Monday, July 02, 2007

The strain of Aphasia

Communication between husband and wife is a challenge under normal circumstances. Communication with a spouse with Aphasia is a similar challenge, but multiplied dozens of times. Two major factors of danger and opportunity that Aphasia brings into the equation are the lack of words to convey clearly and effectively ideas; and the inflexibility of thought that accompanies the recovery from the brain injury tha caused the Aphasia.

We are strained to the max in our communication. She is frustrated that she is unable to communicate as effectively as before, I am frustrated because understanding her is more of an emotional battle than a linguistic process. We spend the normal level of energy communicating and then lots of emotional energy that we have to invest trying to disentangle emotional reactivity from concepts and ideas.

I suspect that Jan relies more in her limbic system to communicate than any other part of her brain. "Wearing her feelings on her sleeve" is another way of saying that emotion supercedes thought and words.

Was this always the case? I don't information from a long period of time before the aneurysm to be able to answer the question, but from anecdotal information, she seems to have been an "emotional" person.

At the same time, she worked very hard at raising her communication to a high level so she could live from what she calls "a place of integrity"; she participated in many courses and worked under supervision with a personal coach developing clarity, integrity, and truthfulness in all of her communications. She excelled at this, but there was a question of balancing integrity with compassion. She expected all to be at the same level she was. Nevertheless, truth without compassion can only produce conflict. Compassion without truth can only produce delusion. How can we communicate in truth and compassion at the same time? How can we confront people with the truth (of course the beholder's version) and produce peace?

In spite of the aphasia, she insist on telling things as she sees them (her truth), which is something to admire, but at the same time, she shows inflexibility and inability to take feedback. Our conversations lately are more verbal battlefields than enjoyable exchanges where we can know more about each other.

We are under tremendous pressure to find a balance and protect the relationship. She will have aphasia for a while, so we must change something, and the burden falls on me, to be able to have reasonable conversations. The alternatives are so bleak that we just have to continue reminding ourselves of our pledges to be there for each other...


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