Cover Image: Identity Theft

Identity Theft

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When I was in college, my mom had a stroke. I was terrified as my aunt had recently died after having her third stroke. I rushed home to be with my mom but I was not emotionally prepared to deal with the aftermath. She looked like a different person. Literally. One side of her face was droopy. Her movements were slower. Her speech was slurred. I broke down. 

This book would have been a great help then but I’m grateful for it now! Though my mom has “recovered“, the effects still linger. 

The authors skillfully tell the story of Deb and other survivors with compassion dignity and hope. I was deeply loved by their courage and resilience in the face of great adversity. 

A must read for anyone wanting to better understand life after a stroke, anyone whose loved one has been affected by a stroke and are struggling to find a path forward!
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I was excited to read this book because, while I have not had a stroke, I have personally experienced identity loss due to medical trauma and chronic health problems. It’s an issue that I don’t often see discussed, and I think many people could benefit from reading this book. The author shares her own story of having multiple strokes and her healing journey, as well as sharing other people’s stories. She also cites relevant studies and provides numerous notes and references.

The book was very readable, encouraging, and at times, humorous. I appreciated how the author shared stories that were inspirational as well as stories of people who are struggling to recover. She distills these experiences into practical advice for accepting your new reality and forging a new identity, focusing on “building a better future rather than recovering the past.” I have a better understanding of post-traumatic growth after reading this, and I feel hope that I will be able to create a more fulfilling life. 

The author also discusses how relationships can be affected and the need for a support network. 

This book will be particularly helpful for stroke survivors, but I think it will be useful for anyone trying to recover from serious illness or injury. It would also be helpful for caregivers, family, and anyone else who wants to understand the psychological challenges faced by survivors.

I was provided an ARC through NetGalley that I volunteered to review.
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This inspiring book teaches the reader that we can overcome any obstacle that comes our way with persistence. If you are looking to be inspired, or simply looking for a good read, I highly recommend. The writing is good, the topic is intriguing, and the author is relate able.
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Identity Theft is a gift to the world and I recommend it for anyone who has undergone a major trauma (stroke or otherwise) and for their caregivers. For many stroke survivors, they haven’t lost their cognitive abilities, but suffer from aphasia that hinders their ability to translate their thoughts into words, so many think they have.  Dr. Debra Meyerson dispels this and examines other challenges with a thoughtful, comprehensive look at her experience and those of other stroke survivors. People expect the difficulty of the long hours of physical therapy, but much less has been written about how to deal with the emotional challenges of having your identity snatched from you in an instant. Once it became clear to Debra that she could no longer do many of the activities that formed her existing identity as a tenured Stanford professor, accomplished skier and sailor, etc… , she realized she couldn’t “recover” her identity, so sought to “rebuild” it.  She looked at the values underlying each part of her identity, and then looked for substitutes within her abilities to establish a new identity. 

Her story and others are inspirational, but she also looks at the ongoing frustrations of others who cling to their former identity and refuse to rebuild a new one.  The book oozes with love and care as she give practical advice on everything from dealing with family impacts, a different social life, intimacy, financial difficulties, the medical system, and more.  Most encouraging are the multiple examples of how many survivors continue to make remarkable progress long after a year, which is the medical establishment’s standard view of when progress stops.  

This book is very readable.  As a stroke survivor myself (fortunately it was mild and a fraction of Debra’s and other stories in the book), I found so much truth and previously unspoken wisdom in this book.  My only criticism is that her findings around identity have much broader applicability than just strokes.  She interviewed someone who suffered a brain trauma and another with ALS, but more could have been said about this.
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Debra Myerson had her identity ”stolen” from her. Not by a person, but something more insidious. Ms. Myerson, a professor at Stanford University, suffered a stroke due to a dissected carotid artery. In this book, she shares how she struggled to overcome the effects of the stroke. Ms. Myerson suffered from weakness because of her stroke. But her most debilitating and frustrating effect was her inability to communicate due to aphasia. Ms. Myerson, who published books in her field, lectured at Stanford University and could no longer f talk.   The reader follows Ms.Myerson through her recovery as she searches for the silver lining in her situation. In telling her story, she shares her  frustrations and triumphs.  To illustrate her point, Ms. Myerson shares  stroke stories of other people which were compelling.   This book has an academic feel to it.  The author readily refers to studies and other experts to validate a point.  I think this is an excellent book, told with honesty and compassion. I feel stroke survivors and caregivers would benefit from reading this. I really feel this book should be required reading for health care workers caring for stroke survivors. It is rare they get this insight into  a stroke survivor's  struggles with aphasia
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In Identity Theft, Debra Myerson teaches us that, with hard work, positive personal changes can evolve even when one is challenged by a sudden, life altering health crisis, like stroke. Stroke survivors, families, friends, and health professionals will find new insights into the definition of self, how to look forward, focus on deeper values and seek growth. If one is flexible and persistent a new self worth and meaningful life can emerge. The author guides the reader with intensely personal storytelling, punctuated with social science ideology regarding the development of self-fulfillment. The struggle of achieving this in light of newly acquired and a dramatically different set of realities is daunting.  Each person whose story is told in the book is forging a new path. The author provides analysis of how we define ourselves and offers actionable ideas to help navigate the changes one faces after surviving a stroke. End of chapter summaries offer clear and useful suggestions for implementing ideas regarding resetting priorities and moving toward self-actualization.
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There are many books out there aimed at folks who have had strokes, but there are few who talk about the deep psychological issues and recovering from them that this book does. Strokes change people's lives overnight. For most who suffer this brain trauma many of the things that  define us are gone. That makes reconstructing one's identity a crucial  and often overlooked part of recovery.

The author brings her unique perspective as a stroke survivor and as a trained sociologist to this question. Full of  interviews with stroke survivors and with her own experience, it's helpful for those recovering from stroke, those struggling with chronic disease, and those caring for them.
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“There’s a victim, and there’s a survivor, and it’s a true choice,” she explained. “A victim doesn’t thrive, survivors do” 

Whoa… Just whoa. “Identity Theft” is a book that hit close to home. I am extremely close with a 77-year-old stroke survivor and I have witnessed firsthand his physical and emotional struggles and the change in character he has undergone. This book primarily focuses on the transformation of identity that accompanies surviving a stroke. It shows us how various social dynamics change and the struggle some stroke survivors go through to come to terms with the loss of their former identity.

After reading this book I get the feeling that a person’s “Identity” is sort of like a mirror. Our personal identity is endlessly changing depending on how we perceive our image in the mirror. This perception is based on who or what we see alongside our reflection. After surviving a traumatic event the mirror shatters and people lose sight of themselves for a period of time. A person’s first instinct would be to try and go back to being who they were, so they piece the mirror back together only to realize that the reflected image isn’t the same. Some people lament this loss and try to live life with this fractured image, while some people pick up the pieces and try to create something powerful, new and even more beautiful. They “bounce forward” and grow as people and find joy in living. As the author says, having a stroke sucks, but she always looks for the silver lining in any situation.

Once during my tenth grade, my friends and I had a bicycle race on the way back home. I was never any good at racing so I fell behind and at one of the sharp turns, I didn’t lean into the turn properly. So I scraped against one of the cars parked on the side of the road and I was unceremoniously dumped on the bonnet of the car. I was dazed with my body was aching in a number of places so I just lay on the bonnet staring at the clouds and then I thought to myself, “When was the last time I actually looked at the sky?” I had never really “looked” at the sky in a long time as I spent most of my time spent indoors, reading, gaming or studying. At that time my friends came back searching for me and after that, I never really thought about my reverie again. This incident came back to me when I read about Mark Davis, a self-proclaimed workaholic whose fast-paced life came to a halt after he survived his stroke “I feel like when life, the universe, or whatever sits you down it does it for a reason,” Mark told me. “You have a different way of looking at life after everything’s said and done.” Mark’s stroke gave him time, which he used to explore his history, his beliefs and the way his identity was constructed. Most of us are so busy with our lives that we sometimes forget to appreciate the splendor of nature and the little things in life that often go unnoticed. The author acknowledges that although this notion is a cliché, there is truth in the cliché.

This book would be of immense help to families affected by stroke or any debilitating illness for that matter. I hope a lot of people read this book as it also provides a vast understanding of what survivors are going through not just physically but financially, socially and psychologically as well. It is awe inspiring to see the way the author and other survivors have come out of their battle with post-stroke life. This book has reaffirmed my belief that all humans have a colossal amount of resilience and adaptability. However, all that resilience is stored in the form of potential. It is up to the person to tap into that reserve and rise from the ashes of their former identities, born anew just like a phoenix of legend.

I thank netgalley for providing me with this ARC. 4 stars.
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