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
Stoke is a medical emergency call 911 US or 999 UK
I first saw Jill Bolte Taylor on TED talks. I was captivated by her moving insight into how she as a neuroanatomist perceived the experience of having a stoke. How it had given her access to the right side of her brain.
Last week I was in a book shop and saw her book ‘My stroke of insight, A brain scientists personal journey’(1). I saw her name on the cover and immediately realising it was written by this lady from the TED talk I purchased the book.
There is something very reassuring about reading about other people’s brain experiences. It really helps to make sense of mine.
Having a person with intimate knowledge of the architecture of the mind, talk step by step through what parts stop working and how the symptoms are interpreted is very helpful. It has assisted in my own understanding of what could possibly be causing changes in awareness and ability.
The most important part of the book for anyone to read and understand is about how she recovered.
Jill became a neuroscientist because her brother had schizophrenia. She wanted to understand why and I think also to see if there was a cure.
At 37 she had a stroke.
It took her 8 years to get back to where she was pre- stroke, the only brain cells that were completely destroyed by the stroke were her mathematics cells. Despite this she had to re-learn everything.
There were several parts of her recovery that resonated highly with me.
First, she emphasised how important it is to honour the body’s need to sleep and just sleep when she needs to.
Second, that one of her greatest lessons was how to feel the physical component of emotion.
Jill was experiencing sensory overload after her stoke. Everything was overwhelming, light, noise , other people.
Because Jill was recovering she was learning how to deal with these emotions for the first time and had to learn to choose how to deal with them. If she didn’t like the way it felt she chose not to let it back into her neural loops. She says paying attention to what emotions feel like has completely shaped her recovery. She realised she was in charge of how she chose to perceive her experience. Little Windmill posted a really good story about Alexander the great and a yogi and anger which illustrates this; http://littlewindmillyoga.com/2012/12/05/alexander-the-great-meets-a-yogi/
In relation to medication, post- surgery she had to take Dilantin for 2 years afterwards in case she had a seizure. Her biggest complaint about this was that she didn’t know what it felt like to be ‘me’ anymore and says that she is more sensitive to why some people would choose insanity over the side effects of antipsychotic medications.
Physically, she talks about the importance of exercising her muscle groups, walking , massage and acupuncture treatment which helped her to identify her physical boundaries. One of the side effects of her stroke was that she felt ‘fluid’ and very much a part of the universe.
The part of this story that is most important is that Jill shows you can recover from a stroke.
It is not necessary to experience a stroke to find inner peace. We can choose left or right brain talk, and although she acknowledges that in cases of serious mental illness this may not be possible, I am very much behind her on her mission that choosing inner peace is an idea worth spreading.