Back in the days of language creation the word ‘bizarre’ was invented to be used when a situation occurred for which language wasn’t sufficient to explain something, hence you could just say ‘it was bizarre’ instead of trying to get the listener to visualise, understand or feel what you had experienced through a verbal explanation.
If I had to give an overall synopsis of my life post brain injury ‘bizarre’ is about the only word I could use as so much of what I experience I simply don’t know how to explain.
My relationship with language has been an ongoing theme throughout the journey. I have not been able to explain what I am feeling, there is no benchmark for it, nothing to compare it to, how can you explain what you can’t understand? If someone asked me to explain what is going on under the bonnet of my car I would happily say I have no idea. However when people ask me what is wrong or how I am doing I feel compelled to try and explain even though it feels as though I have about as much of a grasp on what is happening as I do my car’s engine. I feel a great expectation from the listener to be able to give them an insight into what I am going through using terminology that is familiar to them and that they can relate to but the end result is I often just talk in circles and make no real sense.
This makes for a lonely and frustrating experience, it’s frustrating because it leaves you confused and tied up in knots every time you try and explain and also acts as a reminder of how life doesn’t come as naturally as it once did. It is immensely lonely because you are aware that what you are experiencing is completely outside the realms of normal human experiences, there is no rhyme, reason or logic to it, life makes no sense. You can’t understand or explain it and therefore those around you won’t be able to understand, or relate to your experiences. If you can’t give people the information they need to understand you then they don’t know how to help you or emphasise with you, you are alone.
A final observation on the role of language post brain injury is that I feel as if I have lost a key ally in life, and that is language as a tool to be used to help us through life and its ups and downs. Through language we can discuss things, with ourselves or others, and find perspective. Pre brain injury I remember going through a break up and feeling low about it but during the process when I spoke with family or friends I would feel much better. Through discussion we would find some perspective, influence my outlook, change how I felt. My life was steeped in cause and effect, through discussion I could influence my feeling towards a situation and therefore influence myself as a person.
For years I couldn’t do this at all and I really missed it, you are dealing with a challenge on a massive scale and one of your main coping mechanisms has been removed from you.
When you can't find the words...