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The searing, wry memoir about a woman’s fight for a new life after a devastating brain injury. When Sarah Vallance is thrown from a horse and suffers a jarring blow to the head, she believes she’s walked away unscathed. The next morning, things take a sharp turn as she’s led from work to the emergency room. By the end of the week, a neurologist delivers a devastating progno The searing, wry memoir about a woman’s fight for a new life after a devastating brain injury. When Sarah Vallance is thrown from a horse and suffers a jarring blow to the head, she believes she’s walked away unscathed. The next morning, things take a sharp turn as she’s led from work to the emergency room. By the end of the week, a neurologist delivers a devastating prognosis: Sarah suffered a traumatic brain injury that has caused her IQ to plummet, with no hope of recovery. Her brain has irrevocably changed. Afraid of judgment and deemed no longer fit for work, Sarah isolates herself from the outside world. She spends months at home, with her dogs as her only source of companionship, battling a personality she no longer recognizes and her shock and rage over losing simple functions she’d taken for granted. Her life is consumed by fear and shame until a chance encounter gives Sarah hope that her brain can heal. That conversation lights a small flame of determination, and Sarah begins to push back, painstakingly reteaching herself to read and write, and eventually reentering the workforce and a new, if unpredictable, life. In this highly intimate account of devastation and renewal, Sarah pulls back the curtain on life with traumatic brain injury, an affliction where the wounds are invisible and the lasting effects are often misunderstood. Over years of frustrating setbacks and uncertain triumphs, Sarah comes to terms with her disability and finds love with a woman who helps her embrace a new, accepting sense of self.


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The searing, wry memoir about a woman’s fight for a new life after a devastating brain injury. When Sarah Vallance is thrown from a horse and suffers a jarring blow to the head, she believes she’s walked away unscathed. The next morning, things take a sharp turn as she’s led from work to the emergency room. By the end of the week, a neurologist delivers a devastating progno The searing, wry memoir about a woman’s fight for a new life after a devastating brain injury. When Sarah Vallance is thrown from a horse and suffers a jarring blow to the head, she believes she’s walked away unscathed. The next morning, things take a sharp turn as she’s led from work to the emergency room. By the end of the week, a neurologist delivers a devastating prognosis: Sarah suffered a traumatic brain injury that has caused her IQ to plummet, with no hope of recovery. Her brain has irrevocably changed. Afraid of judgment and deemed no longer fit for work, Sarah isolates herself from the outside world. She spends months at home, with her dogs as her only source of companionship, battling a personality she no longer recognizes and her shock and rage over losing simple functions she’d taken for granted. Her life is consumed by fear and shame until a chance encounter gives Sarah hope that her brain can heal. That conversation lights a small flame of determination, and Sarah begins to push back, painstakingly reteaching herself to read and write, and eventually reentering the workforce and a new, if unpredictable, life. In this highly intimate account of devastation and renewal, Sarah pulls back the curtain on life with traumatic brain injury, an affliction where the wounds are invisible and the lasting effects are often misunderstood. Over years of frustrating setbacks and uncertain triumphs, Sarah comes to terms with her disability and finds love with a woman who helps her embrace a new, accepting sense of self.

30 review for Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ina Roy-Faderman

    If you like Oliver Sack's article about face-blindness (New Yorker) or his books (particularly Uncle Tungsten and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), you will love this book. Before I get into why this is an amazing book: I've seen a few reviews by people who gave an unthinking criticism of the book because they believe that the author hates animals or is cruel to them. Those people really didn't get the book and/or didn't read the book through. This is the story of a woman who loves animals If you like Oliver Sack's article about face-blindness (New Yorker) or his books (particularly Uncle Tungsten and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), you will love this book. Before I get into why this is an amazing book: I've seen a few reviews by people who gave an unthinking criticism of the book because they believe that the author hates animals or is cruel to them. Those people really didn't get the book and/or didn't read the book through. This is the story of a woman who loves animals. I mean, really loves them -- she even loves the animal who was involved in her near-life-destroying injury. There's a particular very upsetting decision in the book, and yes, you may be upset about the episode; importantly, you're supposed to be. So I'd suggest: *read what the author has to say about the particular event that upset some readers *read how she looks at herself because of that event (she's not giving herself a pass) *look at how it impacts her future decisions* * make sure to finish the book. Autobiographers can choose leave things out to make themselves look better, and the fact that this author didn't leave this out tells you a lot about her story and about her love for other creatures. Now, about the book as a whole: As an M.D. and a person with a serious chronic illness, I get VERY tired of feel-good stories about near-fatal illnesses with simplistic arcs in which a savior (a doctor, a treatment, God, a lover, whatever) either fixes the illness or reconciles the patient to death. Some other reviewers have said the same thing, and I agree that Vallance's approach to her condtion is what makes this book so special. This memoir is not one of those easy feel-goods. Vallance is honest about how TBI affects every part of her life (her love life, her family, her education, her career, her living situations), and the mistakes she makes that are NOT about TBI --- she's unflinching about herself, which is the ultimate sign of a good memoirist. She's is unsparing about the ups and downs, the periodic helplessness, the moments of hope that people with serious injury or illness go through as they accommodate and battle a recalcitrant body. She tells the truths of serious illnesses, not a pretty, chocolate-box, Hallmark story. Unlike a lot of memoirs, this book is informative as well as personal -- it puts in a lot of really good information how so much of what's done to help/manage TBI and other neurological illnesses (e.g. Alzheimer's) are piecemeal, guesswork, case-by-case, and trial-and-error. Having to learn how to live with an illness that doesn't have a simple, easily-identifiable cause, or an obvious mechanism and progression of illness is one of the hardest things a person can do -- and harder still when it's unclear what your long-term prognosis is. Vallance tells us about herself honestly, but never at the expense of the story. The book is beautifully written, factual information gently added to the recounting of her adult life, so that anyone interested in what it's like when your brain changes on you will find both a moving story and information on what we know about TBI. This is one of the best books I've read this year.

  2. 4 out of 5

    ~Bookishly

    I'm going to begin by stating how incredibly relieved I am that I didn't spend any actual money on this, because if I had, I would be feeling pretty deflated right now. I originally picked this up, because I have an interest with the brain and illnesses related to it, and seeing as this book is about Sarah Vallance and her TBI (Traumatic brain injury) it appeared to fit the slot in order to satisfy my curiosity. First off, I have respect for an individual when they have the courage to openly speak I'm going to begin by stating how incredibly relieved I am that I didn't spend any actual money on this, because if I had, I would be feeling pretty deflated right now. I originally picked this up, because I have an interest with the brain and illnesses related to it, and seeing as this book is about Sarah Vallance and her TBI (Traumatic brain injury) it appeared to fit the slot in order to satisfy my curiosity. First off, I have respect for an individual when they have the courage to openly speak of something which has had such an impact on their lives, and Vallance is no exception here. But unfortunately, my issue is actually with Vallance. It becomes rather apparent early on in the book, that Vallance showcases as a narcissist. She seemed to emotionally abuse her way through life, merrily using people in order to get what she wanted, and then oddly enough, blame it on the TBI. I cannot imagine what a TBI is like, and it is terrible that Vallance suffered from one, but I do know, that one cannot blame every personality trait on that TBI entirely, and then, relentlessly continue to use that against people. I learned quite quickly that Vallance did not have the easiest of upbringings, but for some reason, even though her Father beat her back and blue as a child, she thought the sun shined out of his ass, and she constantly told the reader how great he was, giving the impression that what he did wasn't such a big deal. Um, pardon me? We learn about Vallance's brain scans and tests that she had to help diagnose her TBI, and see if there was any progression with that, which would have been interesting, if there was more ground covered on it. Instead, we get the backdrop on the author's lesbianism, and the girlfriends she apparently drove away. Also, we have a rather odd chapter about her poorly dog who was constantly defecating all over the kitchen counters. This is not something I expected from a TBI memoir. This book was a tangled mess of weirdness (and not the good kind) and I'm rather relieved to be out of it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Sarah had a good life. She was well on her way to getting her doctorate degree. She was very intelligent and scholastic things came easy to her (with the exception of math). She was very close to her father, a geologist, and exactly the opposite with her mother, who was decidedly cold and even mean at times. Sarah was also a daredevil. At age 31, she climbs up onto a horse she later admits she had no business being on, and she has no idea how to control him. She is thrown very high and actually f Sarah had a good life. She was well on her way to getting her doctorate degree. She was very intelligent and scholastic things came easy to her (with the exception of math). She was very close to her father, a geologist, and exactly the opposite with her mother, who was decidedly cold and even mean at times. Sarah was also a daredevil. At age 31, she climbs up onto a horse she later admits she had no business being on, and she has no idea how to control him. She is thrown very high and actually feels her brain jar upon impact. She was not wearing a helmet. She believes she is fine and carries on. Odd things begin to happen - things she cannot explain. Her toaster goes missing leading her to believe she's been robbed. Other things are also missing, found in strange places (like the freezer) and she has no recollection of putting them there. She can't think straight and she is told to go get checked out when her strange behavior continues at work. After that, her perfect world lies in a shambles. Told she has suffered a traumatic brain injury that has led to a severe drop in her IQ, she is told she will never work again, much less finish her doctorate. Angry, depressed and confused, she withdraws from everything and everyone. Her temper is uncontrollable, her mood swings violent. Her mother doesn't even care enough to check up on her, and her beloved father has died. A lover of dogs, a chance encounter at a dog park ignites a spark in Sarah and a new belief that recovery from traumatic brain injuries is entirely possible. She enters into a relationship with a partner, and begins to try to "fix" her brain. She is relentless and driven - and she is still violent and angry, which doesn't work while in a relationship. It is during this relationship that Sarah does something that really bothered me as an animal lover so be forewarned. There is a reason for it, but it was still horrific to read. I don't think I'll ever get over it because I truly believe there are always other solutions. Sorry if that's a spoiler but I don't want anyone getting slammed with that in the face as I was. Sarah does not shy from admitting her shortcomings and it took a brave woman to write this book. I applaud her for doing so. It is an eye-opening read into the life of a person whose entire life - actually, their entire personality - are forever changed after a TBI. Medical science is making strides in treating TBIs, but the effects on sufferers and their loved ones is extremely devastating.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

    Not your typical white woman memoir of healing and redemption. Vallance's rendering of her life is told with brutal honesty and minimalist mush which just happen to include moments of humour and tenderness when confronted with the various faces of death. I laughed when I wanted to cry and vice versa.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    This was a free Amazon Prime First Read selection for July. I feel a little apathetic giving 2 stars to someone who penned a memoir about recovering and living with a traumatic brain injury. But I’m keeping it real. While I can admire Sarah Vallance for sharing and relating her calamitous accident it did not make for an engaging story. The entire retelling felt devoid of any emotion. It was a rather dull read, and I found myself skimming pages.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    I read this because of Kindle First Reads and, if it hadn't been free, I'd want my money back. Vallance comes off as a heartless ass, using others so she can get whatever she wants and emotionally abusing her partners. Actually, everyone but Louise in this book seems to be kind of terrible. What can I say, I have high standards for humans I interact with. (view spoiler)[ And no, Sarah, your ex did not "make you kill your dog". Fuck off with that garbage and take responsibility for a decision YOU ma I read this because of Kindle First Reads and, if it hadn't been free, I'd want my money back. Vallance comes off as a heartless ass, using others so she can get whatever she wants and emotionally abusing her partners. Actually, everyone but Louise in this book seems to be kind of terrible. What can I say, I have high standards for humans I interact with. (view spoiler)[ And no, Sarah, your ex did not "make you kill your dog". Fuck off with that garbage and take responsibility for a decision YOU made. Your dog had serious anxiety problems that you could not solve (did you take her to the vet? get her meds? try to treat her at all and admit that your girlfriend had an excellent point that a dog spraying diarrhea all over the kitchen walls every day is not ok?). (hide spoiler)] Vallance waxes poetic about what a good father her dad was, but lest we forget he punched her full in the face and beat her so badly she had permanent scars. Far be it from me to understand other peoples' families, but.....holy shit. Those things are unforgivable for me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It's also deeply important to point out that Vallance is emotionally abusive and seemingly unrepentant about it, explaining it as a symptom of her TBI or (more often) not acknowledging her role as abuser at all. I'm reminded of a Chani Nicholas quote that seems especially pertinent: something about having trauma being fine, but you don't have the right to inflict your trauma on others. I'd argue that includes the emotional aftereffects of brain trauma. Vallance is not responsible for her violent outbursts, but she is responsible for their effects on others. This complicates the book, but ultimately does not diminish my supreme dislike of it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Van Gemert

    I wanted to like this book, I really did. Unfortunately, I didn't. I wanted to understand TBI better, which is why I picked it up, but I just couldn't get past the shocking selfishness of the author. She was so incredibly hypocritical in so many ways ("I love dogs so much, so much...here, let me have my dog put to sleep because I leave her alone for almost ten hours a day and my girlfriend is sick of her creating a disaster"). She also kept saying that people think that people with TBI are emoti I wanted to like this book, I really did. Unfortunately, I didn't. I wanted to understand TBI better, which is why I picked it up, but I just couldn't get past the shocking selfishness of the author. She was so incredibly hypocritical in so many ways ("I love dogs so much, so much...here, let me have my dog put to sleep because I leave her alone for almost ten hours a day and my girlfriend is sick of her creating a disaster"). She also kept saying that people think that people with TBI are emotional unstable and how terrible that was, but then she was so incredibly unstable and mean and awful and she blamed it on...wait for it...the TBI! You can't have it both ways! You can't say it's not fair to think people will be unstable but then act unstable and blame it on the TBI. I also felt she was shockingly unfair to her mother. She acted like a complete ^*($&( all of the time, and then constantly complained about her mother's behavior towards her. Your mom is having a natural response to the fact that you're a jerk to her!!! You don't get to be a jerk to someone all.of.the.time and then blame them that they don't like you, even if they're you're mom. I hated that part, and it was a lot of pages... I actually waiting awhile to write this to see if my opinions moderated. Nope. Didn't like her at all. Glad she got better of course, but she comes across as one of the most self-absorbed narcissists existing outside of politics.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Diane Yannick

    Having suffered a TBI personally, I was more intrigued with this book than the average reader might be. There was a lot that resonated with me but especially the reaction of others. Like Sarah, many others tried to talk me out of my struggle. Among other things, I lost the ability to determine before/after; greater/lesser. I wrote everything in a journal then rehearsed it until it was relearned. This was my secret. Because we look fine, no one can see the inner turmoil. They get frustrated which Having suffered a TBI personally, I was more intrigued with this book than the average reader might be. There was a lot that resonated with me but especially the reaction of others. Like Sarah, many others tried to talk me out of my struggle. Among other things, I lost the ability to determine before/after; greater/lesser. I wrote everything in a journal then rehearsed it until it was relearned. This was my secret. Because we look fine, no one can see the inner turmoil. They get frustrated which causes our anger and frustration. Sarah and I were both flabbergasted to hear from a neurologist that our careers were over. Sarah was younger than me and had to completely reinvent herself. Her anger issues made her personal relationships and employment challenging. Counseling helped both of us. I went weekly for 8 years. The author did a great job of showing the difficulty and personal price of maintaining relationships. My only complaint was that there were unnecessary relationship details that detracted from the flow of her story. I realize that I have made this review more personal than informative. Yet, isn’t a memoir an attempt to touch others? If so, I was touched.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tara Wasinger

    The book started out strong, and I was even recommending it to my friends, but then about halfway through it went downhill fast. I bought this book to learn more about traumatic brain injury, not lesbianism and sacrificing the things you love for your hot girlfriend. If the author had been hiding it her entire life and then all the sudden came out BECAUSE of the brain injury, then it would have had more of a place in the story, but she had already come out so I felt a lot of that stuff could hav The book started out strong, and I was even recommending it to my friends, but then about halfway through it went downhill fast. I bought this book to learn more about traumatic brain injury, not lesbianism and sacrificing the things you love for your hot girlfriend. If the author had been hiding it her entire life and then all the sudden came out BECAUSE of the brain injury, then it would have had more of a place in the story, but she had already come out so I felt a lot of that stuff could have been omitted. Also, she dotes on being such a dog lover, yet when Bess was having her separation anxiety, and I quote, the author said, "I killed my dog for Laura." She's right too, she didn't try any other options first such as trying to re-home Bess to a home where the owner wouldn't be leaving her 9.5 hours EVERY DAY for work. She knew her girlfriend didn't like her dog and disposed of her. Quite honestly it made me sick and I almost quit reading right then and there. Anyway, I do not recommend this book on account of so much personal drama/details that have nothing to do with the brain injury.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bookphenomena (Micky)

    4.5 stars It isn’t often I have the desire to pick up a non-fiction outside of climbing literature, it’s even less likely that I’d pick up something that relates to health or ill health. As a health professional, I avoid work-related literature so that reading is a break. However, I recommend this book to anyone who fancies a palate-cleansing different read. PROGNOSIS captivated me from beginning to end; from injury to life afterwards. You don’t need any insight into anything health related to re 4.5 stars It isn’t often I have the desire to pick up a non-fiction outside of climbing literature, it’s even less likely that I’d pick up something that relates to health or ill health. As a health professional, I avoid work-related literature so that reading is a break. However, I recommend this book to anyone who fancies a palate-cleansing different read. PROGNOSIS captivated me from beginning to end; from injury to life afterwards. You don’t need any insight into anything health related to read this. Sarah’s memoir was a tough one. She experienced a fall in a horse riding accident and went to A&E the next day to find out that she’d had a traumatic brain injury. Not only that, she had dropped significant IQ in the injury and was told she’d never work again in her field or complete her PhD. Oh boy, did that make me empathise with her. This memoir covered decades of Sarah’s honest and brutal narrative of the early weeks and months, to years of slow recovery. The story was candid in terms of her personality, behaviour changes, anger, anxiety, depression and relationships. It wasn’t joyful reading in the main but I was invested in her journey and I was cheering her seemingly hopeless situation on. Animals were a crucial part of Sarah’s life and I came to appreciate this connection she had with her dogs and cats. The women she had relationships with after the injury had to withstand a lot from Sarah’s behaviour and it was a real roller coaster reading about this aspect. Sarah felt especially flawed as a girlfriend due to her injury and she painted a frank picture. This was a story about persistence, mood, love, abuse, parents and fighting with your own brain for function. I didn’t always like Sarah in this story but I did admire her. This was a heart-felt account and I couldn’t put it down. This review can be found on A Take From Two Cities.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aviva

    This is not a memoir written in perfect self-awareness. Sarah idolizes her abusive father who built a massive library of rare books while his wife, Sarah's mom, was not even allowed to have enough money to buy a movie ticket. (Sarah's mom was no peach either, of course.) And then there's the dog. I can forgive a brain-injured memoirist a lot of things. Bad editing is not one of them. Where is the person who is supposed have said: "Honey, you turn into a totally unsympathetic character when you p This is not a memoir written in perfect self-awareness. Sarah idolizes her abusive father who built a massive library of rare books while his wife, Sarah's mom, was not even allowed to have enough money to buy a movie ticket. (Sarah's mom was no peach either, of course.) And then there's the dog. I can forgive a brain-injured memoirist a lot of things. Bad editing is not one of them. Where is the person who is supposed have said: "Honey, you turn into a totally unsympathetic character when you put your dog down without trying literally any other sensible option first. Why don't you spend a couple paragraphs being truly contrite and talking about all the other things you wished you had tried first?" As it is, I'm not sure I can finish this book. There are so many other books I could read where the author doesn't put down their dog.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kira

    This is a work of phenomenal power. Vallance's story is one of courage and tenacity, revealing the need for a better understanding of Traumatic Brain Injury and its terrifying consequences. With wit and intelligence, Vallance chronicles her journey through experiences that would cause a lesser individual to give up. This memoir will make you appreciate the power of language and Vallance's ability to wield it affectively. Brimming with a viscerality that will make you both laugh and cry, Prognosi This is a work of phenomenal power. Vallance's story is one of courage and tenacity, revealing the need for a better understanding of Traumatic Brain Injury and its terrifying consequences. With wit and intelligence, Vallance chronicles her journey through experiences that would cause a lesser individual to give up. This memoir will make you appreciate the power of language and Vallance's ability to wield it affectively. Brimming with a viscerality that will make you both laugh and cry, Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain is a text that will remain with you, long after you have closed its final chapter.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    This book was rather depressing. As a person who has also suffered from a severe head injury, it was apparent to me that Sarah could have done more to help herself. Rather than dwelling on the bad things going on in her head, I wanted to shake her and tell her to get over it! Exercise, a good diet and no alcohol among other things, would have helped her immensely. I tired of her whining rather quickly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    One of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. It’s hard to feel bad for someone that makes so many rotten choices and doesn’t want to get help, but Sarah managed to weave a really honest narrative of her life that holds your attention. She doesn’t ask for pity and really puts all her cards on the table in this book. I’m still not sure why she wrote this- for herself? For us? For TBI awareness? and at times I felt like I was listening to an old queen at the bar rambling about her glory days. W One of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. It’s hard to feel bad for someone that makes so many rotten choices and doesn’t want to get help, but Sarah managed to weave a really honest narrative of her life that holds your attention. She doesn’t ask for pity and really puts all her cards on the table in this book. I’m still not sure why she wrote this- for herself? For us? For TBI awareness? and at times I felt like I was listening to an old queen at the bar rambling about her glory days. Would I read it again? No. Is it an important memoir? Yes. I’m glad I read this despiste the pessimist cloud hanging over it, because it made me feel better about my own life & health.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Dart

    It is not often you get to read the pages of someone’s life with such openness, honesty, kindness and determination. This is a book I could not put down and was inspired beyond all else by the bravery, courage, intelligence and beauty of Sarah’s story. It brings awareness to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as well gently unfolds the fear, loneliness, grit and hope of this wonderful woman. Her story is a “must read” and one that teaches us to not judge, but rather seek to understand everyone’s story It is not often you get to read the pages of someone’s life with such openness, honesty, kindness and determination. This is a book I could not put down and was inspired beyond all else by the bravery, courage, intelligence and beauty of Sarah’s story. It brings awareness to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as well gently unfolds the fear, loneliness, grit and hope of this wonderful woman. Her story is a “must read” and one that teaches us to not judge, but rather seek to understand everyone’s story. You simply must read this incredible book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    Sarah Vallance’s Prognosis is a ‘must read’. It is in turn witty, brutally honest, heartbreaking and uplifting. Rocking along at a good pace it keeps the reader riveted. I absolutely loved reading this book. An amazing achievement by a talented new writer. I highly recommended it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aye See

    Inspirational. Brutally honest. In turns funny and heartbreaking. With wry humor, this book had me riveted from the first page. The resilience of human spirit that refuses to be daunted by adversity. It’s a story that needs to be shared. I highly recommend this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    I do not like many memoirs, but this book reeled me in from the first page. I read it in two days. Wonderful insight into what it’s like to have a brain injury, and how to pick yourself up and keep going when all the odds are against you. It’s also funny!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Only Wants to Read

    For as much as this person values intellectual intelligence and has spent a lifetime focusing on her IQ, she never stopped to consider that her emotional intelligence was lower than her IQ and that focusing on that would have served her better. I was hoping this book would be a door to understanding traumatic brain injuries. To me, it felt like a long rant of an unpleasant person who spent every moment she could blaming others for her own shortcomings (mostly emotional). Her "poor little me, no For as much as this person values intellectual intelligence and has spent a lifetime focusing on her IQ, she never stopped to consider that her emotional intelligence was lower than her IQ and that focusing on that would have served her better. I was hoping this book would be a door to understanding traumatic brain injuries. To me, it felt like a long rant of an unpleasant person who spent every moment she could blaming others for her own shortcomings (mostly emotional). Her "poor little me, no one understands me" act grew old too fast. The TBI created problems, of course. No one can deny that. However, the emotional trauma this woman carried even before her head injury is-in my opinion-more likely the root of all the other challenges she experienced. Yes, TBI's are invisible, and so is mental illness. She was lucky enough to rebuild her life, and even when she successfully did she was still miserable. In therapy, I call people like this the "yeah, butters". You point something positive in their lives or an alternative way of seeing an event and their answers tend to be "yeah...BUT...(insert victim-mentality statement)" to perpetuate their narratives. I have no idea how or why I decided to finish this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    David H

    Vallances deeply personal memoir is both beautiful and utterly absorbing. With intellect humour and compassion, she weaves together the multiple and complex strands, of her own very personal journey back from profound brain injury. Told with an unflinching and often confronting honesty, A memoir of my brain is moving, reflective and ultimately a hugely rewarding read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    an Incredibly emotionally ravaging and inspiring account of life after a brain injury ...this books draws you in from the first page and keeps the pace going as you join in an incredible journey of pain, loss, discovery and hope. A must read for anyone who loves memoirs.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Vallance's poignant memoir sells her woefully short. Her achievements in the face of brain injury and abject rejection by her family are truly remarkable. To me, this is not only Vallance's story about coping with and to some degree conquering TBI, but it also shows a) how far we've come since the 90s in understanding brain injuries, and b) that other health care systems aren't always the panaceas that Americans want them to be. Vallance is practically left on an island by an unfeeling neurologi Vallance's poignant memoir sells her woefully short. Her achievements in the face of brain injury and abject rejection by her family are truly remarkable. To me, this is not only Vallance's story about coping with and to some degree conquering TBI, but it also shows a) how far we've come since the 90s in understanding brain injuries, and b) that other health care systems aren't always the panaceas that Americans want them to be. Vallance is practically left on an island by an unfeeling neurologist, who shortly after her injury basically tells her she's now "retarded" and cannot work gainfully. But for a chance encounter in a dog park -- and some amazing dogs -- who knows where Vallance would've wound up? And, don't get me started on Vallance's mother. Let me first give credit: she never cared that Vallance is a lesbian. And that is the only good thing I have to say about this woman. Even assuming half of what Vallance writes is accurate, her mom is in the annals of "bad mom" (not to mention her deceased father, who she adored, was also abusive). That Vallance continues to pursue a relationship with her mother, let along care for her in eventual demise from dementia, is a fundamental sacrificial love. Overall, this is a story of a rebuilt, re-jiggered life. I do wish Vallance had spent some more time on how her depression and anxiety operated -- she often used it in conclusory fashion: this relationship failed because of my anxiety and depression -- and I would've liked a little more insight. Also, I was not impressed by the Australian medical system. Vallance seemed to lurch from provider to provider without any true medical care.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    3.5 Stars. An inspiring story of how a woman dealt with a brain injury and a horrid mother. However, I felt it could have been better with a better editing to tie in the brain injury and/or childhood abuse with Sarah's life events. For example, she writes about her depression, anger issues, social anxiety, relationship issues, but never, until near the end, was it clear to me that she had sought professional medical help. I wasn't sure, until the end, that she recognized she had issues that, per 3.5 Stars. An inspiring story of how a woman dealt with a brain injury and a horrid mother. However, I felt it could have been better with a better editing to tie in the brain injury and/or childhood abuse with Sarah's life events. For example, she writes about her depression, anger issues, social anxiety, relationship issues, but never, until near the end, was it clear to me that she had sought professional medical help. I wasn't sure, until the end, that she recognized she had issues that, perhaps, could have been fixed, or at least alievated. i was very dismayed at the seemingly inept Australian medical system. My step daughter lives in Australia and has had 3 babies, gall bladder removed, pancreatitis, any number of sick kid issues and has never had anything but positive experiences. Based on the book, I'd say Sarah had different experience. I hope she is stays happy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I love memoirs, and I expected a lot having an anoxic brain injury. But I ended up wondering how damaged her brain really was. After her accident she drove home, her friends did not notice anything. But then she couldn't even pick out a yellow circle? I don't have a degree, and I don't know how you could get her Ph.D. with a severe TBI--and she was originally diagnosed with mild TBI so I don't understand why the doctor would say she could not work, especially only a week after her accident--any I love memoirs, and I expected a lot having an anoxic brain injury. But I ended up wondering how damaged her brain really was. After her accident she drove home, her friends did not notice anything. But then she couldn't even pick out a yellow circle? I don't have a degree, and I don't know how you could get her Ph.D. with a severe TBI--and she was originally diagnosed with mild TBI so I don't understand why the doctor would say she could not work, especially only a week after her accident--any injury much less a brain injury should not be diagnosed as devastating so quickly. Her glossing over of her father's brutality toward his children while talking about how much she idolized (and idealized) him made no sense to me, especially since she was so critical of her mother. All in all I could have skipped this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    MM Suarez

    This is not the most exciting memoir I've read this year and the author does not come across as particularly sympathetic; however, I admire her perseverance and I did learn some interesting facts about traumatic brain injury so it was worth it for me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lakshmi

    TW: abuse, domestic violence, orientalism, animal death, internalised homophobia, internalised ableism, suicidal ideation, euthanasia An interesting account of life after a TBI, albeit one with a narrative that lurches unsteadily on its way. Sarah Vallance was young, reckless, invincible until she was thrown from a horse without a helmet and hit her head. The neglect from the Australian healthcare system was surprising, and I don't know if this was because not much was known about TBI in 1995 or TW: abuse, domestic violence, orientalism, animal death, internalised homophobia, internalised ableism, suicidal ideation, euthanasia An interesting account of life after a TBI, albeit one with a narrative that lurches unsteadily on its way. Sarah Vallance was young, reckless, invincible until she was thrown from a horse without a helmet and hit her head. The neglect from the Australian healthcare system was surprising, and I don't know if this was because not much was known about TBI in 1995 or because of her unreliable memories of that time. She describes well the frustration and doubt that comes with having invisible disabilities that people around you refuse to believe. The periods of depression, anxiety, and rage she goes through are difficult reading, but very relatable for people with chronic illness. She also talks briefly about the sexism in medicine, where women's symptoms are often dismissed as hysteria. There is, however, a lot of internalised ableism in the way she speaks about herself and other disabled people. Sarah Vallance seems to have had several abusive codependent relationships (her parents, Laura), described in detail throughout the course of this book, which may be triggering. There is a lot of the casual orientalism throughout that white people often exhibit. She speaks of south east asia and of the people there as strange, exotic, and barabaric. My mind darted across the Pacific to China, where people woke up in ice baths to discover slits down their fronts and sides and organs missing. Even her reasons for choosing a PhD topic are the same old tired cliches: My thesis topic was “The Influence of Culture Upon Administrative Practice in Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines.” It was an odd choice given that Bangkok was the only city in Asia I had ever visited, and I had stayed there less than twenty-four hours. But during that brief visit, something inside me had been awakened. I had never experienced anything like the clamor and smell and chaos. Bangkok was home to some of the most delicious food I had ever tasted. I was eager to learn and experience more; I wanted to go back, and not just to Thailand. There's also this which I have no idea what to make of: I felt like I was Palestine, my mother was Israel, and Laura was President Clinton. What on earth does that mean? Interestingly while she labours the point that homosexuality was illegal in Singapore (at a time when gay marriage was also illegal in her home country Australia), she displays internalised homophobia herself with lines like: ...but gay women, even those who haven’t suffered brain injuries, behave in odd, inexplicable ways. Sorry what now? Sarah is not a particularly sympathetic character in her own life. I found it amusing how she seemed to constantly fail upwards in the way of most middle class white people in the west, where scholarships, job opportunities, promotions, houses, and trips around the world fell into her lap regularly, that she herself admits she was completely unqualified for. This is not the most well written of memoirs, but is a somewhat important one for disabled people telling their own stories.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    Upon completing her memoir, I feel so so proud of Sarah Vallance. She detailed the 20 odd years following a major traumatic brain injury (which was wrongly labeled as mild early on) she received after falling off a horse and focuses on how she both did and did not recover. Immediately after her diagnosis a social worker informed her she would not return to her government job and could not expect to work again. This was a huge blow to an otherwise healthy 30-something, but she soon understands th Upon completing her memoir, I feel so so proud of Sarah Vallance. She detailed the 20 odd years following a major traumatic brain injury (which was wrongly labeled as mild early on) she received after falling off a horse and focuses on how she both did and did not recover. Immediately after her diagnosis a social worker informed her she would not return to her government job and could not expect to work again. This was a huge blow to an otherwise healthy 30-something, but she soon understands that despite her devastation at such a huge life change, she has a lot of trouble speaking to be understood as well as even recalling many words for writing or talking. She assumes that with some more time she could at least take the time and the disability money to focus on completing the PhD she was in the middle of, but when she first picks up her materials her brain can not even recall the definition of "hypothesis" nor can she spell it well enough to look it up in a dictionary. Eventually she gets herself in well enough shape to go on a job interview and spends hours sitting in front of a mirror practicing her answers to potential questions. She gets the job and starts to really put the pieces of her life back together. While slowly chipping away on her PhD work and holding down her new job, she unsuccessfully picks up women for one-night stands (some of the major side effects of a TBI is depression, aggression and, for Sarah at least, a insatiable libido) until she finds her long-term girlfriend, Laura. Almost nothing happened for/to Sarah the way I thought they would as the years pass and she regains confidence but has to say goodbye to a couple of her pets, remain estranged from her mother, move out of the country etc. I was so happy when she found a neurologist that took her more seriously than the first one she saw when she received the TBI diagnosis, and when she continued to cope with her fluctuating emotions by recusing countless animals. This was, rather strangely, a feel good read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leah K

    As usual, I always feel awkward rating someone's memoir or autobiography. Someone has put their life, their soul, the good and the bad out there for the world to read and if that's not bravery, what is? So kudos to Ms. Vallance for telling her story because I'm sure it wasn't an easy one. I had some trouble getting into this book. It lacks emotion, which given the topic, makes sense. But that made it hard for me to connect with anyone. Not only did I not connect but I found a rather big dislike f As usual, I always feel awkward rating someone's memoir or autobiography. Someone has put their life, their soul, the good and the bad out there for the world to read and if that's not bravery, what is? So kudos to Ms. Vallance for telling her story because I'm sure it wasn't an easy one. I had some trouble getting into this book. It lacks emotion, which given the topic, makes sense. But that made it hard for me to connect with anyone. Not only did I not connect but I found a rather big dislike for most of the people in her life, even the ones she seems to adore. I learned a lot about TBI, though. An interesting book, just not one of my favorites.

  29. 5 out of 5

    lesley hernandez

    This was awesome and my first memoir Sarah had a very sad story it hurt me especially with her mom and the strained relationship they had. Her first two loves would eventually leave her based on circumstances and life moving forward. This brain injury really had an impact in everything she did but I loved hearing about her adventures I believe you will enjoy it

  30. 4 out of 5

    Suz McDowell

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is much-needed, and I’m thankful that the author wrote it. The struggles that she went through broke my heart. I’m so sorry that the medical community wasn’t helpful at all the first few years after she had her concussion. Her life could have been completely different, had she received any of the help she needed. Not to mention the fact that her mom was a real piece of work. I can’t imagine why the author doesn’t have C-PTSD, living with two abusive parents. My daughter is three years This book is much-needed, and I’m thankful that the author wrote it. The struggles that she went through broke my heart. I’m so sorry that the medical community wasn’t helpful at all the first few years after she had her concussion. Her life could have been completely different, had she received any of the help she needed. Not to mention the fact that her mom was a real piece of work. I can’t imagine why the author doesn’t have C-PTSD, living with two abusive parents. My daughter is three years out from a mTBI, so I am very interested in the subject of brain damage and subsequent healing. I thought the book was very well done, and I’m glad that the author wrote it.

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