Sunday, July 15, 2012


“The mind is fragile, fickle, but the human body is resilient.”
 - Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

 False. I love him and love the book, but this statement is absolutely false, well, for me. My body has been the weak, frustrating, and rampantly disobedient one. My mind, on the other hand, has been thè surprisingly and seamlessly miraculous one, impressing even my harshest critic, myself. I don't think I have ever given enough credit to the tenacity and resilience of my mind. I've been in a brain injury rehab program the past two months where I've seen, felt, and understood a whole entire, rather hidden side of rehab. I'm well aware of the physical damage accidents and strokes can cause, but I've been embarrassingly ignorant about the amount of MENTAL damage these injuries can cause. I've seen it all here, and every time, it breaks my heart. The other day I was sitting next to a man who recently suffered a traumatic brain injury, and had some physical, as well as mental deficits. Through some garbled speech, he said he was drawing a picture for his young son at home. I had my mom take me away to the side and just burst into tears, right then and there. I just couldn't understand ( and still cant) how cruel the world could be to not only a person, but a father. A son needs his father, but how can he be there for his son, when a freak accident turned him into someone who can't even properly be there for himself? The word 'unfair' sounds incredibly inadequate right now. I'm surrounded by young people who all had great lives and incredible futures, and they lost it all, not just because of their physical deficits that can eventually be rehabilitated, but because of their mental deficits that have changed them forever. My therapist recently explained to me that it's rare for someone to have a brain injury or stroke, and be completely and severely, cognitively intact... So here I've been for the last 3.5 years, complaining and whining loudly, ignorantly, and quite selfishly, that I've had the worst possible stroke ever in the whole, wide world. While, yes, I've had the worst stroke in the world physically, I've had the best stroke in the world mentally. It's taken me years to realize the most basic thing about my condition, to not just realize it, but to truly understand it and to wholeheartedly feel it, with every ounce of my being. I've been so blinded by my massive physical deficits, my few strengths tend to be rather elusive and difficult to truly appreciate. But I've come to the semi-harsh realization that, however awful my situation is, it could be worse, so much worse. I have my mind, MY MIND, so pure and completely untouched. I'm still me. I know I've said that before, but for the first time, I'm truly awed and deeply humbled by this precious gift.

 But the unappreciative devil's advocate part of me disagrees and disapproves, and begs the question, isnt it that same 'pure and untouched' mind that allows me to see and understand the severe devastation of my injury? Wouldn't I be happier if I wasn't so acutely aware of how much I'd lost? Is my mental clarity and medical background actually a curse? Can a person understand their stroke too much? I don't know the answers to these hypothetical questions, and frankly, I don't care. I probably would be a lot happier if I had some mental deficits to leave me peacefully in blissful ignorance, but would anyone else be happier? My family and friends lost me physically, but they have me, without a doubt, mentally and emotionally. I think that subtle fact is what's keeping people together - they know I may not be around much, but they know if they read my blog or my tweets, or visit me in person, it will be 100% pure Harshada. I may not look like me, or sound like me, but it's me, all me, the same ol' me - Shady, Harshonda, Hersh, ibe2fly4u - still the same girl you all know and looove (though I seriously think my stroke made me witty). Actually, I think it's what's keeping ME together, keeping me from breaking into a million hopeless pieces every frustrating day, keeping me from losing myself altogether. I'm still me. You guys have no idea how empowering writing this blog is for me; even though I've lost so much of myself and my life to this stroke, writing this blog reminds me that my voice is still mine. But, I've come to realize that writing this blog is bigger than just me. I was somehow allowed to keep my entire mind, despite having a massive stroke. Not everyone gets that luck. The media has a knack for euphemistically portraying brain injuries and mental deficits as glamorous and simple, but I now know its quite the opposite, horrifying and tragic. I need to write, to share my story, to use my mind; not only for you and me, but to represent all the wonderful people I met, who all had tragic stories, but weren't given the precious gift of an intact mind. With my mind leading the way, we won't be unwritten. (This blog was largely inspired by one of my therapists.Thank you for showing me and teaching me that my life has meaning.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Young homie


I havent had a chance to live... My life stopped at 23. It didn't pause, no, it just stopped. My life hit a wall, a thick, bitter, unforgiving wall, and it was forced to retreat wildly and severely. My mind was still at 23 years old and counting, but but the rest of me was stuck in time, refusing to budge. I was like a broken record, stuck on one beat, one note, one word, as eternity swiftly and unapologetically passed me by. People my age, my friends, are now getting married, starting families, getting incredible degrees, earning fabulous jobs, living their dreams, and partying so much, i wonder why i had the stroke. Now, I'm 27 no husband, no kids, no graduate degree, no job, no house, no forseeable future, no life, nothing. It's not fair, before all this, I had hopes, I had dreams, I had a it's all gone. Instead of moving forward, ive somehow gone backwards, I've moved back in with my parents, depending on them to literally feed me, clothe me, care for me, when it's about time I start caring for them. I'm sitting here looking at life like, how did I get it wrong? It absolutely sucks to get this sick at any age, but I thînk it's so, so, so much worse to be this sick when you're still so young. It is socially acceptable and medically logically for a 93 year old to be in a wheelchair; but its socially taboo (not to mention, social suicide) and horribly illogical for a 23 year old to be in a wheelchair. Even on an envelope pushing show like 'Glee', the pretty, popular 18 year old girl with a great future at Yale, was shown to have been in a near fatal accident that left her legs paralyzed. But within two episodes, they showed her magically back to normal. Can the audience not handle seeing an innocent, young future so instantly and irrevocably destroyed, a reality I'm forced to accept every freaking day? When someone older gets sick, they have had such a relatively rich past, so it kind of feels ok. When someone young gets sick,  they have had such a relatively empty past, it kind of feels not only lose them in the present, you lose their future's like they are robbed of their youth, and the world is cheated out of their future. I haven't had a chance to live... But, im not the only one, not at all. There àre hundreds of young people like me, whose lives were robbed in an instant. And, unlike in a tv show, we have to let go of everything we know, to work our asses off, to take our lives win. But I'm one of the lucky ones. I have a loving, incredible family willing to sacrifice anything and everything for me. I have family and friends loyally by my side, who believe in me so much, I have no choice but to believe in myself. With everyone forcing positivity and hope down my throat since day one, I had to let it infest every cell in my powerless and hopeless body. But not everyone is this have the means, and enough social support to move mountains. I havent found much "purpose" as to why I had my stroke. So my amazing, ceaselessly positive cousin, Simran, decided we should go ahead and put some purpose behind it. With her passion and my experience, we started with a dream, her brilliance and my writing made it a reality. We started an organization called 'We Will Win' to provide hope to young survivors whose lives have been devastated by serious injury or disease. We not only want to raise awareness about young lives interrupted, but also raise money, through selling t-shirts with catchy phrases from my blog, for many who need help paying for their long and arduous road of, here's where you all come in:
 1)Share this blog,spread the word
2) Visit, like, and share our facebook page: We will win 
3) Buy t-shirts!!!!!!!!! First phrase - I will win.
 The road to recovery CAN turn out great, but it needs hope, time' unwavering determination, support, and, of course, money. With our help, young survivors can have a better opportunity to succeed, to live, to win.  We haven't had a chance to live...yet ;)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Somebody that I used to know

November 29th, 2008, I didn't die, no, but my family and friends did, in fact, lose me. Even more scarring, I lost me. My stroke was only supposed to massacre me physically, but somehow, it also devastated me socially, academically and emotionally. I don't even recognize myself, and I'm not just talking about just a reflection in the mirror. I was an outgoing intellectual (aka nerd) with an infectious smile and an annoyingly happy heart. Now, I'm a shy, insecure cripple, with a "life" that has sad written all over it. The old me is now just..somebody that i used to know. People used to love me and respect me. Now they "love" me, and, pity me. I totally, totally understand feeling bad for me, hell, I even feel bad for me. But I want people to be in my life not because they feel bad for me, but because they want ME.  There are people who aren't in my life, who damn well should be in my life, but it balances out, because there are people in my life who   are dam well incredible. But, I'm not sure if I'm that great company. Let me explain, I've forgotten how to be a friend. Because I was locked inside my head for so long, unable to speak or interact with anyone, I'm, we'll, out of practice. I'm so used to  being by myself, entertained with my own fascinating internal monologue, I often forget to participate in conversations. Im so involved in my own world, it makes me kind of...selfish. My newly discovered insecurities get the best of me sometimes, leaving behind awkward silences. I dont want to sound like a broken record, but people don't necessarily understand me, so that disrupts any kind of rapport and keeps me from sharing my thoughts, deciding what I have to say isn't worth the effort. On top of all of this, I don't know how to let my friends be my friends, how to let them be there for me. I know none of my friends can really relate to most of my problems and worries, they just make them feel guilty and uncomfortable, which leaves me embarrassed, and definitely not comforted. It is weird keeping 99% of your thoughts away from your friends. It makes me feel so distant, so different. My five year college reunion is coming up, and I'm obviously not going. But, not even for a second have I felt like I will be missing out, like I'm not even connected to it all anymore. Maybe it's because I know the alternative, going, would be an unbearably humiliating, painful experience. Great friends, crazy parties, unforgettable memories - that is a little slice of heaven for the old me, not now. I'm just a mere shadow of who I used to be, not even a reflection, just an outline, an echo, a memory. My stroke ripped away from me everything from my dignity to my personality. Someone told me the other day that I had the "best smile." I guess that's the only thing my stroke left me. My smile and my memories are what's keeping me together, getting me through every interaction, pushing forward to tomorrow. Well, one more thing helps me along - the one good thing my stroke gave me... Determination. Drive. Resolve. Ferocity. You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness, or you can find something in it that makes you fly... Watch me fly.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The sky is the limit

I want to share a story with you all about one of my firsts: the first time I wanted to slap a doctor. Now dont get me wrong, I love and respect them just as much as the next person, probably more, considering that I was so enamored by the profession that I wanted to become one (and still do). But I think my high regard for doctors has set me up for bitter disappointments. The first time I felt this way was the morning of my stroke. I was at my ophthalmologist's office getting my "opthalmic migraines" checked out. As I was waiting for the doctor in an exam room, all of a sudden, the room started spinning, VIOLENTLY. I was incredibly dizzy and horribly nauseous. I tried to stand up, but could only make to the sink. A new doctor came in and saw me leaning over the sink, gripping it for dear life. He said smugly, "I see you must have had some fun last night."
Me: (unable to look up from the sink) "I just watched a movie with my parents"
Doc: "Yea but I'm sure you had a few drinks
Me: (kinda annoyed) "nope"
Doc: "Maybe wine with dinner?"
Me: (between vomits) "No!"

I would come to find out later that I WAS HAVING A FREAKING STROKE, which caused the vertigo.I wanted to go back in time and slap him... Ok, who am I kidding?! I am a raging pacifist (what up Mahatma), so, instead, I'm boycotting his institution. Now I've met with A LOT of doctors the past few years. Some have been nothing short of incredible, and I owe them my life and my hope. But some of them,well, let's just say I owe them a hell of a lot of my tears, and a few slaps. Most of my doctors haven't seen anyone like me. What happened to me is infinitely rare. Most doctors just go with the flow, admit the holes in their knowledge, and do their utmost to help me. But some are, I guess, intimidated by my condition, as if my mere existence was a silent challenge to their knowledge, so automatically I knew/felt they weren't on my side. Some doctors are so afraid to say the three little words that are probably true half the time : I don't know. Even though those words are so frustrating for patients to hear,  they know they are being given the truth, and not just BS from a doctor trying to maintain his all-knowing aura. I feel like the best doctors I have met are the ones who aren't afraid to show their vulnerabilities. " I don't know, let do some research" goes a lot, a lot farther than an " Im sorry, I can't  help you." But I feel bad for all the doctors, because the science of my condition is the most difficult and evasive part. Why did this happen to me? What caused this? What can I do to recover? What therapies will help? The answer to all my questions is undeniably, I don't  know, not because of the doctors but because there is barely any scientific information out there about my condition. So, what happens when you lose faith in religion AND science?  I guess without any religious or scientific rules about my condition or my future my fate is kind of, free. I can write my own destiny, make my own luck. The sky is the limit. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One sweet day

"They say the two most important days in a person's life is the day you're born, and the day you discover why you're born." - Viola Davis

The day I was born - December 13, 1984 and the day I discovered why - November 29, 2008 - the day of my stoke. It was a horrible day, a tragic day, a devastating day, a day where I lost everything, but, I know, sadly, that one, singłe day will forevèr define who I am, and who I will be. As a result of that day, however awful it was,  I now know why I'm here and what I can bring to this mad world. Sharing my story, my fight, my pain is what will make me one insanely experienced and sympathetic doctor or an honest and passionate writer. Its kind of freeing to know, without any shàde of doubt, what exactly you are meant to do. Think about it, I can say the most cliche line to a patient, 'I know how you feel', and ACTUALLY mean it. I'll have automatic 'street cred' and the war scars to prove it. Now, just because I see the possible value of my experience, it does not discount AT ALL the fact that I would give anything, my heart, my soul, my life, not to have this experience at all... I wish it all away every night, but face it all again every morning, with a little more disppointment, a little more fear, and a little more hatred than the day before. But, maybe, from my pain, someone will find peace. From my fears, someone could gain perspective. From my hate, someone could find inspiration. From my fight, someone could find strength.  But. I refuse to be a martyr, to sacrifice everything I am, everything I have, everything I want, to lead a life of suffering, so others may gain something from my experience. That's a bit too selfless, even for me. I deserve to be a little more narcissistic, and less masochistic. So, I'm waiting for a third day, and boy, will it be one sweet, sweet day. For me, if this third day doesn't happen, the first two days won't even be worth it. This third day, will be the day I beat this thing, the day I regain some semblance of my life, the day this whole, horrible nightmare is behind me, the day I win. But with every frustrating second, every disappointing year, every painful nightmare, this days seems to be slipping farther and farther away, out of my grasp, out of my reach, out of my sight. Though my sweat drops during the day are full of fight, my teardrops at night are full of hopelessness. I realize this may be out of my hàndß, no matter how hard I try. Then, whose hands is it in??? Tim Tebow, obvi. ( JK! But i do <3 him). But like Tebow, I believe in that "hopeless comeback".(Good Read)

When there's nothing going right for you an your team, when everything seems hopeless, when you feel like your fighting for a lost cause, something happens, and you win. Whether that something is divine intervention, positive, strong beliefs from you and your team, or just dumb luck, that something is magical. So here goes nothing. With a hail mary pass, a trick play, Jesus, Allah, Ram, or just some luck, me and my team (what up Rajanis!), will win.