Word finding difficulties are unfortunately a common struggle for many brain injury survivors. In a previous post Aphasia from brain injury, I tried to define how language skills can be affected. It was my effort at trying to broadly explain to observers what is happening and how they can help. But now I would like to do something different – explain my experience of it, and the knock on effect it has on my behaviour.
“You know, the thingy…….”
Most people have at some time struggled to put their finger on a name or term. It’s normal. Your brain holds it’s own huge library of words. Think about it, if one book gets put back in the wrong place even the best librarian needs extra time to locate it. Ever wondered how big your library is?
“A reasonably educated person about 75,000……An ordinary person, one who has not been to university say, would know about 35,000 quite easily.” – Professor David Crystal, known chiefly for his research in English language studies and author of around 100 books on the subject.
To read more about estimated vocabulary see the article I took this quote from on BBC News, magazine.
Might as well be a foreign language
But imagine struggling to put a sentence together. It feels more like when your French Teacher is trying to get you to put a word you have just learned into a workable sentence. You sort of know what you mean, but how do you get it out? It all takes so much effort.
Personally I never could cope with French grammar, so I moved over to German instead. Turns out that as long as you avoid using the word AND by starting a new sentence, they build their sentences they same way as we do in English. You don’t have to play hide and seek with the verb, or whatever it is that happens. So when I’m starting to struggle with my words, I start trying to find easier ways to construct sentences, like avoiding And or Und in German. But it doesn’t feel natural. That’s not the way people talk. So even as I’m trying to do this jiggery pokery in my head, I come to realise it doesn’t sound right.
Is it important enough for this amount of effort?
Then I start to lose the will to continue trying. Perhaps I’m lazy, but when I’m tired anyway I quiet often give up playing the find the word game. Instead I might just say “I don’t know”, which isn’t entirely true. But because I don’t want to continue, it’s my get out of jail card.
I still remember being the teenage know it all who would have done anything to avoid ever having to say “I don’t know”. She would be ashamed of me. She does scold me a little bit every time, but who ever listened to a spotty brat with holes in her tights anyway. But she does have a point. As the other person is then put in the position of trying to educate me, I get even more frustrated. Yes I know all this, I just wish you could plug me into something and just let it all download.
All of this equals stress, which only exacerbates my tiredness. It feels like a lose lose situation. It is not anyone else’s fault, but my own. I need to be more patient with myself, or just be honest and say I need to reboot before we can continue.
How frustrated do you get when trying to find the right words? Do you think people understand how difficult it is?
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