Zen and the art of stroke recovery

Max Liu in The Independent:

Brainscan_rexfeaturesAustralian psychologist David Roland opens his memoir with an account of finding himself in a hospital waiting room with very little idea of how he got there. His wife, Anna, is present and he vaguely remembers her driving “and me vomiting out of the car window”, but he doesn't know what year or day it is. Anna found Roland wandering their house at dawn, talking in a “dreamy monotone”, his skin white and icy. Initially, doctors suspect he has suffered “a psychogenic fugue: an episode of amnesia”. They send him to recuperate at a psychiatric clinic where he adjusts to his altered status from doctor to patient. “I've finally lost it,” Roland thinks. “I've had a mental breakdown.”

For the past three years, he'd been feeling depressed: his marriage was in trouble, his father died and he stopped working. Two decades of listening to patients' harrowing stories have taken their toll and Roland's own psychiatrist, Wayne, diagnoses him with post-traumatic stress disorder. Roland describes the patients who haunt him – from the woman who was sexually abused in childhood to the young murderer – and recalls his apprentice years treating prisoners: “The small world of the prison had expanded in my mind, while the world outside had become small.” This reminded me of my time reporting on trials and inquests when detailed accounts of violence and misery would lodge themselves in my mind daily. Readers whose work exposes them to trauma, even in indirect ways, will value Roland's perspectives on this.

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