Speech Process then and now, and First Onset Psychosis

The concept of recovery and healing is so complex. Let us assume, for now, that people “heal” as a by-product of their recovery, which includes a number of other aspects.

These aspects include, their overall stance to how they go about healing, approach to recovery, rate-of-recovery, and so many other nuances that contribute to our overall healing from trauma, self-inflicted harm, and organic brain disease. I would like to explore my own lived experience with first onset psychosis.

I always knew qualities of my personality were altered by schizophrenia. I approach problems differently today than prior to my disorder. I even approach positive insertions into my life, differently, today. These insertions can be as simple as good conversation during the workday or meeting a new person and experiencing a budding relationship blossom. But, what exactly do I mean by different? The difference is at the level of how I handle such occurrences. These extend beyond the normal development of my personality, I believe. We all grow and mature over time. There is no question that some of the changes I am gesturing towards are due to the natural progression of my development. However, I know myself better than that. I also know I’ve had to mature a lot faster than most people my age.

This is largely because, developmentally, I cannot afford to make the same mistakes people at my stage of development make. Since my psychological landscape has little room for error, I need to be extra cautious, extra careful, and speedy in terms of how I go about maturing and the maturation process.

I need to handle things differently, yes. But my question is, how much of this is a “need” is a by-product of the changes that manifested in my brain during first onset?

I truly wonder if the resultant changes that manifested in my brain necessitated the need for me to handle things differently? Meaning, because my brain now functions differently, is the need to handle things differently the result of first onset or is it a result of how my brain went about healing? Are the changes the direct result of trauma to the brain, or the result of my brain healing “normally”?

I will tell you one thing. For the most part, I have not gone about changing the way I handle things because I simply wanted to be spontaneous and change things up. No, I have had to because after first onset, I was so disordered that I couldn’t speak intelligibly enough for others to gather anything meaningful from my speech.

I have written extensively on stilted language, and the changes that occurred during my episode, when first onset first hit my synapses in the brain. However, I rarely evaluate how my speech was prior to my disorder, and after, during my recovery. More importantly, given my findings, how I find my own brain’s capacity to heal from psychosis? I am no speech analyst. In truth, my expertise is in rhetoric, and really only helpful when studying the words used, delivery, style, memory, and delivery.

But even with my limited knowledge of how rhetoric works, a side by side comparison of my speech, and ability to communicate prior to first onset, and after, is extremely disturbing on many levels, and remarkably telling on others. Remarkably telling of the energy I invested in my recovery, the specific skills I was able to relearn, and how far I was able to push forward in areas that benefited from relearning how to speak and communicate. That is to say, not every aspect of my rhetorical canon was repaired, or responded to the work I invested in regaining my language facilities.

In my 2006 Radio Show, County Speak, on WHRW 90.5 Binghamton I was at the height of my speaking career in college. Completely prior to any symptom of schizophrenia, I was in complete command of what I wanted to say, and how I went about saying it. After listening to an episode of the show recently alongside a recent interview from this year, I was taken aback my how I sounded in 2007 compared to this past year.

Let’s break it down on the level of rhetoric. In terms of style, my speech was certainly more spontaneous in 2007, with less effort and energy expended on my part to seem so. My memory was remarkably better in 2007. I needed to pause less to gather my thoughts, and the flow and diction were more even and smooth. All of these aspects of rhetoric have taken a turn after first onset.

Given, these aspects of my speech responded well to the effort and energy I invested in my treatment targeting my language. However, they did not reconstitute completely, and heal up without a hardened scab and layer of nonfunction or impairment, still visible to this day. Only on the level of delivery, have I been able to learn how to be more impactful. This has nothing to do with my illness though. This simply harkens back to what I was speaking about earlier, that I’ve had to invest a ton of energy into the process, and my delivery, how I capture the attention of my audience, keep it, and redirect the very inertia of my energy into the work is clear as day and uncontested.

I can’t help but cite the greatest, Mohammad Ali, whom, after returning to boxing after years of political exile wasn’t as fast on his feet as he once was. He learned to lean on the ropes with the famous icon “rope-a-dope” strategy and outpace his challengers with the imposition of will and his unrivaled stamina. While I am not as savvy with my ability to choose words as quickly and effectively, or speak as smoothly and spontaneously, I have learned to lean on my energy. My sheer will to rise above my impairment is truly the main asset I have in my corner. Sure, identifying my weaknesses, and pinpointing what works, and what hasn’t along the way was also important. But certainly, my energy and the level of intensity I put into the work ahead is what continues to drive my healing forward.

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  • J. Peters writes on his lived experience, and also brings his story into his work. J blogs daily on his site mentalhealthaffairs.blog and for other sites around the United States and Europe, bringing his passion for mental health to consumers everywhere.

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