Sunday, 24 May 2015

Aphasia. Intelligence or Expression?

Not a question of intelligence but rather an assault on expression...

I'm the lucky one, if you think having your world turned upside down for over 40 years something to write home to mom about.
I say this, tongue in cheek, because surviving any brain trauma or stroke funny or the life long struggles of living permanently disabled as joyous then one is missing the point.

There are several forms of Aphasia of which I suffer from one.
They range from mild to devastating.
A broad definition is stated above, "an assault on expression".
It is an attack on communication and the ability to understand the written or spoken word or the ability to either write or speak the words required to form intelligible speech.
Many thought the person with the worse case had become an "imbecile" and in the good old days would be locked up in one of those asylums.
Today, we have a greater appreciation of the cause and effect and with the assistance of therapists can make the right diagnosis and treatment.

I am fortunate as I have a mild case of it.
The form I suffer from is called Anomic Aphasia.

It is the inability to find the correct noun when having a dialogue with someone.
Now, one may think a mild form is laughable and get over it, as there are people worse off than you.
Let me remind you that a disability regardless of severity is still a lifelong sentence from which there is no escape or time off for good behaviour.
I was at a restaurant in 1977, awaiting the test results for my affliction, my left temporal Arterio Veinous Malformation (AVM) and I ordered a burger.  I didn't want tomato on it.  When I ordered, I lost the noun, "Tomato", and said I don't want a round vegetable that grows in the garden, as her eyes crossed along with mine, she asked
"No" I replied.
"Lettuce?" She inquired.
"No." Said I
I was beginning to wonder how many round things are there on a darned burger?
Then she asked"Tomato?"
"That's it!" I declared
"That's what I don't want on my burger", I stated in relief and some embarrassment.  I could have easily removed it from the burger when the order arrived at my table.
It's 40 years later and still I lose my ability to communicate effectively.
I avoid conversations involving things, like movies because I can't remember the title of the flick or the actor/actress's name.

The same can be said for anything with a noun in it.
Names of life long friends, medical terms in my field of employment as a Medic, or terms used in anything you use in the house or place of work.  I can use something like tweezers but may lose the actual name when telling you about my treatment.  You know, the thing used to pull out slivers.

STOP WHINING!  At least you can function, my loved one can't even speak!

I have stated in the past that mild and moderate should be struck from the medical vocabulary because it is so unfair to those who suffer from a mild or moderate form of disability.  We're still disabled!
What is worse?
A person who you know by virtue of their inability to speak a simple sentence,or one who can but shows a lack of finesse fitting to their level of expertise?

I have been passed over for promotion, been thought of as incompetent or stupid because I cannot speak effectively.  Some think it's a matter of intelligence or the lack thereof.

People get frustrated or simply talk over me because I get stuck on finding the right word.

It is demoralizing, causes depression and a high level of anxiety.
I may be high functioning but the frustration that comes from an inability to communicate is to say the least painful.

We are a social animal and besides touch, speech is tantamount to being included.  
If we cannot communicate, we withdraw from society and that is akin to a self imposed life sentence in solitary confinement.

Yes, any disability is in fact severe in nature.  We have more compassion for those whose disabilities are glaringly obvious than those who struggle silently in their knowledge that they are not right in their own world.
We even feel guilt to ask for help or empathy because there are those whose affliction is worse than ours.
Aphasia is and has been a part of me since 1977.  
I discovered my affliction the usual way.  I joined a brain injury group and read a post and thought he was talking about me.
I then looked it up and realized the reason for 40 years of living with this issue.  It all makes sense, too bad the neuropsychological test in
1978 wasn't explained to me or that rehabilitation was not suggested.
It may have made a big difference in my recovery.
The least it would have done is let me know I'm not incompetent and there is a reason for my speech and expression of it, after all.

For those without Aphasia, imagine this scenario,
If you have ever been in an exam at school where you are secure in the knowledge of the material being tested on and you come to an question you are certain you know the answer to but know matter how hard you try to recall it you just can't find it.
You leave the class and suddenly the answer reveals itself.
Now that is your level of frustration.
Take that level of frustration and apply it to every time you wake, every time you speak and even when you think and then you start to appreciate the depth and width a person with aphasia  faces for the rest of their life.