Book Review: My Stroke of Insight
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
This is not normally the type of book I read for pleasure; I’m much more of a fiction lover. But I heard a podcast interview with the author, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, and her compelling story had me buying her book the very same day.
What Is the Book About?
In 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor was a 37 year old brain scientist who experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel burst in the left side of her brain. The amazing part is that she didn’t lose consciousness! Since she was a trained neuroanatomist, she observed her mind and body functions deteriorating over the course of four hours with a calm, scientific perspective, until help arrived and she was taken to the hospital. Her complete recovery took eight years, with the help of her amazing mother who was her nurse (not by profession), caregiver, teacher and cheerleader.
The knowledge and insights she gained from this experience make up the majority of the book. First, she briefly describes her pre-stroke life including her reasons why she became a brain scientist, her academic road and her advocacy interests.
There are several fascinating chapters describing the actual morning of the stroke:
“As a neuroanatomist, I must say that I learned as much about my brain and how it functions during that stroke, as I had in all my years of academia. By the end of that morning, my consciousness shifted into a perception that I was at one with the universe.”
The recovery chapters are an invaluable resource if you know someone who has had a stroke or other type of brain trauma. She has one Appendix titled “Forty Things I Needed the Most” which should be read by all medical professionals whose patients have sustained a brain injury.
She includes two chapters of “simple science” explaining how the left and right sides of our brain work, both independently and in tandem to create our perceptions of the world. Personally, I really don’t like science and had to force myself to read through this section. And I am so glad I did, because this scientific and medical journey transitions into Bolte Taylor’s spiritual exploration of her right-hemisphere’s consicousness, where she found a deep inner peace exists at all times. I wouldn’t have appreciated her “awakening” if I skipped over the brain lessons she provides.
“Based on 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. This circuitry is constantly running and always available for us to hook into . . . Step one to experiencing inner peace is the willingness to be present in the right here, right now.”
So to my surprise, a book that started out as scientific turned into a beautiful lesson on spirituality, gratitude, love and compassion — and that we can find our deep inner peace if we just train ourselves to look for it. Who would have expected this could be written by a brain scientist?
Who Should Read It?
Obviously this book is for anyone who has experienced a stroke, is “at risk” for a stroke, or is caring for someone who is recovering from a stroke. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and the Number One cause of adult disability per the National Stroke Association.
But not all of our aging parents will fall into this category. So why do I think baby boomers should be reading this book?
Because Bolte Taylor’s lessons also apply to our aging parents who may have TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attack, a “warning stroke” or mini-stroke) or be in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. All of these brain diseases are more common in older populations, and baby boomers will be facing these types of medical issues ourselves as we age. It is important to be aware before a stroke happens.
I never expected a “medical story” to be so full of feelings. Bolte Taylor’s spirit and heart is an inspiration to all family members, whether they are the patient or the caregiver.
If you wish to learn more, below is the link to the book on Amazon.com:
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
Have you read this book? Please share your opinions below.