Jo Ann Glim’s life changed instantly when she experienced a stroke. Listen as she shares the lessons learned through overcoming struggles.
Jo Ann Glim: Winning Tactics for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Struggles
Jo Ann Glim was born in Chicago, Illinois to a military family and raised in Anacortes, Washington in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest. It was an ideal place to raise a precocious child, especially one who is inquisitive and daring. Tragically, her mother passed away from a stroke when Jo Ann was 14. This was the beginning of a life path littered with many dark events. In her own words, “Instead of consuming me, they made me stronger. And I’m here to tell you, darkness can be replaced with light.” Her three pronged career involving broadcast and print media, freelance writing, and business management formed her into the award winning indie author she is today.
Her books, the award winning, “Begotten With Love,” and her newest release, “Trapped Within,” are both nonfiction life stories filled with challenges, hope, and humor. She now lives in Florida with her husband Bill, and their Scottish terrier Lucy, where her passions are writing, photography and travel. I had the opportunity to meet Jo Ann at a Premiere Author Training last year with Richard Paul Evans.
Having a Stroke
Jo Ann and her husband moved to Florida and were just getting to know the area and their community. They wanted to continue working part time and Jo Ann was able to get some assignments through her former employer, where she had worked for 16 years.
She went to work one morning and found the lunches had not been picked up for a meeting. Jo Ann offered to go pick up the lunches, but when she went to pay for them, something strange happened. She tried to ask how much she owed for the sandwiches, but it came out sounding like Russian. Jo Ann couldn’t even understand herself. She tried to ask again but the same thing happened.
Feeling frustrated, Jo Ann paid for the sandwiches and left. When she got to the car, she realized her knees felt weak. She knew then she was having a stroke.
Stroke Symptoms and What to Do
The first symptoms of a stroke are often slurred speech, one side of the body being weak, or one side of the face drooping. For anyone experiencing these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
If you are concerned someone may be experiencing a stroke, ask them to smile. If their smile is crooked because one side is drooping, call 911 for them. Knowing all of this now, Jo Ann wouldn’t have done this, but she drove herself to the hospital. She says it made perfect sense to an addled mind.
She was so used to making all of the decisions so she was sure she was still in control. Her mother had passed away from a stroke, but Jo Ann was sure she was home free. Her mother had smoked, she was overweight, she didn’t exercise, and she had high blood pressure. Jo Ann eats healthy, she exercises, she’s thin. But her stroke was caused by a weakening of an artery in her brain rather than a blood clot, like her mother’s was.
Side Effects of a Stroke
Depending on where in your brain the stroke occurs, it can have different effects. For Jo Ann, the stroke occurred in her thalamus, the portion of the brain which helps to control your behavior. She still has to check herself to make sure she doesn’t do something just because someone dares her to.
One night in particular stands out when she had a hard time maintaining a grasp on her behavior. It was the first night she had been out of her rehab facility since her stroke. She was going out to dinner with her husband and neighbor. She wasn’t doing very well walking on her own, but she refused to bring her cane to the restaurant because she wanted to do everything herself.
Jo Ann then heard their name called for a table, but she couldn’t see her husband anywhere. She knew she had to get to the stand before they gave the table away. As she was trying to get to the stand, there was a man in the way. He smiled at her and turned back to what he was doing.
At that time, Jo Ann was still dealing with aphasia, or difficulty speaking, so she couldn’t really ask him to move. She cleared her throat but he didn’t get the message. Finally, she patted him right on the butt. He immediately jumped out of the way.
The next day, Jo Ann received a 45 minute lecture from her occupational therapist on why that wasn’t an appropriate thing to do.
Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Struggles
While most people understand the physical difficulties, they don’t realize how much can happen mentally and spiritually. Jo Ann explained if you asked most stroke survivors, they would say they aren’t the same person they were before the stroke.
For many, the mental and spiritual struggles can be an even larger battle than the physical ones.
When she first had her stroke, Jo Ann was paralyzed on her right side. She could not walk or talk. She had extremely bad double vision. Overcoming those physical challenges took a very long time, in a very slow process.
At the rehab facility her hand was propped into an upright position. Her job was to work on trying to get her fingers to move. The full story about that experience is in her book, “Trapped Within,” and Jo Ann hopes you’ll all enjoy reading it.
Loss of Memory
Jo Ann only remembers one conversation between her and her husband out of all her time spent in the hospital. She doesn’t remember anything else about her stay. She even went to the room she stayed in to try and recall something else.
Jo Ann does remember the three months she spent in the rehab facility. She applauds the staff because they were truly a lifeline to her. They became like family.
In her spiritual struggles, Jo Ann had to come to terms with the fact that she was in really deep water and there was no guarantee she would come back from it completely. No matter how hard you work, it may not ever change where you are. The only thing that can change is your attitude.
Jo Ann remembers praying to God, not for Him to take the struggles away from her, but asking Him to walk beside her through her struggles. She didn’t understand how to get out of her situation or what she needed to do to help herself get better. She explains He answered that prayer in so many ways.
Lessons Learned Along the Way
1. Be Good to Yourself
Part of being good to yourself is accepting what has happened to you. Jo Ann says the following in her book:
“As difficult as it was, it was necessary to face the denial and shock of the event; the guilt of doing better when others were not; the anger and bargaining because I was forever altered and unsure of the future; and the depression from knowing others now saw me as someone who was disabled. Finally, I found a modicum of peace and acceptance. There were many nights of reflection and depression, knowing I may never be the same again. Fighting to recover from a stroke is a struggle like no other, yet it’s one worth battling.”
Jo Ann doesn’t remember a day where she didn’t want to get out of bed. She was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who made things very positive for her. Her husband came and took care of her, and she had a young roommate who like to listen to MTV. Every morning, they would get up and sing “All by Myself” by Celine Dion really loud.
Jo Ann gave herself something to look forward to every day. That’s how she stayed in a place, mentally, where healing could occur.
2. Be Patient and Persevere
Jo Ann had to learn to appreciate all the little things many of us take for granted. For example, Jo Ann remembers trying to learn to brush her teeth again. She would forget she couldn’t use her dominant hand and would try to pick up her toothbrush. After one or two brushes, she would drop her toothbrush. You don’t want to keep brushing your teeth with a toothbrush that’s been on the floor. So Jo Ann would have to call her husband to come and ask him to bring her a new toothbrush.
Jo Ann is so grateful to her husband for always coming over to the nursing home every morning with a new toothbrush. He would help to put on her makeup so she felt comfortable going to physical therapy.
3. You are Not a Victim. You are a Survivor.
Although there were lots of setbacks, all along the way there were also baby steps of progress. Jo Ann points out it’s important to shout any progress you make from the rooftops. With a stroke, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever be the same as you were before. You don’t know what skills and things you will get back.
Jo Ann explains it’s important to grieve who you were before and everything you’ve lost. Don’t ever give yourself or someone else false hope. Remember you are a survivor–not a victim.
4. Set Goals
But you should also never tell yourself, or tell anyone who has had a stroke, they’ll never be able to do something again. This may make them reticent to try to overcome an obstacle they are facing.
Jo Ann expounds that most of the people she knows who are successful stroke survivors have said, “Why can’t I try this?” Do it safely, but always be willing to try.
5. Take All the Time You Need. Just Don’t Quit.
Jo Ann says that we are so used to getting things instantly in our world today that we expect healing to come the same way. It doesn’t.
While the mornings were generally positive for Jo Ann, evenings were very difficult. After a long and difficult day of therapy with minimal progress, she would often feel depressed and discouraged, and would worry this would be her lot for the rest of her life. She had to remind herself that you have to take each day as the dawn comes and trust that in the morning you’ll feel better.
6. Surrender to God
Jo Ann remembers on her first full day she was allowed to leave the rehab facility, she wanted to visit the ocean. For her, the ocean has always been a source of healing. She encourages everyone to find something like that in their own life, whether it be the mountains or the beach, just find somewhere you can refill yourself.
Some of life’s lessons can be learned by watching the ocean. Jo Ann loves to look to the horizon of the ocean and know there’s more on the other side that you can’t see. You have to take it on faith that it’s there.
Another lesson is that sometimes the ocean can be as smooth as glass, while other times it’s a tsunami.
Jo Ann relates a conversation between her and her husband that day at the beach. She told her husband that the ocean is a perfect analogy for God because it is powerful and cleansing and guides us to other shores. Quoting from her book, “Trapped Within,” we find a deeper analogy she stumbled upon while watching the ocean.
“And how does God figure into an undertow?” Bill asked.
“That’s a terrifying thought,” I replied. Thinking out loud, I slowly surmised, “The senses are totally blocked. We wouldn’t know what’s up or what’s down. When we thrash against the sea, we churn up more sediment . . .”
“What do you do?” he asked, playing devil’s advocate.
I thought for a moment before answering, “Surrender.”
“Huh, interesting.” He was quiet for a moment before he responded, “When you surrender in water, you float.”
“So, what you’re saying in this metaphor is that when life drags you down, and you can’t see your way to a solution, instead of relying on your own resources, which may create more turmoil, you surrender . . . to God. Right?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. Of course, not everyone believes in God in the same way, but this is what I believe.”
When life drags you down and you can’t see your way to a solution, you have to surrender to God instead of relying on your own resources. We are so used to being in charge.
God Fixes Things Better Than We Can
Jo Ann learned another lesson about surrendering and how giving our problems to God is the best solution early on, even before her stroke. She remembers when her kids were younger, she was struggling with about four things at one point. There was one really major problem, and three smaller problems. Jo Ann wasn’t getting any answers or responses, at least not the ones she was looking for.
Finally she told God she was handing over the small problems to Him. At that time, she says she didn’t really have total faith He could take care of the big stuff. She was surprised He had fixed the small problems within a week. Maybe He doesn’t fix things the way you expect Him to, but He knows what’s best for you.
Don’t walk away
Jo Ann says that there were times in her life that she believed with her whole heart, but there were also times when she was angry and she would walk away from God. She says the key during those difficult times is to reach out. Don’t walk away.
Pray to God, Abba, even a fence post. You have to find something other than yourself that you can surrender to and know that you are going to be loved and taken care of more than at any place or any time or anywhere else.
Lessons From Her Mother
Jo Ann was able to have the incredible experience of talking to her mother, who had already passed. One night, she came to Jo Ann in a dream. Jo Ann had been really struggling with trying to heal. She says that one of the things her mother told her was to count her blessings, because she has so many.
Count Your Blessings
Celebrate the minor things with every fiber you have in you, because they are a big deal. A hug from a child is a blessing of feeling their pure love. The ability to look out your window and see the sunshine or watch a rainstorm, that’s a blessing.
Don’t Leave a Void–Fill It
Jo Ann’s mother also told her you can’t change things in your life and leave a void. When we try to change things we often fail because we just threw it out altogether. You have to replace it with something positive, something that you like that may be even better for you.
Jo Ann’s mom explained, “Right now, you’re stuck in a cesspool of doubt, and fear, and anger. You can’t just will that away. When you stop doing something, it creates a void. Voids demand to be filled. That’s why so many people go back to bad habits. They don’t think to fill the void.”
“Fill it with what?”
“The secret, sweetheart, is to replace it with something positive, so . . . Count. Your. Blessings.”
Find and Be a Shadow Angel
Jo Ann’s mother also taught her about what she calls “Shadow Angels.” Jo Ann says that we often don’t really look at and truly see the people who support and care for us. These people aren’t always friends and family. She says she had Shadow Angels at her rehab center.
The therapists knew how much Jo Ann loved gardening and how much she missed it. They went out and bought plants and pots and potting soil for her to garden. That was what she did for occupational therapy that afternoon. She was still working her hands and her mind and it filled her soul with joy. Shadow Angels are people who see you struggling and give you that extra boost. They don’t have to go out of their way to help you, but they do anyway, and they do it without expecting anything in return. We can all be Shadow Angels to those around us.
Lessons for Stroke Survivors
In her book, Jo Ann lists nine things she has taught stroke survivors over her years as a peer counselor:
- Be good to yourself and wash away negative thoughts.
- Exercise patience and perseverance.
- You are not a victim. You are a survivor.
- Set goals. Reach for them. Adjust when you must.
- Take all the time you need, just don’t quit.
- You may not be the same. You may be better.
- Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Let it go.
- Kindness and laughter are the best elixirs for healing.
- It does get better.
“Just Pick Up the Peg,” by Angie Collins-Burke, “Stroke Rebel,” by Linda Radestad de Vries, and “Suffer Strong,” by Jay and Katherine Wolf are all books that Jo Ann would recommend for those who have suffered a stroke or if you know someone who has experienced a stroke.
The American Stroke Association also has a website where you can ask any questions you might have. There are also many groups on Facebook for stroke survivors or caregivers.
You can find Jo Ann’s book, “Trapped Within,” on Amazon or at any major book retailer.
Contact Jo Ann
Jo Ann has a Facebook page, as well as a website, www.JoAnnGlim.com. On her website you can find inspiring and motivational notecards in six different categories of healing with quotes from her book that you could use for yourself each day, or send to someone you know who is struggling. They are great for anyone who is struggling, not just someone who has suffered a stroke.
Jo Ann is also doing a giveaway that she wants you to be a part of. She will be giving away a set of note cards, one from each category of healing, as well as a copy of “Trapped Within.” You can comment on my Facebook page to be entered into the giveaway.
Jo Ann wants to remind everyone that there are people out there who understand what you’re going through. Don’t be afraid to reach out. And don’t ever quit.