Thursday, June 15, 2006

Never Say You've Seen It All

Another of Wyman's unofficial rules of psychology is to never say you have seen it all. God will humble you the very next day with something you have never seen before.

At Wednesday's staffing we met a woman who is deeply involved in political causes. She volunteers for the American Indian Movement and freeing Leonard Peltier; she also volunteers for NOW and the Libertarian Party. There can't be many with that particular constellation.

Thursday we had a possibly delirious woman (there are still some other rule-outs) who was unable to put three words together to answer a question, but quite desperately and fearfully wanted to communicate with us. Realizing that her thoughts were neither coming out correctly nor remaining in her head long, she pulled on her ear to indicate a "sounds like," but was unable to remain focused long enough to tie a charade together. So she tried writing, but started from the right, and would sometimes spell forwards and sometimes backwards (I wanted Oliver Sacks for that), adding in diagrams that she would get lost in repeating. We guessed a few phrases correctly, but she had forgotten their significance by then.

It was clear we weren't going anywhere (she is a bit clearer today), but also obvious that it was very important to her to keep trying. She tried some words that were not Latin, but had Latin endings, and eventually got out "werbum" and "verbum." Very frustrated, she tried singing. For some unknown reason, probably just inertia, she tried to sing the harmony on the second line - I could tell it should have started on the third, but she didn't find it. My suspicion is she usually hits the third with ease. (My mother, when dying of cancer and unable to speak, would hit the third higher in a weak hum when I sang for her. Boy, would her mother and aunts have been proud.)

It was a remarkable string of creative attempts for someone trapped in a currently-broken brain, and quite poignant. Inspiring, really.

1 comment:

PSGInfinity said...

Whenever I see someone wearing a t-shirt (or bumper sticker) asking "Why be normal?" I just shake my head, sadly, at the memory of what I endured. People who ask that question have never seen, or felt, how awful an out-of-control mind can be...