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“I am not drunk! I have aphasia!” (Yes, I’ve been asked about having had too much to drink.) In December 2011, while in the hospital following surgery for a new pacemaker/defibrillator, I had a stroke that left me with weakness on the right side of my body. I could not speak.

With time, speech therapy, and practice, things are coming together, but speech is still a chore, especially grammar and putting words together. My brain is so overworked sometimes that just trying to think of what word goes next and what makes sense is hard for me.

According to the National Aphasia Association, aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is due to injury to the brain, most commonly from a stroke. Brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections.

Feelings not included in the textbook definition that describe what I often find myself thinking about aphasia include:

  • Stress
  • Alone
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Grief
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Emotional complications
  • Short attention span
  • Give me time, please!

All choices are hard; I change my mind so many times at a restaurant that I still don’t get what I want! Social settings are hard because I am always on guard, trying to anticipate what is coming next or what I should be saying. I miss out on conversations because I can’t listen fast enough. In fact, I don’t do anything fast anymore! Even math and numbers, which used to be second nature to me, are a challenge.

But I am comforted by Christ’s presence, and his peace keeps me from feeling overcome with bitterness or anger.


 A psychiatrist who studied neurology extensively and who lectures about the brain and how various conditions affect it said in one of those lectures that patients who have a stroke in the left hemisphere, which controls the right side of their body, have a better chance of recovery than the other way around even if speech is affected.  I won't go into details here, but if you look up on Youtube lectures by Dr. Iain McGilchrist, you can probably come across the one in which he spoke those words.      

 About 10 years ago I was on a certain anti-psychotic, and my psychiatrist at the time felt we should switch to another one from the latest generation because the side effects would be less severe.  However, because I still had psychotic symptoms at the time he recommended we start me taking the new one before phasing out the old, so for about three weeks I was taking the full dose of the old PLUS 100 mg of the new the first week then 200 mg the second week etc.... That made me feel very sluggish, and I imagine it slurred my speech a fair bit too because at about the same time I had joined a writing workshop where the assignment was to write a novel, and one of the ladies in the group assumed I was drunk.  Until the following week when I read the chapter I'd written in which my main character was going through exactly the same experience I was going through, and then she learned that it was not drunkenness that affected my speech but the medication I was taking to treat my mental illness, schizophrenia.  At it happened, this woman has a daughter who suffers from Bipolar disorder, so she readily understood that I needed to take my medication and we became friends.  I write you this to tell you that although people may make assumptions at first, when you explain the problem most people will understand.  And don't be discouraged.  Recovery may be slow, but with persistence your condition should improve.  A man in our congregation also had a stroke, and now whatever remains of it is barely noticeable to outsiders.  I asked about it some months ago, and his wife said he was back to normal.  I won't promise you that though.  I'm not a doctor, and I don't know you. 

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