Jill says on the morning of her stroke, she woke to the sound of her alarm clock. "I was immediately hit with a pounding pain behind my left eye. It was that pulsating pain that would grab me and then release me. And it was very unusual for me to have any kind of pain, because I was physically fit. I thought, 'Okay, well I'm just having a headache, so I'll just start my normal routine.'"
The morning light hurt her eyes, so she closed the blinds. She started exercising, but Jill says she felt disassociated from her own body. "I thought, 'Wow, I'm a strange-looking thing,'" she says. "It was as though my mind had shifted away from my normal perception of reality—where I'm the person on the machine having the experience—to some esoteric space where I'm witnessing myself having this experience."
Jill says she had never felt any sensation like this before, yet she was not alarmed. She got off the exercise machine and went to take a shower. She says her movement felt rigid and deliberate, and she was so focused on walking that she didn't notice any noise from outside.
As she stepped in the shower, the deliberateness of movement was extreme. She lost her balance and leaned up against the shower wall. "I looked at my arm, and I realized I could no longer define the boundaries of where I began and where I ended. What were the atoms and molecules of my arm versus the atoms and molecules of the wall? ... Everything blended together as one," she says. "I felt that I was as big as the universe. I wasn't terrified. I wasn't feeling anything other than an awe for the fact that, 'Oh my gosh, I am alive!'"
Then, as Jill dressed for work, her right arm became paralyzed. "And that's when my brain said to me, 'Oh my gosh, I'm having a stroke,'" she says. "And then the next thing my brain said was: 'Wow. This is so cool. How many brain scientists have the opportunity to explore their own brain?'"