A few days after leaving hospital, it was bonfire night... One of my favourite nights of the year. I had spent the previous 72 or so hours trying to settle back in to home life, and trying to establish a routine similar to the one I had in hospital. Mum never left my side, I needed her more than ever. Luckily her work was amazingly sympathetic with our situation and told her she could stay with me for as long as she felt she needed to.
Previous bonfire nights for my family and I had always consisted of going to a local bonfire and firework display on the Saturday closest to the 5th November. We'd all wrap up in big coats, hats and scarves, and don our wellie's in preparation for the muddy fields we were about to squelch around on.
Like I assumed most other things would be, bonfire night was going to be different, post stroke.
Dad and Chris wanted to get me out of my funk and get me in the spirit of things. Chris had invited two of our closest friends round, and he and Dad had gone out and bought a massive box of fireworks for us to have our own mini display at home in the back garden. At first I didn't think Mum would be thrilled with the idea, as we'd never done it before and Dad and Chris were teasing her with their grand ideas of the display they imagined they'd put on, but Mum was really excited. I think the whole family wanted to make everything as normal as possible for me and so they didn't want me to miss out on anything we usually took part in.
I wanted to get as excited as the rest of my family were, but the anxiety that I'd been feeling since coming home hadn't left me.
I smiled along as Mum made plans to cook baked potatoes for everyone, and looked on as Dad and Chris decided where in the garden they should let off the fireworks. I desperately wanted to enjoy myself, and feel normal, but I was having to bite my tongue to stop myself from revealing that all I really wanted to do was curl up on the settee, wrapped in my duvet, and aimlessly watch TV without having to interact with anyone. I wanted to lose myself in a film, or comedy series, and watch fictional characters live their lives, rather than deal with my own sorry story.
I felt a growing ball of nerves in my chest as I anticipated my friends coming over. They'd visited me in hospital where I could watch over as my family entertained them, but I would have to make an effort with them when they came to my house.
How should I act? What do I do when they ask me questions? What if I get upset? Will they still act normal around me?
I didn't know what to do. Before the stroke I had been so socially confident. I would have been happy to be the leader of any conversation and I adored the company of a large crowd. Post stroke I felt very socially awkward and shy. I just wanted to be with my close family and any time I had a visitor, which was more than once a day, I didn't want to be left alone with them. I was frustrating myself. My feelings and thought processes were annoying me, but it felt like I couldn't do anything about it, I felt lost in the maze of my own mind with no way out.
I painted on my brightest smile and and sat up as straight as possible on the settee when I heard the knock at the door that I had been so anxiously anticipating. As our friends walked into the living room, my nerves were at their most aggressive, though I did my utmost to conceal them behind the acting skills I was so quickly acquiring.
I gave out the obligatory one armed hugs and tried to immerse myself in to the conversation that had quickly fired up between everyone else in the house. I felt myself start to relax slightly. but it was as if there was a barrier in my subconscious telling me not to get too comfortable and to always be on guard. I felt fidgety and agitated, I just wanted to run upstairs for a moment to catch my breath and take control of my feelings... But I couldn't. I couldn't run anywhere. I could barely walk anywhere. I was trapped.
It was soon time for Dad and Chris's firework display. Everyone made their way to the garden, moving slowly so as to try and imitate my snails pace. I tried to make a joke out of it not wanting anyone to feel sorry for me, but I was embarrassed and felt let down by my stupid body.
When in the garden, I sat between my Mum and my friend on the bench and we covered our knees in a blanket so as to stop our knees feeling the biting, November cold. Anna dished out the sparklers while the men prepared the launch pad, (4 bricks.) The air was filled with dispersed smoke from surrounding home made bonfires, and the smoky smell erupted a nostalgic feeling that sparked contented emotions from memories of previous bonfire nights.
I snuggled in between my two loved ones and looked around at the rest of my family and friends seeing the excitement that was building in their faces as we waited for the first firework to be let off. Maybe this bonfire night was different...Different in a good way.
As the whistling scream sounded from the first firework filled my ears, I forced my brain to concentrate on nothing else but the bursts of colour that filled the sky with a bang.
Different...Different in a good way.