The stroke that hit Lee at age 33 left no visible signs of trauma, but it still changed her life forever.
A decade ago, the stealthy heart condition secretly lurking deep within the author since birth created a blood clot that shot through her body and lodged itself in her head, where “it killed a part of my brain.” Lee was standing in a hardware store parking lot at the time, thinking how odd it was that the shiny red snowblowers on display were suddenly and inexplicably “rotated ninety degrees.” What follows is the author’s emotionally explicit and intensely circumspect chronicle of how she dealt with what doctors later determined to be a thalamic stroke. “In those first few weeks,” writes Lee, “I was lost without knowing I was lost. I was searching with a deep belief that all would be well, not out of resilience or hope but out of ignorant bliss….My world was that [hospital] room, and in that room my struggles had little measured impact.” Unable to retain information, suffering from aphasia, and repeatedly rereading the same page of Slaughterhouse-Five over and over again, Lee eventually realized that she had to learn to confront older, deep-seated attitudes about her body and brain. She contemplates the years slavishly devoted to using her prized brain to subdue a seemingly undesirable body. That introspection, in turn, opened new doorways onto troubled relationships with her traumatized parents and increasingly distant husband. Forced to compensate for the dead part of her brain, Lee slowly achieved a new sense of gratitude for the body she had previously so reviled and mistreated. The journey of self-discovery is given an illuminating boost when the hole in her heart is finally repaired. With careful thought and new understanding, the author explores the enduring mind-body connection with herself at the nexus of it all.
A fascinating exploration of personal identity from a writer whose body is, thankfully, “no longer at war.”