'You just never know...' so why worry?

A good friend, who knows a lot about such things, told me a few years ago that we have 80,000 thoughts a day and 80% of them involve things that will never happen "So why worry about it?"

That statistic (I have not the slightest idea whether there is scientific evidence for it, by the way) has stuck in my mind ever since, especially through a series of scenarios which could have ended badly. The latest, of course, involves the friend I have mentioned several times recently who has been in hospital after an accident.

In the early days in hospital, things looked very grim and a lot of those 80,000 daily thoughts involved things like: "What if she doesn't survive?"; "What if she's paralysed?"; "What happens if she can't live independently at home?".

At that time, the prospect of her living a normal life seemed quite a way off, but the NHS has worked its' magic in various ways and as I write, she is coming home to resume a normal life. She is quite battered and bruised, still fragile and not a little scared about the same thing happening. But I've told her there's no point in worrying about any of that, no point in worrying about anything other than today, in fact, because 'you just never know what will happen.''

It's becoming a bit of a mantra for me. I gave a talk this morning in which I said there is supposed to be a 30% likelihood of me having another stroke because I've already had one. But I can't let that thought rule my life. Sure, I have to be sensible and keep my stress down, sleep properly, eat and drink sensibly, but there's a 70% chance I won't have another. And as a betting man since the 1973 Grand National (I was nine, my nan placed the bet - on Crisp, who led until the final few yards when it was overhauled by an animal called Red Rum), I'll live with those odds.

This week started, as I said in my last post, on a downer. For whatever reason, I felt about 150, everything ached, I had no energy. Monday was rubbish. Yet it ended this morning with me delivering a talk about the brain and how it works, which was described by someone in the audience as 'riveting' (a comment which has made my day.).

So five days ago, I was in the depths, now I'm on a high. 'You just never know.' So why worry?

Helping people deal with life after stroke

Statistics issued by the Stroke Association in February of this year show that there are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK every year. That's roughly one every five minutes.

All those strokes, plus the fact that most strokes are no longer instantly fatal as they were even just a few years ago, mean that there are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK. And those people are younger than they used to be - another set of figures released in February showed that the average age of a person suffering their first stroke fell between 2007-16 from 71 to 68 for men and from 75 to 73 for women.

At the same time, the proportion of first-time strokes suffered by 40-69 year-olds went up from 33% to 38%.

So it's undoubtedly true that there are more of us out there than there used to be. It's undoubtedly also true that I'm becoming more aware of that fact - news about stroke attracts my interest more. But it does seem that in recent weeks, I can't do anything without hearing about someone (or someone's friend or relative) who has had a stroke.

And I seem to be becoming the person everyone I know is recommending as the man to speak to for advice. About ten days ago, a friend posted on social media that her father had suffered a stroke while at a sporting club's awards night. Within a few hours, the post was full of comments from people saying: "You've got to speak to The Warrior "; "Have you spoken to The Warrior?"; "The first thing you need to do is speak to The Warrior".

She told me afterwards that I was the first person who came into her mind. We have spoken on several occasions since and will speak again soon. I'm pleased to say her father is now out of hospital, but his family are starting to realise that this is when the hard work begins; when the  support which the NHS is unable to give is most needed. That's when I hope I can help.

On Saturday afternoon, I put myself through the 90 minutes of unnecessary stress which is watching Tamworth FC fight against relegation from Nationwide League North, the sixth tier of English football. They put in a typically shambolic performance, failed to take any number of chances and conceded two goals in the final five minutes (including one when the goalkeeper let a harmless shot squeeze through his legs).

Like any good football fan in those circumstances, I was spitting blood as I left the ground so I nearly didn't see one of the matchday volunteers rushing across the (artificial) pitch shouting my name. She caught me just in time and told me that the husband of a friend of hers had suffered a stroke last week. Could she give her friend my details, she wondered?

Of course. It put Tamworth's defeat in perspective, for a start. We haven't had that conversation yet but I am sure it will happen later this week.

I always say when I do talks about stroke-awareness that if I can stop one person from going through what stroke-survivors go through, if I can help one single stroke-survivor cope with their 'new' life, it's worth it.

I just wish the high-speed, high-pressure, lifestyle which too many of us live in the 21st century didn't lead to so many strokes.

Have a happy Easter weekend - I intend to

It's been rather depressing around this blog over the past couple of weeks. The talk has been of hospitals and accidents and worry and stress. Totally understandable, because the nature of this blog is that I reflect what's happening in my life and yes, the last couple of weeks have been tough personally.

But as I sit here on Good Friday morning, pondering for longer than usual to write, I've decided to try to strike a positive note. The last two weeks have really prompted me to focus on dealing with stuff as it happens, then putting it behind me, rather than worrying about what has happened or what could happen.

For instance, a letter arrived in the post on Tuesday. I don't need to expand on the contents here, but in past times, it could/would have frightened me to death. I'd have spent days worrying about how to deal with it. Instead, a chance meeting with a business contact later that day gave me a solution. A letter has been drafted in reply and the situation has been dealt with.

Then, on Thursday, I was contacted by someone who had taken offence over a post on social media. Until recently, I would have let it ruin my day and probably my week. Instead, I chose to take note of what was said, not get involved in a back-and-forth slanging match which would do nobody any good and would probably escalate the situation, but rather to move on with life.

 And that means thinking about two instances this week where my message about the dangers of stress has obviously made a difference. On Wednesday morning, I had a Skype call with a trusted friend and business contact during which they said: "I know I've been working too hard and doing too much recently and it's made me think about your story and realise things have to change.''

The following day, someone asked me: "Why do you do what you do, when you could just sit at home without any stress?''. I was able to tell them that the obvious impact I have made on my friend is why I do what I do.

And while I sit writing this, I see that someone else has mentioned me on social media with the observation that: "The Warrior has a very strong message that EVERYONE (his capitals!) needs to hear.''

Again, that's why I do what I do. And it's why, over this Easter weekend, I'm focusing on those kind words; on the conversation I had yesterday about walking naked through a forest of bluebells; on the fun things that have happened this week, rather than the difficult stuff.

I'm not ignoring the difficult stuff; I'm just saying there's absolutely nothing I can do to control it, so why worry about it? I suggest you spend this holiday weekend doing the same.

Any progress is good - however slow and faltering

Another week, another hospital - literally. After a fortnight in intensive care, the friend I mentioned last week was transferred on Wednesday evening to a hospital nearer home. 

It's a good sign that the doctors consider her fit enough to be moved, but past experiences suggest the quality of care (and certainly the number and visibility of medical staff) might not be as good.

We'll see; all the signs are that the road to recovery will be long and complicated (as with a stroke-survivor, obviously) but progress has been made in the last week and my own case shows that any progress, however faltering, has to be seen as good.

What the past fortnight has done is remind me how exhausting supporting someone who is seriously ill can be. Hospitals tend to be hot and stuffy (which, of course, is better than being cold) and my tendency to nod off at the first opportunity has been sorely tested. Throw in the fact that packed train carriages tend to be equally hot and stuffy and I seem to have spent most of the last two weeks falling asleep alongside a hospital bed or falling asleep at home.

I have certainly been extending my afternoon nap closer to two hours than the usual one and there have been times when my brain has been so fuzzy that I haven't wanted to get out of bed in the morning. When I talk about the little things I live with every day as a stroke-survivor, that's what I mean.

It's also affected my balance more than I expected. My stroke damaged the cerebellum, the area at the bottom of the rear of the brain which is responsible for balance and co-ordination. This often means I have to hold on to Mrs Warrior while we are out walking and if I am out on my own, I usually walk with a stick - the alternative is to risk walking like a drunk and possibly taking a nasty fall, something I have done far too often.

That damage gets worse under stress and I have definitely felt my balance become much more uncertain over the past few days, hence my stick has become a regular companion. It's taken me back to the days immediately after my stroke when putting one foot in front of the other and staying upright was an achievement. Given that my friend's accident involved a serious fall, she is going through the same emotions. Frightened to put one foot in front of another in case she falls again, she is extremely wary of getting out of bed, doing the most basic physiotherapy or even moving.

It's not a good feeling and it's one with which I empathise. I had the drive and determination to keep going despite it (and I was considerably younger); I'm not sure my friend does. Being able to say 'I've been where you are and I've come through it' is one of the most important parts of what I do. A lot of stroke-survivors feel as if they are the first person this has ever happened to - I know I did. Being able to provide support and experience as someone who has been there, done it and worn the stroke-charity T-shirt is important to me.

It's why I write this blog, it's why I do public-speaking about stroke-awareness, it's why I hope to venture soon into the 21st-century world of podcasting. When that happens, you'll hear about it here first. 

A week in the life of the National Health Service

This week, I have mainly been in hospital. I'm pleased to say there's nothing wrong with me besides my usual difficulties, but someone I am very close to suffered an unpleasant accident last Sunday and as I write this on Friday afternoon, is still in hospital.

Mrs Warrior and I have been visiting every day, which has brought back the joys of commuting by train, but which has also allowed us to be reminded of the NHS and all the stories surrounding it.

My friend suffered the accident at about 6pm last Sunday. Within 20 minutes (and yes, I know there are people who would wish it to be two minutes), two paramedic ambulances were on the scene and four excellent paramedics were at work. Within an hour, my friend was in A&E and actually being dealt with.

Within three hours of the accident, she was transferred by ambulance to another, better-equipped, hospital at which consultants had judged that she could be properly dealt with.

For the next four days, a nurse was constantly at her bedside, consultants visited twice a day, the family were kept fully informed about the situation and her health was as closely monitored as possible. 

On day five, she began the long, slow, process of physiotherapy (been there, done that!) in the caring company of two simply excellent physiotherapists who understood her situation and adjusted accordingly. Day Six is today; I haven't visited today because the strain and stress of commuting was beginning to tell - as one of my closest friends often says; "I am not coming to visit you in hospital if you wear yourself out....." - but I am hopeful of hearing of further improvement.

It's easy to knock the NHS - stories of five-hour waits in A&E make for simple clickbait journalism - but nothing Mrs Warrior and I have seen makes us think anything other than that the National Health Service at the frontline is staffed by anything other than talented, dedicated people who often work long hours in stressful situations and cope with them superbly.  

Off on my travels - and getting lost again

This week has seen me off on my travels again. No, not driving just a few miles down the road and getting lost in the process, as I did recently. This time, I was using my absolutely invaluable Disabled Railcard and going off to spend two days in South Wales.

I had been asked to make the journey several months ago, by Dr Bridget Kirsop, a former GP who is now an NLP trainer and business coach. We met through the business networking group 4Networking (www.4networking.biz), Bridget heard my story and asked me to tell it to a 4N branch in Swansea. 

That's 162 miles from Tamworth and far too much for me to tackle in a day, so I arranged to travel down on Wednesday lunchtime, stop overnight in Swansea, do the talk on Thursday morning and have a leisurely journey back on Thursday afternoon. And I'm pleased to say that it all went very well.....apart from the moment when I tried to check into the wrong hotel in Swansea. Same well-known national chain, two hotels within two miles of each other and as I was unable to check the email confirming my booking because my phone had run out of charge, I chose the wrong one. A simple mistake which anyone could make, even someone with a fully-functioning brain, lol......

I was even able to enjoy some excellent real ale on the Wednesday evening. If I want to know anything about any pub or brewery in the country, I simply consult the encyclopedic brain of Adrian Smith, of The King's Ditch micropub in Tamworth. Not too many people know more and when an initial search of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide seemed to suggest three outlets of less-than-inspiring national chains, I knew where to turn.

''You must try the No Sign wine bar'' said my encyclopedia. It turned out that the said establishment was a decent rugby penalty-kick away from my hotel, an oasis in a street full of places which are probably packed every weekend with teenagers wearing not a lot and getting wrecked on cheap cocktails. You could get a sense of the atmosphere by the fact that even on a rain-soaked Wednesday night in March, there were police vans patrolling the street.

The No Sign, however, was outstanding. Five handpulls on the bar, excellent food, real ciders and a wall full of awards from CAMRA branches. I could have stayed all night, but business breakfasts start annoyingly early in the morning.

I got a good night's sleep (don't you love it when you wake up two minutes before the alarm goes off?), my talk was very well-received, I've made some very useful contacts, I've been invited back. Can't ask for anything more. Of course, I was zonked when I got back to Warrillow Towers, straight to bed for two hours' rest, a quiet day today, a quiet weekend ahead.

Plenty of people tell me I do too much on these trips. I know they have my interests at heart and I always tell them I can cope. I can, as long as I know my limits. And I could have stayed at home this week. Instead, I've scared more people into thinking seriously about stroke and stress, I've enjoyed some excellent new ale, I've spread my very important message. To me, that's a good week. 

Little or large? When minor irritants become major worries

Having a stroke is devastating; of course it is, that's stating the bleedin' obvious. It ended my working life at the age of 49, for a start. 

But what I try to do in writing and speaking about living with stroke is to educate people about the little ways in which it affects life; the things which most of us would laugh off as occasional inconveniences, but which stroke-survivors live with every day. I've had two of those this week and I'd like to share them with you.

On Tuesday morning, I was due to give a talk to a group of members of 4Networking, the business networking group I belong to and which I often mention (find them at www.4networking.biz). The meeting was only a few miles away and although I didn't know where the venue was, I thought it wouldn't be difficult to find.

I have a satnav, but I find them distracting; these days, if I'm driving I want to concentrate on the road. No radio, no conversation and certainly no irritating American lady chirping in my ear. So I went out and bought a brand new A-Z and studied it intently for two days until I knew my route off by heart.

Only I didn't. As usual, I left in plenty of time (even factoring in ten minutes to defrost the car windows) and all was well until I got to a three-way junction less than two miles from the venue. Left? Right? Straight ahead? I consulted the A-Z (having pulled off the road, obviously) and chose to turn right, expecting to see a left-turn a few hundred yards ahead which would lead to my destination.

I turned right, but the left-turn wasn't there. In fact, there were no turns off the main road for three miles, by which time I had a queue of angry drivers in Chelsea tractors behind me (it's that sort of area....).

I panicked. I pulled off the main road and consulted the map again. I should have gone straight ahead at the junction. So I turned the car around, found the junction, took the exit I should have taken and looked for my destination side-road.

Of course, rather than there being no side-roads, there were now side-roads every 50 yards - and I was late for the meeting. I hate being late for anything because I stress about people worrying about where I am. And on a freezing morning, it's just started snowing heavily.

Driving just about fast enough not to irritate those behind me, yet slowly enough to read the signs, I could feel panic rising. I was going to be late, I'd take another wrong turn and head in completely the wrong direction.

It can only have lasted a few minutes before I did find the right turning but, to me, it was scary. Imagine that happening not occasionally, but several times a day. Have I lost my keys? Did I lock the car? Did I lock the front door? Will I miss my train? Will I fall over? Will the hole-in-the-wall reject my cashcard? 

Those are all regular daily thoughts with which my knackered brain presents me. My sensible brain knows to reject them - someone once told me that we have hundreds of thousands of thoughts each day and 80% of them will never happen - but my strokie brain treats them as devastating. And there's nothing I can do about it.

There is a good ending to that story, by the way (there usually is, if I'm honest). The leader of the group posted this comment on social media after the meeting: "Today, I heard Martin speak about the lessons he learnt from the day he had a stroke and was nearly run over by a bus. They are really powerful messages. If you haven't heard Martin speak, I recommend you do.''

Testimonials like that make all the stress and panic worthwhile.

This week's other issue is one I usually try to make light of. I regularly point out how my memory issues mean I have two whiteboards and two paper calendars in the kitchen, plus a calendar app on my phone and Post-it notes all over the house.

And I have often noted that it's no good having all those aides-memoires if you put one date on one calendar and a different one on another.

Today, I'm due to have an hour-long FaceTime call with someone at 3.30pm. Which is what I put in the calendar on my phone and on both paper calendars. But on the whiteboards, I wrote: "Talk to X, Thursday'', thinking March 2 was Thursday. So when I texted X at 2pm yesterday, asking: ''Still on for this afternoon?'' she was rightly confused. Only half-an-hour later did I recognise my mistake.

I texted her, we shared lots of laughter emojis, the world hadn't ended. It was a minor inconvenience. But when minor inconveniences like that happen every day, they can get in your head. And my head has quite enough to deal with, thank you......  

So what does stroke-fatigue really feel like?

Telling people what it's like to live with brain damage is one of the most important things I do. 'Imagining' life with brain damage is impossible. Unless you're living on my side of the fence, you can have no understanding whatever of how it feels.

That might sound smug; it might sound condescending to some, but it's true. I often speak to people who don't actually believe that stroke-fatigue is 'a thing'. Rather than the truth, which is that stroke-fatigue is your knackered brain saying it's had enough and needs rest now, some people see it as an excuse - a reason to be lazy.

That misunderstanding is why my Warrior tattoo and all my branding carries the verse "I fight for my health every day in ways most people don't understand; I'm not lazy, I'm a Warrior''. It's why I put out a social media post on Monday which was intended to give some insight into stroke fatigue. It said this: ''Don't believe stroke-fatigue is a thing? Let me tell you about my morning. Up at 8.30 to feed dog and cat, into town to replace mangled cashcard (note to self - don't sit on them), home to write and send confirmation email for 4Networking Tamworth breakfast on Thursday, greet usual Monday 11am visitor, start to feel rubbish, need to go to bed, fall asleep, wake up three hours later. That's what stroke-fatigue does. Please don't work yourself into a stroke and have to deal with this every day of your life.''

It was intended to make people think, especially the last sentence. It was intended to make them realise that having to go to sleep for three hours on a Monday lunchtime is not a choice for me, it's a necessity. If I don't do it, I will simply be unable to function. My brain would decide it was going to sleep anyway and I'd find myself sound asleep where I sat, eventually waking up God knows when.

I was talking to a fellow strokie this week who has a heated pad to rest on because of the various aches and pains she suffers. She told me that even the heat from the pad can exhaust her brain and make her fall asleep. She has suddenly disappeared in the middle of one of our text conversations, only to reappear 30 minutes later and say: "sorry, I dozed off! (at 3pm!!).

My post prompted a reply from someone on Facebook who commented that a friend of hers was suffering similar tiredness after a nasty fall which left her unconscious for a week in hospital, with no memory at all of three of those days.

That made me want to point out again how delicate is the human brain. It comprises about 75 per cent water, is the fattiest organ in the body (about 60% of the solid matter in the brain is fat) and has the texture of blancmange or tofu. And yet we bash it around inside our skulls and put the 100 billion neurons inside it under enormous pressure every day of our lives. Is it any wonder if it sometimes decides it can't cope any more?

I have often described the pain I felt when having my stroke as: 'like having an atom bomb go off in my head' as an artery burst and the flow of blood to my brain was blocked. Don't fancy having an atom bomb go off in your head? In that case, please take care of your brain. Feed and water it properly, give it rest when it needs.

If you do, it will serve you very well as what it is, which is the greatest piece of kit ever invented. If you don't, it might not - and as I discover every day of my life, that's the worst feeling in the world.

Why do I do what I do? This is why......

It's the nature of writing (and, I suppose, speaking) as a skill that sometimes, you sit in front of your computer, as I am now, with one single idea in your head and know instantly what to write about. For instance, I could do 800 words on why my post-stroke brain often fails to distinguish between 'now' and 'know.,

At other times, you can sit here for a very long time waiting for an idea to present itself. When that happens (and it does, believe me) I usually go off and do something else, during which time an idea presents itself for no reason whatsoever.

Then, there are the times when you are positively bursting with ideas and struggle to decide on one. Today is one of those. I could write about Monday when, with a foresight which is often beyond me, I booked Mrs Warrior and I Christmas Day lunch 2018 in a good restaurant. 

I could write about Tuesday, when I had a very useful conversation with a friend which helped in a number of ways, then went to see Brad Burton speak at a 4Networking event in Tamworth and still managed time to fit in the last 45 minutes of Tamworth FC being hammered by Blyth Spartans, followed by beers.

I could even write about my restful Wednesday. Instead, I'm going to write about a less-than-restful Thursday, because it sums up so well what I do these days.

I was up much too early for the launch of a 4Networking group in Lichfield. There, I met a lady who runs her own coaching business. By her own admission, she was working too hard, doing too much. When I told her what I was all about, she was horrified. I don't think it had remotely occurred to her that what she was doing, how she was living, was dangerous. Now it has and we intend to discuss it in more depth next week. 

When I speak at networking meetings, I say I scare people (in a good way, obviously) because I don't want them to end up like me. If that lady has been given pause for thought by what I said, it's made my week.

What really made my week, even though it was stupid logistically, was what I did next. I drove home, rushed in to say hello to Mrs Warrior and the dog, then rushed off again to Walsall. I shouldn't have done that, I should have rested, but I wanted to spend time with a friend called Rene Power of Vision B2B and the members of his Vision Inspire group at his Vision Live workshop.

One of the issues I struggle with in terms of marketing what I do is where to focus my efforts. There are so many ways to market yourself these days and I often feel that because of my health issues, I'm not doing things that I could/should be doing.

Three hours with Rene and co (I have to mention Julie Scott, Alison Thomson, Owen Costen, Martyn Coton, Rich Amor-Wilkes, Sian Rowsell, Paul Thompson, Mark Wilkins, Phil Davenport and Michelle Dalley) focused my mind and reminded me that writing is what I am good at and enjoy (even if it is one-finger typing these days), so that is what I should do; this blog, a book which I am making slow progress with...

I didn't get home until after 7pm, making it a stupid 11-hour day. I crashed into bed immediately for an hour to 'rest my eyes', got up to eat, then went back to bed almost straight away and slept for 11 hours.

That's my life these days - bursts of energy, then long periods of rest. That's what brain-damage does. But as I say so often, at least I have a life. Too many like the lady I met carry on like that and kill themselves. Making them think about the consequences before they do is now my 'why.'

Every little helps to raise my nationwide profile

One of the great difficulties of trying to get across a message such as mine is the fact that it is very easy to end up talking to the same people all the time.

Even though that core audience may consist of tens of thousands of people, you have to remember that only a very tiny percentage of them are interested; it's a truism of what I do that people only become aware of/interested in stroke when it affects them or a friend or a family member. 

Therefore, I have to take every opportunity to widen my audience. My health and my finances often make it difficult for me to actively go out into the wider world and do that (I could do five networking meetings a week, but doing that was what helped put me in this hole in the first place) so I can't afford to turn down chances which are presented to me.

The radio interview which I mentioned in last week's post is a case in point; something similar has happened twice this week. Months ago, I went to Hull to give a talk. Yes, it was a long day; yes, it tired me mentally and physically. But while standing in a queue for lunch, I got talking to a lady who said: "I really must introduce you to someone. She's an academic with an interest in stroke research. You'd be perfect.''

Then, as often happens, the trail went cold for months. Life got in the way. I met the lady from the lunch queue at another event and she said: "I really must....''

Then, the trail went cold for months again. Until I got a message on LinkedIn last Friday, shortly after writing last week's blog. It was from the lady from the lunch queue, finally connecting me with her friend. Messages were exchanged and we agreed to talk on Monday of this week.

That conversation lasted 30 minutes and could have gone on for hours. "Do you know....?'' "Yes, I've met them several times.''. "Have you ever spoken to.....?'' "Yes, regularly."

We have since exchanged contact details, connected across all the important social media channels, I have read one of her research papers and plans are being discussed for me to take part in an exciting project later this year. All because we persisted until the time was right for us to connect properly, a networking mantra which my good friend Stefan Thomas (what Stef doesn't know about networking isn't worth knowing) says is crucial to finding new links and a new audience.

Then, over the weekend, I was contacted by another person with an interest in what I do. Dr Bridget Kirsop lives in south Wales. I've met her once in person, at a networking event late last year. Off the back of that, she invited me to speak at an event in south Wales next month. Now, she wanted to know if I would be interviewed live for her Facebook group  'One Step Closer - Business Success''

As I said last week, three decades of being around the media means that live interviews don't bother me. The group contains over 400 members; some will know me well, some will know me vaguely, some wouldn't know me from a hole in the wall. So it was an opportunity to introduce myself to another audience - even if just one person was interested. 

So, we did the interview via Zoom, I hope I scared a few more people into thinking about how stroke might affect them and hopefully, a few more people are aware of The Warrior.

As I said at the start of this piece, I may not be able to do as much as some, but I can do what I can, when I can. Hopefully, the last two weeks have helped with that.

Radio Times - but not quite TV Times

One of the questions I get asked a lot by people I am meeting for the first time is: "Yes, but why should I listen to you? What makes you qualified to talk about work-stress and stroke-awareness?''

My answer, of course, is that I've suffered a stroke, been through everything that comes with it and escaped from the other end of the tunnel with my life more-or-less intact.

I don't intend to get into a pointless argument about whether you have to have actually experienced something yourself to be an expert in it, but I do know that my life-experience makes me at least as qualified as anyone else (and probably more) to talk about work-stress and stroke-awareness.

It also means that when the media want someone to comment on stroke, because it's the 'hot' story of the day, I am someone who immediately springs to mind. In my previous life as a journalist, of course, I've seen this from the other side. As a reporter or researcher or presenter or editor (or even content-curator, as the millennial phrase puts it), you need to have a book full of contacts; people or organisations you can rely on to instantly provide a succinct quote on whatever topic is their speciality.

I'm pleased to say that over the last two or three years, I've started to become one of those people. I'm not sure whether it's because my journalistic background enables me to explain things clearly and succinctly, or because my story is so compelling in itself, but I have stared to find that whenever the subject of stroke is in the news, my phone rings. It happened this week.

On Thursday, new figures were unveiled showing that the average age of people in England suffering a stroke for the first time has fallen over the past decade; between 2007-16, it went down from 71 to 68 for men and from 75 to 73 for women.

This was put down to a fall in the proportion of strokes suffered by the elderly, partly due to better healthcare. But the proportion of first-time strokes suffered by people aged between 40 and 69 had gone up from 33% to 38% - I was 49 when I had my stroke.

In newsrooms all over the country, journalists were scrambling to find 'middle-aged' stroke-survivors to tell their stories. At 10.35, my phone rang - it was a journalist from Channel 5 News wondering if I could get to London ASAP and at their expense to be interviewed. Unfortunately, an appointment that afternoon with a medical consultant in Tamworth made that difficult and they obviously found someone closer to the only city in the country that matters (I'm joking, obviously.....) because they didn't ring me back.

No matter. Earlier in the week, I had been contacted by the producer of the Graham Torrington show on BBC Radio WM. They had first interviewed me a couple of years ago and had obviously been impressed because they wanted an update. Originally, the idea had been to pre-record the interview and save it for broadcast next week. But when the stroke-statistics story broke, the plan changed so that I would be interviewed 'off-air' and it would be played on Thursday night's show.

In addition, what was probably intended as a 15-minute interview ran for 30 minutes. I think it's good but you can judge for yourselves at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05srj8z#play. My interview starts about an hour and 28 minutes and runs for 30 minutes. It'll be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast. Please give it a listen. Hopefully, it'll help you understand why I do what I do - and why I feel qualified to talk about it.  

The trouble with getting old is that friends keep dying

The trouble with moving into middle-age and beyond (and as I'll be 54 in March, I can't be described as anything other than middle-aged) is that the number of funerals you attend seems to increase exponentially.

Counting the scattering of my dad's ashes three weeks ago, I've attended four since mid-October. Two were of a married couple, longstanding friends of ours from church and work (sadly, they died within days of each other and the last time I saw the lady alive was at her husband's funeral, an occasion she was determined to attend) and the latest was of a Catholic priest who served our parish for ten years and who died of pancreatic cancer, the same ugly disease which killed my father.

The priest's funeral was held this week in St Albans in Hertfordshire, obviously a decent distance from Warrillow Towers even if I was fit and healthy. But a delegation from our parish were hiring a minibus to make the journey and Mrs Warrior and I wanted to be among them.

Father Tom Hewitt did a lot of us in the early years of our marriage and played a key role in my decision to be received into the Catholic Church. I felt it was the least I could do to pay my last respects. Yet the service was due to begin at 10am on Wednesday. Leaving sufficient time for the delights of the M1 in the rush hour (and what turned out to be ceaseless heavy rain) meant leaving Tamworth at 7am - which meant a 5am alarm call.

Mrs Warrior spent the few days leading up to Wednesday talking about being asleep by 7pm on Tuesday. I knew that wouldn't happen and it didn't. Suffice to say that I couldn't tell you how bad the M1 traffic was on Wednesday morning, because I fell asleep within minutes of the journey starting and woke up three hours later as the minibus pulled into the church. Sometimes, there are benefits to being able to sleep anywhere at any time because of stroke-fatigue.

The funeral service was unforgettable. There must have been 30 priests present from Fr Tom's religious order and if you go for elaborate 'candles-and-incense' funerals, as I do, there is nothing quite like a priest's funeral.

I could have done without the well-meaning and completely unsuspecting friend going into the gory details of pancreatic cancer so soon after seeing what it did to Mr Warrior senior, but the rest of the day was memorable. The Tamworth contingent were invited to a three-course lunch with Fr Tom's family and all the priests which surely tried the patience of our driver, whose timetable was knocked off course as surely as if he had been ferrying a coach full of drunken football fans.

I slept again through much of the three-hour journey home and forced myself into a really early night, as I had to help run a networking breakfast on Thursday morning. It was a daunting schedule and in my state of health, one I should keep to an absolute minimum. Thankfully, the few days since Wednesday have been quiet and I am committed to only one two-hour event in the coming week. The rest is for rest, as it were.

After all, I keep having friends tell me they would rather not attend my funeral just yet - elaborate or not. 

A good end to a hard week

It was a rough old start to last week at Warrillow Towers, which is partly why this blog is being written 48 hours later than usual.

From Saturday to Monday of the week which has just passed, I was crushed by stroke fatigue. The warning lights had started flashing on the Friday evening, when a good friend (one of those few who won't beat about the bush if they feel I need my backside kicking) told me I looked awful.

He said I looked tired and washed out. He was correct, as he always is. He asked me what I planned to do over the weekend and when I said 'nothing', he replied: "Good, because you need a rest.'' And as it always does with stroke fatigue, my body decided it needed a rest and I had no choice but to follow. 

Much to Mrs Warrior's chagrin (because it was a non-football Saturday), I spent from 1pm-5pm on Saturday in bed. I got up later than normal on Sunday and repeated Saturday's afternoon nap before ensuring I got an early night. I awoke at about 10am on Monday and by the time I met a friend for beers and conversation on Monday afternoon, I just about felt something close to normal. 

The best part of three days in bed feeling exhausted and unable to function. That's stroke fatigue for you. Looking back, I've probably escaped the worst of it in the last four years. Rarely does it hit me that hard. Or maybe it does and stupidly, I try to fight through it and make it worse. But this was one of the worst I've ever had and at my age, with my positive 'do-stuff' outlook, it doesn't feel nice.

But maybe I'm finally learning to live with one of the most serious of the many ways in which stroke affects your life. I rested on Tuesday and Wednesday and by Thursday, was ready to go again.

A networking meeting in Walsall on Thursday evening was productive and I even felt well enough on Friday that Mrs Warrior and I ventured to north Nottinghamshire to support a good networking friend (and fellow strokie) Maggy Jackson as she relaunched her therapy business. (www.thinkdifferently.org.uk). It was a long, cold day but I met plenty of potentially useful people, won a couple of very handy raffle prizes and even ended up sitting next to a lady from the Stroke Association on the train journey home (yes, of course I gave her my business card!).

What the week emphasised yet again (and this time, I might actually listen....) is that my life is not and never will be what it was. This is something 'new' strokies find really hard to deal with; I've been involved in a conversation this week with a lady who said: "I want to start feeling normal again (whatever normal may now be)....

Well, 'normal' is not what it used to be. Each stroke survivor is different, but for me, 'normal' now includes those bouts of stroke fatigue, occasional difficulty swallowing, inability to cope with crowds and noise, outbursts of anger (at Mrs Warrior and others), balance difficulties, incontinence problems..... The list sometimes seems endless. But as I said to a lady at Friday's event, I'd take all of that as part of being alive over not being alive if the bus had hit me.

If that means I sometimes seem to spend half my life asleep or in a daze, that'll do for me.

Goodnight, Dad.....

We scattered my dad's ashes this week. He died in October, aged 81, having been more fit and healthy for most of his life than his son will ever be.

It took this long to do the final act because he and my stepmother lived in Spain and Spanish bureaucracy does not move quickly. The Spanish as a nation seem to have more public holidays than the rest of Europe put together and it does not help when solicitors only realise at the very last minute of a process that they have spelled a surname incorrectly (of course, it is not difficult to spell Warrillow wrong - it's been happening to me for more than 50 years!)

But we got Christmas out of the way and decided that the day which would have been my late mother's 80th birthday, January 7, would be a suitable day for the ceremony. Of course, being January, it could have been cold, wet and muddy. In the event, it was a lovely sunny winter's day - the kind of day on which we can look back with pleasure, if such a thing is possible at all.

My stepmother and I both gave emotional eulogies and we prepared to scatter the ashes, but a moment of black humour intervened. The screw-on top of the urn in which the ashes had been kept since the cremation would not come off - despite the fact that my stepmother had already removed it once that morning to check that it would come off!

Three of us stood there with scissors and screwdrivers, trying for several minutes to force the lid - at one point, we even considered smashing the urn with a hammer. I could clearly see my father standing at the scene, handing out clear instructions (he was good at that) and eventually (and successfully) carrying out the task himself after watching others fail for far too long - he was good at that, too.

Eventually, the lid came off and the ashes were sent to their final resting place. I took a picture which will remain with me for life and we all went off for Sunday lunch and to raise a glass in his memory.

Astonishingly, the restaurant was selling real ale from a brewery which is based in the old junior school which my dad attended in the 1940s. Well, I had to, didn't I? And jolly good it was, too.

All in all, the day went as well as I had hoped, if not better. My dad had stipulated that he did not want a permanent memorial, partly because that was his own personal wish but also because he knew that tending it in my state of health would become increasingly difficult.

As it is, every time I think of his hometown now, I will think of him. Every time I drink that ale, I will think of him. I think he'd like that.

Fighting for my health every day. This is how.....

I think I got off pretty lightly from my stroke. Being alive is the major plus, of course, but I can walk (after a fashion...), talk, type this blog (albeit with one finger) and generally get about. 

But sometimes I stop and think about all the little ways in which stroke affects me and it does cause a sharp intake of breath. Such an incident happened this week. I have applied for the new brain-injury identity card which is being issued by the brain-injury charity Headway (headway.org.uk). Not unlike other forms of ID, I will be able to carry it with me so that if one of my various problems (such as unexpected aggressive behaviour, for instance) rears its head while I am out in public, Mrs Warrior or whoever is with me will be able to use it to explain.

As is the way with these things, the application form (which can be downloaded from the Headway website) is a detailed nine-page document requiring contact information, verification of my brain injury and how I acquired it and explanations of the various ways in which it affects me.

I was fortunate enough to be able to have a Headway staff member help me fill in the form at a meeting of our local group (doing it myself would have been far too taxing) and I was horrified when I realised just how much my injury affects me in what might appear to me to be minor ways.

Attention and concentration difficulties? Yes. Confusion? Yes. Difficulty with decision-making? Yes. Dislike of crowds and noisy environments? Yes. Writing difficulties? Yes. Balance difficulties? Yes. Bladder control difficulties (Sorry!)? Yes. Dizziness? Yes. Fatigue? In spades. Swallowing disorders? Yes.

I could go on at length (aggression, irritability, frustration, use of inappropriate language, anxiety, mood swings), because the list of issues filled two pages and I answered 'yes' to at least 75% of them. It really brought home to me the long list of things that I try to deal with on a daily basis but which most people never see.

For the majority of the time, I deal with them successfully. But then complacency, or whatever it is, bites me on the a*** and I am shaken. Last night, for instance, I was walking down the road hand in hand with Mrs Warrior (it's not love, she's my walking stick, lol....). Suddenly, one mis-step from road on to path and I was sprawled in an ungainly heap on the pavement alongside our dog, checking to see that I hadn't broken anything, be it bones, skin, or glasses.

I hadn't.....this time. But I am always one step from that long list of small problems becoming major ones. As my Warrior tattoo says: "I fight for my health every day in ways most people don't understand''.

All stroke-survivors do that in one way or another. If this blog brings those problems to the attention of the wider world, I'm doing my job.

Going to church on Christmas morning.....more or less

Regular readers will know that I'm not one for acknowledging the downside of life with stroke. I'd far rather focus on the positive 'it's better than being dead' bit. But just occasionally, something happens which is unavoidable and has to be acknowledged.

A lovely dose of stroke-fatigue on Christmas Day, for instance.

As is usually the case, it was partly my own fault. Christmas Eve is Mrs Warrior senior's birthday and as she is now 86 and not as willing to go out for big family meals as she used to be, we invited her to Warrillow Towers for a quiet lunch.

Of course, an afternoon event turned into an afternoon and evening event and by the time the washing-up was done and everything put away, it was close to 9pm. Any thoughts of Midnight Mass disappeared as we realised that staying awake until past 2am probably wasn't going to happen.

So we decided on an early start to Christmas morning, with present-opening, breakfast and Buck's Fizz (of course) followed by the 10.30am service at church, a service I usually avoid like the plague because not only is it full of children (God forbid), the music is provided by a modern folk group, which you may not be shocked to learn is my idea of Hell.

But Christmas Day has to include church, so 10.30 it was - until I woke up, or rather, didn't wake up.

The alarm was set for 7.30am. I missed it. Instead, I was roused at 9.15 by the sound of an irritated dog, who wanted to be taken outside. I managed to do that, but breakfast (usually a leisurely affair on Christmas Day) was out of the question, as was present-opening.

Instead, I stumbled into the shower, wanting nothing more than to go back to bed and sleep for a week. Stroke-fatigue does that to you. But this was Christmas Day. There was family to visit, presents to open, an expensive Christmas dinner to eat. 

So I showered and dressed, making it plain to Mrs Warrior as I did so that this was probably not going to be our best day. And, reader, I wouldn't have cared what type of service we went to because I practically slept through it. I heard it all, which is more than I have done during previous bouts of stroke-fatigue, but my eyes were closed, my brain was dulled - as I've said before, a stroke-damaged brain sometimes decides for itself when it wants to rest, without consulting its' owner. That's what mine was doing now.

It eventually stirred at around 2pm, as we prepared to go out for dinner. By 3pm, it had caught up with the rest of the world and was fine for the rest of the day. But events such as this are occupational hazards for a stroke-survivor; something we live with on a daily basis. Normally, I cope with it by taking a daily afternoon nap for about an hour, but the build-up to Christmas has been so hectic that I've neglected it.

Lesson learnt; if I don't take regular rest, my disrupted Christmas Day will become a regular event. One of my mantras about stroke-awareness is that I talk about it as much as I do because I don't want one more person to have to go through the s@@@ which stroke-survivors wade through daily.

Christmas is bad enough without putting up with stuff like this, lol.....

Celebrating life - very quietly........

It's always been difficult for Mrs Warrior to understand my love of hard (and inevitably loud) rock music and my penchant for standing in a football stadium and shouting for 90 minutes, given that I dislike loud noise.

I watch TV with the volume down as low as is possible, I hate loud pubs and if I am in a networking meeting where 15 conversations are taking place at once, I will be as far away from the centre of the noise as I can.

This was the case to a degree before my stroke, but obviously the brain damage has worsened my dislike of what my neuropsychologist calls "over-stimulated atmospheres.' I can't explain the rock music/football thing other than to come up with the lame-sounding excuse that "yes, but that's different,'' but it is undoubtedly true that peace and quiet suits me better than hubbub and bustle.

The fact that my brain always seems to be churning over doesn't help. Plenty of friends have told me that I should learn to meditate, but I've always found that difficult because, rather than concentrating on my breathing, my brain always seems to want to be pulled towards another thought.

Then, I met a lady at a networking meeting a few weeks ago, where I was due to speak. Heather Duncan told me that she had been in the audience at one of my previous talks and was keen to hear me again. We spoke at length after my talk and she asked if I had ever tried floatation therapy. I said I had a vague recollection of having heard of it, but hadn't tried it.  

She was adamant I should try it and she put me in touch with Mark Smethurst, who owns a company called Time To Float, which is based in Stoke and Stafford. I talked with Mark, he explained the concept (and confirmed that floatation therapy should be done nude, thus fitting in with my drive to promote nude-wellness activities) and I booked a session for myself and Mrs Warrior, with the intention of mentioning it in this blog and doing a feature for H&E, the naturist magazine for which I write a column.

The session took place on Monday of this week. Neither of us really knew what to expect, but both of us were (very quietly!) blown away by the experience. I'll point you towards my Disability Matters column in the February edition of H&E for a full rundown (it's in the shops in mid-January) but I will say that I have rarely been so aware of my breathing and my heart beating. At one stage, I sneezed and almost frightened myself to death!

I wholeheartedly recommend floatation therapy and we will both be doing it regularly from now when we need to de-stress (which is often).

The other highlight of my week was the celebration last Saturday (December 16) of the fourth anniversary of my stroke. I would like to thank the hundreds of people who sent me their good wishes and told me how inspirational they have found my journey. Stroke-survivors are rarely people to look back with regret on anniversaries like this; rather, we celebrate the fact that we are still alive to mark the occasion and look forward to another day.

Mrs Warrior and I certainly did that; we put on our finery and went out for a posh meal, then continued the celebrations into the early hours; a number of my American strokie friends may have been surprised to get slightly-incoherent Facebook messages from me on a Saturday evening, their time!

Yes, I felt slightly the worse for wear on the Sunday and yes, the celebrations have to be tempered slightly because of the amount of medication I take, but I kept thinking back to the evening of December 16 2013. Then, I was lying in a hospital bed, completely paralysed down one side, feeling as if I had been hit by a truck (which I nearly had, of course) and wanting to do nothing but sleep as soon as possible for as long as possible.

From there to today has been an extraordinary journey. On that journey, I've made new friends, done things I would never have contemplated, made a lot of people think about and change their lifestyle (a fact of which I was reminded again this week). If that isn't cause for celebrating life, what is? 

Getting a perspective on life

There is nothing like talking to other people for putting your own life into perspective, is there? As I approach the fourth anniversary of my life-changing stroke, which falls tomorrow (December 16), I could get all maudlin and start looking at all the things I have lost. I could particularly regret the loss of 16 years of my working and earning life assuming that I would, in normal circumstances, have gone on to work until I was 65.

But I won't do that. In fact, Mrs Warrior and I will be putting on our finery for a change and going out for a posh meal tomorrow evening to celebrate the fact that, as I often say, I shouldn't really be here after what's happened to me - but I am. I'm here for a reason - to educate people about stroke and the dangers of stress but also to not get down on themselves, but rather to look at the positive things in life.

That view has been reinforced by two conversations I've had this week - one online and one in person. The online discussion was with a Facebook friend in Spain who I got to know through my naturist world. I already knew that his partner had recently suffered a stroke; what I didn't realise until we talked at length this week was just how devastating that stroke has been. My swallowing function has been affected to such a degree that I know I must not swallow large pieces of food in case I choke - but this man has been left with virtually no swallowing function at all and is being fed through a tube.

In addition, around one in three people who survive a stroke have difficulty reading, writing, speaking or understanding as a result. I know I am incredibly fortunate that none of these things apply to me. But as my friend says about his partner: ''He can speak, but what comes out is just a random jumble of words'' (Speech difficulties like this are known as aphasia).

I suffered my stroke in a busy town centre and was in the hyper-acute stroke unit of my local hospital within an hour. To quote my friend again: ''Really, they have done nothing because of the language barriers. The stroke treatment has been non-existent, really; all they have done is treat infections.'' Given that it is acknowledged that stroke must be treated as quickly as possible, that's not a good situation. I am trying to offer advice to my friend from afar (and maybe it's my journalistic background, but I do seem to have learnt an awful lot about stroke over the past four years), but this case is a clear example of how fortunate I feel to have got away as lightly as I have, compared to many.

The second conversation was with a lady who has been what you might call a nodding acquaintance for years. Her son and his wife used to live near us and the young couple's small terrier and our own Rascal would stare suspiciously across the road at each other if they met while on walks.

We would always chat if we met while in town and both mother and father-in-law and son and daughter-in-law kept an eye on Mrs Warrior while I was in hospital. I could be sure that all four would ask about my wellbeing whenever we met.

Then, about a month ago, we spotted the lady sitting on her own in a cafe. This struck us as odd because they had always come across as a devoted husband and wife. But, as you do, we didn't ask her about it, nor did we when the same thing happened on a few more occasions. But this week, we spotted her again, still on her own - only this time, she came and sat at a table directly adjacent to us with what were obviously three friends.

We couldn't avoid speaking to her without appearing rude and as I still have that vital journalistic characteristic of being willing and able to talk to anyone at any time, I said 'Hello', put a friendly arm around her shoulder and asked if everything was OK.

It wasn't, of course. She told me that her husband had passed away in November and she faced her first Christmas without him. 

We offered our sympathies, listened as she told us the story (I've told the story of my father's recent passing enough times since he died in October) and she left. We don't know her name, we don't know where she lives, but when we see her in future, we will always speak to her. That's what people do. And I am so glad that I am still here to do it, four years since I nearly wasn't.

A week full of frustrations and fun

A list of all the frustrating things about living as a stroke survivor would be a very long list indeed. It would go from trivial things such as having to type this blog with one finger because my left hand won't work properly, to the fairly-serious, such as the joys of having to take 12 tablets a day and make sure you have sufficient supplies of said tablets.

It would mention the constant problem of stroke-fatigue (see last week's post) and the difficulty of taking blood-thinners in December. It would mention living with the constant threat of another stroke (30% in my case, so the experts tell me) and the fact that you are supposed to avoid stressful situations (over-stimulated environments, as my neuropsychologist calls them) even though most of modern life is inherently stressful.

And this week has been a curious mixture of the frustrating and the fun. Take Sunday, for instance. Mrs Warrior and I went on an outing with our local Stroke Club to see a pantomime. Bad move, you might think. All those screaming kids, all that shouting. Yet I have to admit I really enjoyed myself. It was something out of the ordinary for us and even though a room full of screaming children normally fills me with horror, I had a good afternoon.. Must have been the Christmas spirit (a glass of red, actually) and the interval ice-creams.

So that was the fun bit. Forward to Wednesday, when I had to visit hospital to have a troublesome tooth removed. Yes, hospital; because of the aforementioned blood-thinners, my dentist was reluctant to remove it himself in case I bled uncontrollably for hours.

He referred me to the orthodontics department at the hospital and after a wait of several months, the day of the operation came. As did two deeply-painful needles in my gums, some very unpleasant-tasting painkiller and a numb mouth for most of the rest of the week. But no blood.

Well, I'm sure there was some but a nurse was able to mop it up with two small swabs. So what was all that about, then? And no, the hospital wouldn't sort me out with a denture; it's back to my dentist for that. More expense?

And Thursday brought another of those disrupted, up-and-down days which are part and parcel of life now. I had plans, but the side-effects of my tablets chose yesterday to hit me hard and I spent most of the day feeling zonked, to put it kindly. I even had to come home early from a Christmas party and retire to bed at 8pm. As a fellow strokie said to me last week after he suffered through a similar day: "When your brain's had a kicking, like ours has, sometimes it just needs a rest.' Which is undoubtedly true and something I need to be aware of more often.

But yesterday did have its' good side. Walking through town yesterday morning, before I started to feel rough, I passed a lady of a similar age to me who was obviously a stroke-survivor. She was struggling along on a stick and her left side was obviously severely affected. For some reason, I decided to get into conversation with her, saying: ''I've been where you are.''

As it happened, we were just a few yards from where I had collapsed nearly four years ago, so I told her my story and asked what help and support she was getting. Her speech was quite poor, but the look on her face told me all I needed to know.

So I gave her details of the two local support groups I am involved with and she went on hr way, obviously cheered by our encounter. I'll keep an eye out for that lady from now on.

And we did agree on one thing. However frustrating and dispiriting life as a stroke-survivor can be at times, it's a damned sight better than the alternative which we both came so close to. 

A week in the life - and an embarrassing incident

One of the first things my neuropsychologist told me when we met in the autumn of 2014, some nine months after my stroke, was that I would have to learn to rest properly. I needed to learn to rest my poorly brain and also to acknowledge that stroke fatigue meant I would get much more physically tired, much more quickly, than before.

That meant no more than three hours of 'brainwork' a day, sleeping for at least an hour each afternoon with no exceptions and giving myself an entire day's rest after a busy day.

For most of the last three years, I'm afraid I completely ignored his good advice.

I didn't do so out of malice, but rather out of a slightly foolish determination to spread my message as wide as possible and also to try to prove that mentally, I hadn't really changed - even though it was blindingly obvious that I had.

So, I would 'Carry On Regardless' as The Beautful South once said - and find myself falling asleep on the lounge sofa and missing TV programmes, falling asleep on trains and having some very narrow escapes from missing my station, falling asleep over dinner and getting a telling-off from Mrs Warrior.

Some six months ago, though, something clicked and I started consciously taking myself up to bed every afternoon; not for long enough to fall into a deep sleep which would leave me awake in the early hours, but just enough to recharge the brain - neuroscientists will tell you that an hour or so is enough.

And it worked. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow every afternoon, rather than behaving like a bear with a sore head each evening because I was needlessly tired.

Then, as I detailed here last week, I began to take rest days after busy ones. This week has been a perfect example: Monday - rest; Tuesday - busy writing and researching a magazine column in order to get it done before the copy deadline; Wednesday - rest; Thursday - up at 6am for the first of two networking events which were highly productive but left me worn down by 6pm; Today (Friday) - mopping up a host of little jobs before the weekend, then sitting down to write this blog.

And the new regime is working. I am no longer falling asleep in random places at random times and feeling rubbish afterwards.

But sometimes, events (and probably my stubbornness) get the better of me, still. One of yesterday's events featured a talk by an expert on work-stress; we'd never met and the opportunity to make a worthwhile connection was not to be turned down - even though I'd been up at 6am and had a busy morning.

The event started at 1pm (I was there early, as always) and the guest speaker was on at 2pm. I felt OK, honestly! I met some interesting people, made some good connections, spoke about who I am and what I do. But as 2pm approached and the speaker stood up, I started to feel drowsy. Maybe it was the winter sun making the room warm (yeah, right....); maybe it was because my body was getting into 'afternoon sleep' mode. Whatever it was, I fell asleep. In the front row. Right in front of the speaker and her audience of 50-plus people. Embarrassed? No, of course I wasn't.

I awoke just as she was wrapping up her talk. When she had finished, I dashed over and asked if she had noticed. Her reply? "Well, at least you didn't snore....". She obviously understood my predicament and we laughed about it later. What it shows, of course, is how quickly stroke-fatigue can strike. 

One day, perhaps I'll learn.