“WHY ME?” These were the first words that Bill Torres spoke after waking up from his stroke. Like many survivors, Bill lived his first days and weeks after stroke in a dark, heavy cloud of depression. Depression creates feelings of hopelessness, guilt, helplessness, and decreased energy—all symptoms that stand in the way of a survivor’s efforts to regain mobility and speech. Yet, rather than dwelling on asking “WHY ME?” Bill’s second words were, “WHAT NOW?” He set his mind to getting better, little by little, every day. As researcher and author, Peter Levine (2013) suggests, stroke survivors must “fall in love with the process ... [and] see the process of recovery as an opportunity for growth”.
Falling in Love with the Process: Cultivating Resilience in Health Crises tells Bill Torres’ story of recovery and advocacy. The book is structured along two different timelines—chapters alternate between Bill’s stories of growing up in San Diego and chapters that provide accounts of Bill’s journey of stroke recovery. These two separate storylines come together near the close of the book as we explore Bill’s approach to advocating for other stroke survivors.
IMPORTANTLY, this is a book for everyone, not just stroke survivors. Each chapter offers insights about what it means to become resilient no matter what challenge you face--an accident, an illness, the loss of someone you love. Creating your own resilience means falling in love with the process of recovery, step-by-step, little-by-little, with the help of a supportive network of friends. It is not something you can do alone. We all need the support of others as we walk the path of recovering our strength.
The book is divided into three parts:
Part One: Picking Up the Pieces; Connecting the Dots explores the aftermath of Bill’s stroke and discusses the ways in which stigma, depression, and internalized ableism shaped Bill’s initially difficult emotional response to stroke but also offer accounts of how his communication with key health care providers reinforced Bill’s drive to work on his own rehabilitation.
Part Two: Persisting Through Recovery considers both Bill’s capacity to structure his own rehabilitation routine and the ways in which his close network of friends supported him throughout his recovery process.
Part Three: Communicating as an Advocate explores how Bill transformed his survivor narrative into a tool for advocacy. It explains the strategies Bill used to successfully work with other stroke survivors and also describes the compassion fatigue that can accompany this kind of communicative labor.
Sarah Parsloe (Ph.D. Ohio University) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Her research examines the ways in which people make sense of identity threats that arise from experiences of disability and chronic illness, including uncertainty, stigma, and ableism. She is particularly interested in studying the communication processes of (self-)advocacy.
Patricia Geist-Martin (Ph.D. Purdue University) is a Professor Emerita in the School of Communication at San Diego State University. Her research examines the stories people tell in making sense of their lives, particularly in their journeys through health and illness. Co-authored with Dr. Sarah Parsloe, Falling in Love with the Process: Cultivating Resilience in Health Crises: A Stroke Survivor’s Story (2020), is Dr. Parsloe’s first book and Dr. Geist-Martin’s fifth book.