By David Coy
“Previously, her voice had been monotonous in timbre, as it were, anonymously Parkinsonian.” (Dr. Oliver Sacks, Awakenings, 69-70). This was from a patient who contracted ‘sleeping sickness’ or encephalitis lethargic which previously lasted until the end of a person’s life, leaving them in a stoic-immobility for the most part. What overwhelming grief family members must have dealt with when someone they loved was unable to speak or display normal gestures like so many around them. It is as if you are caged inside a body, and you can see everyone animated around you as you watch them but you cannot engage or respond in any overt manner. A movie entitled “First Sight” depicted a person who had been blind from a toddler’s age. They had become very accustomed to living life accordingly. Advancement in surgical treatment regained their sight. They developed Prosopagnosia, otherwise known as face blindness. Their ability to recognize familiar faces including their own was impaired. People with this condition usually develop other means of recognizing otherwise familiar faces, which were less effective. What would we do if we opened our eyes and no longer recognized our face? Then we went to familiar houses and did not recognize any family or close friends with whom we were very close and intimately connected? That would so be very scary.
How would we cope? How would we get beyond if we felt stuck? We could not move forward or backward, so we felt we were in limbo just as if we were walking on ice in and could not gain traction. Can you see yourself or someone else struggling in this fashion after a death, or a divorce, a foreclosure…you fill in the blank? What would you need to help you or someone to see life again and to connect with others?
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