We all have moments when we learn a surprising fact, come across a discovery that shakes us up and causes our lives to remain divided between before and after, acquire new knowledge which has the power to make us grow. For me, listening to an enlightening talk given by neurologist and Harvard University PhD (USA) Jill Bolte Taylor, was one of those moments.
In addition to explaining some things about the brain and the difference between the left and right hemispheres (with a real brain on stage) and arousing laughter from the audience, Dr. Bolte Taylor tells us about her incredible experience.
The truth is that as much as I try to summarize the talk for you, the best thing would be to watch it for yourselves.
Dr. Bolte Taylor decided to study neuroanatomy because her brother suffered from schizophrenia and she wanted to know and understand the differences between a “normal” brain and a brain affected by mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Then one day she woke up with a strange feeling that turned out to be a brain stroke from which she would not recover fully for 8 years. For her, it was an amazing experience. Yes you read that right…
In a fun and easy way she clearly explains the symptoms that identify a stroke. She describes her experience, from the time she woke up and began exercising to the when she got into the shower and felt a range of strange symptoms : an altered level of consciousness and sudden confusion, sudden loss of strength in an arm or leg, trouble speaking, not understanding what they were saying to her (Jill recounts calling her colleague and hearing only “wha wha wha” instead of the words he was saying), loss of vision, severe headache, loss of balance and coordination, difficulty walking and tingling.
Jill tells us that when her left hemisphere was disconnected she lost her grasp on reality, while the solely functioning right hemisphere gave her a feeling of peace, happiness…which she calls Nirvana. It was amazing and she considered it a revealing, mystical and profound experience, and one that she should share with the world.
After her stroke, her stress disappeared, and her mind became more quiet, not bothering her with worries. She was amazed and said it was great! To lose 37 years of emotional baggage is so liberating!
After recounting her experience, Jill invites us to be masters of our lives, encouraging us that we can be make our own lives easier by disconnecting our left hemisphere. We have the power to disconnect!
Between tears and laughter Jill truly moves us and makes us reflect on the true meaning of life. She reminds us that sometimes we need a wakeup call to realize how lucky we are.
I would like to humbly encourage you, if you or one of your loved ones have suffered a stroke, to watch this conference conference, speak with your loved ones about the fear you felt or still feel, express yourself honestly, cry when you need to and lean on the shoulder of a friend.
There is always someone willing to help you and understand you.
You can also find helpful information from organizations like the American Stroke Association or the British National Health Service’s stroke information page, with important facts on prevention, symptoms, and recovery.