A Million Rubber Bands

(This post originally appeared on Living Successfully With Aphasia)

Alan K. Simpson, former senator from Wyoming, described resilience as being like “a million rubber bands.” People with aphasia are stretched there and back again as the weeks, months, and years slowly define who they are and will be. The aphasia literature of the fifties described people with aphasia as essentially unchanged in persona. I think not. This rubber band business moves people into and out of places they have never been, and changes do occur. What is obvious to me as I accompany them on part of this bouncing around, is that those who are resilient experience the lows and highs differently, constantly rededicating themselves to the next piece of what lies ahead. PBS hosted a wonderful series recently called, “This Emotional Life; ” one of the shows was dedicated to resilience.

“People who are resilient draw on strengths in themselves, their relationships, and their communities to help them overcome adversity. Resilient people often find meaning even in times of trouble and gain confidence from overcoming adversity. In this way, resilience can contribute to a deeply satisfying life.”

Some of you may remember Bob Shumaker, a former POW in Vietnam. In this video, he describes how he created a communication system: a tap code between prisoners that he believes permitted them all to survive three years in solitary confinement.

In a way, that is what people with aphasia do: create a new code for maintaining the connection between themselves and the world they inhabited before it, or laying down new pathways for the new life they are creating. And aphasia therapists? We are the interpreters, making a bridge between there and back again.

Shirley Morganstein and Marilyn Certner Smith co-founded Speaking of Aphasia, a Life Participation practice in Montclair, NJ where people with aphasia instruct her daily in their journey. Recently, Shirley began a blog focused more on her personal thoughts about the people she has met and her own process as a therapist