Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What Does Aphasia Mean & Do... ...

What does it mean? Well do any of you know? Doing research on Aphasia via Google or Wikipedia brings you to one simple conclusion among hundreds of links: There is no simple definition of what Aphasia is.

Aphasia is a communication disorder. Something goes wrong from thought to expression. What goes wrong? No one really knows but there are allot of guesses. There are many studies, many MRI's, and many speech tests. Heck there are many YouTube's demonstrating aphasia but usually in the extremes. (Like most YouTube's do, unfortunately.)

So what does it do to me?

Well to understand that context must be provided, for your understanding of why it sucks so much. I used to be very fluent and dynamic in speaking. At one point of my life I was a lay minister. I could absorb the worries and concerns of a Fellow Christian and provide support via language. Support and peace, that is what most of us need at various times while on our walk through life. Heck, not just Christian's either. The value of a soul is not just determined solely by the religion that soul practices. It is determined by the ethos that soul creates and supports around itself. There in is the value.

I used to be able to talk for hours, dynamically without the need of per pared materials or diving into any book for back up. I could type about 150 words per minute. 120 or so without looking at the keyboard at all. As an interesting prank I would play on my wife was to hold a vibrant conversation with her, staring right at her, while click clacking away on the keyboard. The sight of her husband holding two trains of thoughts, at completely different mediums and venues, used to spook her as only a "Dennis the Menace" prankster husband could do.

That ability is no more.

When I talk, now, I do it slowly. Part of the slowness is the mental processing of what I want to say to confirm that these are the words I need to use to properly communicate. Now when I type I make an embarrassing amount of mistakes. (Whoever invented Backspace is one of my heroes!)

A fine example of how it effects me? When I want to make a sudden statement, not a loud exclamation but just a sudden statement within the context of my current dialogue. I have developed a consistency of habit, in essence a rut, that I run my mental wheels through again and again and again. I.E. When someone says something I strongly agree with I say "Exactly". I don't mean "exactly" however, I just mean I agree. However this small bit of aphasic communication can be misleading. Sometimes very misleading indeed.

Take tonight for example: I was in a conversation with two extremely good and gentle friends via Skype. We were just in a call chit chatting away, no video, and I would repeatedly say "exactly" to many statements. Of course I don't realize my misleading communication. So I would get asked, "What exactly?" After many times of being asked to explain my exactly's I finally let irritation show by just shutting Skype down.

The additional miscommunication of this event is, I wasn't remotely irritated at them, not at all. I was irritated with myself. I used to pride myself on never getting into personal ruts no matter the convenience of them. The number one skill I possessed, before my accident, was critical thinking. Focused primarily upon myself which is where critical thinking is most effective. That skill, or trait, is to ... gone.

Before my accident I was thinking about returning to ministry. Even considering becoming ordained however that path to self fulfillment has gotten much much longer. I used to spend my time in volunteer efforts. Not for the "favor" I was doing for others, oh no, but for the favor I was doing for my own soul. Other people were just the lucky beneficiaries of my soul searching and cleansing.

An example: during the planning of my recovery my wife purchased a year's worth of incontinence sleeping chucks. A big old box of them however I wound up only needing one. And the embarrassment of needing that one drove my mind to not needing another one, at all. However a big box was sitting in my house taking up space and we did not want to just waste them. Not by just throwing them away. So I took my inquiries to my local VFW, who in turn directed me to a nearby American Legion. Who in turn suggested a nursing home which made me remember an assisted living facility nearby that I saw regularly but have never visited. Sadly too as many of my Masonic brethren live there and could just use my visiting presence and not just some supplies. (Mind you supplies are good too!)

So for the very first time, today, I entered the Wentworth Home. Made the director's day with my donation but really made staff smile at my cheery perspective. Especially when they learned of why I had the need of such equipment. But this is getting away from the point. (My saliency was destroyed as well.)

The point is I do not, can not, properly control my communication. Not horribly so, no, just enough that some times I can be misleading on intent or purpose. I dread the looks on some kind people faces when I enter their sight. The kind forbearance I see there, the gentle spirits that find my presence something to be burdened with (even just a little)... I see it. (Don't play three hands of poker with me - I may not win much, depending on the draw, but neither will you win anything but by the draw.)

In conclusion, I am currently depressed. Depressed by the resounding fact of my inability to sometimes functionally communicate, depressed by the apologies and explanations justly owed to others, and depressed because I don't know how far or how long this condition will last. When my Aphasia was obvious life was much nicer. Now it is not so strong but that makes it a subtle crime against thought. Thought, or thinking, is my good friend or so it used to be. I am learning to sometimes hate my brain because of how sneakily it betrays me.

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