Doing my bit to help stroke-survivors cope

It's often said by stroke-survivors that when you have a stroke, whatever the lasting consequences the 'old' version of you dies and a 'new' version is born.

That's a pretty difficult thing for the hardiest of us to come to terms with, especially in the first few months. That's when you need answers to all your questions, both the obvious and the ones you think of at 3am. It's when you need encouraging, cajoling, helping. And it can be the time when so-called 'friends' vanish into the night, scared or unwilling to deal with the person you've become.

It's at this stage, then, that access to counselling services would be a big help; access to someone to share your thoughts and concerns with; someone to just sit and listen while you ranted at the unfairness of it all and asked 'why me?"

Yet the number of counselling services and agencies offering help to stroke-survivors and their partners/carers is negligible. In my case, as I've documented previously, I had to wait six months for a concerned occupational therapist to get me an appointment with a neuropsychologist. He was and continues to be brilliant but not all NHS areas have access to a neuropsychologist.

It was felt I would also benefit from long-term weekly counselling, as well as seeing the neuropsychologist every two months, but waiting lists for the limited number of agencies in our area are huge and they obviously have plenty more to deal with than just stroke-survivor cases.

The reason this is in my mind is because someone asked the question on a stroke-survivor social-media group this week: "How many people, if any, have been offered counselling post-stroke?" It was obviously a very unscientific survey, but it generated 72 responses with the majority saying 'Not at all, or only after I pushed my GP into doing something."

It shouldn't be like this. A stroke is life-changing in so many ways and because it happens without warning, people are simply not equipped to deal with it. There should be more specialist services to help stroke-survivors cope with the immensely complex mental side of what has happened. It shouldn't come down to untrained survivors themselves having to offer help and advice to their peers in social media groups.

 I'm doing my own very small bit to help by training as a counsellor. I've completed the introductory and Level Two CPCAB courses and am now about to start the second of three terms at Level Three. Level Four takes two academic years and only then am I qualified to work as a counsellor.

Just getting there is stressful, then. The fact that I'm putting me and my knackered brain through this (three hours of college, one night a week for 30 weeks each year, plus weekly homework and written assignments each term) shows how strongly I feel. Yes, there should be more services provided; the fact that there aren't probably comes down to money. In the absence of that and because I am more able than some, I decided to get off my a*** and do my little bit.

A recent former Prime Minister used to call it 'The Big Society,' I think?