Aphasia: Out of Thin Air

By Nikole Hahn

When you are a Bible Study teacher and find stimulation in the Word and in the research behind the Word, it is particularly devastating to be diagnosed with a neurological disease called Aphasia. Aphasia, as defined by medicine.net is, “...a disturbance in the formulation and comprehension of language, is due to damage to brain tissue areas responsible for language; aphasia may occur suddenly or develop over time, depending on the type and location of brain tissue damage.” My friend, who only did this interview if she remains anonymous, was diagnosed two years ago in April.

“At first I thought it was normal forgetfulness from stress or tiredness…until I was in the middle of teaching Ephesians and was unable to say what was in my head or on my paper. From there it became worse. At times I am unable to speak at all.” Anonymous said in my interview. My friend graduated from Word of Life Bible Institute with honors, a B.A. in Missions from Christian Heritage College in El Cajon, California, and accomplished two years in her Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Liberty University. She was trained and did training for 12 years in Stephens Ministry, taught children’s Sunday School since she first accepted Christ in high school 42-years ago, and taught women’s Bible studies for 30-years, including some precept work. So its no wonder Aphasia became a stumbling block.

“It is much easier to isolate yourself from others. Sometimes I feel stupid, although I know I am not. I used to be eloquent, able to stand up before a crowd and speak extemporaneously. It never made me nervous. It was easy. It was pleasant. Now I often think I am expressing myself correctly only to discover that I really made little sense in what I was saying. I have asked people to tell me when this happens, but they tend not to do so. This is so frustrating. Sometimes it angers me. I WANT to isolate. I feel as though I can’t establish new friendships. I feel like…why try? Sometimes I despair. It is easier to be still.” My friend explains, and I have witnessed this. Anonymous is very able-bodied and able-minded to do the things she now does in her life.

When I asked her why she quit teaching, Anonymous said:

“The biggest reason I quit teaching was that I felt it was unfair to be teaching and suddenly be unable to continue. Was I to have someone else ready to take over, just in case? It was unfair to the participants and unfair to expect a back-up teacher to do all of the same preparation “just in case” that individual might have to take over. I’m not the only one with the gift of teaching.”

When someone suffers from a disease, it is good to build them up. A lady at our church is home-bound in a convalescence home, but she knits countless cold weather hats and scarves for the homeless. Recently, she celebrated her hundredth birthday. Like many illness-bound women, Anonymous is redefining her life. When I asked her how, she said, “I am waiting. I have no idea yet as to how the Lord is going to use me in the future. Our head pastor has done some wonderful messages on pruning and waiting. All I can do right now is cling to the Lord and the knowledge that He is faithful. Teaching was not MY gift. It was His, given to me for a while. He will lead me to the next thing when it is time. I know that.”

Aphasia causes the words to escape into the darkness of the mind, just out of Anonymous’ reach, but unlike you and I where we may forget a word, her disease is much more complicated and requires mind exercises like, lumosity, that she can’t afford on a small non-profit paycheck. So she keeps her mind active, and continues in her waiting. Anonymous has words of encouragement for those who suffer from Aphasia:

“My advice to others with any type of Aphasia is DON’T give up. It is hard. It is woeful. It is more difficult than your loved ones can understand. Sometimes you just have to step back, take a breath and give yourself a moment before you proceed. It’s o.k. to feel bad. That is normal. But you can’t let that fill your life. Aphasia is something you have, not who you are.” (emphasis mine).

Anonymous has a lot to teach to this generation through other avenues God has provided. For instance, her actions and words continue to inspire me and her bluntness tends to shake me from any feeling of self-pity. Where she is blunt, she is also tender. Anonymous couldn’t answer the rest of my questions. Perhaps she will get to them someday, and I can post part two in this publication. Meanwhile, Anonymous serves in the waiting and is not reliant on anyone else. She carries her burden well and with a cheerful smile. It is even more remarkable to say, it’s not just Aphasia she deals with, but also Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia.


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