A Day of Aphasia

August 4, 2012 by  
Filed under On Life and Living

The memories are fuzzy, but they are there.  Memories of a life of capability… one where talking and thinking came so easily.  Life may not have seemed easy at the time, but in retrospect those were good times.  It was a time where I felt like I understood my place in this world.  The days went by without thoughts of doubt, depression, or loss.

Following a traumatic brain injury, I sometimes wonder if those days will ever return.


The first glimpse in today’s mirror reflects a person who is intimately associated with doubt.  The eyes don’t quite seem right… their symmetry has been compromised.  Careful inspection finds that one of them droops just a bit compared to the other.

Each day is a new opportunity to reevaluate my appearance.  Looking at the mirror each morning is a routine I often wish I could skip.  Life might be better if the day didn’t start out like this.

The mirror is something that is just unavoidable.  I approach the mirror in much the same way that a car in traffic approaches an accident.  The temptation of looking is irresistible.  It is impossible to pass by without rubbernecking.

My mind is too inquisitive to pass up the opportunity that the mirror provides.  I cannot help but scrutinize every inch of my face.  Each day the reflection tells the same story… I look different than I should.  The eyes, the mouth, the entire countenance… they are just a bit off.  I know this before I even look, but I just can’t help myself from thinking that one of these days it will be different.

That first look reaffirms that I am now a different person.  It reinforces the fact that my own body and mind are sometimes my own worst enemies as I struggle to understand and interpret my world.  The world of aphasia is a very lonely place when you cannot even trust your own mouth.  The words that come out of your lips are often different than those you intended to say.


The Frustration of Aphasia

I ask for a drink of water and they hear “turn the light on.”  I tell the kids we need to go to the store and they act as if I said “do your homework now.”  Life consists of a long list of misinformation, and the frustrating part is that I am never sure if it is my fault.  Some days it seems like the whole world has conspired in to play a cruel joke on me.

I remember how much I loved to read.  If only I could read, at least I would have an escape from the miscommunications that seem to occur every time I engage in a conversation.  Reading has become a huge mountain.  It was a mountain that I used to enjoy climbing, but now I’m not sure that I’ll ever reach the summit.  I can read and say medium length words like strong, bookshelf, and telephone.  It is the easiest words that cause the trouble.  Why is it so hard to identify words like by, the, and are?

The worst part is always feeling stupid.  They tell me I used to talk more and that I need to work hard to get better.  Then I look around and see everyone else reading and talking without any problem.  Everyone else seems to be able to communicate so naturally.  Why put so much effort in when it seems like it isn’t helping?


It could be worse, but…

I understand that I am lucky to even be talking.  Many other survivors never say another word.  Some never came out of the coma, and others have loved ones who are hoping for that first word.  For some reason, the fact that life could be worse doesn’t make me feel any better.  The only person I care to compare myself to is myself.  I don’t feel like I will ever feel like myself again.

Life is now defined by what I cannot do.  My brain is too foggy to manage difficult tasks.  My mouth betrays me on even the simplest requests.  The days are long and all the speech therapy is exhausting.  Some days I feel like reading is so close, but the next day it all goes away.

Life would be better if it were predictable.  It would be better if I could trust myself again.  Every day is a new day with new possibilities, but it certainly is getting hard to imagine ever getting out of this rut.

I have a condition called aphasia, and this condition extends into every minute of my day.  I will try to beat it, but in the meantime I must learn to adjust.  It is not easy to adjust to a life that feels like someone else’s.  It’s not easy at all.  If I keep trying, maybe I can learn to like myself again.


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2 Responses to “A Day of Aphasia”
  1. Joyce says:

    I want to say that you described this so beautifully, with such clarity. I am so happy for you. I know it was difficult. I had 7 strokes within a two-month period in 2009. I have Aphasia and I have similar problems that you describe. I really related to you when you said how some people never come out of the coma or never say another single word. Sometimes I feel guilty for getting frustrated with myself and my new way of being. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Rachel says:

    This is the story of my life! Its nice to know I am not alone and someone else understands. Although I am able to read and write extremely well, I relate with every other aspect of your experience with aphasia.

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