Over the last few months I’ve had a handful of episodes where I lose my speech, but without having any of the usual motor tics associated with a ‘ticcing fit’. I know exactly what I want to say but my words come out as incomprehensible noises. Strangely, during these episodes I’m able to repeat the words someone else says by lip reading, but I can’t speak any other way.
This evening I had one of these episodes. I signed for Fran to call Leftwing Idiot because she’d not encountered anything like this before and I’d forgotten to tell her about it beforehand. He talked it though with her and suggested I used my computer so I could write down anything I needed to say.
When this has happened before I’ve found it very upsetting and I’ve become quite distressed. I felt more relaxed this time, partly because the computer meant I still had an effective way of communicating with Fran. After a quick initial typed discussion we decided to just carry on watching TV and ignore it.
Forty minutes later my speech still hadn’t returned. I started to feel worried and frustrated by how long it was taking. To help nudge my speech back Fran tried saying some of my most frequent verbal tics to me. I watched her mouth and repeated back her words. Struggling to say, ‘Biscuit’ is a strange sensation! We then tried non-tic words and with effort I could do these too. So we started to experiment with what I was and wasn’t able to do:
• I could repeat up to four words at a time if I could see Fran saying them.
• I found it easier and could do more words if I covered Fran’s eyes.
• I couldn’t do any words if I covered my own eyes.
• I wasn’t able to read out loud from the words on the computer.
• I could copy Fran’s words even if she mouthed them out without speaking – I’ve never noticed being able to lip read in normal circumstances.
• I couldn’t repeat anything if I was looking at Fran upside down.
These speechless episodes are very strange and Fran seemed to find it fascinating. I did too initially, but after a while I began to feel overwhelmed and upset that I wasn’t able to articulate my thoughts verbally. Fortunately, after a bit more TV and a brief sleep my speech returned. Even though I know my speech will return eventually, I can’t help feeling a bit terrified each time my words fail me.