Episode 070 -- Identity With Annie Smith

Last summer, Annie Smith was featured in the Stroke Smart magazine, sharing a story about stress and how that stress ultimately led to her stroke on December 22, 2015.

I'm thrilled the folks from the AHA were able to help me connect with Annie this week.


Annie Smith sits at a counterAnnie Smith is an Ischemic stroke survivor.

2015 was a life-changing year for Annie; her husband of 38 years died unexpectedly, her first grandchild was born; and she suffered a massive stroke.

On December 22, 2015, she fell to the floor and couldn’t get up. She suffered left-side paralysis and was in a wheelchair for several months before learning to use various canes. After months of physical therapy in a hospital and at home, she regained mobility, relearning to walk and drive a car. Annie returned to her full time job eight months after the stroke, but couldn’t perform all the responsibilities without the help of her daughter who went to work with her.

Consequently, she had to take an early retirement.

Currently, she has weakness on the left side of her body, has some imbalance issues, and suffers from chronic pain.

Professionally, Annie was an educator for two decades.

She was a college professor, teaching educational psychology and introduction to teaching; prior to earning a doctorate, she worked as an academic counselor, high school English teacher, a literacy counselor, and author.

Annie grew up in Mississippi and moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2005 to work at a university.

She hopes to inspire others to live their best lives and become aware of how stress and diet affect our health.


Annie talks about figuring out who she is now that the stroke has changed all her plans for the future.

A lot of times, survivors talk about how a stroke doesn't mean life is over. It does mean that life will be different. Changes to the brain can alter our priorities, our temperaments, and even our personalities. It can lead us to look at life in a more positive or a more negative manner. This is an internal change in identity.

There are also external changes in our identities. When someone really loves their work and identifies heavily with it, it can be extra difficult to adapt if they can't return to work after a stroke. It's not just their livelihood and financial future that's turned upside down, but also the entire way they see themselves.

A stroke can lead to new life plans and new goals. Family structure can change. And there are myriad other ways the way we see ourselves changes.

Of course that's without even getting into the physical changes we may see in a mirror or through mobility aids.

Annie is going through that process now of figuring out just who post-stroke Annie is.

And she's doing that while working through her recovery, working through depression, dealing with a lack of confidence, and mourning the loss of both her husband and pre-stroke Annie.

And it's fantastic and a testament to her compassion and caring that she invited the rest of us to be part of her journey.

Annie's Story on YouTube


Facebook Group

I've just launched a new Facebook group for the Strokecast community. Stop by, join, say Hi, and share your thoughts on recovery after stroke or about the show.

Hack of the Week

Meditation can be a great tool to control stress. Controlling stress is important for the rest of the things we need to do to stay healthy and avoid stroke -- sleeping well, eating right, and exercising.

So folks are uncomfortable with the idea of meditation, for a variety of reasons, but it doesn't have to be a big deal. Many traditional medical establishments are now promoting "Mindfulness" which provides many of the benefits of meditation without the cultural baggage.


Where do we go from here?


Strokecast is the stroke podcast where a Gen X stroke survivor explores rehab, recovery, the frontiers of neuroscience and one-handed banana peeling by helping stroke survivors, caregivers, medical providers and stroke industry affiliates connect and share their stories.

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