In the first couple of years after the stroke, I was very angry at the world.
"To be able to share your experience of life after stroke, and to have others who know what you're going through offer help and advice, or maybe just say that they understand, is very important to recovery and rebuilding your life after stroke.'
Chris Mahood, 37, from Annalong, Northern Ireland speaks from experience. He had a stroke when he was 24, a week after the birth of his son. 'I couldn't speak or move anything on my left side,' said Chris.'I spent three months in a wheelchair until I learnt how to walk again.
'In the first couple of years after the stroke, I was very angry at the world. I wasn't able to return to work, as I couldn't manage the physical demands of my job as a landscape gardener. Eventually, it dawned on me that I had a son and I had to wise up for his sake.'
Chris first found out about the South Down Stroke Association Voluntary Group through his neighbour. 'He was already a member and convinced me to come along to give it a go - and I've been going ever since."
'After a stroke, you can get very down and think you are the only one, or feel cut off. But that's where peer support comes in and the power of sharing how you feel or what you're going through with others. I can honestly say that groups like this help your mental health.'
Six years on, Chris now organises and runs activities and day trips for the Newcastle based group. 'I volunteered as a leader because I had time to give and wanted to help the group thrive. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that the activities we do make our members happy. Our group also thrives because of our terrific volunteers. They're the backbone of the group.
'I'd say to anyone who has been affected by stroke and hasn't been to a peer support group like ours, give it a go. You won't regret it. Stroke recovery takes time and there's plenty of us going through it too. I was fit and healthy when I had my stroke and my family found it tough at the start. But now, I don't let it worry me. I know you just have to get on with life. It's about accepting where you are and going forward.
You can find or offer support to other stroke survivors by visiting our online community forum on My Stroke Guide. You can also talk to us and other stroke survivors on Facebook. Or you can call our Helpline on 0303 3033 100.
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the Spring 2020 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on an audio CD, or via email.