I was in prison. Locked inside myself. I was talking but no one could understand me. I was writing but I didn’t know how to spell any words. I looked at my phone. I knew I needed to reach out to my parents and tell them what was happening but all I could do was look at the screen. I didn’t know how to navigate through the call list. I didn’t understand the letters in front of me… Were they names?
It was too hard to focus and my head was starting to hurt. The motivation to communicate was there but nothing else was getting through.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?” The paramedic asked.
Yes, I nodded. I handed my phone to my friend and indicated that she needed to call for me.
“Do you know your name?” The second paramedic questioned.
Again, I nodded.
“What is your name?”
“Ah Jo Ree Vee” …What? My name is Jori! Why can’t I say my own name! What was happening?
Both paramedics looked at one another. Then turned back to me.
“It’s a stroke.” One of them replied.
In the middle of lunch between enjoying my chicken sandwich and strawberry Bellini… I had a stroke!
My friend in front of me noticed before I did that something was wrong. I never had the drooping face or any type of paralysis. Yet, she noticed the look in my eyes. And for her, she knew something had just changed.
And it had…In more ways than one.
I looked at both paramedics. “No, No. I feel fine just confused” I said. It took a moment to realize that every word I just said was wrong!
“Are you taking me to the hospital?” I tried to ask… but the words that actually came out were, “Take it to the house?”
I had no control of my words!
“Why can’t I talk?” I tried again. “Going for a walk?” I heard myself saying.
“Help!” I tried to say…but, “Ball!” …echoed back.
[Frustrated, scary, confused, buried, trapped, enclosed]…This is what a stroke feels like.
…And this is when my prison sentence started.
In the moments and even days after my stroke, I prayed. I asked God – who was my judge – many questions. Would I be getting out because of time served? Good behavior? What was my charge? I did nothing wrong, why am I being punished!
I needed clarity… but I didn’t get it. Not then, anyway.
In the meantime, I learned my sentence… Aphasia. The inability to process and use language. It was a heavy blow and heavy verdict. Especially to an inspiring writer who also loves to read.
So, the first thought was to escape…to lose myself in it. It would be easier to not accept what has happened and avoid dealing.
But I wanted my life back! I wanted the career I had worked so hard to get. I had plans for my life.
I started to learn about aphasia… and everything that I would have to face. Pronunciation, spelling, word structure, grammar, numbers, diction…the list was long.
But I had to find the key of getting my words back.
Numerous doctor visits, 8 months of speech therapy, countless reading and writing assignments…this was the key. Frustration, tears, moments of depression I had it all… but I couldn’t skip it… I just had to go through it.
And once I did, a spectrum of light started to peak through. The light at the end of the tunnel.
I am not done with dealing with Aphasia but I have gained variations of hope through it. I can see that there are better days ahead. It’s still a struggle at times but the prism has broadened a bit.
Amongst the clouds there are rainbows…
I lost my words along with my identity, yet I found who I truly am despite it all. I’m not discouraged… I am revived. True, I have my moments… but I have them! That is the point. I am alive in every aspect. I don’t know my future, the only thing I know is that I am free to enjoy it.
Let me know your thoughts. Do you have an experience to share? What have you had to deal with on the path to getting well and finding yourself? I would love to know!