Like Bruce WillisI had to say goodbye to a successful career after I was diagnosed with aphasia in 2013. condition means that people may have difficulty with their language or speech, and are usually caused by damage to the left side of the brain. This can sometimes be caused by a stroke or a head injury, but it can also come on gradually. When I could no longer speak, read or write, I had to leave my job, in a company where I had been a director for 14 years.
At first, while I was in the hospital, I could only moan the words “yes” and “no” and mumble some nonsense. Recovering after a stroke had made me tired and foggy in my head, and at this point I did not quite understand what was happening to me.
I could understand that I had had a stroke because I knew what a stroke was before I got sick. But the concept of aphasia was new, and therefore the next few days were filled with confusion and a huge communication barrier.
I’ve come a long way since my stroke. While in the hospital, I received a few sessions of speech and language therapy and saw instant progress. With improvement in mind, I continued with private sessions at home.
It was very much back to basics, and the assignments I did were not odd what you would expect to learn in your first year of school. I learned again how to associate the correct words with illustrations of household items and to write single words as “simple” as my name. It was a great achievement.
Progress continued slowly and I quickly saw how my condition affected those around me. Some relatives and friends did not visit as often. Some were embarrassed as they did not know how to talk to me and therefore gave up all. I guess they saw me as a different person too, and it can be hard to come to terms with that. The lack of awareness and understanding of aphasia was a major contributing factor to my isolation from friends and family.
Fortunately, my communication has improved over the years, with continued practice, and those around me have more understanding of the condition.
Another great help in my recovery was joining a local support group for people with aphasia. Unfortunately, the local charity had to close, and so I undertook to set up a new organization to support people with aphasia. I started with a drop-in group which soon expanded to 12 groups across the UK.
Raising awareness and understanding through Say Aphasia is so important to me. For the first few years I lived with aphasia, I was bored and frustrated. Creating my own charity gave me a purpose again and new goals to achieve.
We have grown fast, as over 350,000 people in the UK live with aphasia. Since the condition is not prevalent, it can be misunderstood and sometimes there is less support for people with aphasia compared to people who have strokes.
For example, most people do not know that there are different, different forms of aphasia that affect a person’s ability to communicate. Some people will hardly be able to speak, while others may manage to write or draw rather than speak.
Understandably, many people feel extremely depressed, depressed and lonely, and therefore I take pride in being able to offer support from a related perspective. I feel lucky because after years of continuous improvement, I can now have conversations. I can not read and write almost as well as before, but fortunately, technology has allowed me to write emails and text messages using voice recognition on my smartphone.
I am fortunate to have family who have helped me adapt to this new lifestyle and their positive outlook on life has helped me enjoy life despite my condition. It’s good to read about Bruce Willis’ strong family unit who will help him through this difficult time.
I hope my charity is a lifeline for others too. At Say Aphasia, we enable people with aphasia to run their own drop-in group, to give them a sense of purpose again and to help improve their quality of life.
Colin Lyall is the founder of charity Sig aphasiawhich supports people with the condition throughout the UK
To learn more about aphasia, visit Afasi Alliance