“How are you feeling?” asked the doctor. His patient was suffering from semantic dementia, a condition in which damage to part of the brain’s temporal lobe disrupts the connection between words and their meanings. Her vocabulary had been reduced to just 3,000-4,000 words, fewer than what a four-year-old can use (the average adult English speaker knows 20,000–35,000).
She was a widow, her husband having passed away not long before, and lived by herself. Answering the doctor’s simple question was a difficult task; she had no words to express abstract concepts like being alone. After a few moments she was able to respond, “Well, when I am at my place, it’s only me and the place.”
The doctor, Thomas Bak, a neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh and founder of the Cambridge International Poetry Club, called it “one of the most beautiful descriptions of loneliness I have ever heard.”