For those of you who don't know, aphasia is a symptom of specific types of brain damage that affect the parts of your brain that handle communication. It's common with many brain injuries, but is most prevalent in survivors of stroke. It can affect a person's reading, writing, comprehension, and speech. 

So without further ado, I'd like to explain a bit about my own personal experience with aphasia. Get your awareness on, people; let's expose this hidden disability!

I think people are understandably having a hard time comprehending why I can no longer communicate the way I used to. For example, I communicate so much more clearly with my typing than with my speech. The fact that I can write this blog would probably astound you if you spent five minutes with me on a bad day. My speech language pathologist explained that this is likely because of my age, and the fact that I was most active with online communication before the stroke, so there is stronger memory left for how to type. Even so, I still feel like I'm squinting through the fog in my brain, flailing around and trying to find the words to type. But the person I am in my typing online is the closest to who I am inside. Sometimes I just can't find a way out of my head vocally.

Another way my aphasia affects me is that sometimes I completely shut down and it starts to feel like everyone is talking under water. I stop being able to understand, and I stop being able to express my thoughts. It is terrifying and frustrating and no one understands. I feel like I can't make them understand, because I can't speak clearly! This usually only happens if I speak too much out loud, or there is too much noise around me, or I am in more pain than usual on that day. It also gets worse with strong emotion sometimes, for example when my feelings are hurt or when I'm sad. It gets worse when I'm tired, or if I'm sick, or if I'm taking any medication that causes confusion or drowsiness. Anything that has the potential to add stress to my day is definitely going to hurt my ability to communicate, which as you can see, can happen at any time in my life. 

I have chronic pain, and my leg is still partially paralyzed from the stroke. You might think that living every day in nearly unbearable pain or having to use assistive devices for mobility would be the worst part, and honestly it all comes close, but the aphasia and acalculia are certainly my most frustrating and terrible symptoms. Losing the ability to express my feelings and thoughts, communicate clearly and calmly with my loved ones, and to get my point across clearly whenever I want has been the hardest part of this whole journey for me. It's like I've lost the connection I have with the rest of the world, even if only at certain times.

Anyway, I am really excited to see the documentary Speechless and to share it with people so hopefully they can more fully understand all of the strange language- and communication-related struggles I have been facing lately. This is exactly the type of documentary we need, especially when most of us cannot effectively communicate what our aphasia is like to deal with. I just think it looks like a story I'd like to see told.

Laura Root
Stroke of Optimism

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