• Friday, October 31, 2014

INTERPRETER OF MALADIES

Coping with trauma

By Nighat Ara, Psychiatrist, Counsellor and Therapist

Dear Dr,
I have a friend who recently had a stroke. By the grace of Allah she is recovering from the ailment but still faces complications. I was just wondering how, as a friend, we could help her in recovering and getting back to normal life. She is 43 years old and a mother to a daughter, who will be off to the United States to pursue her undergraduate studies.

- Aisha Mahbub

Sorry to know that your friend had a stroke at this young age. Strokes can affect people physically as well as emotionally. It appears that she is recovering from the stroke but is still in a transition phase.
In order to facilitate physical recovery, physiotherapy is essential. Friends can be helpful in organising the visits to the doctor, reminding her of appointments, checking on her after the visits and sometimes accompanying her to the visits to give her moral support.

Emotional dysregulation following a stroke can be the outcome of organic damage to the limbic system of the brain. We have to have patience and trust in the brain's plasticity to deal with that. In some cases, neurotrophic medications will be needed to reduce the intensity of the emotional experience. Appropriate mental exercise to stimulate the brain functioning would be recommended depending on the symptoms presented.

Expect a grieving period to happen. Don't try to rush her through it. Grieving the loss of health is unavoidable and just listen to her or be on her side when she needs that. Remember: anger, sadness, depression are parts of a natural grieving process which may last for variable periods of time depending on the personality/past history  of the person.

Stress management is a huge issue at this time too. Encourage your friend to mobilise all her social resources to deal with stress. If her daughter has to leave now for her undergraduate studies, I have no clue how that would affect your friend. That is a mother-daughter issue and they can make it a happy event or sad event depending on the dynamics between the two.

Hope is a key factor in a vulnerable state of life. Hope, faith and happiness are somewhat linked to each other and fortunately can be derived from inner spirit which is functionally independent of body and mind. Although the entity of spirit is a conceptual thing and not everybody is awake to that, try to find out if that door opens up for her.
Don't get burnt out by being the only caregiver; it is often a good idea to assess your personal strength and use that in supporting your friend while allowing others to offer the support they are capable and willing to provide. Also encourage your friend to take initiatives to be self-dependent as much as she can. Typically friends and family rally around in the initial phase and then the long term care becomes a real challenge. Plan ahead of time before people start dropping out.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Last modified: 4:40 pm Sunday, August 24, 2014

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