A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog

Anniversary of a Stroke

This week is an anniversary.  A year ago I got up one morning, and felt a little light headed in a way that was unfamiliar.  For some reason I wondered at the time whether it might be a stroke, and so spoke out loud and touched my nose with a finger from each hand.  No problem beyond a slight hesitation in my speech.  But that intuition was to prove on target.

I did my morning prayers and thanks givings, and walked up to the living room in the house where I was temporarily renting a room. I mentioned to Richard and Nathaniel, who were watching the tube, that I felt “strange,” and went in to shower.

I almost fell down in the shower.

Alarmed, I finished, dried, and walked shakily back into the living room. I sat down and told them I really did not feel right.  I hoped the symptoms would pass if I just sat a while.  After a brief conversation, my friends suggested I go to a nearby clinic in Occidental, a small village in Sonoma County.  The clinic was about four miles away, a beautiful drive through some redwoods and vineyards.  


I decided to take their advice, and got up to go to my car and drive there.  “Can you drive?” they asked.


Only I stumbled while walking across the living room.

“You’re not driving anywhere” my friends said.  “We’ll get you there.”

With that Nathaniel took me to his truck, stuffed me in, and off we went through the woods to the Occidental clinic.

By the time we got there I was feeling much worse.  Worse yet, the clinic was filled.  No room.  Nathaniel turned around and we drove to the emergency room in Sebastopol, about ten miles away.

By the time we got there I needed a wheel chair to get into the hospital.  When the nurse asked me to sign my name, I found I couldn’t do it.  My incoherent scrawl spilled across the entire page.  When I tried to speak it was almost impossible.  Nothing seemed to be working anymore.  Overwhelmed, I gave up trying to understand what was happening, and let myself be carried away by events and the staff.


“So this is what having a stroke is like” I thought.  For the first time in my life I had absolutely no control over what was happening, and a very real fear I never would again.

I could hardly walk, and that only on a smooth surface, like the hospital’s linoleum floor.  I could hardly talk, could not carry on a coherent thought for longer than a minute or so, could not sign my name let along write, nor do much of anything else, though I was not a vegetable. It turned out the stroke was from clots in my lower brain, and so both hemispheres were affected.  The classic symptoms were absent.

My situation was not immediately life threatening, and so beyond tests such as a CAT Scan and MRI, little was or could be done.  The medicines they could give were blood thinners that might themselves cause additional strokes, and I fell outside the range where the doctor felt the risk was worth it.  “Take an aspirin and see a neurologist.” were my final instructions from the ER physician when I left.  People tried to cheer me up by telling me how friends of theirs had recovered within a year.


I was not cheered.

But a few days later I noticed significant improvement, and that improvement continued very rapidly for some weeks.  People remarked on how rapid my rebound was proving.

I wondered what there was about me that might make for a faster than normal recovery.

Energy Healing
Over 20 years ago I began intensive work with a Brazilian shamanic healer.  For six years I worked closely with him, and my healing knowledge expanded substantially, as did my capacity to work with energy and with the spirit world. Sometimes I and others who worked with him would spend several days every week working in his ‘healing circle’ and sometimes we would take long retreats.  I told friends afterwards that those years were as difficult and demanding as was getting a Ph.D. at Berkeley.


My teacher said the closest description of the kinds of work we did was in the book Hands of Light by Barbara Ann Brennan.  Here is her website

After leaving my articipation with him I continued my work, ‘retail’ as I put it, whenever the opportunity presented itself.  One thing I noticed about doing this work was that it seemed somehow connected with nerves.  One dimension of what we did seemed to involve either healing them or enabling new neural connections to replace old ones.  

Perhaps that’s why I had made such progress in recovering from my stroke, I thought.  I could walk, sort of write my name and peck away on the computer.  Speaking was a problem, but not an ordeal.  In my eyes I was still a mess, but I was no longer as crippled as I had been.  But the rate of improvement was slowing.  It appeared that if I were right in my analysis, I had reached the end of my body’s ability to respond rapidly to the damage that had been done.


On the other hand, if my guess as to why I had been improving so rapidly was correct, perhaps having a friend who had also worked with this healer, but who was now a Tai-chi/Xigong teacher and healer in San Francisco, could add enough additional “juice” to speed up my rate of improvement again.

Once I contacted him, he drove up and worked with my chi for an hour or so.  “Energy,” “chi,” “prana,” it all appears to be the same thing within different cultural contexts.  But as I joke, he benefits from a tradition with a 4000 year learning curve behind him rather than my 20 year one.  I had contacted the right guy.

Once again my rate of improvement rose rapidly, and soon I even began to drive a little  on back roads.  It was like learning to drive again, regaining the subtle adjustments we make continually when on the road. Initially I always over corrected because I no loger made those adjustments.  That was sometime in July.  


In early August I was confident enough to take a test drive to Los Angeles, to see how it would go over long distance, and towards the end of August I drove to Maine for three months. By then my rate of improvement had slowed again,  but I could do most of what I had once done, even if not quite as well.  What symptoms were noticeable only to friends. Some said I talked more slowly, and some said they preferred it that way…

Now, a year later, for all intent and purposes there are no symptoms left, beyond a strange thickness of tongue when I initially speak with strangers.  Go figure.

Why Am I Posting This?
And now my reason for this post.  I suspect that serious energy work might either help minimize the damage from a stroke, and/or speed up the healing should one occur.  Learning Tai-chi/xigong, especially from someone able to do healing, would enable anyone to help friends – and perhaps be of enormous personal benefit to them as the years pile up.  Other forms of serious energy work would also likely be very beneficial as well.


If you have dithered over learning this kind of modality, I hope my example might encourage you to take the plunge.  There is a wide range of levels of expertise, and I suspect  even initial levels will help a person to strengthen their awareness of chi, with beneficial effects for themelves.

There is also a cool research opportunity for anyone with connections in China.

Comments read comments(7)
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posted May 28, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Gus, I am very glad that you are currently well and I thank you for writing the most complete description of the post-stroke process that I have ever read. I am a Roman Catholic interested in earth-based faith healing and nature reverence in the modality of St. Francis. Luckily there are many local resources in Healing Circles, touch therapy and meditation. There are also many Pagan classes offered this summer in waddle and daub, clay modeling and communion (currently for women only, but that is OK.) I would encourage everyone to explore Tai Chi, yoga and meditation; any energy that you devote to these resources will be paid back many times over.

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posted May 29, 2009 at 12:24 pm

As a great believer in using energy from many sources (including elemental energies as well as modern medicine) to effect healing, I’m glad that you were able to harness the energy you needed to help pull you to recovery. When using elemental energies, try using each of them individually to see which helps. Try them together too.
I get horrible migraines a few times a year. That’s not often but when I’m in the grips of one I’m in awful pain. I don’t want to take the migraine drugs available now because of the potential side affects associated with them. So I take a couple aspirin and work with the energies to pull out the pain, because aspirin alone won’t do it.
The way I use this type of energy is very simple (remember, I’m a Hedge Witch). For air I will usually just go outside and work the pain into the breeze to be blown away. Water is often the shower, washing the pain away down the drain. Or sitting on the bench by my little fish pond pulling up the water’s energy to wash it away. (If you can lie in a shallow moving stream that is even better). Earth is crystals, or sitting outside on the grass grounding into the earth energies to pull the pain away. Fire is the sunlight (or the fireplace) – concentrate on the fire energies burning up the pain.
On the one occasion when all of those failed, I sat outside on the bench by my fish pond. It must have looked a little odd; it was freezing cold, breezy and snowing at the time – and there I was sitting on the bench in a hooded coat, globed candle burning in one hand and crystals in the other – but it worked in about 30 minutes. (And yes, my neighbors ARE used to me.)

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posted May 29, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Hi, Gus — Congratulations on your recovery; our ability to heal is really remarkable. The teacher I took healing classes from (many years ago) used to say that our bodies want to heal, we just have to provide energy and direction. (My two strokes happened when I was 18 months old, and when I read “The Brain that Heals Itself” (by Norman Doidge) 60 years later, I thought, “Oh, THAT’S what I’ve been doing.”)

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posted May 30, 2009 at 12:41 am

i had a stroke about a year and a half ago. i woke up in the middle of the night feeling kind of funny. that’s when i realized a couldn’t talk. i could make sounds though. :O)
i couldn’t use my right arm. i got into my truck and made it over to my parents house, and then to the hospital.
i couldn’t speak at all. the first words i said were “goddammit”.
i couldn’t count either.
like you, i had an small stroke. i have my exercises to do every day. i have most of my speech back.
Congratulations on your recovery

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Gus diZerega

posted May 30, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Check out a good energy healer. I would imagine it will speed your final recovery. Obviously no guarantees – but several years ago I was told I helped a person cease being bothered by some residual symptoms from a stroke she had had.
Energy from a coven ritual would also probably help if you are one of us and are part of a harmonious working group. The last close group of which I was a part had a member who was recovering from an operation. We created an appropriate rhyming chant, raised power around him, and at the drop the HPS sent it to him.
He said it was remarkable how quickly and relatively painlessly his healing was compared to a similar operation he had had on his other shoulder previously.

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Cari Ferraro

posted June 4, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Gus, thank you for posting this most personal story. I for one look for the personal everywhere, and usually find it is the most compelling writing I read on any blog. Your experience, and Cheryl’s, help me understand this subject BECAUSE they are personal, not abstract. As someone who is struggling to recover from a surgery from over a year ago, I am finally looking in “alternative” healing modalities, and your post encourages me to cast my net a little wider and seek some “energy healing” as well. Thank you for your courage in posting.

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