The Psychological Society had the honour of inviting Lotje Sodderland to the screening of her documentary ‘My Beautiful Broken Brain’. This screening was exclusive to members of the Psychological Society and it took place in the Birkbeck Cinema at the School of Arts.
Lotje Sodderland was 34 when she spontaneously suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke which was later found to be a rare malformation of the blood vessels in her brain. This documentary follows her journey of rehabilitation, self-discovery and self-acceptance.
Five years ago in 2011, Sodderland who was working as a digital producer at that point, woke up with an excruciating headache in the early hours of the morning. She was very disorientated but managed to get to a nearby hotel before falling unconscious.
A few days later, she woke up in a hospital, surrounded by the worried yet relieved faces of her friends and family. Due to the stroke, she developed aphasia which meant she could understand others to a certain extent and was able to speak but unable form the right words. For example in the documentary there is a scene where Sodderland sees a photo of her niece and she proudly says the word nephew, but there is a look of sadness that engulfs her when she is told that is the wrong.
After being retaught how to use the iPhone, Sodderland started to record her meetings with the doctors to remember what was said, but then started to record everything that happened around her. As a result she soon contacted filmmaker Sophie Robinson, to help her document the aftermath of the stroke.
A significant consequence of the stroke was that her vision on the right hand side was severely distorted which lead to frightening hallucinations. These hallucinations were portrayed in such a way that the cinematography matched what Sodderland saw through her own eyes, such as seeing people’s face morphing from the corner of her eye.
The screening ended with a question and answer session with Sodderland herself. Just some of the questions were:
Q: How did you remain positively minded?
A: I am very optimistic person anyway, even before the stroke which did help me to remain positive as I always have tried to learn from difficult experiences. The biggest support was the making of the film as it was a project that was a constant in my life that I could focus on.
Q: As mentioned in the documentary, do you still have a heightened sense?
A: I still do experience the distorted vision on my right hand side, but I have become acclimatised to it, so I am not frightened by it anymore.
Q: Has your sleeping been affected in anyway?
A: Before the stroke, I nearly really slept properly. I was full powered at all times. After the stroke, I had to relearn sleeping like a newborn baby. I did not really realise how important sleep was.