Just finished a really thought-provoking book called “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. Fascinating!
The author, a Harvard-trained brain scientist, tells her story of surviving a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life — all within four hours — Taylor alternated between the euphoria 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 she was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was completely lost. It would take her eight years to fully recover.
Taylor does an amazing job of explaining the complexities of brain anatomy and function in ways that most of us can grasp, helping her reader understand the differences between how the left and right hemispheres function and how they subtly dovetail to help us complete so many incredible tasks.
One powerful insight that Taylor uncovers and shares is her belief that we have much more control than we realize to guide our left and right hemispheres to carry us along healthy and meaningful ways of thinking, feeling, and living. She says that the left brain, which performs so many vital functions, is generally our “storyteller” and has the tendency to let our thinking run along the path of our past stories and experiences, sometimes playing those over and over to the point where we miss out on the richness of the present. She offer strategies to implement to short-circuit the left hemisphere storytelling when it is not helpful, and redirect to the present focus of the right brain where we can find joy, compassion, and tremendous peace of mind.
I think the most significant assessment Taylor coined is her favorite definition of fear as “False Expectations Appearing Real.” She adds that when we allow ourselves to remember that all of our thoughts are simply fleeting physiology; we may feel less unsettled when our “storyteller” goes haywire and triggers our brain circuitry. She believes that when we silence the “storyteller” and “step to the right” we can shift to our right brain and remember that we are at one with the universe — then the concept of fear loses its power. Taylor believes we have control over which path we allow our brain to follow.
In addition to this amazing story that Jill Taylor shares, she offers some helpful recommendations for recovery from a stroke based on ten assessment questions. And she includes a comprehensive list of forty things that she needed from caregivers as she worked to recover from the trauma of her stroke. For those who have experienced a stroke or care for someone who has suffered a stroke, this book is a must-read.
Warning Signs of Stroke
S = SPEECH, or any problems with language
T = TINGLING, or any numbness in the body
R = REMEMBER, or any problems with memory
O = OFF BALANCE. problems with coordination
K = KILLER HEADACHE
E = EYES, or any problems with vision
STROKE is a medical emergency. CALL 9-1-1.