Cahalan develops a mysterious illness over the course of 2 months, which leads to an extended stay in NYU's Epileptic ward. Exhibiting symptoms of extreme psychosis and catatonia, her family and close friends' loyalty is put to the test as they seek answers and a cure for Cahalan's rapidly escalating condition. One aspect of this book that I think is unique is that at the height of her illness, Cahalan loses her memory, and as a result has no recollection of her experiences, including her recovery.
As a journalist, she pieces together the events leading up to her illness and it's aftermath by interviewing her family, friends, and doctors. NYU's research environment also provided much material by way of extensive notes and videos. It's hard not to have affection for Susannah. I wish I could meet her. I so appreciate her sharing her story, especially when by doing so she exposed a side of herself that was not flattering.
Especially is this the case when either our or a loved one's body is ravaged by a disease. The "real person" is still there, but it can get so muddled up, and be so discouraging to witness. I also appreciated the attention she drew to finding a diagnosis. I would have never believed how hard it is to "get well" unless I'd seen it with my own eyes. I am not sure if as a whole, society is desensitized to death, or if our view on life expectancy and the quality of life has diminished.
At any rate, it seems as though doctors today don't think twice about sending you home to die, or suffer through whatever ailment you have. You have to fight for answers, persistently ask for a second opinion, and have darn good medical insurance coverage. What about those that fall through the cracks of that system? Cahalan happened to be at the right place, at the right time.
So many others with her condition were misdiagnosed, and essentially sent home to die. It's disconcerting, but I am sure it happens so much on a daily basis. I was so entranced, I think I read it in 24 hours. I also felt the need to talk about it every chance I got! It's a great read. Check out her interview here on goodreads if I've piqued your interest. Phenomenal - undoubtedly the best non-fiction book I have read so far this year.
This a non-fiction book in which Susannah Cahalan has documented a month of complete horror for herself and her family - a month when she went from being a completely 'normal' 24 year old woman to being strapped onto a gurney in a hospital with doctors and nurses contemplating admitting her to a psychiatric ward. It began with flu like symptoms which slowly evolved into constant paranoia - she experienced seizures bu Phenomenal - undoubtedly the best non-fiction book I have read so far this year.
It began with flu like symptoms which slowly evolved into constant paranoia - she experienced seizures but the doctors kept telling her to quit drinking, that drinking too much and working too hard was her problem. It got to the point where she believed her own father was an imposter and had battered her step-mother to death. This was when she was finally admitted into a hospital, only for a month of fear and exhaustion to take over - the doctors couldn't work out what was wrong with her Susannah's brain was on fire, it was slowly shutting off and destroying everything that made her who she was.
How were they to save her? This book blew my mind - it had me completely sucked in the whole way through and I had to keep reminding myself that all of this was TRUE. If you need a non-fiction recommendation then this should be your pick! Susannah has since done TED talks and appeared on TV to raise awareness of what happened to her - I don't want to say what was actually wrong with her as that was the whole point of the book, the suspense was incredible.
To top it off, Susannah is a journalist and has writing this book in an extremely digestible way, it was like talking to a friend. Go, read! View 2 comments. Imagine one day you are fine, going to work and doing what you always done, then out of the blue you start acting strange.
You become paranoid, eventually you start hearing voices and attempt jumping out of moving vehicles. You must caught a bit of the crazy right? Maybe not. One morning she saw a couple of bug bites on her arm and was convinced she had a bed bug infestation. She brought exterminators into her home, even Imagine one day you are fine, going to work and doing what you always done, then out of the blue you start acting strange.
She brought exterminators into her home, even though she couldn't find any evidence of the critters. The exterminator couldn't find them, said they didn't exist, but she insisted they treat the apartment for them anyway. This was only the beginning. Susannah kept deteriorating, doctors mis-diagnosed her many times, one even blamed it on excessive drinking with a 'wink'.
You know, a young girl in New York obviously was partying too hard I think I would have punched that jerk in the dangly bits and blamed it on a seizure of which she had many "oops! Sorry doc but I couldn't help it! Souhel Najjar came aboard Susannah's case, and it's a darn lucky thing that he did, because he had recently discovered a rare auto immune disease called Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. This basically will make you seem like a crazy person, and make you do odd enough things and movements that will cause people to call in an exorcist.
Since this disease has been in existence as long as humans have, it's a pretty safe bet that many of those poor people who were thought to be possessed and subsequently exorcised had in fact Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis and not the devil inside them. Christopher Moore?? And that is the truly scary part in a very scary tale, that millions of people over countless years have been mis-diagnosed, put in institutions and left to die, or treated as evil and possibly put to a horrible death.
Good times!! I enjoyed this book and found it fascinating. I just wish Sussanah din't have to go through this for us to get this book, but since she did I appreciate it even more.
Shelves: traditionally-published , she-says , non-fiction. A must read for anyone interested in psychology, or neuroscience. Susannah is a successful year-old reporter. She has a good relationship with her boyfriend, her divorced parents, and her little cat. Then she wakes up with a bug bite on her arm. She is convinced that bedbugs are infesting her apartment. She calls the exterminator to spray, even though he insists there's no sign of bugs.
And what's with all this junk? Why is she holding on to all this stuff? She starts to throw away everything sh A must read for anyone interested in psychology, or neuroscience. She starts to throw away everything she sees as "cluttering" her apartment: photos, books, papers.
And her boyfriend! What if he's cheating on her? She's seized with an uncontrollable urge to spy on him. She goes through all his e-mails and searches his apartment. Slowly her friends, family and colleagues start to realize that something is very, very wrong with Susannah. Is she going crazy? Will she have to be locked in a psych ward for the rest of her life? Cahalan paints a very vivid picture of hell: losing control of your mind and who you are but not being able to do anything about it.
She describes being trapped inside her mind, knowing that what she's doing and saying is crazy but unable to stop herself. Her parents and boyfriend are her champions - view spoiler [ insisting that she's not crazy, that she is the victim of some autoimmune disease. Fortunately for her, they are correct - and pushy and rich enough to get her the treatment she so desperately needs.
Many others are not so lucky. View all 4 comments. Oct 25, Ahmad Sharabiani rated it really liked it Shelves: 21th-century , non-fiction , memoir , biography , united-states , psychology. The book narrates Cahalan's wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the events of the previous month, during which time she would have violent episodes and delusions.
The book also covers Cahalan's life after her recovery, including her reactions to watching videotapes of her psychotic episodes while in the hospital. Cahalan also discusses her symptoms prior to her hospitalization, as she had previously been diagnosed by a psychiatrist with bipolar disorder. Those of us with an autoimmune disease can relate to this story. Souhel Najjar , began to suspect that Cahalan was suffering from an autoimmune disease.
Najjar used this to help diagnose Cahalan and start her road to recovery. The book also covers Cahalan's life after her recovery, including her reactions to watching videotapes of her psychotic episodes while in the hospital. Cahalan also discusses her symptoms prior to her hospitalization, as she had previously been diagnosed by a psychiatrist with bipolar disorder.
Cahalan was fortunate to be correctly diagnosed because, according to Najjar's estimates, only 10 percent of people with the disease were properly diagnosed at that time. Critical reception for Brain on Fire has been mostly positive.
Susannah Cahalan is our protagonist. With the executive function areas of her cortex melted, Cahalan comes progressively unhinged, until finally, she is entirely given over to paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and manic hysteria. Therefore, she is obliged to piece the narrative together from a hodgepodge of available sources: medical records, surveillance videos, the testimony of friends and family, and the diary she kept during the ordeal.
What she presents is a thoroughly researched account, more redolent of investigatory journalism than of memoir. I started to show her my arm, but before I could get into my tale of woe, my phone rang. You ready? It was the new Sunday editor, Steve. He was just barely in his midthirties, yet he had already been named head editor of the Sunday paper, the section I worked for, and despite his friendliness, he intimidated me. Now I had nothing, not even enough to bluff my way through the next five minutes.
How had I let that happen? This meeting was impossible to forget, a weekly ritual that we all fastidiously prepared for, even during days off. I sat down next to Paul, the Sunday news editor and close friend who had mentored me since I was a sophomore in college, giving him a nod but avoiding direct eye contact.
I readjusted my scratched-up wide-framed Annie Hall glasses, which a publicist friend once described as my own form of birth control because no one will sleep with you with those on. With his shock of prematurely white hair and his propensity to toss the word fuck around like a preposition, he is the essence of a throwback newsman and a brilliant editor.
He had given me a shot as a reporter during the summer of my sophomore year of college after a family friend introduced us. After a few years in which I worked as a runner, covering breaking news and feeding information to another reporter to write the piece, Paul offered me my first big assignment: an article on the debauchery at a New York University fraternity house.
The silence deepened until I looked up. Steve and Paul were staring at me expectantly, so I just started talking, hoping something would come. I saw this story on a blog. You need to be bringing in better stuff than this. Paul nodded, his face blazing red. I left the meeting furious at myself and bewildered by my own ineptitude. She laughed, revealing a few charmingly crooked incisor teeth. Oh, come on, Susannah. What happened?
The apartment, eerily quiet, overlooked the courtyard of several tenements, and I often awoke not to police sirens and grumbling garbage trucks but to the sound of a neighbor playing the accordion on his balcony. I had always loved every minute of it.
So why was I suddenly so terrible at it? As I shoved these treasures into the trash bags, I paused on a few headlines, among them the biggest story of my career to date: the time I managed to land an exclusive jailhouse interview with child kidnapper Michael Devlin. The national media were hot on the story, and I was only a senior at Washington University in St.
Louis, yet Devlin spoke to me twice. His lawyers went nuts after the article ran, launching a smear campaign against the Post and calling for a judicial gag order, while the local and national media began debating my methods on live TV and questioning the ethics of jailhouse interviews and tabloids in general.
Paul fielded several tearful phone calls from me during that time, which bound us together, and in the end, both the paper and my editors stood by me. Though the experience had rattled me, it also whetted my appetite, and from then on, I became the resident jailhouser. Devlin was eventually sentenced to three consecutive lifetimes in prison. Then there was the butt implant story, Rear and Present Danger, a headline that still makes me laugh.
I had to go undercover as a stripper looking for cheap butt enhancements from a woman who was illegally dispensing them out of a midtown hotel room. As I stood there with my pants around my ankles, I tried not to be insulted when she announced that she would need a thousand dollars per cheek, twice the amount she charged the woman who had come forward to the Post.
Journalism was thrilling; I had always loved living a reality that was more fabulist than fiction, though little did I know that my life was about to become so bizarre as to be worthy of coverage in my own beloved tabloid. Even though the memory made me smile, I added this clip to the growing trash pile— where it belongs, I scoffed, despite the fact that those crazy stories had meant the world to me.
I was a nostalgic pack rat, who held on to poems that I had written in fourth grade and twenty-some-odd diaries that dated back to junior high. My problem, it turns out, was far vaster than an itchy forearm and a forgotten meeting. As I knelt by the black garbage bags, I was hit with a terrible ache in the pit of my stomach—that kind of free-floating dread that accompanies heartbreak or death.
When I got to my feet, a sharp pain lanced my mind, like a white-hot flash of a migraine, though I had never suffered from one before. I must be getting the flu, I thought. This might not have been the flu, though, the same way there may have been no bedbugs. But there likely was a pathogen of some sort that had invaded my body, a little germ that set everything in motion.
Maybe it came from that businessman who had sneezed on me in the subway a few days before, releasing millions of virus particles onto the rest of us in that subway car? Or maybe it was in something I ate or something that slipped inside me through a tiny wound on my skin, maybe through one of those mysterious bug bites?
For me, it flipped my universe upside down and very nearly sent me to an asylum for life. The night before, I had taken Stephen to meet my father and stepmother, Giselle, for the first time, in their magnificent Brooklyn Heights brownstone. It was a big step in our four-month-old relationship. Stephen had met my mom already—my parents had divorced when I was sixteen, and I had always been closer to her, so we saw her more often—but my dad can be intimidating, I know, and he and I had never had a very open relationship.
But it had been a warm and pleasant dinner with wine and good food. Stephen and I had left believing that the evening was a success. Back then, we passed the workdays with polite banter, but the relationship never went any deeper, mainly because he is seven years my senior an unthinkable gap for a teenager.
But his eyes, trusting and honest, have always been his most attractive trait. Those eyes, with nothing to hide, made me feel as if I had dated him forever. That morning, stretched out in his bed in his enormous by comparison studio apartment in Jersey City, I realized I had the place to myself. Stephen had already left for band practice and would be gone for the rest of the day, leaving me free to either spend the day there or let myself out.
Short-link Link Embed. Share from cover. Share from page:. More magazines by this user. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk.
What happened? In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family's inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen. More about Susannah Cahalan.