A Stitch in Time

Apr 30, 2017

“Living without language.”

Can you imagine.

In 2007, Pasadena native Lauren Marks woke up in the Critical Care Unit of Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland. She woke up into The Quiet.

“I was an American actor, director, and PhD student in New York City, touring a show to the International Fringe Festival in Edinburgh,” Marks wrote in “Psych Out” for Seymour Magazine.  “While I was performing onstage, an aneurysm ruptured in my brain, and when I woke up from my emergency neurosurgery, I had acquired a neurological condition called “aphasia.” At 27, I’d largely lost my abilities to speak, read, and write.”

She had no memory of how she got there, no sense of alarm, and no idea that she was in any way impaired. She didn’t remember singing karaoke with her friends at an Edinburgh pub or collapsing on stage. She woke up in a new world, hushed and full of curiosities.

“I understood the language spoken around me, so I reasoned my language output was normal, with no awareness about how often I was speaking in gobbledygook. It wasn’t just my external voice that was affected but my internal one too. With only 40 or 50 words in my workable vocabulary, I didn’t have enough language to ask myself, “What is wrong with me?” And I couldn’t list the many things that were. Even though those voices were mainly silent, it was hard for me to pinpoint what exactly had gone missing. This wasn’t amnesia or delusion, I just felt…different. Peaceful.”

This was The Quiet.



Marks is described as a voracious reader, director, dramaturg, and was pursuing a PhD. Not only was language her passion, it was her livelihood.

After Lauren was pronounced well enough to leave the hospital, she returned to her childhood home to recover, grappling with a muted inner monologue and fractured sense of self. Soon after, Lauren began a journal to chronicle her year following the rupture. A Stitch in Time is the remarkable result, an Oliver Sacks–like case study of a brain slowly piecing itself back together, featuring clinical research about aphasia and linguistics, interwoven with Lauren’s personal narrative and the actual journal entries that marked her progress.


Lauren’s September journal.


“Relearning language brought out an enthusiasm in me that I hadn’t experienced since I was a child. Like encountering words with multiple meanings. I was tickled by homophones and homonyms (I thought it was hilarious that “jam” was either a problem or a condiment). I couldn’t use idioms anymore, a foreigner in my native tongue. After a few months, I was able to read a short story again, but not with much skill. The day I remembered the existence of subtext was a doozy, a major thunderbolt moment. When I realized it wasn’t just the words on the page that mattered, but so did all the words that weren’t there, I sprang up onto my parents’ furniture, and started leaping between the two white couches.”



Vroman’s and The Pasadena Playhouse have collaborated to produce an evening with Lauren Marks reading from A Stitch in Time, along with a conversation with Liz Silver and music performed by Eliza Rickman.

Dr. Temple Grandin, author, prominent speaker on autism and Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University states: “A Stitch in Time is a fascinating read for those who want to learn how language works.”


A Stitch in Time: The Year a Brain Injury Changed My Language and My Life
Monday, May 15th at 7 p.m.
Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena 91101
Free event
For more details, visit


By Earl, Anita Mills, 1913. [from old catalog] [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons.




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