My Beautiful Broken Brain

caterpillar butterfly quote

“Within your own mind is a treasury, an ocean of pure bliss, consciousness, intelligence, creativity and love…”   — David Lynch

Recently I viewed a fascinating new Netflix documentary which follows the life of a 34 year old woman after she experiences a severe stroke. Lotje Sodderland was a digital producer at a hip London creative agency when she suffered a stroke that decimated her language skills and threw her sensory perception into disarray.

Lotje found that most of the practitioners who tried to help her recover her abilities to speak, see properly, write and read, began by defining her by what she could not do after her stroke. She instead chose to focus on a few positive changes within her brain, ones which provided her with new skills and talents.

At the end of this film she offers advice back to those who have treated her brain injury, telling them to help the patient not only return to previous abilities, but also appreciate sometimes subtle changes in consciousness, which can benefit the patient. For example, Lotje experienced an amazing new ability to experience colors and sounds like never before.

I found this new take on brain injuries quite refreshing, much like the story behind Melody Gardot’s transformation following her brain injury. She’s an American woman who only discovered her unique ability to create and sing music after suffering a serious head and spinal injuries.

Initially prompted by her physician who believed music would help her brain injury improve, Gardot began writing music after her accident.  Music is thought to help the brain form new pathways. At first, Gardot learned to hum and was eventually able to sing into a tape recorder. She made good progress and was eventually able to write her own original songs. She had no idea before her accident that she was a musician, but today she’s playing concert tours all around the world.

Both of these examples show the unique fragility of the mind, but also the limitless resources that can be found as those with brain injuries get used to their new brain, their new existence and their dynamic relationship with their own consciousness.

I have discovered a few major changes to my own brain and levels of consciousness since suffering a serious traumatic brain injury in 2008, and a concussion last September. Yes, these injuries have hurt my ability to remember many words and faces. I do find that quite frustrating at times. The benefits for me are a greatly enhanced ability and need to meditate regularly. My brain gets exhausted quite easily, especially after an hour or so of conversation.

Another change is in the intensity of my dreams. They are so real now, I can’t imagine forgetting them. They pop into my mind all day long, making me feel so strongly like I actually spent time with those I only dreamt about spending time with…

Butterfly side view small 2007This experience sometimes leaves me wondering, like the Chinese philosopher Chuang-Tzu, am I a butterfly flying around dreaming that I’m a woman, or a woman dreaming that I’m a butterfly?         This is what a conk on the head did for me!

How did I end up here, feeling so fortunate?

It’s a long story, one I can now share with you in my new memoir!

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10 thoughts on “My Beautiful Broken Brain

  1. I am so glad that you are arriving at that spot where you can see the gifts no matter how crazy, as gifts! That is a huge leap in the recovery process. I have not seen the movie yet but plan to! Thank you sharing your amazing perspective!

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  2. My late father suffered a TBI before I was born, so I never knew him “before”. Thank you for this eyewitness look into what can happen. I wonder what might have been good about his experience, because he did not talk to me about it, and I only knew about the bad.

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  3. I am excited to share this with Chuck. Although he still has so much difficulty accessing words, I’m interested to hear his perspective. I suspect his dreams are quite vivid also, as well as some of his memories. I know he is sometimes surprised that I don’t remember all the details of past events as he does. Like you, he finds lots of activity and prolonged conversation exhausting.

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  4. I will find that documentary and watch it. Did you read the book “My Stroke of Insight”? The author tells of her stroke and how it changed her in many ways. I’m glad you have written about this and am looking forward to finding it myself. Thanks! 🙂

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  5. Remember, it completely depends on what part of the brain is injured and how badly. And in my case the combination of injuries from my TBI in my frontal lobe and concussion in my left parietal lobe. Still I find it so fascinating to think about positive changes in my brain, not just what I have lost.

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