Post-Stroke Aphasia Piece One

I helped at my sister’s paint your own pottery shop recently and near the end of my shift, my trouble with easy little words overtook me again. Someone came to pick up a painted turtle; I had to concentrate hard to remember what a turtle was. I could not find the item in the front room; went into the back room to look and grabbed a painted duck. Luckily, before I walked back out to the front carrying that duck, I realized that a duck was not a turtle.

A little while later, I was trying to explain this situation to my sister’s husband. I could not think of the WORD turtle. I knew the word started with a ‘T’ but my brain kept thinking, ‘Troll, Trilobite, Troglodyte…’ It’s odd how my brain can think of bigger, stranger words much better than easy little words. Perhaps that’s because I’m a poet – or more likely, it’s because of the parts of my brain that were lost during my stroke.

Starts with a ‘T’ I’d tell him and he would tell me ‘turtle’ – and then I would repeat the word ‘turtle’ several times in a row, and then less than five minutes later, I would forget the word again.

Once I got home that evening, I wrote the word down and repeated it to myself numerous times – and then did so for several days after that – and no I finally seem able to remember the word turtle – but turtle is just one word.

And unfortunately, sometimes as soon as I stop repeating one word multiple times per day, I forget it AGAIN.

*

Soon after that turtle episode happened, I decided to spend some time with a Children’s Picture Dictionary that I had spent quite a bit of time with some months back, as part of my therapy. Yes it is indeed a little kid’s book, but it focuses on lots of those easy little words that my damaged brain has some serious trouble with. I hadn’t opened the book in a while and was hoping that since time had elapsed, the book would be much easier for me now.

Unfortunately, it was not. Row by row, I covered up the words and looked at the pictures and tried to think of those words. Each row had 3-5 words with pictures above them. I would concentrate hard – and I would be lucky if I got 1 or 2 of those words right. Sometimes I could think of a similar word, but not the exact right word. Sometimes I could think of the first letter but not the whole word. Sometimes I couldn’t think of much of anything.

I was not clueless as to what any of the items WERE, but I sure couldn’t think of the words for those items quickly or easily. The word GLOVE for example; it’s an easy little word; if someone else uses that word, I know what it is/what it means; but can I always easily think of it? No. This kind of thing can get quite frustrating.

One row had SOCKS, KNEE SOCKS, SLIPPERS, and TIGHTS. I concentrated and was able to think of socks and knee socks. I could not get slippers. I knew the other one started with a t, but could not get tights.

One row had CAR, TRUCK, and TRAIN. After concentrating a lot, I finally got car and truck, but could not get the other. I concentrated longer and harder and finally thought of train, but then truck left my head and got replaced by bus and wouldn’t come back until I actually looked at that word.

One row had FIREPLACE, VASE, and COFFEE TABLE. After concentration, I got vase and then the word fire, but not that whole word; I kept thinking fire escape rather than fireplace until I looked at that word. I don’t remember what I thought of instead of coffee table.

I thought of FAUCET instead of SINK. I couldn’t think of THERMOMETER, although I knew it started with a t. I finally got TWEEZERS and NAIL CLIPPERS after concentrating for a long time. For a while, nail polish came into my mind.

Again, these are just a few of many examples. I made it through about 19 pages before I had to take a break from concentrating so much and getting stressed out. Since then, I’ve gone through more pages (and will continue to do so), but I feel like it has not gotten much better or easier yet.

Will it ever?

*

Words used to be easier for my brain than images, but with the way my brain is working these days, it sometimes seems to be the other way around. Although I don’t think that’s a particularly positive or negative thing, sometimes it really overwhelms me.

Sometimes, almost as soon as I wake up in the morning, a weird plethora of seemingly random stuff starts popping out of my noggin – and some of that stuff is strange imagery. Disturbing images from old movies, semi-random images from my past, pop pop, pop. Sometimes when I try to think of an easy little word, I will just think of the first letter and relative length – and then concentrate harder – and while I’m concentrating, all these random words, song lyrics, and images pop out.

Recently I was looking at a green part of my Venus Fly Trap that had been growing higher & higher and I realized that the way it looked reminded me of a certain kind of snake. I could clearly visualize the images of what I was thinking about, but had a hard time getting the words. After concentrating, I finally got the word snake and new that the specific kind of snake I was trying to think of was poisonous and so I google searched poisonous snake and then found the word cobra.

The very next morning, I glanced at my Venus Fly Trap again and agreed with the description I had mustered up the day before, but had trouble with those words AGAIN. I had to concentrate hard to think of the word snake (first my brain popped out fish, spider, squid, silver, sauce) and then I couldn’t think of the specific kind of snake again (this time I knew it started with a C and visualized it’s relative length, but before my brain got cobra, it thought cobweb – and then it thought of corpse vat and crepuscular, which happen to be words from within my own post-stroke poems).

That’s another odd thing; my brain sometimes suddenly pops out words or whole lines from old poems of mine. These strangely strained brain powers can be rather interesting at times, but also overwhelming.

***

Feel free to read older post-stroke pieces by me, by clicking below (and stay tuned for my new sections 2 and 3 coming soon):

Juliet’s very first small article about her Stroke – “Post-Stroke Survival and Sad Little Blues” – http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2807396/poststroke_survival_and_sad_little.html?cat=70

Juliet’s second article about her Stroke and also about her Poetry – “Full Length Dissection” – http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5602556/full_length_dissection.html?cat=70

Juliet’s third article about her Stroke and Poetry, posted on her own blog & linked to by Big Tent Poetry – “Doll Injection Mold Disaster” – http://bigtentpoetry.org/2010/08/sideshow-finding-the-words/

Juliet’s fourth article about her Stroke and her Divorce – “A Round Thing that Starts with the Wrong Letter” – http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6187208/a_round_thing_that_starts_with_the_pg5.html?cat=5

Juliet’s new POST – STROKE poetry chapbook – http://www.etsy.com/listing/68443790/post-stroke-by-juliet-cook