Tuesday, June 29, 2010

85. My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D

I saw My Stroke of Insight on my mom's book shelf forever ago, and thought it looked really interesting. It's been sitting on my coffee table for months now, so I figured it was high time I got started reading.

On the morning of December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. A neuroanatomist by profession, she observed her own mind completely deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life, all within the space of four brief hours. As the damaged left side of her brain -- the rational, grounded, detail- and time-oriented side -- swung in and out of function, Taylor alternated between two distinct and opposite realities: the euphoric nirvana of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace, and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized Jill was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was lost completely. 

In My Stroke of Insight, Taylor shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery, and the sense of omniscient understanding she gained from this unusual and inspiring voyage out of the abyss of a wounded brain. It would take eight years for Taylor to heal completely. Because of her knowledge of how the brain works, her respect for the cells composing her human form, and most of all an amazing mother, Taylor completely repaired her mind and recalibrated her understanding of the world according to the insights gained from her right brain that morning of December 10th.

Today Taylor is convinced that the stroke was the best thing that could have happened to her. It has taught her that the feeling of nirvana is never more than a mere thought away. By stepping to the right of our left brains, we can all uncover the feelings of well-being and peace that are so often sidelined by our own brain chatter. A fascinating journey into the mechanics of the human mind, My Stroke of Insight is both a valuable recovery guide for anyone touched by a brain injury and an emotionally stirring testimony that deep internal peace truly is accessible to anyone at any time.

Summary taken from the book jacket.

Okay, once I started re-reading the book jacket to type up the summary, I got a little nervous. The book was sounding a little touchy-feely and almost like a how-to -- did I really want to read about how to access a part of my brain to achieve nirvana? Also, one of my relatives suffered from an aneurysm when I was eleven years old. Did I really want to know what she might have been going through before she got medical attention? I had to force myself to continue on, and remember that this did sound interesting and I should give it a chance.

My first reaction is that the science of the brain is a little beyond me. Taylor includes a section of background information, so that you can better understand how she writes about the stroke and her recovery. I gave it an honest effort, but after a few pages it was clear that I wasn't taking anything away from it. And she was dumbing it down! Sigh. It's just not my area.

Also, Taylor is a little... well, I would say hippie-dippie, but that's a little mean. I'm just not the type to walk around a park with my guitar and sing. So I had a hard time relating to her because we didn't have much in common. 

However, this book was as interesting as I expected. Although it was nerve-wracking, reading about the experience of having a stroke was valuable to me. And the wisdom that Taylor imparts about how to interact with someone recovering from a stroke is priceless. You can be sure that I will pick up a copy for myself should I ever need a refresher. 

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