I was always a superwoman. I thought I had to do it all: a full-time job, three children, be a good friend, play sports, organise the family weekends and dance on the table on a night out. ‘My mum does everything’, my daughter would always say.
That came to a halt when I suffered a stroke at work. I had no symptoms beforehand and the stroke itself did not hurt. It was only in the ambulance that I realised the gravity of the situation and kept asking if I was going to die.
After the stroke, there was a period of rehabilitation and – above all – acceptance. I got off relatively well, but I cannot work full-time anymore, and my memory falters. I even forget where I hid the Easter eggs for the children. And I can take home the same magazine three times without batting an eye.
Above all, I had to get used to the idea that I had become a chronic patient so young. I remember going to the neurologist, and he very casually listed that I was genetically predisposed, had to take pills and come in for regular check-ups for the rest of my life. To him, it was just a minor stroke. He sees patients like me every day. But for me, it was emotional. I was angry and frustrated that I had to live with limitations. He did not have a lot of sympathy for that, it seemed.
During rehabilitation, there was room for the mental aspect. I wanted to be quick quick quick, leave everything behind me and get back to work. The doctor gave me the space to do it my way, but was also there for me when that did not work out and I came back with my tail between my legs.
My husband and I are assertive. We were on top of everything, combing through records and reports. I stood up for myself. I have wondered how people who are less skilful in that area get by.
My biggest challenge was taking a step back. A better work-life balance. Saying no more often and asking for help. Nowadays, I can, and I have accepted my situation. But when I was still struggling with it, I started writing things down for myself. First in a kind of diary, later a journalist friend helped me and I published a book: Superwoman.
I would have liked to read a similar book at the time because you do wonder how other young women deal with such an unexpected situation. I get a lot of reactions from women who also used to juggle a hundred balls in the air but were suddenly thrown back on themselves because of a burn-out, an accident or illness. It is nice to share experiences and support others.
Lidewij is 42 years old and a customer researcher at a bank