Aphasia Progress: Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

I’m always amazed by the number of families with aphasia who come to the Aphasia Center and report that they have no contact with other families with aphasia in their areas. Having little to no contact with others with aphasia is actually  more common than we’d like to think. Without seeing other families with aphasia, many clients feel like “I’m the only one like me”.

Many families have looked into attending a stroke support group, only to be disappointed that there are no other families with aphasia. Families with aphasia see all of the other stroke survivors and think “Wow. These people are doing so much better than me—they can walk and talk. I should be doing so much better. My aphasia is much worse than anyone else’s.”

When families come to our Center, they are often thrilled to find other people with aphasia. However, caregivers and clients alike then begin to compare themselves to the other families. Inevitably there is a mix of clients with fluent or non-fluent aphasias, brain injuries and strokes, and varying degrees of physical limitations. The non-fluent client and caregiver look at the fluent clients and say “His speech is so good. Mine is terrible”. The clients with fluent aphasia may not be fully aware of their speech issues, so they compare themselves to non-aphasic people. Everyone thinks that everyone else is doing so much better.

The bottom line to this is that you can’t compare your life to someone else’s life. You’re only seeing a tiny glimpse of that other family’s life, so as the saying goes, you’re “comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”. On the surface, that client with fluent aphasia can speak in sentences, and you may hear good generic social chatter. However, if you looked closely, you would see that that person doesn’t make any sense or can’t actually give you any specific information. So while the words are there, the content is not. You have no idea if that person can read or write better or understand better than your loved one.

Stop comparing your progress and aphasia to someone else’s–you have no idea what’s really going on with them. You can only compare the person your are today to the person you were yesterday, or even the person right after the stroke. Focus on your loved one’s progress–someone else’s progress does not reflect poorly upon your own. You are on your own path.

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