Return to Scotland

Return to Where Your Aphasia Started

We’ve been speaking about A Stitch of Time by Lauren Marks as part of our online book club. In this last post about the book, we return to the scene of Lauren’s aneurysm in a bar in Scotland.

Returning to Scotland

Lauren knew that she wanted to go back to Scotland, the setting for her life-changing aneurysm. She writes on page 336,

I had always planned to return to Edinburgh, to visit the hospital that had treated me and spend some time in the town that gave me another life. I just hadn’t realized how long it would take to get back there–five years and some change.

By the time Lauren returns to Edinburgh, she is deep into her recovery from aphasia. She is married and living in England, making the trip to Scotland easier to manage. She also has the gift of time, which has given her a pocket of reflection to rest in as she returns to this emotional space.

Reconnecting With Her Therapist

Lauren meets up with Anne, her speech therapist from her time in the Scottish hospital before she headed back to the United States. They’ve kept in touch, and Anne offers to meet her at the hospital so she can see the rest of the staff before continuing on to dinner at her home.

One of the most important moments comes when Anne reveals her viewpoint on Lauren’s experience. The exchange begins when Anne states, “I am so glad you decided to come back to Scotland. Even after such a distressing experience” (p. 337).

Lauren quickly sets the record straight because she doesn’t think of her experience as distressing:

Actually, I think that whole period after the aneurysm’s rupture was much more upsetting for those around me, I explained to her. In fact, most of my memories of the hospital aren’t bad at all (p. 337).

Lauren describes the time period after the rupture as a time of quiet contentment. She felt unburdened by words and liked the silence that descended over her because she didn’t have the words to feel anything else.

Breaking Assumptions

This leads to a powerful realization for the speech therapist. She explains on page 338:

But when you think of them as adults, as people just like you, your empathy engages. You imagine yourself facing such an appalling situation. Sometimes, this thought experiment accurately corresponds with the patient’s experience, but then there is the inverse situation, too. When we assume people will feel uncomfortable, we then start to see them as uncomfortable without realizing that we might be the source of their discomfort, Anne said. Expect the worst, the worst can settle right in.

This idea that therapists shouldn’t assume how their clients feel is an important moment of understanding for both Anne and Lauren.

Returning to the Bar

Before Lauren leaves Edinburgh, she returns to the bar where she first collapsed. It is different from how she remembers it, and it is strange being on the stage where she was singing before her life changed. It is closure, in one sense, but in another, it is merely a continuation.

As Lauren writes on page 341, “Over time, I’ve stopped making large distinctions between The Girl I Used to Be and The Woman I Have Become. Instead, I acknowledged the multiplicities.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed this online book club selection. We’ll be starting a new book in a few weeks, but in the meantime, catch up on all the old posts for this selection.

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

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