Genres: Illness, Medicine, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Original Publication Date: 2012
Source: I purchased this book
Find the Author: Website, Goodreads, Amazon
Brain on fire: One day in 2009, twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. A wristband marked her as a “flight risk,” and her medical records—chronicling a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory at all—showed hallucinations, violence, and dangerous instability. Susannah had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: a healthy, ambitious college grad a few months into her first serious relationship and a promising career as a cub reporter at a major New York newspaper. Who was the stranger who had taken over her body? What was happening to her mind?
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan’s memoir of her difficult struggle with a mystery illness, is a fascinating exploration of medicine and survival.
Table of Contents
Brain On Fire
Cahalan was a 24-year-old reporter for the New York Post. She had it all: youth, talent, love, and the beginning of a terrific journalism career.
Then she suddenly started to act strangely. She was convinced her apartment was filled with bedbugs, the colors surrounding her became garishly bright, and she became paranoid. This started affecting her work and her personal life.
Diagnosed by one doctor as suffering the effects of too much partying, and by other doctors as suffering from a sudden and severe mental illness, it wasn’t until she started suffering violent seizures that she was hospitalized.
During the month that followed, as the doctors tried desperately to figure out exactly what was wrong with her, Cahalan became increasingly progressively more ill.
She spent the month in the hospital, where she was occasionally caught on camera.
Cahalan Decides To Explore Her Lost Month
After more than $1,000,000 in medical tests, a very simple exam finally came up with a solution. She was suffering from a very rare malady.
After she made her slow process toward recovery, Cahalan decided to explore her lost month. There were some videos that the hospital camera captured, and they were hard for her to watch.
She looks totally frightened and lost in those videos. Watching herself on video was like watching a stranger. She also interviewed her doctors and friends and family, because she has few memories of that time in the hospital.
She also may have saved some lives:
It is an excellent combination of medical mystery and reportage. I found this book fascinating and well-written, and have already read it at least twice!
Here is an interview with Cahalan:
If you are interested in science and medicine, you may also want to read my reviews:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg.
Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!