Physician, heal thyself....

Perhaps the toughest thing to deal with as a stroke-survivor of working age is the fact that you aren't and never will again be the person you were pre-stroke - either mentally or physically.

You can't be as active as you used to be, you're not as quick mentally as you used to be - when I do talks about stroke, I refer to my ability to retain and process information going from the top five per cent of men of my age to the bottom five per cent quicker than Aston Villa - fatigue strikes faster and is a million times worse.

You know all this and yet you still try and live as you did pre-stroke. I confess that I'm particularly prone to this. I've always wanted to be out there, doing things, achieving things and leaving my mark. And it's incredibly difficult for someone with that mentality to adjust. This week, though, I've had to. The 'brain-fog' to which strokies are particularly prone has descended with a vengeance.

At times, I have had to tell myself not to get behind the steering wheel, because I'd be downright dangerous. I've had to cancel appointments, hoping people would understand the reasons. I've had to go to bed earlier than normal (and then lie there tossing and turning....) due to tiredness verging on exhaustion.

And to top all this, I awoke on Monday morning with agonising backache. Thanks to #breathebalancebeactivatedemily, of course, I knew how to solve it. I sat on the side of the bed and did 20 minutes of muscle-activations and later that day, the pain did start to ease. But it was something I could have done without and I did not paint a good impression of myself to the world on Monday.

It was all put into perspective, though, by the nice Polish manageress of my local branch of a well-known coffee-shop chain. As I stood in the queue grimacing, holding my back, staring at the floor and looking thoroughly miserable, she gave me a lovely cheery smile and said: "How are you today, sir?"

"Not great" I replied. "I'm tired, I'm miserable and my back hurts."

Her response has stuck with me all week. It's something I tell other strokies when they are feeling down on themselves and life in general, yet which I'd obviously forgotten to tell myself in the last few days. She said: "You know what they say, sir. However bad your back hurts, however miserable you're feeling, at least you got up this morning."

I smiled ruefully. She was right, of course. And however much I like to think I'm Superman, I have to look after myself so much more than before, both mentally and physically.

This morning, I was due to make a 40-mile round trip in the car to see someone for business reasons. Feeling that brain-fog descend again, I rang the lady concerned and cancelled. She was thoroughly understanding, saying: "Your health comes first."

I know it does. So why is it so hard to listen to my own advice?