Becky Says...

March 2004

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March 30

This is an interesting article, slightly long, about an uncommon condition called hypergraphia. The condition is the opposite of writer's block.

I continue to be fascinated by how much of the human brain is devoted to communication, and by how that communication can be influenced by changes large or small, mental or physical.

When my mother had her second stroke, she was left with expressive aphasia. In her case, someone paying very careful attention could frequently make sense out of what she said, but some of the syllables she strung together were not your ordinary words. At least as long as one was speaking English.

It turned out that a lot of her Spanish grammar was still intact. She hadn't used that language frequently in about eighteen years, since her retirement from teaching. But on more than one occasion, she would say something in Spanish that was clearly understood by a Hispanic nurse at the hospital.

My own knowledge of Spanish was pretty rusty by that time---I had been away from it about as long as Mother had, and was never as fluent as she. But near as I could tell, when she spoke Spanish the grammar was correct and the words chosen were precisely what she wanted to say.

I had a chance to ask a neurologist about this, and he said it really wasn't all that unusual, since different languages are stored in different parts of the brain.

In my mother's case, it was by turns frustrating and terrifying that her communication skills were so impaired by the stroke. I was glad to be able to make sense out of much of what she said, but I grew weary of having her classified by the unknowing as demented. Those same people dismissed her as someone who could not possibly know what she meant. Trust me on this: my mother knew exactly what she meant, and definitely understood every word that was said to her.

This is probably as good a time as any for me to make my every-so-often suggestion that you go communicate with those you care about. Use your favorite method of communicating, be it written or spoken. Just make sure you communicate your care.

Text © copyright 2000-2004 Becky