By Jim Tune
On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke. She sustained rapid debilitation of her brain as she lost the ability to walk, talk, write, or recall any part of her life. It would take her eight years to fully recover.
In a sense, we are all in recovery—recovery from dysfunctional families, recovery from abuse, recovery from the consequences of our own poor choices and wounds from others.
As Taylor worked on her recovery, she recorded elements that were integral to her healing. Several of her observations seemed universal in their application, even biblical. She acknowledged the need for community—that recovery is not something you do alone. Taylor writes, “I desperately needed people to treat me as though I would recover completely.” This is true of every type of recovery. We do best when people around us have faith in our ability to learn, heal, and grow.
Another vital component of her healing was the need for love and acceptance. Taylor explains, “I needed people to love me—not for the person I had been—but for who I might now become.” Although she looked the same and would eventually walk and talk the same as she did before the stroke, her brain had changed, as had many of her interests, likes, and dislikes.
As we recover, we change. People won’t always like the new you—or the true you, should that emerge. As we change and heal, we need people to accept the person we are at that moment—people who permit us the freedom to become.
Taylor recounts how draining her recovery was. “My energy was limited so we had to pick and choose, very carefully every day, how I would spend my effort. I had to define my priorities and not waste energy on other things.”
The best people I know are the friends who, while honest about my failures, help me to focus on my ability, not my disability; my potential, not my past; my efforts, not my errors; the person I am, not the one I used to be. The Bible describes that rare individual who will rejoice with me when I’m happy and weep with me when I mourn.
I’m grateful to be part of a church that celebrates God and people. My closest friends help me when I stumble, and then celebrate when I get back up. It’s easy to focus on my disabilities because they are vast. I need people who will choose to celebrate my meager triumphs, because my successes, no matter how small, can be steps to true transformation.
Sometimes I am afraid to be known. Frank Schaeffer writes, “We’re all in the closet, so to speak. We barely come out to ourselves and never completely to others.” The thing is, no one recovers alone.