One of the reasons that I started this blog was requests, from professionals working with persons with aphasia and their care givers, to describe what aphasia looked and felt like from the inside. I have been struggling with the following question for a couple of months. How do I express frustration without it sounding like despair or depression, and yet not minimizing those feelings of frustration?
Aphasia literally means loss of words. Practically, I have found it means loss of use or control. Ever since the earliest of times, even in the Garden of Eden, the first step to control or to use something was to name it. If I can’t remember the name of something, how can I ever expect to be able to use it or control it?
Prior to two years ago, I believed that God had given me a greater sense of freedom. If I felt the urge that it was time to change jobs within academe, I could take the initiative and try to get a new job. Today, I do not have that option. Aphasia, fatigue and age now preclude me from working at those jobs that I loved and enjoyed within the academy. Honestly, I am sad and frustrated with that prospect. But I am not depressed, which is the question the neurologists and therapists keep asking me. I am grateful for the opportunities that have been opened to me prior to this, as well as the work that I have been able to accomplish up to now.
I also want to make something clear at this point. Although I may be frustrated, my frustration has not taken away my sense of gratitude for the life that I have lived, the work that I have accomplished, or whatever lies in front of me. A recent episode of “Criminal Minds” ended with what I found to be a thought-provoking conversation. One FBI agent was asked if the victim that they had just saved was okay. A second agent involved in the rescue responded that the victim was strong but scarred. The first agent then said, “You can’t come through something like this without getting scars. But scars only show us where we have been;, they do not dictate where we are going.” Another agent then closed the show with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote by saying, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies in us.”
At times, I feel scarred, but I know it’s not the end of the road. I don’t necessarily know where the road is going. But I am grateful for the opportunity to once again play the game that my wife and I used to play many years ago when we took Sunday afternoon car rides. Whenever we came to an unfamiliar intersection, we would look at each other, pick one of the roads and say to each other, “Wonder where this road goes?”