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Podcast Episode #15: Building Confidence Through Adversity with Stroke Survivor, Claire Whitehouse

Guest: Claire Whitehouse, Stroke Survivor & Support Coordinator for Dorset Stroke Association

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Transcript
Hayley Stanton
Hello, I’m Hayley. And welcome back to the Quiet Connections podcast. I am joined by Claire Whitehouse. Claire is support coordinator with Dorset Stroke Association, and she’s also a stroke survivor herself. And Claire has a story of a young girl who was very active and perfectionistic. And then she had two strokes at the age of 19 and she was told that she wasn’t going to be able to walk again.
This obviously impacted Claire’s confidence and her sense of self. She developed social anxiety and didn’t want to go out. She was very isolated and everything that she thought she knew about where her life was going, was taken away from her. Her dreams had to change. And so this is Claire story about how she moved through this and how she really worked to do the things that she was told she wouldn’t be able to do.
Claire talks about the emotional impact that this had on her. She talks about techniques that have really helped her. And she shares how having the stroke was the very best thing that ever happened to her, because it really helped her to not find herself, but create herself and become the person that she really loves today. So without further ado, let’s meet Claire…

Claire, welcome to the podcast. I’m so excited to have you here and to have a lovely conversation around confidence and seeing your worth and recognising your true abilities. Do you want to begin by sharing a little bit of your story with us?

Claire Whitehouse
Yeah, by all means. So I had a stroke at the age of 19, in 2010. And that was just sudden, I had no warning that that was going to happen. So it was very sudden, I was going to go to uni. And I was in in London, it all happened with literally this really bad headache. And I lost balance. And my leg completely collapsed. I was taken to hospital. And there was not really such a rush, because of my age at that time. So unfortunately, I’ve had two strokes, because they declotted me. And unfortunately, I’m the other way. So I had a bleed. And the second stroke, unfortunately affected me why right body, my hands, my balance, my left side of the face with Bell’s palsy.

And I used to previously play football, from ages six to age 19. So that was devastating. Let alone someone just predicting you not to run any longer. So for me, I found it very hard to come to terms with it. And not only me, but I also think my friends did. And so unfortunately, I lost a lot of friends during that whole process. And I kind of like just wanted to be less myself, I felt worthless, I felt a bit of a burden at that time. I couldn’t get out of my head, all these emotions were going everywhere. And I couldn’t control how I was feeling. My faults are seeing things on Twitter and Facebook. And sometimes it has its pros and cons. But my main one was seeing the life that I could have had with my friends. So it was extremely difficult at that time.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, I did work on a neurology ward and in neuro-rehabilitation for a number of years. And I’ve seen what it’s like for people to come in having had a stroke, and then trying to rebuild their their sense of self to begin with, you kind of lose your identity. So tell us a little bit about how that was.

Claire Whitehouse
Definitely a loss, I definitely lost my identity. And that’s a key thing that you just said. And I know we’ve coming across a lot of survivors, that is majority, you find that they are disconnected with themselves, about half your body doesn’t feel like yourself, if I drew a line down to my belly button one side, that side doesn’t feel like me.

And so I lost myself in my confidence just to go and order a coffee, my words would get mixed up out of panic. And I tried to try to avoid those situations at first. But then I got to a point where I realised you need to get into these positions to help yourself. And so I lost my confidence and had anxiety, but I felt that kind of telling people that actually I’m so sorry that my communication gets mixed up, I have difficulty; I do feel people will understand and that has helped massively through my journey. And I also had a dog and he’s here in my lap. And he’s been therapy for me to help me with my my emotions.

But I would say five years on after my stroke, I created myself, I lost myself then I created it. And that was a massive turning point in my life. I was able to create myself. I found my passion and my passion fell on in stroke funny enough. And it wasn’t the way I planned my life. You know, I planned on doing child nursing, social working with children and not actually going into stroke and supporting people. Like I needed support at the time. Yeah. So it was really difficult to understand what was going on in my head because I didn’t have a lot of information. And I didn’t have anyone to really sit down with me and actually tell me what me what was going on. In my brain, so while it felt like for me, it was just me having the issue. But apparently it was completely natural.

Hayley Stanton
I see, so you felt like you were broken and like you were the only one going through it?

Claire Whitehouse
Definitely. It was five years on until I went into the brain injury and community health. And they sat me down and actually told me that where I had my brain injury at the cerebellum, that is where my emotions are, and my emotions are go haywire, and I find it hard to control them. And they gave me self-help techniques. For example, if I have an argument with my partner, I will take myself out of the room. So don’t say anything that will be hurtful. And then I’ll come back once I’m calm and we’ve evaluated the situation, and had time to myself think about what may have been done. So that really, really helps me, and with that came meditation. And, and that helps me to find myself as well. Meditation has been been a brilliant source of my recovery.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, I wholeheartedly recommend that too. And I think that what you’re talking about -the emotions and feeling like you are the only one going through something, and there’s something wrong with you- I think that’s so relatable to so many of us for so many different reasons. And I can relate to a lot of that, from my experience of social anxiety to the feeling like I was just weird and broken and like defective in some way. And I didn’t realise that there was reason for it. And that, you know, I was struggling with these emotional responses because of the way my body was functioning at the time.

Claire Whitehouse
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I mean, I think that was definitely a turning point of these five years. And someone actually sat me down and explained it. That was where I was able to accept and actually understand what had happened to me. Yeah. And that was my huge turning point in life, where I then started trying new things, meditating, okay, I can’t play football anymore, but I can stand up paddleboard for a bit. Even sitting on the board, and being away from everything, and just sitting on there in the middle of the water is just peaceful and happy itself. So I found a new ways.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, definitely. Blue mind activities are very meditative. Very good for your health.

Claire Whitehouse
Yeah, I totally agree. You know, my life has completely changed. I just never imagined my life to go this way. And now I work for the Stroke Association. And so I’m able to support people that I would have expected to be supported in that way as well. So it’s kind of a blessing in disguise, it was like something was meant to happen. And, you know, you’re destined to be able to support other people.

And you know what, you’re not you’re not worthless. You know, you’re helping people, you’re making a purpose of yourself. And also you’re seeing the enjoyment of life, the beauty around you, and the look of beautiful nature around you. And I never stood on a beach and really, really took in the beautiful view. And now I really appreciate it. Yeah. So is in those, those times where you’re standing there is thereapy for yourself, and having that time to yourself and really taking in the beautiful nature around you. I was hospitalised for nine weeks, so I couldn’t go out. And when I was at home with my self confidence, and social anxiety, I didn’t want to overly go out. And I can remember I experienced going out once with a friend. And I felt embarrassed. Because I could no longer do what I could do. I couldn’t dance I couldn’t drink. And my vision was distorted. I felt different to everyone might my body image was different. My look upon myself was so different. And I wasn’t comfortable with that at the time. But like I say, five years on time, time is a huge thing. And because with that I’ve been able to really understand and appreciate who I am and get to a point where I’m able to support other people because I’m comfortable with myself. Yeah.

Hayley Stanton
I have seen other stroke survivors and of course people experiencing social anxiety and really a whole host of different challenges where their response has been more to avoid; to hide themselves away, to judge themselves for being in this place of learning and feeling afraid of making mistakes. And so, they really aren’t in the mindset of getting up and giving it a go; they feel depressed and lost in themselves. So what’s different about your approach?

Claire Whitehouse
I think you know what is it’s, it’s really difficult. You need support in place support is huge, but also your self-determination, you have to kind of help yourself to get somewhere as well with support. And, you know, I got to a point where I was like no Claire this can’t be it. And, I know every stroke is so different. I know every human being is so different. One person is going to be up for going right, I’m going to go and try and walk to this lamp post and one person will struggle to the point that they just can’t do it. They can’t self-determinate themselves to do it. And that’s totally understandable.

But I found things like just doing, you know, reading, doing art is a huge thing. Like I say, meditation, exercise and eating healthy, we all know, it’s so difficult. I put my hands up, I like a cheeky take away. But eating healthily and exercising is a huge thing. I’ve actually done Joe wicks this morning. So exercise helps with the mindfulness. And so I think mindfulness is so important with the acceptance and your recovery stage. And meditation gives you that ability to try and push yourself up, or maybe put some music on that’s upbeat can really help push yourself. Because when you’re sitting there by yourself, and not having anything in the background is so difficult.

There are tools in place; music, art, sometimes try new things that you didn’t think you would be able to do or didn’t think you would do ever. I cycle on a on a trike, I do my shopping, I talk to the neighbours on my little trike. And you know, that’s a source of exercise, it feels great just to be outside, even when it’s a little bit muggy. And so I think, you know, for everyone, it’s going to be extremely difficult. But there are things in place that can really help. And it’s also down to an individual to get themselves up really get going. And I know as well, it’s extremely, extremely difficult to get to that point. It takes time.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, yep. And, you know, the same as you were saying, I was a huge avoider. That was my go to strategy. I didn’t want to put myself in uncomfortable situations. I just had this thought like, I can’t do it. What’s the point in trying? And from what you’re saying, it sounds like you have to do some real work on that mindset first, and, and bring some feel good energy into your life and manage those thoughts?

Claire Whitehouse
Yeah, you have to rebuild yourself. And, you know, I think we underestimate the emotional impact that everyone has. And we all talk about mental health. And emotionally, it’s so difficult, and talking to people is so, so important. And I do peer support groups now; stroke survivors and carers. And it’s impressive actually, how just talking to someone that’s going through a similar experience to you just to makes you feel less alone, and slowly builds up that confidence. It’s like a it’s like a stage, you know, the platform, you have to keep kind of going and going. And sometimes there’s a plateau for us to talk to someone to understand that. You know, that’s absolutely normal to have a plateau. Just keep going. It takes time.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, for sure. And that recovery process, or you know, that process of growth, it isn’t linear isn’t just a constant upward track. It’s like it’s up and down. And you’re going to feel like you fallen sometimes. And like you were saying, you just got to get back up.

Claire Whitehouse
Yeah, yeah, you got to get back up, you’ve got to keep going. And you know, I’ve been in I’ve been in these dark moments where I don’t want to and that’s absolutely fine when there’s moments where you just really can’t get up. But you know, tomorrow is a new day and you’ve got to keep going. And sometimes depending on your stroke recovery can take years. Take a lifetime. Or take a lot less time than then a lot people but just got to keep going and time, as horrible as it is because you feel like time goes very slow after you just had a stroke; you’re watching that clock and time’s just going slow. But now I’m reflecting back from who I was to who I am now, I am very grateful. I feel like I have a purpose which was very, very important to me because I felt worthless at that point, I felt like I couldn’t give anything back, I felt a burden to my family. And now I feel completely different becasue of that time where I’ve been able to create myself and understand what actually is going on. It’s been, it’s been a life lesson and a life purpose.

Hayley Stanton
So how would you suggest somebody else taps into their purpose?

Claire Whitehouse
Taps into their purpose. Is it sometimes difficult to find your purpose, it can take you years and years, it doesn’t always happen straight away. I wouldn’t have found mine if I didn’t have my stroke. To be honest, I don’t think I would have found my purpose. But reevaluating your whole life is an important factor. And, you know, when you have that time to sit back by yourself, and actually reevaluate ,reflect what’s actually happened, maybe write a diary – I mean, I wish I wrote a diary, because that would be so so amazing to be able to see who I was to who I am now. It’s a totally different person. But I would say for me, reflecting back to who I was, really helped me to find my step to who I wanted to be?

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, I think for me, I kept saying somebody needs to do something like something needs to change. And I thought, it’s not me, I’m not confident enough. I’m not the right person. You know, I just kept getting pulled back to this idea. And eventually, I thought, you know, I’m gonna give it a go. And even though it feels scary, and it feels like a stretch, I’m just gonna take that step and see what happens. And then take the next step. And the next step.

Claire Whitehouse
Yeah, doing that job is the most scariest thing ever, but it can be the best thing even when you fail. Well, I honestly, I’m the queen of failure. But you know what, through the failures, I’ve learned so much. And so I’m really glad of those failures, because I’ve been able to, like you say, to find what I really want, find what I think other people would benefit from as well. And I think that’s what’s helps me to really know what I want to do in life. And so now I work for the Stroke Association and support people through that organisation. Later on, I have a dream of being a life coach, and being in a camper van and driving around the UK. This is my dream guys, so no judgement here, that is my dream. And, you know, setting up the camper van and seeing the beautiful view can just make all the difference. And stepping back in and helping someone else who’s in need. Just, I don’t know, it just gives you It gives you that purpose, you know, you’re making something so important to someone, and you’re helping them to rebuild themselves. And that’s what I want to carry on doing.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, when we go through difficult situations, it gives us that greater level of empathy and understanding and ability to really connect with people that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Claire Whitehouse
No, no, I wouldn’t be able to sit here today and talk about anxiety, self-confidence, self-worth, you know, and it really, it has impacted me and it has, when you were short, and I’m a stroke survivor, you have not like you say, an automatic connection with them. If I didn’t have a stroke, I would find that really difficult to do straight away, I can really understand or read their thoughts, even if they’re not not telling me what they’re feeling, I can kind of tell by how they’re acting, that something’s kind of going on. And, you know, I approach them, like I would like to be approached as well. And so I like to step back and really kind of understand that individual, because everyone is individual, and going through different things themselves.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah that curiosity is the most important thing, about ourselves as well.

Claire Whitehouse
I find it interesting to really get to understand someone because everyone is so individual. I find that very interesting. And so I find that my job rewarding, so rewarding. I love my job. I love my team that I work with as well. And like I say, you know, humour has been a significant part of my journey. You know, I walk into a wall sometimes and I’ve got to laugh about it. I was at a point, you know, I either laugh or cry, but now it’s natural to laugh, natural to smile and actually enjoy life again.

Hayley Stanton
I love that because I think it’s very human. Humans make mistakes we do things like occasionally walk into a wall. And we all do these things or, you know, pull the door backwards and we tend to really, you know, really, we feel really ashamed and embarrassed about having done something, that something wrong.

Claire Whitehouse
You do something wrong or something different to everyone else, you automatically think, oh, gosh, that’s really odd. I don’t want to show someone that. But actually, you’ve got to smile about it. You’ve, you’ve adapted in a new different way to maybe someone else, like, the way I put the bins out. Okay, my partner doesn’t do it that way. She’s normal. But what is normal? What is normal, but she does it different. She does it differently. But you know what it works out. For me personally, humour has been significant in my journey. And I think as time has gone on, it’s just been natural to smile and laugh. And actually, a lot of our people exactly the same. They just, you know, smile with you. And, you know, time is a huge thing. And, and my confidence has gone leaps and bounds. And I have made those jumps where I’ve had to talk in public, which I would be scared to do in classes or three to talk in public. And so my confidence has grown. Like you say, you have to make that jump. And it’s so so scary, but those jumps are so significant. Yeah,

Hayley Stanton
I feel like there’s something in just letting yourself be vulnerable, letting yourself have a go. Letting yourself make mistakes and knowing that that’s human, and that everybody is going through the same thing, because often we think everyone else is perfect. And it’s just me getting things wrong.

Claire Whitehouse
Definitely. I mean, you don’t know who you know, person you walk past every day, as they say, have all got their own individual difficulties. And we don’t know about them. So I always think just, you know, be kind because we don’t know what one person is experiencing. But they’re probably going through a difficult time as well. And so I just think, you know, be kind.

Hayley Stanton
So you mentioned public speaking, what’s the biggest public speaking experience you’ve had?

Claire Whitehouse
Okay, well, I spoke at House of Parliament. Yeah, like a year later after my stroke about emotional impact. And that was actually quite difficult. I was a nervous wreck. And then when I started talking, there was one person in a wheelchair right in front of me, and you can’t help but reflect back when you’re talking about it and that got me a little bit emotional, but I guess it’s important to share your emotions at time, because the people get to really understand what actually you’re going through. And it’s so common for other people to go through as well. So we spoke about emotional impacts, about confidence, about anxiety, about the loss of friendships, but gaining new friendships are so important, because you know that they’re true. You know, true friends, because you’ve had the stroke, they know absolutely everything about you and yet they still want to be your friend. And so obviously, I didn’t know about the friendship at the time, but I was very isolated. And so I expressed that in the house of parliament, which was magnificent.

Hayley Stanton
That is amazing. So you did that in 2011?

Claire Whitehouse
yeah. 2011 made that jump.

Hayley Stanton
Well done! How did you how did you get yourself there? Like, how did you make the decision to go and talk in the Houses of Parliament?

Claire Whitehouse
You know, I wrote to the MP and the local MP. I can’t remember how I actually got that. I think I was campaigning for Stroke Association at the time. And that’s how I got through. It was quite a shock. I mean, at that time, you know, it was with my memory and everything. It was like I relied on my mom to do these things. So it was a massive surprise to do that. And even just going for that journey to get to the house of parliament. That was daunting itself. Because it was in London where I had my stroke. It was in the underground. So that itself was a massive step of, I don’t know if I really want to do this. And I got overwhelmed with the amount of people that were around me, I felt very claustrophobic. Afterwards, you feel like you made an achievement and you know, I feel proud to be able to say I’ve done it.

Hayley Stanton
And how did you manage that anxiety?

Claire Whitehouse
Well, it was it was very hard. I took some deep breaths, you know, a bit like meditation, breathing in and out. Again, my anxiety at that point was very difficult to control. And sometimes I would break and have to slide on a wall and sit there for a minute, and then get back up. I mean, I know that’s not maybe not the most ideal way. But I had to do that sometimes to try and really get myself together. But regular breaks as well, you know, because I get overwhelmed. When there’s too many people, I get overwhelmed in Tescos if there’s too many people, so taking breaks regularly. Stepping back away from that situation sometimes helps. And when you kind of got yourself together again, to go back in there.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, often your body knows what it needs to do. And it sounds like you’re listening to it.

Claire Whitehouse
This is something that I always say to people, you know your body; you’re the best person to know your body. You know, before I had my stroke, I knew something wasn’t 100%. My body was acting different. It was telling me something. I always think you should definitely listen to your body. And with with illness when your body’s not feeling right, your consciousness tells you that something’s not 100%. And with anxiety, it tells you, okay, you don’t want to do this, so just take a step back for a minute and then go back here and when we when we sorted this out. So yeah, no, I completely agree with you. You’ve obviously had experience yourself and you understand that listening to your body is so significant.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, it’s so interesting that we tend to separate our minds and our bodies and treat them as if they’re completely separate. And when we experience anxiety, we try often to deal with it just in our minds. But it’s really held in the body. And I think you need to work with the body too.

Claire Whitehouse
yeah, you find that you’re fighting with it, aren’t you, like you say you’ve got this, you’ve got your mind, and then you’ve got your body’s two separate sources, but you need to work together. And it’s like with being positive, having a positive mind helps with your body. So you know, when you’re not feeling 100%, and your mind is telling you something’s not right. And your body’s saying something is not right, you need to put those two things together, to really understand what’s going on. Then when you get a prediction of you’re never going to walk, no one can really say, apart from yourself, really.

Hayley Stanton
That must have been awful to be told that you weren’t going to be able to do things.

Claire Whitehouse
Yes, yeah, that was definitely a big shock. A huge shock for me. I honestly felt really lost at that point. I felt I couldn’t really talk to my friends who visited me very much, you know, back then, yeah, I use humour as a filter in a way of my actual emotions. Though, I balance that out, and I can use humour and serious now, I didn’t, then I didn’t want to show my emotions, I didn’t want to show that this had really broken me. And so I used humour as a way of covering up. And everyone thought I was fine. But deep down I really wasn’t, I really wasn’t. And it got to a point of suicide, actually. You know, you even though you’ve got all the support in the background, and you’ve got your loving mum and your family, you still feel alone. And you can’t understand why you feel so alone when you’ve got all the support around you. And so, since then, since this has happened, I understand why people get to a point of not knowing what they can actually do themselves any longer, because I got to that stage as well.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, and I can relate to that feeling like you’re a burden and like you’re not going to be able to kind of fit in and do the things that you want to do or that you look around and other people seem to be doing with ease.

Claire Whitehouse
Hmm, definitely. Definitely. Yeah, I can remember walking down a very tiny road. And it was at all the traffic were going forward to me. So it’s really bright lights because it was pitch black. And I had no balance. And I just didn’t, didn’t didn’t care. I didn’t care and I was I’ve been I’ve been sick continuously because I was stressing my body out. I just didn’t know what to do at that point. So reflecting back like I am now it’s crazy to think that I was even in that position. I mean, when you’re in that dark moment, you don’t even think that a future is ahead of you as such. Yo get lost in your own emotions. So when I talk to people about their mental health, support them through through work, I have, like you say, an understanding of how they’re feeling as well. And I didn’t want to admit it. But when my mum heard about it, that I was feeling this way, she was very shocked, because I’m very good at covering things up. We do find people use, like, kind of a cover up to not show it.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, it’s a real protective mechanism, isn’t it to kind of just pack it down, pretend everything’s okay. What do you wish you’d done differently?

Claire Whitehouse
I wish I spoke to my friends a bit more, actually. Because it was a very difficult time. And I found it very hard with my acceptance. But I also understand it was very difficult for them as well. These were childhood friends I’ve known for years and years. And suddenly there was this transformation. I wish I spoke to them. And I also, I mean, this was not really, for me, but I wish I was more support back then with the emotional side to actually understand emotionally what I was going through. I didn’t have that for five years. And unfortunately, in those five years, it was such a difficult time, because I didn’t understand what was going on in my mind. So that’s why I enjoy my job now, because I can give that support when they come up when when people come out of hospital.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, you’re obviously in a position where you can just make sure that people do feel seen and heard and understood. And I think the most important thing.

Claire Whitehouse
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I agree.

Hayley Stanton
There was one quote from you that really struck me, do you want to say the quote, can you remember it?

Claire Whitehouse
My disability has shown my true abilities? Is it?

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, “my disability has opened my eyes to my true abilities”.

Claire Whitehouse
On the lines, guys, I was on the line! Nearly. Yeah, yeah. It really has. I still stand by that quote. It really has opened me up, I have a different perspective of life, an understanding of human beings, being able to approach people differently. It’s opened my eyes in as well as, yes, I do things differently to everyone else. But I still achieve the same level. I mean, it may, it may take me more time, but I still get there. So, you know, my abilities, you know, my disability, I thought was going to be like an anchor, dragging me down. But actually, I’ve been able to let that anchor go now and be able to really experience life again.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, that’s beautiful. I’m really getting a sense of that kind of giving your permission, your self permission, just to kind of just have a go just to try just to see what you can achieve. Because I think we always misjudge our abilities, we always underestimate what we can actually achieve.

Claire Whitehouse
Definitely, definitely. And, you know, a nearly, an unfortunately I nearly died in 2010. And, you know, I feel like I’ve had a second chance of life again. And I want to make it as best as possible. So, this is why I see the world a little bit more as well, you know, there’s so much to see. And you know, life is worth living. And, yeah, you’re gonna have struggles, you’re gonna have plateaus. You know, what, the future is still yours. You can still create your future, you’re creating yourself every single day. So, you know, I feel that you know, you need to be positive, to make a positive outcome as well.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, it’s really shifted your perspective hasn’t it, well, put things into perspective.

Claire Whitehouse
It definitely has shifted my perspective. And it’s changed me for the better. And I’ve got to a point now 10 years on mind, that I’m actually talking to my old best friend. I’ve actually been able to feel confident enough to the point where I gave her a ring, i lockdown and it’s nice to be able to be in that position. You know, that I have grown as an individual; that I felt comfortable with actually making that jump and picking up that phone and talking to someone and that someone was my that my best friend from childhood and it felt really nice.

Hayley Stanton
That’s a really big thing to do as well isn’t it to reach out to someone who you’ve not spoken to in a while.

Claire Whitehouse
definitely, definitely is brave. I hope one day I can explain kind of like how I felt. But we had a bit of closure by saying that it was such a difficult time we did meet up social distancing at the time and, you know, we were both able to explain that it was a difficult time. And that helps with closure and that helps with moving on. Because I always had wanted that closure, because I always regretted not not talking to my friends; always putting the wall up and not allowing them to see me. And I feel now that I can break that wall down and pick up that phone and talk to them again, which is, which is lovely, you know, maybe just a couple of contacts, say hello, but you know what, it’s amazing.

Hayley Stanton
And through breaking that wall down, you obviously have so much richer connections with other people. And with nature, and I feel like with that comes that sense of your place in the world. And you feel like you’re part of something bigger.

Claire Whitehouse
Definitely. I mean, you know, I lost my dad when I was 15. And, and that was massive. of it was such a huge thing, my life. And, you know, I was such a daddy’s daughter. So it’s really difficult, and I never grieved, so that time of isolation I was, I was able to grieve for that loss. But now I use it as a purpose. You know, being able to talk to other stroke survivors, being able to support them, my dad would be proud that I’m doing that now. It’s really nice to, to turn life around.

Hayley Stanton
That’s amazing. Thank you. If you could give yourself some advice, give younger self some advice, maybe even before the stroke, what would you say to yourself?

Claire Whitehouse
Life is hard. When I was a child, I didn’t realise it, you know, there was going to be lots of challenges. But I would always say to myself, things will be okay. You know, I want her to understand that it’s not going to be easy. You’re not going to be making dens for your life. I’m not going to be going down slides for the rest of your life. You’ll be going down slides of emotions, yes, and you’ll be okay. And that’s what I’d tell her, I’ll just reassure her, she never understood that life was going to be so difficult. And I was a perfectionist. And it’s taught me, you can’t be perfectionistic Claire. You’ve got to adapt in a new way. And you know what that’s pretty amazing. You’re making yourself achieve things that you didn’t think you’d be able to achieve but in a different way. And I would have told myself stop being a perfectionist. Just enjoy yourself a bit more.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah. That sounds like very good advice that I could have taken to.

Claire Whitehouse
Even when there was like a little, little screwed up piece of paper that no paper I’ve got have a straight piece of paper. Say yeah, that’s always taught me you know, now, I can’t be a perfectionist. It’s not in my nature to be a perfectionist. I can’t do it now. It’s is definitely a no no and no one is perfect. Who is?

Hayley Stanton
No one is perfect. Yeah. And like you were saying, it’s not important. It’s not the important thing.

Claire Whitehouse
No, I’ve got a girlfriend now. Well, fiance now we’ve been together for five years. And I can tell you what, I am not a perfectionist at all. She’s always correcting me. And I’m just like, you know what, love whatever. But you know what? She loves me for my unperfection. She loves me for my clumsiness. For me walking my walk. And you will get that one day in the future. Because I didn’t think I would find anyone, either. But when you find that right person who will support you; who will lift you up when you’re down again, that’s really really important as well. Yeah.

Hayley Stanton
Thank you so much. This has been a real feel good conversation and yeah, I’m so grateful.

Claire Whitehouse
That’s okay, that’s okay. Well, it’s been lovely to see you and it’s nice to talk to you.

Hayley Stanton
And you. Thank you, Claire.

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