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My Stroke of Insights (by Jill Bolte Taylor)

You’re 37 years old and one morning, all of a sudden and without any prior warning, you notice that you cannot walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of your life. You’re a brain scientist and while you observe yourself and this situation that is unfolding, you recognise that you’re having a stroke.

As you may have guessed, “My Stroke of Insights” is a memoir written by a neuroscientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, who experienced a stroke at the age of 37. She is also actively involved in educating the public about the shortage of brain tissue donated for research. This made me think about donating my brain.

However, for the moment, let’s keep my brain where it is and use it to write this review, shall we? 🙂

Jill Bolte Taylor Ted Talk

We can say that this book is divided into three parts. The author:

1) introduces herself and provides some basic science about how the brain works;

2) describes her stroke and recovery;

3) tells us what she has learned through this experience, both from a brain and human point of view.

So this book is about the author’s journey of recovery, from the initial moments of her stroke to the long and difficult process of rehabilitation, both from a patient and a doctor’s perspective.

Dr Jill Bolte Taylor’s personal story is touching and engaging, as she recounts her experience of losing some abilities we take for granted like walking and talking. However, the book is not just about her story, it’s also about the strength of the human mind and the power of hope. In fact, Jill Bolte Taylor’s account of her recovery offers insight into how we can choose our reactions to traumatic events and it’s a testament to the capacity we have to overcome adversity.

I appreciated her ability to explain brain science at a high-level in a way that is easy for the lay audience to understand. This makes the book not only interesting, but also informative and educational.

The book also includes a section that provides practical tips and advice for stroke survivors and their loved ones.

In Conclusion

I loved it. It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking and inspiring book that is not only a memoir but also an educational resource.

It’s a must-read for anyone looking for a powerful and uplifting story, but also for anyone who wants to better understand how our brain works and how it can face adversity.

Some of My Favourite Quotes From the Book:

Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.

Based upon my experience with losing my left mind, I whole-heartedly believe that the feeling of deep inner peace is neurological circuitry located in our right brain.

I may not be in total control of what happens in my life, but I certainly am in charge of how I choose to perceive my experience.

It’s important we realize that we are capable of feeling physical pain without hooking into the emotional loop of suffering. […] To experience pain may not be a choice, but to suffer is a cognitive decision.

Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

It is interesting to note that although our limbic system functions throughout our lifetime, it does not mature. As a result, when our emotional “buttons” are pushed, we retain the ability to react as though we were a two year old, even when we are adults. As our higher cortical cells mature and become integrated in complex networks with other neurons, we gain the ability to take “new pictures” of the present moment. When we compare the new information of our thinking mind with the automatic reactivity of our limbic mind, we can reevaluate the current situation and purposely choose a more mature response.

My favorite definition of fear is “False Expectations Appearing Real”.

I have found life to be too short to be preoccupied with pain from the past.

Most of the different types of cells in our body die and are replaced every few weeks or months. However, neurons, the primary cell of the nervous system, do not multiply (for the most part) after we are born. That means that the majority of the neurons in your brain today are as old as you are. This longevity of the neurons partially accounts for why we feel pretty much the same on the inside at the age of 10 as we do at age 30 or 77.

Title: My Stroke of Insights – A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
Author: Jill Bolte Taylor
Year first published: 2006

From Goodreads:

On the 10th December 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke. A neuroanatomist by profession, she observed her own mind deteriorate to the point that she lost the ability to walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. This book tells of her experiences.