Some effects of aphasia are apparent immediately. The inability to follow a conversation or answer a question signals to the other person that there is a communication problem. But some of the effects of aphasia lie hidden deep below the surface.
This is the first thought that Lauren Marks tackles in her new memoir about aphasia, A Stitch of Time. The book opens with a ruptured aneurysm in Scotland and continues into the aftermath as she experiences aphasia.
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Friends and family may have experienced panic during Lauren’s early days after the aneurysm, but Lauren explains that she felt quiet. She didn’t feel worried or sad or confused. She didn’t want to think about the past or the future. She was in the moment, feeling like she had more of a connection to the tree outside her hospital window than she did to her life back in New York.
She describes this feeling with a capital Q — the Quiet — and explains it as a “happy stillness” (p. 11).
Upon reflection, the emotions Lauren remembers feeling don’t fit the situation. She describes her mindset on page 12 as “blissful ignorance.” She pinpoints the moment that she realized she could no longer read, and states on page 6, “Now that the ability was gone, I could no longer think of how or why it should have any influence on my life whatsoever.”
Something that should have upset her not only doesn’t upset her, but she can’t even fathom why she would have ever cared about reading in the first place. Some of this is due to the placement of the aneurysm and its effect on her emotions. But her emotions could also be tied to her brain unable to process the enormity of how much her life has changed.
While it may not be apparent on the outside, Lauren knows that her thoughts have changed. She says on page 17,
Most importantly, it was not just my external language that was ailing. My inner monologue, my self-directed speech, had also gone almost completely mute. In its place was the radiant Quiet.
These thoughts become part of the invisible effects of aphasia because she isn’t sharing them with anyone else. No one knows about Lauren’s “meditative state” or the fact that she isn’t concerned that she can’t use language anymore. She is at peace, for the most part, with her state of existence even as everyone else around her worries.
What are some of your invisible effects of aphasia?
Image: Patrick Hendry via Unsplash