Superwoman, the book: A stroke in the prime of your life

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"A Superwoman complex: believing that I can do anything and want to do everything, that I should keep the plates spinning and - importantly - do it all by myself. If I drop a plate, I pick it up and keep going. Leaving it be would hurt my pride."

The book Superwoman, by Lidewij Verweijen, as told to Violet Falkenburg, was released on 22 October. A personal account, it tells us the story of an ambitious young woman who suffered a stroke completely out of the blue at age 36. The book goes into the changes this event wrought in her life and the effects it had on the people around her, focusing on the themes of acceptance, understanding (or the lack of it), and professional assistance.

Successful career at ABN AMRO

Up until March 2018, Lidewij Verweijen enjoyed a position as a marketing manager at ABN AMRO, with plenty of guts and ambition to keep climbing the ladder, not to mention a vibrant social life and three young children. But then a stroke changed everything. Two years later, the social security services have declared her partially incapacitated for work and she has been forced to find a new rhythm of life.

Verweijen: “Originally, the reason I wrote down my story was because it helped me in my recovery process and in coming to terms with what happened. It was only later that I realised making it into a book might inspire other readers too. I hope that reading about my experiences will help others develop sympathy, understanding and recognition of our own limits and those of the people around us. Last but not least, my book highlights the vital importance of all individuals and institutions involved in a ‘successful’ recovery process. Which isn’t over; as you’ll discover, I did not exactly find and accept my new normal overnight. As such, the book focuses on the mental process of recovery.”

“It took me a while to understand why we did these exercises during psychomotor therapy. I realised it’s in my nature to keep pushing to the limit on any challenge.”

Personal road to recovery

During the launch on 22 October, the first two copies of the book went to Lidewij's ABN AMRO manager and her rehabilitation specialist, in recognition of the valuable part they played in her rehabilitation and reintegration process.

Over the next 20 years, a surge is expected in the number of young people who get strokes. A surge with consequences not only for the health care sector, but for businesses as well. Especially where young stroke victims are concerned, achieving sustainable employability depends on parties working together to find the right rehabilitation approach - which can look quite different from person to person.

Rehabilitation specialist Kortland: “Lidewij's book gives us insight into the importance of personal control, timing and coping in the recovery and rehabilitation process, as the person works toward retaking their place as a full member of society. Also, the book demonstrates how this process doesn't always neatly fit into standard protocols and timelines. All the support during each stage really needs to be tailored to the person's unique situation! Truly valuable literature for professionals in this field and for those with non-congenital brain damage.”

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