I read ‘Just Say It’ this morning and felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit seep into my very core. God is intentional. I say this all the time and I will continue to remind everyone of this fact as I recognize Him showing up not only for me but for those around me. This writing piece, written by a woman states away, I feel, was written for another survivor whom I’m currently working with who happens to live in another country. This weekend she and I Skyped and she is desperate to ‘speak’ but can’t seem to be able to. Literally. She’d been in counseling for years knowing it was ‘coming up’ for a reason but she couldn’t bring herself to speak of what haunted her days and nights.
Before being able to tell her husband, parents, her best friend, or even her counselor of what she has suffered in the past she needs to be able to say it out loud to herself. I had her write one word at a time on a sheet of paper:
I was raped.
She could write it but she couldn’t say it.
We tried. I felt her pain. I know when I first acknowledged it out loud it was both a release and a shock. Speaking it out loud brings it from the haziness of our scarred memory to the stark reality of the light. Exposed it can’t be jumbled and faded hidden in the shadows. In the light every bit of the ugly is revealed and it looses its strength because the ambiguity is gone.
It is hard for those who haven’t gone through trauma to understand why it would be so hard to ‘just say it’ and that’s why this story is such a blessing because it helps everyone to understand.
Just Say It
He couldn’t say it to me – so he shook his head no.
It was the only way he could non-verbally communicate to me, “I can’t do it.”
He was my patient and I was his nurse. He was a young man who was admitted for a brain bleed that affected the speech center of his brain. As a result he developed what is most commonly referred to as word searching.
Everyone experiences moments of word searching throughout their lives but it isn’t “labeled” until it starts to affect someone’s ability to adequately communicate with others. This most commonly happens after certain events such as traumatic brain injury, a brain tumor, dementia, etc. Word searching is when someone knows what they want to say but they can’t think of the word. When we experience moments of this we usually say something like, “It’s right on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t think of it!”. Imagine how painful it is to have word searching so severe that you can hardly speak a full sentence much less have a conversation. We were confident that with the help of a speech therapist he would start regaining his ability to fully speak again. Part of his “recovery plan” was to simply talk. That’s it – just say it.
Even though his entire language disorder centered around being unable to fully speak, by trying to do just that we hoped that he would create new neural pathways in his brain and that this would help him be able to fully speak again. We needed him to talk like it was his job. So as his nurse I put a chair next to his bed and I told him to talk to me. That was the only thing I asked of him – to just try and say anything to me.
He was deeply frustrated and it was immensely difficult but with every word I was his cheerleader, cheering him on and telling him that every word was a little victory. But even though he made significant progress he continued to have difficulty. At one point he tried to say something and when he couldn’t say it he looked at me and shook his head no.
I continued to cheer him on but I was also sensitive to his pain. He needed to speak words in order to overcome his language disorder but it was his language disorder that made it difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to speak words.
All he needed to do was just say it – but that was the one thing he couldn’t do.
Even if we ourselves may not have specifically struggled with this kind of a language disorder we still come to a place in life where we have a pain that can be healed but only by something that we cannot do. This is precisely the pain that leaves us feeling stuck, trapped and going around in circles and spinning in vicious cycles.
If all you needed to do is speak one word but you lacked the ability to speak – what would you do?
Upon writing this post I received a message from the young woman whom I’ve been working with and she wrote, “After six attempts I managed to say out loud in a little voice, “I