Silenced By Stroke

Silenced By Stroke

On March 26 2006, I suffered a semi-serious cerebral-vascular event, which left me with a speech impairment that appears to be permanent. At this time, I am barely able to order lunch successfully, much less conduct work in my former occupation, that of a reinsurance underwriter.

Over time, unable to work, I lost all my savings and my living situation (my home, which was a rental). This left me homeless on the streets of San Francisco, not the ideal urban area to be without means. Eventually, forced to leave California, I moved in with my sister in Virginia, where I currently reside.

Initially, my doctor told me that my disability would lessen over time. However, after 20 odd months, there has been some improvement; I still experience left side weakness, which exhibits mostly as a lack of stability, which I counter with a cane when I walk any distance, in addition to my speech difficulties. The public interprets my speech impairment in a variety of ways. Most are inclined to think I am mentally challenged, which is preferable to those who assume I am under the influence of drink or drugs.

Mostly, I just muck it out, choosing to ignore the cretins, which most advice givers suggest. That is all well and good but does not change the basic dynamic of social interaction. Ignoring ignorant people may do wonders for my personal psyche but does little to offset (or solve for that matter) the basic issue of social interaction, which forms the basis of my communication problems. Maybe a bit of explanation is in order here.

A typical conversation for me involves thought formation (nothing new there) and then translation of said thoughts into a series of words that does not require too much difficulty getting out of my mouth. This in turn usually requires a bit of dumbing-down of the original thought (something I am loathe to do – but one does what one has to in these things). My sister is forever reminding me to slow down and articulate, which usually has the unintended effect of reinforcing the imbecilic impression with which I leave my listeners.

Of late, I have taken refuge in the art of writing, returning to a beloved pastime. Before my episode, I was a prolific writer racking up countless hours recounting tales from my busy youth. I traveled the country quite a bit as well as putting in a stint in the Merchant Marines, which travels provided me with detritus material for the gristmill of my personal tales.

Pre-stroke, I was also a credible amateur musician, playing guitar as well as singing. Moreover, I play bass and noodle a little on the keyboard. I cannot play the guitar at present although I hope to regain at least a limited proficiency to provide rudimentary accompaniment to what is left of my singing prowess (which is not much but also open to improvement.)

My left side difficulties still prevail as a hindrance (I type single handedly but at least the finished product is somewhat coherent and does not present the problems that vocal articulation pose). In large part, this allows me to ramble unfettered by my physical limitations (aside from the aforementioned typing woes). At least I have a sense of communication, which provides some gratification, unlike the dismay I endure when I hazard the ambit of articulate exchange.

Silenced By Stroke

stephen hewitt

Lanexa, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

An account of a stroke survivor

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