(Editor’s note: Writer, BEST guest blogger and stroke survivor, Isaac Peterson, read a book that made an impact on him. Learn all about My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. KT)

I thought I’d try something a bit different this time: a book report.

Well, kind of a book report; this will be more like an overview of some of the highlights.

Although the book is about stroke, I think much of it applies to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from other causes. I certainly don’t claim I’ve done adequate justice to her work.

The book is My Stroke Of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist and stroke survivor.

Dr. Bolte Taylor had a stroke that was very similar to the one I experienced, but there are also differences in some details.

One difference is that she recalls the details of what was happening around her and her thoughts while she was experiencing the stroke. She can recall and describe what she went through, and she provides it from the standpoint of a neuro specialist.

Her explanation contained the details of what happened as only someone with medical/clinical experience can, but I won’t go into any of the details.

Let me just say I thought it was interesting.

She described an experience that seemed mystical in some regards, and listed some of her awareness and epiphanies during the whole thing.

Some of her thoughts after she arrived at the hospital and had to deal with the staff there:

  • Yelling louder does not help me understand you better!
  • Don’t be afraid of me.
  • Come closer to me.
  • Bring me your gentle spirit.
  • Speak more slowly. 
  • Enunciate more clearly.
  • Again! Please try again!
  • S-l-o-w down.
  • Be kind to me.
  • See that I am a wounded animal, not a stupid animal.
  • I am vulnerable and confused.
  • Whatever my age, whatever my credentials, reach for me.
  • Respect me.
  • I am in here. Come find me.

(Source: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor). 

Another difference between her experience and mine, was that I don’t remember a single thing about what happened. I later was told I could communicate, ask and answer questions, but all I remember is waking up one day in the hospital wondering, What the…?

I only remember a weird kind of really scary vertigo, probably the day before the stroke actually happened.

This is just one difference in our experiences that tells me that just as no traumatic brain injuries are alike, no two strokes seem to be alike either. It depends on some things like which area(s) of the brain are affected, just like any other traumatic brain injury.

Immediately after her stroke she had trouble speaking, reading, eating, and relating an object with the word for that object. I didn’t have any trouble with these activities, but I did have some difficulty with speech. Although I could speak, I couldn’t do it with any of my previous force or volume; I couldn’t speak much above a whisper. It took several months for me to regain my smooth, rich baritone voice quality.

Although she has recovered—her stroke happened in December of 1996 and her book was published ten years later—I am still recovering from my stroke in 2016.

One big thing we both have in common is realizing the power of our minds.

She told herself early on, in her words: “I never entertained the possibility that I was orchestrating my rescue so that I would live out the rest of my days completely disabled.”

This thought occurred after she realized she’d had a stroke and was admitted to the hospital. I decided much the same thing during my hospitalization.

Both of us also are determined not to feel sorry for ourselves or wallow in self-pity; we are stroke survivors, not stroke victims, a very important and  powerful distinction.

She closed her book with 40 tips for recovery, but most of those tips seem geared more for family, friends and caregivers. Many of her points I’ve written about before; I’ve listed some below that I haven’t dealt with much in my own writing.

Tips for recovery:

  • Make eye contact with me. I am in here—come find me.
  • Encourage me.
  • Trust that I am trying—just not with your skill level or on your schedule.
  • Speak to me directly, not about me to others.
  • Cheer me on. Expect me to recover completely, even if it takes me twenty years!
  • Celebrate all of my little successes. They inspire me.
  • Focus on what I can do rather than bemoan what I cannot do.
  • Love me for who I am today. Don’t hold me to being the person I was before. I have a different brain now.
  • Be protective of me, but do not stand in the way of my progress. 

(Source: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor)

Again, this is just a broad overview of her book. A complete accounting of the thoughts, experiences and ideas expressed there would be almost as long as the book itself.

I felt a great sense of optimism and empowerment reading Dr. Bolte Taylor’s book and highly recommend it, both for survivors of stroke or other kind of TBI, as well as for caregivers.

I feel empowered enough that maybe some day I will try to write a book of my own.

For more information on Jill Bolte Taylor and her journey, please click here

Isaac Peterson performing. (courtesy photo).

Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near  Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at isaac3rd@gmail.com.

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