February 14, 2010

Voices Inside my Head

Sometimes I swear Levi, our dog, can telepathically talk inside my head. This morning I woke up to someone calling my name and when my eyes opened all I saw was my husband sound asleep. I listened for the voice to call my name again but the house was silent. A dream, I thought, but it was so real---and so annoying because it’s a common way for me to wake up. I rolled over and there he was, smack-dab in my face, his little eyes peering over the top of the mattress. “Finally!” Levi seemed to be saying, “I need to pee.” The creepy part is the dog also seems to be able to tell time. It was nine o’clock. It’s always nine o’clock---on the dot---when I wake up this way.

How much easier it would be to live with someone with aphasia if we all had the ability to use mental telepathy. There are times when I think I can read Don’s mind but, of course, it’s not always possible to know if I’m reading him correctly. People often comment that I’m quick at figuring out what he wants to say. It doesn’t always seem quick to me. Sometimes, though, Don has repetitive themes he tries to talk about which make me seem more skilled at deciphering his speech than I really am. Sometimes it’s just knows a person for decades that give a spouse the edge in the game of peek-a-boob-words. (Come out; come out where ever you are! Talk to me!)

Don and I are lucky in some ways. His limited vocabulary is made up of nouns, which makes it easier to decipher his wants and needs. I feel so sorry for those people with aphasia who are stuck on the tiny filler words with no real meaning---or who have slurred or hard to understand speech. And of course those of us in the language disorders community know a few people who are stuck on the emotion driven swear words. Don is pretty good at swearing. He usually sings his ‘fucks’ at least one a day. It’s the only word I wish he wouldn’t practice.

Once in a while I’ll go to a stroke support website where I’ll read a few posts by spouses of people with aphasia. I’m always amazed at how little some of them seem understand about the disorder. The complaints about husbands who don’t say ‘I love you’ anymore bother me the most. I’m not talking about a caregiver longing to hear the words---we all do that from time to time. I’m talking about caregiver resentment because they think the words are being withheld on purpose. I want to scream at the computer screen: “Maybe he can’t get the words out anymore!” There could be a half a dozen reasons why the words aren’t forthcoming after a stroke.

I remember when we first started speech classes after the stroke and the clinicians would try to cue Don to say ‘I love you’ to me. He’d give them such dirty looks and I was sure I could read his mind. It was like he was sending me a telepathic message that he damn well wasn’t going to say those words just because some little girl fresh out of college wanted him to, even if he could have gotten them out of his aphasic brain. He was never the type to throw that phrase around lightly and never in front of strangers.

The first time when he actually did say ‘I love you’ after the stroke he was five years out and it was totally unprompted. He was sitting at the dinner table with a silly look on his face when the words came out of no where. I was shocked and it was the most heart-felt ‘I love you’ I’ve ever heard. He hasn’t said it since then but it doesn’t matter. Every day I hear voices inside my head and I’m sure they are coming from both Don and the dog. Mental telepathy is a wonderful thing. And if by chance mental telepathy isn’t real…well, I guess I’m just making up the words I want to hear. ©