recently moved to the city. I was so excited; I hadn’t been back to Europe since I studied abroad in Madrid in 2015. So this trip felt long overdue. But a part of me was also nervous for this adventure. I needed to prove to myself and to my family that I was capable of independence abroad. This trip would give me a good idea of where I stood in terms of what I could do on my own and what I still needed to work on.
My siblings and I had semi-planned out a bunch of fun activities for this week, including day trips to Dublin and Oxford, some nice dinners in London, and of course, some shopping. I was taking the whole week off from work, and my brother was working out of the London office for two days, so I figured this gave me some time to focus on my exercises and writing while he was at work and my sister in class.
Before we departed for London Heathrow, my mom told me to pay extra attention to my body and the signals it gave me of tiredness. Neuro fatigue hit me harder now, and when it did it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to be extra cognizant of my body’s signals so I didn’t over exert myself.
I would definitely be going out for drinks with Freddy and my siblings, so I had to keep in mind my limits when it came to alcohol. Alcohol affects me differently now, and while I still do enjoy social drinking with good friends, I can’t handle as many drinks as I used to. When I have a couple of drinks in me now, the liquor negatively affects my walking and slurs my speech. I wear a brace and already have a slight limp, so I like to joke that my normal walking looks like I’m drunk, so I can’t actually get drunk as I’m already impaired.
When we went out to dinner, on multiple occasions the bouncer standing outside the bar stopped me and asked if I was okay to come into the restaurant, because they didn’t allow drunk people inside. so I found myself many times having to explain my situation until the bouncers but I just look like I’m drunk even when I’m not, because of the way I walk. This happened a few times over the course of the week, and got to be a little annoying. But I understand the bouncers’ point of view. Here comes a girl who can’t walk well, trying to get into the bar. Took a lot out of me to remain patient and calmly explain myself.
I knew that this week in London I’d have to really monitor my eating and especially drinking, because no one wants to see a drunk girl hobbling out of the bar who can’t walk well to begin with.
After suffering a stroke, I also realized that my metabolism had changed. I couldn’t just eat whatever I wanted anymore without consequence. I started to notice that I gained weight when I ate carb heavy meals. So for the past two years I’d been making an effort to restrict my diet to low carb. I essentially hadn’t had a slice of pizza, a beer, or bread in two years. All this effort, and I was just maintaining (or sometimes gaining) weight. It was really annoying. And the last thing I wanted was to come back from a week in London to discover I’d gained ten pounds.
I was on holiday, yes, so I could loosen up my diet a bit and enjoy myself, but weight loss/maintenance was still important to me, so I couldn’t go crazy.
In the next few posts I’ll talk about the specifics of my trip and how I managed London, Dublin, and Oxford post-stroke. Spoiler alert: I did actually break my no beer rule and have a Guinness at the Guinness factory in Dublin. Stay tuned, and as always please reach out and share with me your experience with travel post-stroke or tbi. I’d love to hear about how you manage travel and neuro fatigue. Shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or DM me on Instagram (@maddistrokeofluck). And don’t forget you can subscribe for blog updates on my website. Look forward to hearing from you. Onward!