Lotje Sodderland

Being Okay with the Difference, My Beautiful Broken Brain, Part 4

Lotje tries many things to get back to her old style of communication, including in-patient therapy and a medical trial. She ultimately comes to embrace the way things are, but it takes her a long time to become okay with her new status quo.

We are continuing discussing Netflix’s documentary, My Beautiful Broken Brain, a film about Lotje’s efforts to understand her new way of seeing and interacting with the world with aphasia. This is the fourth and final article in a series of four posts about this wonderful documentary. You can read the first post, second post, or third post here.

Currently, you can only watch this documentary on Netflix.

Therapy

Lotje reluctantly checks herself into an in-patient program for three months to try to regain speech and language comprehension skills. She can’t sift information. She can’t sequence her thoughts.

She leaves the hospital willing to try almost anything once she realizes she may never be the same again. She takes part in a brain stimulation study to see if she can jump-start her language abilities. They shock her brain while she does intensive speech therapy at the same time. She describes the tingling in her skull as “stinging nettles.” While her recognition of words improves, she also thinks of herself as “an innocent guinea pig.”

Her therapy ends when she experiences a seizure that undoes some of her progress. Once she is told that 1 in 5 people will have a seizure in the year after a stroke, she feels a sense of defeat. She explains that if anything can happen to anyone at any time, it’s “better not to have faith in anything.”

Finding a New Way of Looking at Things

Lotje finds a kinship with David Lynch’s view of the world through his films. Later she reads a magazine article about him with her therapist, and she connected her need to record her recovery with this new, visual way of interacting with the world.

She moves away from words towards moving pictures. Lotje explains this process in a Vogue article:

Now I still tell stories, but I tell visual stories. I’ve got a really nice camera, and I make documentaries. I earn a living that way, but I no longer read and write. I don’t use words in the same way that I did before. The world is much more visual and much less cognitive.

Getting Better Isn’t a Moment

It takes Lotje awhile to come to this realization, but she ultimately decides that recovery isn’t a moment in time. It isn’t a day where a person wakes up and all is back to normal. Recovery is about coming to terms with a changed life. She remarks that it takes a long time to get accustomed to a new brain, but now that the newness feels familiar, she doesn’t feel the need to return to her old life.

It’s time to keep moving forward. With her camera.

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