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Stroke Smart Magazine


Winter 2010
SURVIVOR INSIGHT

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What I Needed Most
Love Me for Who I am Now

By Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Because of my stroke, I lost the memories of my life and my personality became very different. It was immensely important that those around me allow the new me to emerge without holding me to the personality I had exhibited before. I realize that this can be very difficult when your spouse has changed because of a stroke, but it was important to my recovery that my family loved me for who I am now and not hold me to the personality or skill level of the person I had been. I was a stroke survivor and, because my brain was different, I was now different and that needed to be OK.

One of the best tools I used to relearn things about myself was to watch a video of a presentation that I had given just prior to my stroke. By watching myself walk across the stage and speak into a microphone, I learned volumes about how I used to be. This was particularly helpful in teaching me the “melody” of language and how to pronounce scientific terminology. I encourage people to use their home videos to help survivors recover.

When it came to gaining new abilities, I learned that I had to master a certain level of function before I could move on to the next level. When I was learning how to sit up, for example, I first had to rock and rock and rock some more. Eventually I would rock with enthusiasm and that would lead naturally into a roll. Once I could roll with enthusiasm then I would rock and roll myself up into an almost sitting position. With a lot of effort I found myself succeeding along the way.

I discovered early on that my rehabilitation was dependent upon my willingness to “try” to help myself recover. When I was willing to put forth the effort that it took to pay attention, even when my mind didn’t want to, then and only then did I succeed. I had to make the decision hundreds of times every day to do what I needed to do to recover. Sometimes I was willing to try; sometimes I was not.

I needed my caregivers to be an inviting space. If someone was not being patient with me or was not willing to slow down their energy and work at my pace, I became disinterested in trying. When the left hemisphere of my brain was damaged, although I could not understand what people were saying to me, I could understand the emotional content of their language. More often than not, I chose to zone out more when people were hostile to me or in a hurry.

I needed those around me to protect me from taking risks that were far beyond my ability, yet at the same time I needed them to not overprotect me. Finding this balance was very important. We learned quickly that when the patient achieves and thrives, everyone wins!


Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor was young, healthy brain scientist at Harvard Medical School when she suffered a devastating stroke. After eight years of dedicated work, Taylor is completely recovered and teaching at the medical school level. She is a powerful spokesperson for stroke survivors and brain recovery and has authored the national bestseller, My Stroke of Insight.

 


 

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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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