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By toxicfur (Mon May 10, 2010 at 09:06:15 PM EST) (all tags)
This is what I know of aphasia, from my 400-level physiological psych course. There are two primary kinds according to my undergraduate class: Wernicke's aphasia, and Broca's aphasia. Wernicke's aphasia causes a sort of "word salad." A kind of "colorless green ideas" syntactic integrity without meaning. Broca's aphasia, on the other hand, is what affected my ex's dad, after his aneurysm and stroke. He knew what he wanted to say, but the words were absent. It causes lack of syntactic structure, and the afflicted person knows he or she can't find the necessary word for the object meant, but the word is locked away.

Both of these kinds of aphasia are, so far as I know, typically caused by some sort of traumatic brain injury.

I recently experienced aphasia that from a clinical perspective felt very much like what I image Broca's aphasia to be.



Friday night, I spent a fair amount of time revising an email I'd written. One of those emails that could've had a negative outcome, and that I was seriously worried about. I called S about 10:30, after ana went to bed, and we talked for a couple of hours. I felt pretty good by the time we hung up about 12:30 or so, and I read the email a last time and sent it. I felt a sort of sinking feeling as I pressed send.

I went to bed around 1 and dozed fitfully. I had a number of nightmares, that various worst-case scenarios had come to pass. I rolled over and looked at the wall. I rolled back over and dreamed other vivid and complex dreams. I kicked the cat who vanished. I pulled the blankets tighter around me, then tried to shed them. I went back to sleep and watched within my skull the face of despair.

The sun began to shine in my window, reflected off the white house next door, around 7:30. I groaned and tucked my head under my arm, and told Rusti the dog to lie down and told Rocky the dog that indeed he is allowed in the bed on Saturday mornings. He whined and pranced by the bed and I patted the vast expanse of mattress beside me and whined back, "Come the fuck on, stupid dog, just get up here and lie down." Rusti snuggled hard against my leg until Rocky began to move around and then she wriggled out from under the covers to investigate. Rocky jumped down and began the process all over again.

I whimpered with exhaustion and then I dozed back off into dreams of hopelessness and despair.

And then I felt a weight on the side of the bed. Ana sat beside me, back resting against the wall, legs stretched in front, ankles crossed. It was 9, time for me to get up. I looked at Ana, a little confused. I tried to say something, and the words simply didn't come out. I picked out a few words that seemed to exist, and said them.

Ana laughed a little. I laughed a little.

"Remember," I said. "Silas." I moved my hands through the air, trying to demonstrate a cat chasing a mouse. "You know? Last night." I stuttered. Each word was a struggle. "Worry," I said. "Because. Things. The." I trailed off in intense frustration.

"The wossname in the wossname?" ana asked.

I laughed again and nodded. "You know. The growing things. Mice. Cats. Eat. Bad stuff?"

Ana eventually worked out that I was trying to talk about parasites and toxoplasmosis. Silas had brought in a mouse the night before and instead of catching the mouse and releasing it outdoors, I was tired enough that I just let him keep it. And then he ate it. And I was worried that he'd get parasites from the vermin he was eating, and that -- perhaps -- it would affect us, too. The words for that just weren't there.

I pulled myself out of the bed, and went downstairs for juice and vitamins and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. There was an email from Vermont, one of my employees, wanting help on a particular part of the proposal she was working on, and I tried to answer it. I looked at the screen on my little iPod and I felt the words I needed to say. "I'm going to need to drink some coffee first," I wanted to write, "and then I'll get right on this. Sorry I'm just now getting up and getting moving, but I'll get this to you ASAP."

What I wrote was this:

"W"

I couldn't figure out what letter came after "W" in the word "I'm." It was too hard. I couldn't do it. I eventually gave up and reloaded husi, which had lost its cookie. I had to re-log in. It literally took me 10 minutes to type in "toxicfur." I didn't know what a 'u' looked like or what it was called. I just knew that another letter came after the 'f' and I needed to find it.

It was one of the most horrifying experiences I've ever been through.

Later, I wondered if I'd had a stroke, if I was bleeding out. In the moment, I was intensely frustrated and tired and sad, but it never occurred to me that there might be some sort of organic problem. I believed I was just beyond exhausted because I've been under so much stress between work and home and Mother's Day weekend and extended family and so on and so on.

Today, I talked to my therapist about this. I described the utter despair I felt when I could picture in my head the pictorial representations of what I wanted -- the mental version of an ASCII cat and mouse, for instance -- and when I simply could not find words. Or letters. Or language in general.

"It sounds to me," she told me, "like you were in the midst of a rather extreme panic attack. Everything just sort of shut down."

Oh. That makes sense. I've gotten panic attacks off and on my entire life. They were much less intense and much, much less often when I was smoking, but since I quit, I deal with them. My heart begins to pound and I begin to sweat? No worries. Calm boss still looks calm. I get the jittery flight-or-fight feelings? Not a problem! I just sit very still and focus on the point of my pen and what it looks like as it creates a doodle on the side of a page. I rarely actually lose control enough that it shows. I have never lost control of something so vital as my language.

And yet I did.

"If it happens again," said my therapist, "we should think about finding you a doctor to examine you. So just keep it in mind."

My anxiety killed my ability to use language. I wonder if that means I should just stop talking?

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Aphasia | 34 comments (34 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Not sleeping killed mine once by MartiniPhilosopher (4.00 / 3) #1 Mon May 10, 2010 at 09:27:03 PM EST
Studying for finals, I had been awake for somewhere around 35 or so hours. This was done on four or five hours rest, not sleep, thanks to back to back finals earlier in the week. Having given up on reading about microcontroler language design when I had to look up what the word "The" meant, I decided that it was time to get some lunch.

For what it's worth, the UMR campus was rather diverse and it was not unusual to run into non-native speakers everywhere. The student union, at lunch time, was (I guess it still is) a polyglot's dream.

So it shouldn't have been a surprise that I couldn't understand the girls in front of me. It had happened to me plenty of times before. But, for whatever sleep-addled reason, I decided that they had to be speaking english. And that because I couldn't even being to make sense of what they had to say, my mind went straight to the worse-case scenario it could find: Aneurysm.

So I start to panic. Quiet, desperate, and exhausted panic.

Luckily enough for me, before I can get too far down that road, I get asked for my order. In a language I can understand. And I realize, fairly quickly, that all I am is really, really tired. I got lunch and found a place to sleep for a few hours before returning home and climbing back into bed for a solid eight.

The lesson: Stress and no rest and do bad things to your perceptions.

Whenever I hear one of those aforementioned douche bags pontificate about how dangerous [...] videogames are I get a little stabby. --Wil Wheaton.

that sounds terrifying. by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon May 10, 2010 at 10:39:26 PM EST
i'm glad to know things are better now.

i hope the email did not have a negative outcome.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

Thanks, aph. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #17 Tue May 11, 2010 at 01:51:38 PM EST
There wasn't a negative outcome, and yeah, it was terrifying, though more so after the fact.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
That once happened to me by MillMan (4.00 / 1) #3 Tue May 11, 2010 at 12:31:03 AM EST
When I was sick and took some nyquil. It scared me a lot less than I would have figured in retrospect.

My favorite brain-fail was when I fist discovered 5-HTP and initially took too much - the end result was 48 hours during which I was barely able to register other humans as, uh, humans. It really felt like they were inanimate objects that were moving around for unknown reasons.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

Yeah, not fun by notafurry (4.00 / 1) #4 Tue May 11, 2010 at 01:00:05 AM EST
I had mild Wernicke's aphasia for a few months after a severe concussion. In my case, there was a set of words that got tossed in my head; the most consistent example was "copier" instead of "printer". I would, in my head, say "printer"; I would be certain I had said "printer"; I would even "hear" myself say "printer".

Everyone else not in my head heard "copier".

It was really bad for the first few weeks, then it gradually tapered off and after six months or so it was gone.

Nowadays copiers and printers are nearly the same by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #12 Tue May 11, 2010 at 09:15:46 AM EST
maybe it was precognition and not aphasia.


[ Parent ]
Not very precog of me by notafurry (2.00 / 0) #15 Tue May 11, 2010 at 11:43:11 AM EST
This was in 2007, so it had more or less already happened. However, even though the devices are much the same, people still tend to separate them by assigned function. And in my office at the time, they were still separate devices.

There were some difficulties and increased response times in dealing with printer issues for a couple of months. Fortunately, my team quickly learned to either A) get instructions via email (the aphasia had no affect on my writing, just my speech) or B) if I told them to do something using known trouble words, ask if I really meant that. If I said yes, fine. If I said no, start guessing what I really meant.

[ Parent ]
i seemed by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #25 Tue May 11, 2010 at 06:06:58 PM EST
to lose a good portion of my word-selection ability when i was pregnant, but i blamed it on my parasite for stealing my brain waves. words just wouldn't come, or the wrong ones would...or i'd lose my sentence mid-sentence. frustrating.
---------
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
That's just pregnant brain by notafurry (2.00 / 0) #26 Tue May 11, 2010 at 06:23:11 PM EST
We warn all our students about it. Over 3/4 of them self-report it happening at some point. I've never heard a specific medical explanation for it, but if I had to guess I'd say it's related to all the hormones.

[ Parent ]
i knew it'd happen by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #27 Tue May 11, 2010 at 06:47:45 PM EST
and expected it to, but was shocked at the depth of it. thankfully it didn't get really bad til i was visibly pregnant, so I didn't have to try to reassure people that I hadn't just had a stroke...
---------
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
it's hormones at least at the cellular level by iGrrrl (2.00 / 0) #28 Tue May 11, 2010 at 09:18:09 PM EST
Progesterone can decrease the ability of some neurons to fire. Not sure anyone's worked up to examining circuits yet, but the single cell data are there.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
I am pretty sure I had a micro-stroke by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #5 Tue May 11, 2010 at 02:05:42 AM EST
a few weeks ago. I woke up with a headache and numbness down one arm. The numbness is less pronounced in my arm, but still remains in my thumb. I have motor control over it, but it's weird having no pressure feedback. I think you should have a doc check you out, just to be safe.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Also, by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue May 11, 2010 at 02:09:10 AM EST
women's brains recover speech capabilities far faster than men's brains after a stroke, so I wouldn't rule that out in your case.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
This happened to me once by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #7 Tue May 11, 2010 at 02:10:53 AM EST
I had just drunk about half a litre of Chinese rice wine.

Gan bei! Gan bei! (Cheers) You try that for a few hours and then see how much English you retain.

At least that's what B told me the morning after. Let's just say that she disagrees with the old maxim that even a thousand cups is not enough when good friends meet; a somewhat lower limit is suggested.

Iambic Web Certified

Sounds scary by sugar spun (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue May 11, 2010 at 04:56:07 AM EST
It sounds like it was transient, which is a good sign, and since it was preceded by a severely anxiety-inducing event (nightmares a further indication) signs are good that it was simply a messed-up neurochemical response, a brain event rather than a brain injury. But I'd strongly suggest you go get yourself checked out to outrule anything more sinister, and in the meantime do some serious research into the kind of anxiety-alleviating thing that works for you. I've found that an incidental benefit of Feldenkrais can be extreme relaxation, if you're looking for inspiration outside the realm of medication, but that's not in any way a recommendation, just an observation.

I was doing yoga... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #10 Tue May 11, 2010 at 07:18:22 AM EST
which certainly helped, but then I stopped going as my life got more complicated. I do need to figure out something to do for the anxiety symptoms while I'm working out how to get rid of the causes. Right now, drinking a bit too much and not getting enough rest and trying to handle too many different issues at once is just not working so well. Fortunately, I have a therapist who will talk to me (or read long emails from me) at any time. That has certainly helped.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Yoga breathing? by sugar spun (4.00 / 1) #13 Tue May 11, 2010 at 09:17:57 AM EST
Or try a modification: find a scent that calms you and load some sort of cloth with it (vanilla essence seems to work for most people if you're not sure where to start). Then gently inhale and exhale, noticing the change in temperature of the air on the way out from the way in.

Treating the symptoms isn't ideal, but sometimes it's best to get them under control before you start looking at the causes. It's worth noting that alcohol in large-ish quantities can do interesting unpleasant things to your neural chemistry.

[ Parent ]
Breathing, yes. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #18 Tue May 11, 2010 at 01:53:06 PM EST
And scents are good. My friend S loaned me a jacket that smells of lavender and vanilla -- those seem to be good ones, and I've been zoning out with patchouli incense and Super Mario Bros Wii in the evenings on occasion. I'll get through it.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
I'm sure you will by sugar spun (2.00 / 0) #22 Tue May 11, 2010 at 03:05:37 PM EST
in the meantime my PM box is open if you need it, and if it happens again please ask for a CT scan to outrule any bleeding. Also monitor for any weird tastes in your mouth or unusual synaesthesia, and relax as far as you can.

[ Parent ]
Thank you. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #23 Tue May 11, 2010 at 03:18:20 PM EST
Very much.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Scary! by littlestar (4.00 / 1) #9 Tue May 11, 2010 at 06:31:41 AM EST
I have worked with aphasia patients in my role as Speech Language Therapists Assistant numerous years ago. What a frightening experience to go through. I agree with ammo, you should go to the doctor to be checked out. Although it is possible for it to be triggered by an anxiety attack, short term, it is not common. We want you to be ok!! Hugs!
*twinkle*twinkle*


Thank you, littlestar! by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue May 11, 2010 at 07:20:05 AM EST
I've got a complete physical coming up, and I'll certainly mention the problem then. If anything even remotely like it happens again, I'll get in sooner, though. It was a scary hour or so before I started to regain my words.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
I asked my doctor today... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #19 Tue May 11, 2010 at 01:54:28 PM EST
I was there for another reason, also probably stress-related, and I brought up the aphasic attack. She agreed with my therapist that it was likely due to a panic attack and not anything more sinister.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Good! by littlestar (2.00 / 0) #24 Tue May 11, 2010 at 04:12:24 PM EST
Glad to hear that, though not happy to hear that you are having this level of panic attacks!! Hugs. 
*twinkle*twinkle*


[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 1) #14 Tue May 11, 2010 at 09:38:29 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth



I wish I had some recreationals... by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #20 Tue May 11, 2010 at 01:56:09 PM EST
that might help with the anxiety. Well, one particular recreational substance, at least. But yeah. More exercise. Good diet. Plenty of rest.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Stress is a killer. by muchagecko (4.00 / 1) #16 Tue May 11, 2010 at 12:57:19 PM EST
Although I agree with all the others that you should mention this incident at your upcoming physical, I think you should find another stress-reducing activity, to add into your routine.

Dance, meditation, running, yoga - I don't remember what you already do, but I think you should try something else before this job promotion stresses you beyond simple relief techniques.

I see this incident as a warning.


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

Yeah, I agree. by toxicfur (4.00 / 2) #21 Tue May 11, 2010 at 01:58:01 PM EST
Definitely a warning. I think that if I were only dealing with the job promotion, I'd be fine. Or if I were only dealing with one of the other major sources of stress in my life, I'd be fine. It's the combination and all-at-onceness that's creating my particular situation, and that'll all work itself out in time.

In the meantime, I definitely need to spend a bit more time doing concrete things to relax. Go for a walk by myself at lunch, at the very least.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
That is really, really a scary thought. by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #29 Tue May 11, 2010 at 09:22:49 PM EST
I had the problem in a low grade way through the latter parts of the $evil_project, bad enough that my partner noticed it. It sounds like what I had over months condensed into that hour or so. I cannot but imagine how scary that would be. I'm glad it passed, but please take care of yourself. And hell, if there's anyone to vent to who understands your job, that might be me. I'd be glad to be the ear, (and only offer advice if it's asked).

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

Yeah, I've certainly noticed... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #30 Tue May 11, 2010 at 10:17:29 PM EST
similar kinds of things happening when I'm very tired, especially the kind of tired we were through parts of $evil_project (and, for me, through parts of graduate school). It felt somewhat different, though, in ways I'm not quite sure how to articulate. I've been fine since, though, and one deadline is tomorrow, so at least some stress will be relieved work-wise. It would be good to get together at some point to vent about our respective positions. I think I can pencil you in for late July. ;)
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
GAh! by iGrrrl (2.00 / 0) #31 Wed May 12, 2010 at 12:33:57 AM EST
I think I can pencil you in for late July. ;)

Ain't that the truth...

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
aphasia by chuckles (2.00 / 0) #32 Wed May 12, 2010 at 12:33:58 AM EST
is also the name of a dirty troll on K5. I hope that person never comes around these parts.

"The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin [...] would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities"
Belated by Kellnerin (4.00 / 2) #33 Sat May 15, 2010 at 03:12:44 PM EST
(I think I should train my browser to make that the default subject line of all my Husi comments.) I wanted to save this for when I had time to read it properly, and am glad I did.

I'd be petrified if I ever lost the power of language. It was frustrating enough when I was struggling with the ability to type or write by hand. I'm so glad your episode passed, and that you've regained not only your words, but also your facility with storytelling.

My anxiety killed my ability to use language. I wonder if that means I should just stop talking?

In case any doubt remains, the answer to that question is a resounding no. It's the other side of the equation that needs to change. I hope you find a way to ensure that anxiety never steals your words again.

--
"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician

Thank you. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #34 Sat May 15, 2010 at 04:08:18 PM EST
And I'm working on reducing the anxiety in my life. It's a slow process, but I'll get there. I just don't ever want to go through a panic attack like that again.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Aphasia | 34 comments (34 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback