The secret to a speech therapy comeback from a stroke? Getting your brain to talk


I was able to come through my stroke with my sight unimpaired and a re-doable brain. Now, at first I couldn’t understand some words – they just wouldn’t be processed in my brain.

My speech therapist Catherine initially worked with me by giving me a list of synonyms, really basic stuff, but it was not showing a lot room for improvement when I started out getting stuck on three-letter words. Words like (and I’m looking at my notes here): rip.

I remember the thought process of mentally thumbing through my brain’s rolodex searching for the right meaning and the feeling of helplessness of coming up with a complete blank. The closest I came was: rest in peace. I knocked at the door and no one answered, although I knew someone was home; I could hear them. I was excluded from a world I had previously known intimately. I was denied access to my own brain’s archives and the comfort it once brought me. My memory museum was nearly empty.

There were two ways of reacting to Catherine’s synonym exercises: thinking and saying. If you could think it correctly, you can say it aloud (albeit, not perfectly).

The most important thing Catherine taught me was teaching my brain how to speak internally.

Once that took root in the electronically-impaired circuitry of my brain, I was well on my way to re-doing my brain. No longer would I be starved of the oxygen of not knowing the right word, (well mostly). And it gave me the impetus to start this blog no matter how hard the typing is.

Now, ten letters don’t faze me: in the crossword the other day the clue was concordant. Harmonious.

I am generally back where I was with words although I have periods of blackness where my vocabulary deserts me on a particular word. I sat trying to will my keyboard to type the word I needed in the last blog, meaning a dual meaning, a life lesson, something that could mean something else, a simile.

I spent 30 minutes on that word, not using Lethean or portmanteau word as being too obscure or not quite the meaning, (but I did use memory museum). How can I remember Greek mythology and French, yet forget the blatantly obvious?

In my hurry to complete the blog I went with simile when I really meant metaphor or analogy. I’ve since corrected it thanks to Amyleebell who sent a comment that she loved my analogy. An analogy! That’s it. Thank you Amyleebell.

Times like that brain fart are rare in my experience, but worrying.

Still, from the first synonym list Catherine tried out on me, I now get 90% right of words and it’s all down, I think, to getting the brain to talk internally.

As I’ve said before: the stroke took away my speech, but not my voice.

And you can quote me that.

I can quote me on that – aloud.

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8 responses to “The secret to a speech therapy comeback from a stroke? Getting your brain to talk

  1. A memory museum! A wonderful word picture. No…you have not lost your voice. I hear you. I see the bright spaghetti. Yours is a beautiful brain!

  2. I LOVE your phrase that you were denied access to your own brains archives. That is exactly how it feels, and I might just quote you on that too!

    My Occupational therapist explained the missing words and problem solving glitches as being being a lot like when your computer puts out a little spinning wheel diagram because it is having trouble searching for a certain file. You are stuck and can’t get your computer to do a darn thing until it either finds the file or it gives up and tells you the file is not available. I think you are more accurate — it feels more like you are being denied access and you want to know how the password got changed.

    Congrats on the improvements. You have come a really long way.

  3. Sometimes a “Lethean or portmanteau word” springs to mind more readily than a simple, terse one (as you suggested, “rip”). I was recently in the middle of a quandary about whether one on those white things in the sky is a “clawed” or a “cloud”. (The varieties of “word dysfunction” are fascinating.)

    As my brother David once said, it’s like “a veritable latticework of webs.”

    May you keep on healing!

  4. Very interesting article. I lose words quite frequently myself. One or two a day, and they always seem to be nouns that I have known for my whole life, like “windshield wipers” and “coffee table.” I probably drive my husband bonkers, because I will be right in the middle of a sentence, and then stop, because I can’t think of the next word, and I know that I should know it. I’m only 32, so is it an early sign of Alzheimer’s or what?

  5. Thank you for sharing this wonderful insight about stroke and how to go about the recovery process of recovery. You have inspired stroke patients and survivor by letting them know the process that they need to go through and that they can win the battle through the support of their love ones and care givers. And just like you, I want to inspire and touch people’s lives and I want to take this opportunity to share with you TAKE A BOW – A full-length documentary about a beloved and highly respected piano professor Ingrid Clarfield who suffered a severe stroke at age 60.  Ingrid takes us on a remarkable journey from physical adversity and emotional struggle to victory of the human spirit and the desire to make a difference.  You can check her website: http://www.takeabowingrid.com. Hoping that you can also share her story and spread the message and inspire others.  God bless. 🙂

  6. I think our, mine and urine, [sic. speaking metaphorically, hehe]. use of humor is what saves us. Its like we were carpenters who knew how to use nails, but couldn’t spell them.

    I;ve always been a wordsmith. My mum taught me well. She had a quick mind. Much quicker than my dad, who was a Sonny Liston to her Muhammad Ali. Not as there was much fighting in my life. Mostly whining on my dad’s part.

    But that’s another story and I don’t know if you’re into a more personal retrospection. No matter, that’s all for tonite.

    TD

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