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?