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......