Saturday, October 30, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injury: Stuttering Improves with Practice

Sometimes I think, “how lucky I am to be one of the few to have speech disfluency after a brain injury”.   Is hard for me to see the improvement but those around me tell me that I have improved a lot.  Applying the speech strategies to minimize the stuttering is extremely hard.  It requires a great amount of concentration and effort.  After an intense fluency therapy I feel like I just ran a marathon.  It is by far what gets me tired the most out of anything I do. 
I remember how it was at the beginning; it was so hard to say simple things.  I couldn’t order on a drive-thru.  I opted to write everything on a piece of paper to be handed to the cashier at the window.  Every time I tried to do it the conventional way, I often got the “Sir, could you repeat” or simply they understood something different.   At times I received the wrong order but since I didn’t want to repeat myself I just took whatever they gave me. 
In other instances there was the usual call to customer service.  During some calls I can’t even count how many times I had to repeat myself. I even had to hang up a few times because it was so frustrating.  Roxana, used to ask me to make those phone calls.  I would get so upset but never said no.  I wanted to take some of the burden off her shoulders.  Today, I look back and I think about how much that helped me. If it wasn’t because of how she pushed me from the beginning, I probably wouldn’t be writing me today.  Everything she did was to help me and for sure is paying off.
I always practice my speech strategies, when applied it comes out emotionless.  If I say “I am happy” it doesn’t sound like I am happy at all.  It sounds kind of like a “flatline”.  I am working on that during the speech therapies.  They are teaching me how to talk “normal”.  I know is not going to be like it was before the injury, but I will be good with just a “normal”. I do appreciate all the effort my therapist are putting on me.  They have been great in pushing me and encouraging me along the way.
In the past few months I felt like I had hit a wall.  In therapy today, I felt that I was going beyond that wall.  I felt a big improvement.  In therapy we worked on conversations.  We talked for a little over 15 minutes and I was able to do it with minimal disfluencies.  Yes, it was a little emotionless but I made progress and that’s what counts.  This walk is about little steps.  I celebrate every little progress I get.  It might seem little to some, but for me it is a huge improvement.
What is the most significant thing that stuttering took away from me?  It took away my confidence.  All throughout my life I have always been described by other as a person with confidence.  Well, not anymore.  That is something I am working on getting back every day.  It has gotten better and I know it will get better than this. I used to be a Soldier that gave orders to many Soldiers in combat.  I would plan important missions, and they were always flawless.  Now I find myself, not being able to give orders or do any planning anymore.  That is a big part of who I am.  I am a Soldier.  So, you can imagine the frustration of not being able to do what I like because I cannot communicate properly or efficiently.
I am sharing this with you not for pity, but so you can see it thru my eyes.  It is not an easy walk.  It is a road that could potentially depress anybody.  I am victorious to say that I have overcome the emotional effect of a brain injury.  The things that bother to me emotionally today are minimal and manageable.  Sometimes I just don’t pay attention to them. I ignore them and focus on something else. 
This is not an easy road.  There might not be a lot of progress at once. There might only be little improvements.  Last I checked “improvement” is getting better.  So I will uphold my motto.  “IT WILL ALL GET BETTER”.

1 comment:

  1. As a person with a brain injury and residual speech issues, I can really relate to this. stutter. At first, my speech was painfully SLOW and flat - emotionless.

    My thoughts and my speech were not simultaneous if you can even imagine. So when speaking, I got a confused and jumbled up so it seemed I was mor impaired mentally than I was.

    I could not call customer serviced with the voice automated prompts..insanely frustrating. I did not even try to do drive thru. I barely went out in public except when I absolutely had to.

    Thank goodness it has gotten much better over the years. Not "normal" but much faster, more fluid, and more natural with emotion and inflection. So keep at it. It takes time, but it will get even better!

    PS: I record myself. It is amazing how much diff/better I sound on the recording than I hear myself in my head when I speak.