Book Review: My Stroke of Insight

The day before I left Memphis for winter break, I stopped by the public library to grab some reading material. Back before college, I read all the time. My mom had to stop me from reading so I would actually do my homework. Or eat. Or sleep. It was definitely an addiction. Since college, my brain seems to have overloaded with textbooks, making picking up a book “just for fun” more of a burden than a blessing.

I brought home a random handful of books, ranging from my guilty pleasure of YA fantasy to the personal story of a stroke survivor. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. was definitely worth my time. At only 177 pages, it’s not terribly dense. While she does use some medical jargon (she is a neuroanatomist, after all), her diction is easy to follow. Honestly, most healthcare professionals would benefit from reading her story. The author commented on how she had to ration her energy during her recovery process. Some of the healthcare providers did nothing but take her energy, rush her, and treat her with little respect. Others were patient, calm, and respectful, and because of that, they were more valuable to the therapeutic process.

As you may glean from the title, this book isn’t just about the author’s stroke and recovery process. She also delves into the workings of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, as her stroke temporarily disabled her entire left hemisphere. Dr. Taylor argues the case that there are really two brains, one that plans and organizes, and another that exists and is connected with the universe. Her stroke experience allowed her to recognize and take control of how her brain processes information.

“When I take responsibility for the circumstances of my life, I put myself in the driver’s seat and own my power. In an attempt to maintain my sanity (peaceful heart) in a world that often feels like it spins dangerously fast, I continue to work very hard to maintain a healthy relationship between what is going on in my right and left minds. I love knowing that I am simultaneously (depending on which hemisphere you ask) as big as the universe and yet merely a heap of star dust.”

The author goes on to discuss how you can change how your brain thinks, and how you can choose to dwell on less than desirable thoughts and emotions or simply let them go. People may be a product of their neuronal processing, but we also have control over how long we let thought patterns continue.

While many of her words are thought-provoking and quote-worthy, I’ll end with this final excerpt.

“Your body is the life force power of some fifty trillion molecular geniuses. You and you alone choose moment by moment who and how you want to be in the world. I encourage you to pay attention to what is going on in your brain. Own your power and show up for life. Beam bright!”

-L

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