Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Brain-Damaged Writer: Word Finding Difficulty

I've been thinking about last night's post and I decided that perhaps I should explain a little better.  If you've been following this blog, you probably already know I suffered brain damage in 1994.  I try not to make that a focus of my life or my writing - which is why the blog is called The Writing Spectacle and not 'The Brain-Damaged Writer' - but occasionally some brain-related issue pops up and draws attention to itself.  And since I also don't try to hide my brain thing, I thought why not talk about it this morning.

First off, I'm mostly normal now (as in you can't readily tell I'm afflicted).  One of the few things that still gives me trouble, though, is something my therapists called 'Word Finding Difficulty'.  For a good layman's explanation see: Understanding Word Finding Difficulty.  I'm sure we've all had to deal with the whole 'it's on the tip of my tongue' thing from time to time.  For me, it's more frequent and sometimes more pronounced.

What I suffer from is more specifically Anomic Aphasia.  (A term I only just heard this morning.  It's cool to have a technical term for what this is.)

From the above site:

The typical characteristics of anomic aphasia are:
  • Trouble using correct names for people, places, or things
  • Speaking hesitantly because of difficulty naming words
  • Grammatical skills are unaffected
  • Comprehension is normal
  • Difficulty finding words may be evident in writing as well as speech
  • Reading ability may be impaired
  • Having knowledge of what to do with an object, but still unable to name to the object
  • Severity levels vary from one person to another

I'm not so much troubled with the first - not remembering people's names is another brain thing entirely - or with the reading ability impairment.  (Thank goodness for that.  Impaired reading ability would kill me.)  The rest of the characteristics are definitely mine.  And where it says severity levels vary from one person to another?  Well, severity levels also vary for me from day to day and from activity to activity.

Now, one of the funny things about this for me is that sometimes I can't think of the simple word for something, but I can remember the obscure word for it.  That's why sometimes both my writing and my speech are littered with 'big words'.  Yay for the English language and its many ways to say things, but Boo for people who think using big words makes you snooty.  And Yay for my thesaurus, so I can type the big word in and find the common word I can't think of.  (This happened last night, but I can't remember the exact problem to save myself.  LOL)

In the end, this brain problem is like any other for me.  I learned the tools for finding a way around it - like the thesaurus to back track and in verbal communication, having all those other 'big' words to explain myself.  In the end, though, all the tools in the world still might fail me.  :shrug:  During those times I just try to muddle through.  You might even catch me doing what the above site refers to as circumlocution.

"You know, the big sticky-uppy thing on the highway.  Long legs with the ball on top.  Holds water?  Has the town's name on it.  Yeah, that's right, the water tower." 

LOL, it definitely makes life interesting. 

Any questions?


  1. Anomic Aphasia. Ah-ha! My brother was in a car accident 20+ years ago, and he has the same symptoms. It's nice to have a name for it.

    My sympathies to you. It's not an easy thing to live with.

  2. Sorry to hear about your brother, Deb. Don't worry about me. I got lucky and had some really awesome treatment from a few special people. (And some really crappy treatment by other who will remain nameless.) It's just been a taxing few days.

  3. Ummm, I do this all the time and I didn't have any brain accidents. Huh. Just yesterday I was telling my kid, "Get me that stir thingy. For the lemonade. Oh! Yes the spoon!" So you have a sister with anomic aphasia too!
    I'm sooooo glad that you have recovered so well. You are amazing!