as cheesy as it sounds, facebook has been a major part of my recovery.
i brought my laptop with me to phoenix back in august 2009. it seems like i started using it after i was released from the hospital 5 weeks after my first surgery and had moved into a nursing home in phoenix. i was starting to reclaim my identity, and i was anxious to reconnect with the world outside of my nursing home. so back to facebook i went. i started updating my status and commenting on folks’ walls. i felt like i had risen from the dead, and in many ways that’s exactly what i had done. i had major difficulty typing (and seeing), so my posts were pretty messy. but people were really happy to “see” me, and my interactions helped me on my way toward recovery.
when i got back home from phoenix, i was really struggling to figure out and process what had happened to me. i had also not told many folks about my surgery because i though that i’d just bop on down to arizona, have my surgery, and bop back. “what have you been up to, kriste?” “aw, just brain surgery. no big whoop.” but it certainly turned out to be a big whoop. so i put up a photo album on facebook of the pictures my mom took when we were in phoenix.
dumping all of those pictures, and having people look at them and comment, was part of me coming to grips that all of those things really happened. yep, i really did have a feeding tube. yep, i really did have to wear leg-squeezers. there they are, plain as day. and you know what? i survived and still had the most important qualities that had defined me pre-surgery. and i got to be those things on facebook.
later my friend marcy, also a stroke survivor, said that i was brave for being so open about what happened to me. it didn’t seem brave to me at the time, but i guess i can see it now. truth is, i got so much support and encouragement from my facebook friends that it became addictive in a way. i posted a picture of me, walker clearly visible, pushing a shopping cart for the first time and the kudos poured in.
what i’ve realized since then is that not only does posting about my recovery make me feel better, it makes my friends feel better because they can encourage me and be part of “team kriste” – as i collectively refer to the many people who have chosen to be part of my forcefield.
an example of the healing power of facebook that still blows my mind is wendy hansen. wendy was my very closest friend from 3rd grade until i switched schools after elementary school. we were inseparable – in my memories, i spent every weekend with her and her loving, rambunctious family. i moved to pasadena during middle school and she moved to utah during high school, and we lost touch, and i always felt a real loss about that. as soon as i joined facebook, i searched for her, but there are a lot of wendy hansens in this world. one day last winter her name came across my news feed as a new friend of another elementary school classmate. i got in touch with her, and she was my wendy! when she found out what had happened to me, she announced that she was going to come out here to visit me. so last march, about 25 years after our last one, wendy and i had a sleepover. and i have facebook to thank for those memories, and for this picture:
i know that people have a lot of valid gripes about facebook, but i really can’t imagine my recovery without it.
and it continues even today. this morning my mom and i walked a 2k, part of a fundraiser for our local schools and part of my plan to eventually walk (then run?) a 5k. i posted this picture on my facebook page:
and many, many folks weighed in. as i look at the list, i see friends from elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. former neighbors, former students, former coworkers, family members from schools where i used to teach. friends from workshops, volunteer projects, civic groups i’m a part of. folks from a facebook support group, and my family. folks i saw in person today, folks i haven’t seen in 20 years, folks i’ve never met in person. it takes a village to heal a stroke, and with the help of my incredible village, virtual and otherwise, i’m healing.