Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight (2)
So it's like, "OK, I've got a problem." But then I immediately drifted right back out into the consciousness -- and I affectionately refer to this space as La La Land. But it was beautiful there. Imagine what it would be like to be totally disconnected from your brain chatter that connects you to the external world.
So here I am in this space, and my job, and any stress related to my job -- it was gone. And I felt lighter in my body. And imagine all of the relationships in the external world and any stressors related to any of those -- they were gone. And I felt this sense of peacefulness. And imagine what it would feel like to lose 37 years of emotional baggage! (Laughter) Oh! I felt euphoria -- euphoria. It was beautiful.
And again, my left hemisphere comes online and it says, "Hey! You've got to pay attention. We've got to get help." And I'm thinking, "I've got to get help. I've got to focus." So I get out of the shower and I mechanically dress and I'm walking around my apartment, and I'm thinking, "I've got to get to work. Can I drive?" And in that moment, my right arm went totally paralyzed by my side. Then I realized, "Oh my gosh! I'm having a stroke!" And the next thing my brain says to me is, Wow! This is so cool!
This is so cool!
How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?" (Laughter)
And then it crosses my mind, "But I'm a very busy woman!" (Laughter)
"I don't have time for a stroke!" So I'm like, "OK, I can't stop the stroke from happening, so I'll do this for a week or two, and then I'll get back to my routine. OK. So I've got to call help. I've got to call work." I couldn't remember the number at work, so I remembered, in my office I had a business card with my number. So I go into my business room, I pull out a three-inch stack of business cards. And I'm looking at the card on top and even though I could see clearly in my mind's eye what my business card looked like, I couldn't tell if this was my card or not, because all I could see were pixels. And the pixels of the words blended with the pixels of the background and the pixels of the symbols, and I just couldn't tell. And then I would wait for what I call a wave of clarity. And in that moment, I would be able to reattach to normal reality and I could tell that's not the card... that's not the card. It took me 45 minutes to get one inch down inside of that stack of cards. In the meantime, for 45 minutes, the hemorrhage is getting bigger in my left hemisphere. I do not understand numbers, I do not understand the telephone, but it's the only plan I have. So I take the phone pad and I put it right here. I take the business card, I put it right here, and I'm matching the shape of the squiggles on the card to the shape of the squiggles on the phone pad. But then I would drift back out into La La Land, and not remember when I came back if I'd already dialed those numbers. So I had to wield my paralyzed arm like a stump and cover the numbers as I went along and pushed them, so that as I would come back to normal reality, I'd be able to tell, "Yes, I've already dialed that number." Eventually, the whole number gets dialed and I'm listening to the phone, and my colleague picks up the phone and he says to me, "Woo woo woo woo." (Laughter)
And I think to myself, "Oh my gosh, he sounds like a Golden Retriever!" (Laughter)
And so I say to him -- clear in my mind, I say to him: "This is Jill! I need help!" And what comes out of my voice is, "Woo woo woo woo woo." I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh, I sound like a Golden Retriever." So I couldn't know -- I didn't know that I couldn't speak or understand language until I tried. So he recognizes that I need help and he gets me help.
And a little while later, I am riding in an ambulance from one hospital across Boston to [Massachusetts] General Hospital. And I curl up into a little fetal ball. And just like a balloon with the last bit of air, just right out of the balloon, I just felt my energy lift and just I felt my spirit surrender.
And in that moment, I knew that I was no longer the choreographer of my life. And either the doctors rescue my body and give me a second chance at life, or this was perhaps my moment of transition.
When I woke later that afternoon, I was shocked to discover that I was still alive. When I felt my spirit surrender, I said goodbye to my life. And my mind was now suspended between two very opposite planes of reality. Stimulation coming in through my sensory systems felt like pure pain. Light burned my brain like wildfire, and sounds were so loud and chaotic that I could not pick a voice out from the background noise, and I just wanted to escape. Because I could not identify the position of my body in space, I felt enormous and expansive, like a genie just liberated from her bottle. And my spirit soared free, like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria. Nirvana. I found Nirvana. And I remember thinking, there's no way I would ever be able to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body. But then I realized, "But I'm still alive! I'm still alive, and I have found Nirvana. And if I have found Nirvana and I'm still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana." And I pictured a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people who knew that they could come to this space at any time. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres -- and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives. And it motivated me to recover.
Two and a half weeks after the hemorrhage, the surgeons went in, and they removed a blood clot the size of a golf ball that was pushing on my language centers. Here I am with my mama, who is a true angel in my life. It took me eight years to completely recover.
So who are we? We are the life-force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here, right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere, where we are. I am the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is. Or, I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I become a single individual, a solid. Separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the "we" inside of me. Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner-peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be. And I thought that was an idea worth spreading.