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Avatar universal

Stroke and emotion, how does it work?

I started dating someone who is a stroke survivor. He had a stroke a little over 2 years ago. He is 42 now. His left side is affected. I know he cares for me a lot. We really enjoy our time together. But it seems as though it is difficult for him to gather his thoughts and be responsive to me when I tell him things, positive things, about how I feel about him. I feel silly asking this question, but is it challenging for stroke survivors to articulate feelings? Every time I talk to him about something small in our relationship that bothers me, he feels positively awful about upsetting me. I don’t want that it’s not my intent. I would normally talk to someone I am dating about this, but I feel underinformed about the impact of stroke on emotions. I adore him and don’t want to upset him due to my own ignorance. I want to know more from him about how he processes feelings without suggesting he’s not adequate. How do I ask this? Can someone help me with perspective or share a resource before I approach the subject, so I can learn more?
4 Responses
973741 tn?1342346373
Hi.  This is a thoughtful question that I appreciate!  First, what a young man to have had a stroke.  Any reason why that they pinpoint that he had it?  Stroke is such a unique journey of recovery for everyone.  

I'm glad he is responsive when you bring an issue to him but understand what you mean. Sometimes you just want to talk about it without feeling like you can't because they react so badly to it.  I have to say . . . some men are just like this even without a stroke affecting them. Lot so of men are not in tune or can't process emotions very well.  I have two sons.  One is excellent and the other is seriously lacking at emotional ability to discuss things.  I raise them both the same so we are working on it with my second son like it is a skill to be learned.  But wow, hard!  I think everyone is just wired a bit differently

Add something that may affect us cognitively like a stroke and it complicates that even further.

Does he have mood swings at all?  There is something called pseudobulbar affect or PBA that happens to post stroke patients.  It involves kind of irrational emotional reactions to things.  Unfortunately the main thing to do about that is for your partner to express what upsets him and what doesn't and kind of manage it knowing he will have these emotional outbursts or swings in mood.  Is he depressed or angry at all?  Those are other common emotional issues after a stroke.

Here's some info that may help you. https://www.saebo.com/coping-emotional-changes-stroke/.  

Since you are in a relationship with him, what about a couples counselor to navigate how to talk together about things to improve the relationship but they don't mean the end of the earth either.  That may be very helpful.  
2 Comments
Thank you so much for the helpful comments!

The doctors don’t know why the stroke happened so young, but the brain damage was due to non-timely ID of the stroke while it was happening.  He does, indeed have depression issues and is very angry about being otherly-abled. But, he is fiercely determined and continues to make such progress in physical therapy that it stuns me, what he is suddenly able to do, sometimes.

His emotions have been hard to access and hard to predict. I am willing and enthusiastic to work on understanding each other better, if he is.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful words, as I continue to learn and love.
   You say the doctors don't know what caused his stroke. I'm not surprised! Please, for the love of God, have the doctors perform a transcranial ultrasound "bubble test" to see if he has a hole in his heart known as a patent formen ovale (PFO).
   Prior to birth, everyone has this hole to allow blood to bypass the lungs when you're in your mother's womb. Once you take your first breath of air, this hole is supposed to start closing. However, in about 25% of the population, this hole never completely closes. For the vast majority of people with a PFO, this is not a problem, even though blood is leaking from one side of the heart to the other. Problems can arise when that blood contains a blood clot--which can cause a stroke--which is what happened to me--a 49-year-old, ex-army, motocross racer, and bodybuilder. PFO's also caused strokes in the lead singer of the band Poison, Brett Michaels, and the very young lumberjack, husband and father of two in this touching and informative video from a stroke survivor telling how he had to learn to talk again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq8tGvnKrCI&list=LLogT9ggr7UNq2CF5Hl7vd0Q&index=9&t=0s
973741 tn?1342346373
How are things going?  We do have a relationships forum too that has people you can talk to about things and get support.  :>)))  That is such a shame that they didn't properly diagnose him immediately so that the damage was more severe. That's the thing with strokes, the earlier it is known that it is happening, the more damage they can stop. But perhaps because he was so young they were just not looking at that.  

Anyway, is he willing to work with a couples counselor with you?  That might be helpful but it would have to be one that understand his issues post stroke and how it's not quite the same as with other people not having that health complication. His brain has changed a bit.  

I'm sure he deals with a lot of frustration.  His whole life changed dramatically.  But I will tell you this, from reading your posts, he is SO lucky to have found you to be in his life.  :>)
Avatar universal
   You say his left side is affected; therefore, he had a right-brain stroke like me back in October 2018. I can tell you from experience that strokes, esp. right side strokes affect emotions.
   You must remember that you are dealing with someone with a mental disability and accept them as they are now. You wouldn't get mad at someone with only one leg for walking more slowly than you, would you?  Well, maybe you would. Women, in general, are 10 times more in tune with their emotions than men to begin with. So it's hard for you to imagine what it's like for him. So let me help. Imagine that you're getting less than half the sleep you are right now--night after night. How you do think you'd feel and function? You'd probably experience (1) short-term memory problems, (2) mental fatigue, (3) trouble concentrating, (4) irritability, (5) impatience, (6) anxiety, (7) reduced problem-solving ability, (8) frustration, and (9) STRESS. Stress is when expectations exceed abilities.
   You have to remember, that stroke victims' brains have been crippled. Just because you can't see the damage doesn't mean that it's not there. Mentally, it's like swimming through molasses--it's very hard and tiring. You say, "I know he cares for me a lot, we really enjoy our time together, and I adore him." So stop with the "it's-all-about-me" mentality. So he's not as emotionally fit as you! Cowgirl up! As for more information, try Googling "emotional problems after stroke".  You think I sound mean? After my stroke, I stopped caring!
1 Comments
Thank you for your honest response, I appreciate your perspective. I was seeking to understand the emotional experience from the perspective of a survivor. Appreciate the help!
Avatar universal
My husband had a major stroke at age 50, more than a year ago. There are several things to keep in mind. First, while a stroke affects either the right or left side of the brain, it could affect various parts on that side. For example, I believe damage to the frontal lobe connects to emotions. However, it's likely that a person has some amount of damage to multiple parts of the brain, such as the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe, etc. One bit of good news is that the side of the brain NOT affected by the stroke can learn new things and learn how to do what the affected area of the brain used to do. I believe this is called neuroplasticity. The other thing you should think about is this: I think it is common for people to be much more emotional after having had a stroke and for the "naturally expected" emotions to not always be expressed. In the case of my husband, he is much more emotional since his stroke -- many more things upset him and make him cry than otherwise used to before the stroke. For example, watching news on TV of just about anyone dying is now very upsetting to him. We just have to be calm, loving, and understanding. I also try to break news to him that I think may upset him in a very gentle way, and I make sure I'm there with him when I give the bad news. It's also possible that anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication can help. In addition, besides physical, occupational, and speech therapy, doing activities with him that engage the brain in various ways is also extremely helpful. We play some games on the iPad, such as "Chain of Thought," "Left Brain-Right Brain," "Luminosity," and others. I also noticed that my husband has some new interests that he didn't used to have. For example, since his stroke, he loves game shows like Jeopardy. Another important thing is to have a diet meant for a healthy brain and body. My husband has become pescatarian:  or vegetarian plus fish, nothing friend, and mostly only quinoa, oatmeal, and 100% whole grain bread. Of course, no refined or added sugars -- only the natural sugar in fruit. Finally, do lots of research in books and on the internet about stroke recovery. Here are some books I have benefited from: Stronger After Stroke, Navigating the Complexities of Stroke, and Healing the Broken Brain: Leading Experts Answer 100 Questions about Stroke Recovery. Just remember to be patient, kind, loving, and keep researching.
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