conflicting emotions

Conflicting Emotions and Aphasia

Emotions after a life changing event may pull you in two different directions at the same time. When Kelly Walsh finally leaves the rehabilitation center after her stroke, she is simultaneously joyful and fearful.

She writes about these conflicting feelings in her new book, Love Stroke, a unique memoir told from two points-of-view. Last time we talked about Brad’s feelings about life after a stroke. Today we’ll talk about Kelly’s feelings in this latest installment of our online book club.

conflicting emotions

Loving and Hating the Same Thing

When Kelly pulls up to her house on page 93, she is greeted by an enormous welcome home banner created by a colleague from work. She writes, “My breathing became shallow. The banner was right there on our driveway, where everyone could see it … It was a wonderful, generous gesture. I hated it.”

She often feels conflicted, feeling both gratitude as well as frustration in the same moment. On one hand, it is wonderful to see proof that you are loved and missed. On the other, Kelly doesn’t want to be defined by her stroke, and a banner across the front of her house puts the stroke front and center in everyone’s mind as they walk up her driveway.

Bittersweet Goodbyes

Even leaving the rehabilitation center to go home brings out conflicting emotions. Kelly admits:

I was ready to go home, until it was actually time. The night before my discharge, I lay awake, thinking and worrying. What am I going to do? It’s a different regimen, and I don’t know how I can do it on my own and keep making progress. Going home was a huge and scary step. I was excited and petrified all at once, but there was no turning back now (p. 91).

Kelly recognizes that she’s going to have to jump into the unknown in order to keep moving forward, but that doesn’t stop her heart from pounding the whole ride home with both excitement and anxiety.

Other People have Mixed Feelings, Too

The person with aphasia isn’t the only person concerned with how things will go once they leave the rehabilitation center. Kelly describes her parents as “waiting on the front step, their faces a strange mixture of joy and fearful anticipation” (p. 93).

Kelly also describes wanting to see loved ones she missed while she was in the hospital and also dreading their visits. People want to show that they care and give her support, but Kelly explains, “I was easily overstimulated by people and noise, and as soon as they arrived, I found myself wishing they would leave.” Visits can be both a positive and frustrating experience for everyone in the room.

Do you experience conflicting emotions as you navigate aphasia? Tell us about a time you felt two ways at once.

Join this online book club! Purchase copies of Love Stroke at any online book retailer including Amazon.

Image: The Tire Zoo via Flickr via Creative Commons license



  • Anonymous
    May 9, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    My husband (a retired university professor) had global aphasia–coould not read, write, speak or reliably indicate “yes” or “no.” I continually wondered how he felt inside. He worked so hard in therapy but could not begin to meet the goals set so that therapy ended after 3 1/2 months with a speech therapist three times weekly and additional daily work at home. He was so courageous and almost always patient in his non-verbal behaviors. It must have taken emense self-discipline. I hurt so much for him and wanted so much to communicate effectively with my husband of more than 52 years. My guess is that he had the conflicting feelings indicated here. Friends did not come to visit more than once–their discomfort was obvious. I assume that is why they stayed away. They seemed to have conflicting emotions, too. My husband died 8 months ago peacefully in his sleep. I wish I could have helped him more–now I wish I could help others more. Nancy

  • Anonymous
    May 9, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    My husband was 86 when he had his first stroke which left him with global aphasia and apraxia. He made major progress on understanding and speech and went home from the rehab hospital after four weeks. A month later he had another significant stroke in the same area of the brain. Surprisingly, although his speech was more impaired, his understanding was better. Again, he went home after a month. He has continued to make great progress in speaking, is reading some, and the apraxia is decreasing. Writing is still not there and I have to be careful to not give him choices. That’s too much to handle. I see the conflicting emotions when people visit. He loves to see them, but for only about 30 minutes. He lets me know on a regular basis that he appreciates all I do, but then he can be demanding when he wants something immediately. I know i would be so angry if I were in his situation and we’re blessed that he has dealt with the issues as he has always dealt with life. It happens and you have to accept it and move on. As a teacher and professional musician until the stroke, he asked me to sell his trumpet and give his music to a local music group that works with low-income kids.

  • Guadalupe
    May 22, 2017 at 3:46 am

    Awesome article.

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