I stood on stage sharing my story, 200 people staring back at me, and my mind went blank…
Do you ever experience that when you’re in mid speech with someone and your mind suddenly goes blank? You have no sweet clue what you were just talking about? It’s like all the minions in your brain are working one second, and then they all take a break, turn off the lights, and you’re left with a blank screen?
Do you ever have it when you’re having a conversation, your mind is processing what the person is saying, and you’re formulating your sentence, while also thinking about something else? You say what you think you want and the person suddenly looks at you confused? You ask why and they repeat what you said which is totally different than what you thought you said. You share what you thought you said and find out it’s not even close? Do I have you totally confused yet? For example, I could be talking to someone about the fabulous chicken dinner I’m eating. I’m looking out the window at the same time, and my sentence comes out as “this window is delicious”, instead of saying, “this chicken is delicious”. You have no recollection of using the word window. It’s a weird experience.
This happens to me on a frequent basis, especially when I am tired. My brain has had enough and it shuts down. In the scenario listed at the beginning of this post, that episode thankfully didn’t last long. It felt longer while I was actually giving the speech, but when I watched the video later, it was only a couple of seconds. It looked liked I just took a moment to pause. Other times, no matter how hard I try, I cannot recall what I was going to say or even what I was talking about. It’s moments like this that I have learned to laugh it off and either ask what we were talking about, or I just move on to something new. I am reminded at that point that my brain has probably had enough and I should rest.
When your brain gets to the point of shutting down like that, rest is the best medicine. It is especially important to do so if you have a doctor’s appointment coming up that you need to recall information for or you have a presentation you have to give. Practicing things like memory recall games is a good way to strengthen your memory, focus, and recall. Playing the classic ‘memory’ card game can help or you can look on www.lumosity.com for lots of games to help. Try doing Crossword or Sodoku puzzles.
Do you find it hard to find a word sometimes? You want to tell someone about an apple, but the word itself just won’t come to mind?
This is when it is good to implement word finding. If you are unsure of the word you’re trying to say, you can play the name game with your friend. You can describe that it is red, you can eat it, it’s a fruit, it’s in pie…just keep listing whatever comes to your mind or try drawing it until either of you can figure out the word. By practicing this, more words will be able to come to you. Games like ‘4 Pics 1 Word’ will be good in helping your brain link words and pictures together to strengthen that weakened area of your memory. Another great game is Free Rice, www.freerice.com. It gives you a word and you have to pick from a multiple choice list another word that describes the same thing. Your vocabulary will begin to return with practice.
Perhaps you speak with grander words than you did pre-concussion or your language has diminished. These are all common to the concussion world. There are even stories of people having different accents post-concussion from places they have never been, though this is a lot rarer.
The biggest thing you can do when you have speech issues is to laugh. Don’t get down on yourself. With practice, this area of your recovery will return bit by bit, but it might take a lot of work depending on your condition. Give yourself grace and find the humour in it. That’s the best medicine anyway. Try some of the games mentioned above and let me know which one works best for you and what you think. Have fun!