My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
and the essence of my being escaped. This is not right. I don't belong here anymore! Great Spirit, I mused, I am now at one with the universe. I have blended into the eternal flow and am beyond returning to this plane of life -yet I remain tethered here. The fragile mind of this organic container has shut down and is no longer amenable for intelligent occupancy! I don't belong here anymore! Unencumbered by any emotional connection to anyone or anything outside of myself, my spirit was free to catch a wave in the river of blissful flow. Let me out! I hollered within my mind, I let go! I let go! I wanted to escape this vessel of physical form, which radiated chaos and pain. In those brief moments, I felt tremendous despair that I had survived.
My body felt cold, weighty, and ached with pain. The signals between my brain and body were so defective that I couldn't recognize my physical form. I felt as if I was an electrical being; an apparition of energy smoldering around an organic lump. I had become a pile of waste, leftovers, but I still retained a consciousness. A consciousness that was different from the one I had known before, however, because my left hemisphere had been packed with details about how to make sense of the external world. These details had been organized and ingrained as neuronal circuits in my brain. Here, in the absence of that circuitry, I felt inanimate and awkward. My consciousness had shifted. I was still in here -I was still me, but without the richness of the emotional and cognitive connections my life had known. So, was I really still me? How could I still be Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, when I no longer shared her life experiences, thoughts, and emotional attachments?
I remember that first day of the stroke with terrific bitter-sweetness. In the absence of the normal functioning of my left orientation association area, my perception of my physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air. I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle. The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria. Finer than the finest of pleasures we can experience as physical beings, this absence of physical boundary was one of glorious bliss. As my consciousness dwelled in a flow of sweet tranquility, it was obvious to me that I would never be able to squeeze the enormousness of my spirit back inside this tiny cellular matrix.
My escape into bliss was a magnificent alternative to the daunting sense of mourning and devastation I felt every time I was coaxed back into some type of interaction with the percolating world outside of me. I existed in some remote space that seemed to be far away from my normal information processing, and it was clear that the "I" whom I had grown up to be had not survived this neurological catastrophe. I understood that that Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor died that morning, and yet, with that said, who was left? Or, with my left hemisphere destroyed, perhaps I should now say, who was right ?
Without a language center telling me: "I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. I am a neuroanatomist. I live at this address and can be reached at this phone number," I felt no obligation to being her anymore. It was truly a bizarre shift in perception, but without her emotional circuitry reminding me of her likes and dislikes, or her ego center reminding me about her patterns of critical judgment, I didn't think like her anymore. From a practical perspective, considering the amount of biological damage, being her again wasn't even an option! In my mind, in my new perspective, that Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor died that morning and no longer existed. Now that I didn't know her life - her relationships, successes and mistakes, I was no longer bound to her decisions or self-induced limitations.
Although I experienced enormous grief for the death of my left hemisphere consciousness - and the woman I had been, I concurrently felt tremendous relief. That Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor had grown

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