I have just finished reading your book, My Stroke of Insight, and I am so completely moved by your experience. While it is true that any person with a brain would be taken in by your story, my relationship with my brain has been a challenging one and thus it is that much more a significant read for me. I have just celebrated my 20th anniversary with Multiple Sclerosis and your book has driven me to revisit my relationship with said brain.
Over the years my brain has been many things. My brain was labeled average in a lacking school system that didn’t recognize different learning styles. As I entered college and tried to see what it was made of, I was diagnosed with this unpredictable disease. From an early age I learned what I can’t or won’t be able to do.
But my brain ultimately came through with a positive attitude that has served me well in spite of life’s pitfalls. Experiencing my version of MS, I grew stronger in outlook and my brain and I lived happily until the new next episode hit and I feared I could not handle it. But we became partners again as my right hemisphere gave me courage and my left side joined in with a plan to manage the loss. This sequence happened repeatedly as I lost abilities or gained symptoms. Ultimately my strength of character (right hemisphere?) came through and served my brain well.
The relationship with my brain remained stable as long as I could handle the blows that my immune system was dealing me. When symptoms arose I doubted my ability to incorporate them in to my daily routine. Depending on the symptom, the arc of acceptance varied in size and length. Pain was one that was particularly hard to handle. Luckily my brain found a way to make it more manageable… and eventually a new circuitry was established with which I could cope. So you see the rollercoaster ride my brain and I have been on these 20 years.
What I realized in reading your book is that my brain deserves applause for the cellular genius that it exhibits everyday. My brain isn’t my enemy… it’s a victim of these unwarranted attacks from my confused immune system. It needs the encouragement and rewards that you have illustrated in your story. There are many symptoms for which my brain has found a new neural network – giving me back abilities I’ve lost. For the symptoms that are constant I realize now that I can rally behind my brain in an encouraging way.
Your experience is beyond the comprehension of most people. To have a tabla rasa, to rebuild from 0 is more than most of us can begin to imagine. Your telling of that experience is awe-inspiring. But more importantly you have shown me (and so many others) that these internal conversations, and use of energy that is beyond our human limits to understand is in fact scientific… not speculative hope. And that is power beyond our neurons.
Thank you Dr. Bolte Taylor. You have given the world an enormous gift. One that I will enjoy daily on this neural escape called life.
P.S. I will most certainly donate my brain to science.