My Stroke of Insight – Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. (2008)

A friend has passed this book on to me saying that it was a good read, and as I was searching for a book that covered a subject very far removed from Victorian history (just for a change), I picked this one up. It’s a non-fiction that documents (autobiographically) how the author had an unexpected stroke in her late thirties and how it has affected her life. It’s also an interesting twist in it in that the author is also a neuroscientist and so this has deeply colored how she relates this medical experience.

It’s a fascinating portrayal of the long journey to recovery (post-stroke) and the steps she had to take along with the different choices she made. Her stroke left her completely unable to access her left hemisphere of the brain (unusual type of stroke, fairly common location for one) and so she had to re-learn how to talk, walk, speak, eat etc. (The left hemisphere of the brain attends to linear decision-making, the details of life, and I think memory among other things), and so there was this astounding process of discovery for her.

Since she had been a noted scientist in the mental health field prior to this event, it was also a big shift for her self-identity and it was tough for her to remember ( as I think it would be for anyone else) that just because she had a stroke did not mean that she was now “less than” she had been – she was just different.

This topic was particularly interesting for me as my father had had a stroke in 2001 and I feel that I was spectacularly uninformed about strokes, how they affect people in their various manifestations, and the process of recovery so this was really helpful for me. I realize that each person will have his/her own experience of a stroke (should they have one), but this was a particularly well-written of this one woman’s experience. Somehow, the author managed to recall with striking recall all the details of how her stroke felt to her from the minute it started to the end of the process.

This would have been very helpful to know when my father was dealing with the brief aftermath of his when he was still alive, as we (as a family) had little to no idea how to help him or even what had really happened. I believe he had had a left hemisphere stroke, and so his language abilities were strongly affected. Losing language (left brain) would cause so many challenges and obstacles (as related in this narrative) that it would require enormous patience and skill for family members and the caregivers who surround that patient.

From reading this person’s experience, it seems that it would be very tough indeed for people on both sides of the recovery process, and so I would think that reading this fairly down-to-earth recount of how a stroke affected this one person could only be helpful.

Bolte Taylor was also very helpful in reminding me (as a reader) to live in the present moment more – this is not a new concept for me, but it certainly is a tough one for me to live by and remember. As Bolte Taylor wrote:

“I may not be in control of what happens to my life, but I certainly am in charge of how I choose to process my experience…”

I found this to be a riveting read that I gobbled down in one day and would highly recommend it to any interested peeps out there.

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