Surviving Stroke: A Personal Story
Brain Scientist Jill Bolte Taylor on Her Stroke, Recovery, and the Warning Signs Everyone Needs to Know
Stroke Recovery: What Helped, What Didn't
Taylor's stroke recovery included relearning to read, to walk on snow, and to do laundry -- all with her mother's help. And she had to start from square one.
Taylor recalls her mother asking her, what's one plus one. "I paused for a moment, explored the contents of my mind, and responded, 'What's a one?'"
All that relearning took a lot of energy, and Taylor found herself needing 11 hours of sleep.
"The only way I got any rejuvenation was to go to sleep," Taylor says. "When I go to sleep, I shut down all new stimulation coming into my brain. My brain has time to make some sense of the stimulation it's already received; it calms itself down, it organizes, it files information. ... I needed people to let me sleep until I could wake."
And during her waking hours, Taylor needed people around her who believed in her ability to recover, no matter how long it took.
Before she had her language skills back, Taylor relied on nonverbal cues her doctors and visitors displayed -- their facial expressions, their body language, whether they were in a hurry or in a bad mood.
It took effort, energy, and time for her to try to listen and communicate. And she would try to gauge who was worth it, or, as she puts it, who "showed up" and slowed down and cared.
"If you do show up for me, then maybe I'm willing to show up for you. But if you don't show up for me, I'm certainly not going to show up for you, and I'm going to disconnect. And the more time I choose to disconnect, the more disconnected I am from even trying," Taylor says.
Recovered, but Changed
Taylor now says she considers herself "110% functional" but different than before her stroke.
"In every way, I have recovered, but I have not returned to being the same person I was before," she says.
What's changed? Her priorities.
Before the stroke, "I was much more 'me' oriented, much more career oriented," Taylor says. "And now, I'm not like that. Now, I'm much more about 'we.' How do I use the time that I have here to use my gifts to make a positive contribution to how we live our lives and for the health and well-being for other people who are in the place that I have been?"