Saturday, May 22, 2010


©2010 by Joyce Mason

Handling Shocks, Recognizing Strokes, and Tips for People Who Are Healing and Their Helpers

My husband and I had a terrible shock recently. He tripped coming into the house and was rendered totally immobile in an instant! He has an underlying muscular condition, a slowly progressing one, and sometimes tripping and falling is part of his everyday experience. Because of that, we just figured he was having an especially bad day. Often, in the past, a night’s rest restored his muscles enough that he’d be back to walking fine with his cane the next morning.

That didn’t happen in this instance, and I couldn’t budge him to get him to an important medical appointment the next day. When I phoned his doctor to cancel and explained what was going on, I was told via the physician’s assistant to call 911 and get Tim to the emergency room and admitted to the hospital immediately.

In the 24 hours between the fall and the hospital stay, we were deer in the headlights. Suddenly I had to give round-the-clock care. I was totally unprepared for this, and rather than “getting” that the severity of his instant downturn meant that we needed medical help immediately; I ran hither, thither, and yon looking for various supplies and things that could help me handle the situation, acting like a good old independent American—and in retrospect, an idiot.

Shock left me void of my normal analytical skills. Does it do the same for you?

Long Story Short

It turned out Tim had experienced a mild stroke and his tests showed it wasn’t the first time. This explained a lot about other symptoms he had in the past and present. For a perfectly healthy person, immobilization is not normal. For a person with a backdrop of mobility limits, it was harder to sort out what was going on.

However, I think if I weren’t suffering from shock, I would have put 2 + 2 together and gone straight 4 the hospital. I shudder to think of how we deprived him from needed treatment for a whole day and the potential consequences. Luckily, after four days inpatient, he’s home and recovering well.

Shock Absorbers

I am poorly wired to handle shocks. I know this about myself. What’s even more disturbing in this situation is that I’m not even sure I recognized shock when I saw it. “Overwhelm” is what I articulated, because suddenly I had to care for both of us in a snap. Considering its impact on functioning in an emergency, I thought it would be good to learn—and share with you—the symptoms of shock and what we can do to help ourselves through it.

First, I should identify: I’m talking about simple, psychological shock, which is different from shock caused by a myriad of medical conditions with a hierarchy of severity that can even lead to death. Shock can be evoked by a present, precipitating event or shock can be stimulated from past trauma, known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. If you have PTSD, you’re more likely to react—even overreact—with shock to a trauma in the present.

Second, if you’re an “emotional” or just plain passionate person, chances are you react to traumatic events in a rather knee-jerk and dramatic way. (How I admire those people who can put their feelings on hold and deal with any emergency at hand in a cool dispassionate manner!) Here are some tips from a wonderful website I found,, for identifying and managing emotional and physical trauma:

The Emotional Symptoms of Trauma

• Shock, denial or disbelief

• Anger, irritability, mood swings

• Guilt, shame, self-blame

• Feeling sad or hopeless

• Confusion, difficulty concentrating

• Anxiety and fear

• Withdrawing from others

• Feeling disconnected or numb

Physical Symptoms of Trauma

• Insomnia or nightmares

• Being startled easily

• Racing heartbeat

• Aches and pains

• Fatigue

• Difficulty concentrating

• Edginess and agitation

• Muscle tension

Shock and Trauma Come in All Shapes and Sizes

My husband’s instant immobility was an obvious shocker, but there are many other things that can provide a shocked reaction in everyday life: unexpected job loss, a scary medical diagnosis, death or serious illness of a loved one.

Situations where you’re likely to respond with psychological shock have a couple of things in common. There is an element of surprise or the unexpected and the events are high on the Stress Scale. Shock sets in because we were unprepared and are suddenly faced with a drastically altered daily reality.

Take the Stress Test to assess your level of stress and its potential impact on you.

My Take-Away: Call the 911 Friendship Hotline

I “get” in retrospect that I was not only reacting without all my wits due to shock, but I did not even identify how shocked I was acting. I had 6 of 8 symptoms of psychological shock and 7 out of 8 of the physical ones. As a person who lives life to learn and share learning, here’s the most important thing I realized:

In any drastic change of situation, especially if you find yourself acting stunned, overwhelmed, or “not yourself,” call a trusted friend or family member and review the situation. A shocked person should not go it alone but get a second opinion about what’s happening.

If I had called any one of my wise girlfriends, they would have helped me wade through my feelings and would have noted “that’s not right” when I shared some of Tim’s drastic and instantly changed symptoms. I know they would have encouraged me not to wait to seek help. When a physical trauma occurs, we call 911 for triage and possible transport to a medical facility. If I had called the “911 Friendship Hotline” for my psychological disorientation as the helper in my husband’s situation, we might have received good advice to get the help he needed faster.

Particularly if you live alone or only with your partner, don’t act like this is the frontier and you’re a rugged individualist conquering new territory. If there were ever a time to seek the support of others, as close as possible to the incident is the time to let your close friends or family know what’s happening. They care! And they will have the cool head you might not possess at the moment.

Recovery Styles and Self-Help in the Aftermath

Each of us has a recovery style when the emergency is over. Some people return to stasis fairly quickly. Others, like myself, hold it together fairly well during the episode then fall apart to one degree or another when the high stress is off.

I was visited by a myriad of nasty emotions in the aftermath: anger, fear, and resentment to name a few. I needed to vent my feelings and weave myself back together. Believe it or not, even though it’s “not his or her fault,” we are often angry at the patient or victim of the trauma, because the threat of losing someone you love brings up all your unresolved issues with the wave of that fear. It’s probably good to do most of your venting with someone other than the patient or victim, who has his or her own healing to do. If you’re lucky enough, like we are, to clear the air and feel better after honest and lively sharing, it may do your heart more good than bad, in the end, to vent with each other. Let your relationship style and history rule.

Also, I found myself reacting in the aftermath to small setbacks like they were big deals. After a shock, stop to assess each situation with a cool head. Ask yourself, what are the facts here? Remember, you’re more likely to overreact because of your recent scare.

This brings up an important point for care givers and companions. It’s hard to keep in perspective how important it is to nurture yourself when the other person is in the medical spotlight. You must take care of yourself or you’ll have nothing to give to your loved one! I found myself missing needed medications and allowing myself to slip into a lower grooming standard. Hot baths, extra rest, checklists and alarms to be sure you don’t miss important meds or routines—all are vital to you and yours.

Symptoms of Stroke

It’s important to know the symptoms of stroke at any age, but especially if you or someone in your household is over the age of 55. (For information on risk factors, click on this Stroke Association link.)

How many times had I received that e-mail that goes around with stroke symptoms, meaning to post it in my medicine cabinet for reference if I ever needed it? How many times did I fail to go from thought to action?

Mini-Stroke – According to a news clip on recognizing the symptoms of a mini-stroke, reporting on a workshop held at Holyoke (MA) Medical Center, you should look for numbness, trouble seeing or speaking, and dizziness. One expert says by recognizing the signs and you can prevent a stroke. "If it’s a serious feeling like symptoms are persisting longer than 5 to 10 minutes, they should go to a hospital and be treated immediately," said Angela Smith, Clinical Manager of Holyoke Medical Center. Why it’s important? If you have a TIA, or mini-stroke, you're 10 times more likely to experience a more serious stroke within three months.

Stroke – According to The Mayo Clinic, watch for these stroke symptoms if you suspect you or someone close to you is having a stroke:

• Trouble with walking

• Trouble with speaking (the person may report this as not being able to get his or her words out, trouble getting from thought to word formation. It may not be obvious to the observer, so ask about it.)

• Paralysis or numbness on one side of the body

• Trouble with seeing

• Headache

Print out and keep this post where you can find it easily or at least cut out the sections on Symptoms of Stroke and the Emotional and Psychological Symptoms of Trauma. Post them near your medical cabinet, first aid kit, or wherever you can consult them in a hurry in an emergency.

I will practice what I preach and do the same!

One-Item First Aid Kit

No, I’m not naïve enough to believe there’s a single cure-all for your first aid kit, but I do believe there is one item no household, purse, or fanny pack should be without. It should be accessible on or near your person at all times, and that’s Rescue Remedy by Bach or Five Flower Remedy by FES. A homeopathic combination that naturally calms stress, I could not have made it through our scary ordeal without it. It’s safe for children and animals, and I especially like the Rescue Remedy pastilles, the black currant flavor, both tasty and calming. Important caution: The Bach pastilles contain xylitol, which has been implicated in illness and even death in pets. If there's any chance your cat, or especially your dog  will get into them, use the liquid tinctures instead.

The Larger Picture: The Times Call for More Elegant—and Speedy—Adaptations to Change

Have you noticed that many people you know and love—and probably you, yourself—are going through a lot right now? Some of my friends and I call them “thick times,” or the Chinese Curse (“May you live in interesting times.”). As an astrologer, I see the universe asking us for major adaptation to change. This invitation comes by way of the stressful configuration of the outer planets at this time. Much has been—and will be—written about the Cardinal T-Square of Saturn, Pluto, and Uranus, recently joined by Jupiter conjunct Uranus. (To read more about these cosmic events, see the sidebar of my other blog, The Radical Virgo. Look for the graphic shown in this paragraph, and click to find a huge collection of articles on the subject posted across the Internet.)

The outer planets are the ambassadors of change, the “stars” that reflect personal and planetary evolution. In this line-up, we’re being asked to evolve as a species—now. I believe our global economic challenges are part of it, and if you’re like me, you’re seeing people with many medical and personal challenges as well. When we have many crises to deal with, we can only be in the moment, concentrate on the immediate challenge, and focus all our resources on resolution.

This climate is a set-up for major growth and skill building. Eckhart Tolle wrote the book, The Power of Now. Now is the time to gain our personal power (symbolized by Pluto), to change quickly (Uranus), and to put these changes into practical application (Saturn). With Jupiter joining the alignment, there's potential for ultimate blessings in these dramatic changes. We are on the brink of a new world and a new species I call homo improvement.

Bear in mind this end goal always during these trying times and keep your sense of humor. During the height of my confusion, I asked jokingly on Facebook if anyone had the cell phone number for Patch Adams. We manifested him in our Emergency Room doctor! He was hilarious and put us both at ease. We had a great discussion of how humor heals, and I swear, I couldn’t have gotten through my life this far without it ….

… and during thick times, I hope you watch lots of comedy and turn every event on its ear in your mind for its humorous potential.

In the end, we’ll live, laugh and love better for our shocking experiences, personal and planetary … and to the degree that we are willing to pay for a ticket on this Rocket Ride to Change.


Photo Credit: Headlights Abstract © Srpehrson

Important Note: This article is provided purely for informational purposes. Readers are asked to make their own determination regarding the quality of the services and products described above. This article is not meant to be advice, and the information is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment.


LB said...

Hi Joyce – Being solely responsible for the wellbeing of another is never easy, no matter how cool, calm and collected we may imagine ourselves to be. I’ve frequently been in that position, so I think I have some understanding of what you’re going through. We’re so often filled with profound regret and a sense of powerlessness; it can be very overwhelming.

I’m glad your husband is recovering, and I hope your own recovery soon follows. I’ll be sending healing thoughts your way. Thanks for sharing.

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks, LB. It's a blessing to know there are caring others out there who have a sense of what it's like to go through something like this. I really appreciate hearing from you!

Susannah said...

Hi Joyce, so sorry to hear what you both went through. Take good care of yourself.

Good advice in this poSt too.

Much love to you. x

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks for your TLC, Susannah! Tim and I agreed that if there is anything in our experience that might help others, we should share it. I learned a lot in the research for the post. Again, I so appreciate your support!

Sandra Mosley said...

Speaking of shock... isn't it interesting that the times we most need to reach out for help are the times we tend to think we can go it on our own? Been there myself, repeatedly. Thanks for the reminder and all the other great advice.

So sorry to hear of your traumatic experience. Sending you and your husband love and lots of positive healing energy.

Joyce Mason said...

Sandra, thanks for the "been there, done that." Makes me feel less out of it!:) I definitely got the lesson to ask for help. You prove, once more, that I have the most caring friends on Earth! Blessings.

Eileen Williams said...

Dearest Joyce,

You have indeed suffered a great shock and I'm sorry to learn of the toll it took on you both emotionally and physically. However, as you are a woman of great depth, resilience, and spirituality, you're not letting it get you down for long. Instead, you're finding a way to turn your own misfortune into helping others. By sharing your experience in your helpful and uplifting post, you are providing solace and much needed information to countless others. Way to go, Joyce!

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks, Eileen. You're the best! Tim agreed to sharing our medical adventure. In other words, this post has the Good Husband-Keeping Seal of Approval! (Husband approved, wife written.) I feel so supported by friends and family, my connection to Spirit, and am so grateful for my sense of humor. I'm glad to be at a point in life where I truly "get" that we are each other. One of the joys of the Internet is our ability to share, learn, and grow from each other's experiences. Thanks for the encouragement and kind words!

Lana said...

Dear Joyce
Just want to join with others wishing you all the strength you need. Thank you for sharing what you have learned. It is difficult to function when you go into shock, especially mutliple shock, and to keep our connection with Spirit. But you picked yourself up and even found your funny bone. What a woman!

Joyce Mason said...

Lana, you are so sweet. I need all the moral support I can get, so thanks for yours! Apparently, we aren't completely out of the woods as Tim has been called back to see his cardiologist next week via a phone message. (No hint, just that it's about the results of one of his tests.) I don't think I mentioned in this post that this happened a week after he had a cardiac procedure and two stents put in. I believe my funny bone is the central one in my skeleton that holds me up and keeps me together! Not a day goes by that I'm not eternally grateful for my sense of humor--and fabulous friends!

Thanks, again.