Sometimes I can’t talk. I’m an adult, I hold down a job, I’ve spoken in public at international conferences. Yet some days, I can’t even say “yes” to the offer of a cup of coffee, at home, from my partner.
It’s as if someone has put tape over my mouth. The fully formed sentences are there and ready to come out, but they just don’t happen. It feels like I’m willing something to happen by telekinesis, or trying to start a car that refuses to even turn over. I’m also aware that I’m frowning with the effort. This happens for such a small fraction of my life, that in between occurrences I completely forget about it. However, it happened this week, prompting me to write about it. And this time I tried to examine it in progress, what did it feel like, could I work out why it had happened, did anything make it go away?
Normally I just say things, I don’t need to put any thought into it, about how to move my mouth, or when, the words just form. But for a couple of hours the other day, it was like the connection between the decision to speak and the actual speaking was broken. My thoughts were fine, all my other body parts automatically did what they were supposed to do. I was fully able to communicate with my partner by online text chat as he sat on the other sofa. I said, “I don’t feel able to speak at the moment”, he text back, “ok”, and we continued to message each other. It felt as if the part of my brain that normally only inhibits my social small-talk had got stuck in overdrive (you know, that bit of my brain I silence with wine, and then suddenly I can think of a myriad of trivial things to say to a complete stranger in a pub).
It may or may not be related, but I have always found it easier to communicate with written words than spoken words. I infinitely prefer texts and emails to speaking face-to-face or on the phone (as I mentioned in my post Why the internet is my best friend). But this feels like more than just issues around non-verbal signals, interpretation and editing. The act of speaking somehow requires more effort than the act of typing or writing exactly the same words to exactly the same person. And there seem to be days when the marketing and communications department of my brain clock off before the writing and editing team have finished. Nothing helps, and as suddenly as it starts, so it goes away again.
I don’t know anyone else that this happens to, but to be fair, I’ve never really asked anyone. I also don’t know how much, if at all, it relates to the area of being non-verbal in autism – I have to confess an inexcusable ignorance of that topic, a gap I need to fill. I know there are amazing individuals like Carly Fleischmann who can only communicate through written words. However, I’m aware that there is sometimes an attitude of, “s/he would talk if s/he really wanted to, s/he just has no interest in speaking”. My experience this week was of really wanting to talk, but no longer knowing how, and that’s different. I definitely have some reading up to do, and as always I would *really* value your comments if this happens to you, or you can help me expand my understanding.
© Catastraspie, 2012.