Up! Down, down, down. Up! Down.


I think I will always schedule an uplifting appointment on the same days as speech therapy appointment days, which heave an unpredictable mood onto me. Speech therapy has sent me into the doldrums and it has also been a marker of great progress. It’s become such a marker of mood that I’ve used it as a basis of comparison for my other medical appointments, all of which gleam in comparison. Regardless, I’m realizing it’s definitely a moody experience to confront my weaknesses point blank for an hour nonstop, especially when I’ve spent the rest of my living days hiding them from the universe. There is nothing so gritty as facing my deficits head on.

The worst thing is that as time goes on, I’m getting better at hiding my cognitive weaknesses and becoming more resistant to unveiling them. It HURTS. It SMARTS. I don’t want to show someone that I still do not think the way I want to think, and that my memory, for instance, still sucks.

I have gotten a lot better, but there is still some way to go–and maybe this is it. In that case, I need some tools to help me compensate.

Today, I got a new therapist, because my prior therapist has moved on (why? I do not know–but last week, my 2nd appointment, was her last day). I liked my previous speech therapist–she had such a balance of cheer and reality. Plus, she’s been with me since the beginning, and knows from where I’ve progressed. This new therapist? I hate her.

I know–really, should I hate someone so point blank? But I do. She talked a mile a minute–it took all my patience to comprehend her, and it left me short tempered. Was she new at this? How could people undergoing speech therapy understand someone who spoke so quickly? She also liked to tell me (as she told me every 3 sentences), “I’m not sure how to do this, but…”

That wasn’t building my confidence in her.

She said I looked fine. Grrr. THAT is my pet peeve, to be told, “You don’t LOOK like you’ve had a stroke! You should be able to do this.” She really said that. I was blindsided by her comment, and my eyes welled up with tears. But could I cry in front of her? No way.  I gritted my teeth.

She reviewed the goals I’d stated during my last visit (write a short story, read 50 pages a day, be able to listen to at least 4 people talking, learn more compensatory strategies), and started critiquing them, and the way they were written down in my file (she had a lot of concern for “How things were documented in the file,” even though I’m pretty sure she only opened my file for the first time maybe ten seconds before meeting me). I sighed. I said to her, “I was thinking maybe you could break those goals down into itty bitty steps and help me get there? I don’t know what the itty bitty steps might be.” Seriously, was this her first day on the job?

I ended up feeling resistant. I said “I can’t,” a dozen times, even though that’s far from my typical response to challenges. At which point she chided me. She would not tolerate an ounce of pessimism from me (“Don’t say ‘I CAN’T!'”), something I resented. I’m not an awfully pessimistic person–“I know I’ll eventually recover, but it seems so far away,” I said. To this she responded, “Now when you’re optimistic and cheerful like that, I like that!”

UGH. It took everything I had to not glare at her. I so wanted to smite her with a dirty look. Was it really my responsibility to make HER happy?

I had to once again take a deep breath and say, through my tears, that she wasn’t breaking things down enough for me–and that I genuinely felt “I couldn’t” do the things she’d asked. (“Here!” she gave me a pen. “Now outline a short story!” I was SO FRUSTRATED at her approach to the creative process, and helping me through it). Then of course, she said the kind of thing she’d been saying throughout our appointment, “Well, I’m not sure how to do this. I don’t write. I don’t do creative things!”

I started to cry.

I had to tell her that I spend the majority of my life hiding my deficits, and that this is my ONE HOUR where I confront them head on, and why couldn’t she UNDERSTAND that this was difficult for me? And that my disabilities are INVISIBLE and even though I look “totally normal” I really AM having a hard time.

Yah. I’ve never had to say THAT speech before. NOT.

I couldn’t believe I had to explain it to my freaking SPEECH THERAPIST, someone who’s a professional at this. I mean, it’s one thing to explain my situation to MFA peers, but to a professional trained to work with people like me? I was astounded.

I emerged from the therapy session feeling utterly…STUPID.  (Oh btw, our last step was trying to DECREASE my sessions with her to 2 times a week, even though I KNOW I am supposed to have speech therapy 3 times a week)  If I couldn’t do something, she didn’t figure out how to help me to do it–she saw me as irreverent. If I became discouraged and uncomfortable, she became doubly so–and she only acknowledged “cheerfulness.” Seriously, does she not work with ILL people?!

I emerged, trembling with anger, from the hospital building.

Thank goodness I had a massage appointment afterwards (my neck and back are KILLING me) and got to lay on a table while being pleasantly kneaded.

I meet with her again on Thursday.  That may very well be my last appointment with her.  My husband tells me to change therapists more quickly than that.



Filed under Life, The Stroke

18 responses to “Up! Down, down, down. Up! Down.

  1. I am not familar enough to know how a speech therapist can assist with memory loss. It would seem to me that an occupational therapist would be better suited for dealing with memory loss and any vocational/educational accomodations needed. Just my thoughts after reviewing some of the literature on stroke memory loss. BTW I think you have a “new” speech therapist who is learning herself. Some people talk fast naturally and others do it to relieve stress. I would go on first impressions.

  2. Ah yes–I think “speech therapist” is a sort of misnomer, because they really do work directly with helping out on memory loss (both strategies to compensate, as well as to help recover memory).

    I am going to sleep on it and see what to do tomorrow–this speech therapist really is a wreck (yes, she is probably “new” even though she kept telling me, “I’m a traveling therapist!”)

  3. Jade-I had a lot of medical issues a couple of years ago that had me seeing specialist after specialist. I always approached health care with the idea that these people were highly trained and I was just the sick patient, so I should just be quiet and nod and take it when I wasn’t happy with them, or they weren’t understanding me. But after numerous visits to specialists who weren’t hearing me and weren’t helping me, I realized: I’m in charge! It’s my body, my time spent in hospitals and appointments, and, to some extent (after the health insurance) my money. I started being much more aggressive about choosing specialists — and losing them when I knew they weren’t right for me. It’s hard to face health care issues when you’re not feeling well, but worth it in the end. There are other speech therapists out there who will help you meet your goals, and do it in a way that you are comfortable with. The sooner you ditch this one, the sooner you’ll find the right one.

  4. Jade, every fibre of your being is screeching that this woman is not for you. It sounds like she will only hinder and not help you. You need someone compassionate right now not someone smugly and perkily cheerful (and apparently, not very skilled). I don’t often come down hard on one side, but this sounds to me like a case where you need to make a change. I agree with Elizabeth that you should find someone else.

  5. This speech therapist woman sounds like a royal pain in the ass. It’s hard to believe when such untrained people get into positions of authority.

    Because you are a humble person you thought maybe it was you that had the problem, but it seems like this bitch is the one to blame.

    Yes…I agree with charlotteotter. Ditch the smugly and perkily cheerful idiot in favor of someone with some sense.

    I think the reason the speech therapist was so lame could be because you are smarter than her. Your goals are the goals of a highly intelligent person, highly skilled person. You want to re-attain skills that she has probably never tried to get to. She probably just didn’t know how to handle you because you were out of her league.

    Like a Lilliputan before a Gulliver.

  6. Traveling speech therapist?

    When I had baby #1 at local hospital, I first encountered the traveling nurse. Childbirth took several days with that pregnancy, so I got to experience the care of many different nurses. The ones trained by local hospital (LH) were knowledgeable, patient and kind. The travelers were tweaky, twitchy, bitchy, and unfamiliar with basic procedures like how to adjust the bed. (It was a special bed for childbirth – guess it’s not standard, or wasn’t at the time).

    I’m sure there are some traveling nurses who are wonderful, but I’ve since had some horror stories with traveling nurses. One was so bad (during my cancer treatment) that when my ob/gyn RN heard about it a year later, she and the OB urged me to write to the hospital about the woman. (I didn’t get around to it)

    Speech therapists are in short supply; perhaps your local hospital employs “travelers” in the same way. Such a person may not have the specialized training you need.

    Did I understand from a previous post that your speech therapy is already kind of experimental, or a new use of the therapy? If so, then a traveler really may not be down with the program.

    I encourage you to do what you can (or ask hubbie to help) to get a competent speech therapist with experience with creative people, smart people and stroke victims. This one seems to have a lousy “bedside manner” as well as lack of experience.

    And I agree with guppy’s diagnosis.

    Good luck, dear one.

  7. Eric

    Darling, I’ve held off from saying too much, from coming off too much as a guy who needs to fix things – but having been in this situation myself and more recently with my mother’s illness, I feel a bit more qualified to talk about the so-called “specialist”. There’s a very simple solution to this problem.

    Find a new one.

    Your recovery will probably take you up and down through the natural process – but you need someone to help you manage that process, to make the breakthroughs both in emotional and physical recovery – and this “therapist” is NOT the one to help you do that. When it comes to healthcare you need to seriously fight for yourself and if you haven’t the strength to do it, have Ari do it. His love for you will no doubt give him the strength to do for you what you may not feel able and/or comfortable doing for yourself.

    When my mum couldn’t speak for herself and I could quite clearly see that what they were doing to her was actually going to kill her – I screamed. LOUD. FIERCE. AGGRESSIVE. I refused to take no for an answer. Use your anger and frustration to get the help you need.

    Yes, cheerfulness is to be encouraged but its like cheering on the sun on a cloudy day. Its nice but ain’t gonna help a freakin’ thing.

    Be strong honey – and if you need someone to come do it for ya, let me know. I can literally be on the doorstep in a few hours.

    Biggest hugs,

  8. I just have to add that I agree with your husband and what people have said here. No matter the reasons, they are your reasons, and you should find a new speech therapist as soon as you can.

  9. Well–it’s just hilarious how indecisive and awkward I feel about something as a person…and then I write it down and it becomes SO clear for the reader/observer.

    So thank you all–this morning, I got up and left a message with the scheduler asking for another speech therapist. My next appt is tomorrow morning, so I don’t know if I’ll still “have” her tomorrow, but this will be remedied.

    I feel a weight off my shoulders already!

    Yes, she is probably new and new to the system and just doesn’t “get it.”

  10. Jade, as a chronic disease chick who’s had to deal with various medical institutions for over half of her life, I have to agree with Elizabeth–it’s your body, your mind, your decision. Don’t let these people yank you around. I’ve switched doctors because I didn’t like the way they phrased something, or because yeah, they made me cry, too, or because they had stinky breath. It’s your dollar, your time, your healing. I’m glad to hear you switched, and don’t be afraid to keep switching until you find the right person.

  11. Glad to hear you changed. She sounds like a dolt.

    I HATE when people tell me I look good. One of my doctors told me to stop wearing makeup (I am not pale, but transparent without it) to appointments so other people would believe me when I said I didn’t feel well.

    This woman clearly has no business in ST. How in hell?

    Hope the new one is better…and hey, you can always, always leave.


  12. And, of course Jade, we are all wanting to know how your speech therapy appointment went today now that you have put in a request for a new therapist….*smile*

  13. mel

    your gut says “no” – I agree, follow it and kick this speech therapist to the curb!

  14. Here’s to hoping for a better therapist.

    When I got screwed up in the head, the hospital assigned me to a therapist with Cal’s health center. She totally didn’t get me and I couldn’t stop staring at her cottage-cheese thighs. Horrible of me, I know. But, I wanted to get better and I didn’t want to waste her time.

    so rock on.

  15. As Eric says, finding a new one’s a good idea.

    I realized that the doctor isn’t always right, or right for the patient, when one guy (over “here”) tried to treat my (now long-ago) depression by having me kneel, recite Buddhist sutras, and genuflect at the wall. I was like, “Are you serious, man?”

    He said it was this, or medications, and I wasn’t interested in the latter, so that was the end of that doctor-patient relationship. Not that I think badly of him — he had good intentions, and I’m sure it worked for some. He claimed to have great results.

    Here’s hoping the next one’s a better fit. 🙂

  16. Well I have officially cancelled my sessions with her (I never went back as a result), and am now (surprise) WAITING for another one. Frustrating–in that now I am by myself again, finagling my recovery alone.

    Thanks for sharing, everyone.

  17. Dear Jade – just wondering if you got a different speech therapist? Hope all is well.

  18. Hi. It’s a bit hidden but I did provide an update on the speech therapist front…I’m waiting. At this rate, by the time I DO get the appointment with a good speech therapist, I will probably be in the weird zone of “being too far along to require therapy” and yet “not quite healed to be wholly comfortable.”

    We’ll see where this leads!

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