Like Mystery Diagnosis on television, this young lady goes from doctor to doctor, each giving a different diagnosis and treatment until she finds the right doctor who figures it out. An infection that makes her seem psychotic. Very odd, very scary.
Brain on Fire is a true account and it will leave you, at times, speechless. I love watching medical dramas on television, but this is a real person. And what happened to her is very scary. I couldn't even imagine waking up one morning, strapped to a bed, and not knowing what happened in the past month - especially when told you've been awake the whole time.
From the medical dramas I watch, there is usually a team of doctors trying to diagnose someone or someone gets misdiagnosed because the symptoms present themselves differently. That's pretty much what happened to Susannah, but with quite a bit more things that convoluted things and made her sink into madness for a month. It's fascinating reading, if not horrific at times, and Cahalan does it with complete candor. I felt a myriad of emotions reading this book- - it was very hard to put down. A fascinating, brilliant book told by a courageous woman. Highly recommend!
"Dedicated to those without a diagnosis."
If that doesn't get you to start reading this book, I don't know what will!
Okay, how about in the "Author's Note" where Susannah Cahalan states: "...I readily admit that I'm an unrealialbe source." She openly says she is an unrealiable sourse on herself?!? Completely and utterly sane people won't admit to that, but she did.
However, extracting a bunch of quotes from a good book isn't the equivalent of a review. So...what happened?
The preface of the book opens up with Susunnah waking up in a hospital where she is strapped down to a bed - but perhaps the first signs of something going wrong was when she became adament that her studio apartment was infested with bedbugs. From here she has emotional ups and downs, numbness, paranoid episodes, delusions and hallucinations.
Other symptoms included a lack of appetite, emotional outbursts and seizures, but as Susannah herself stated - the seizures were practically a godsend since it was the anchor that tethered her friends and family to believe that something was physically wrong and not simply mentally. In fact, the first neurologist that saw her said she was an alcoholic. Other doctors diagnosed her as some sort of schizophrenic. Without revealing too much...none of those were it!
Throughout this book, what makes you feel for Susannah Cahalan? Quotes like this:
"I would soon learn firsthand that this kind of illness often ebbs and flows, leaving the sufferer convinced that the worst is over, even when it's only retreating for a moment beofe pouncing again." (Pg. 26)
Or how about: "Now that we had a diagnosis that had never before been seen at NYU, young MDs, hardly a day older than me, stared at me as if I were a caged animal in a zoo and made muffled assessments, pointing at me and craning their heads as more experienced doctors gave a rundown of the syndrome." "...The group ogled me and a few even let out a few quiet 'ooohs' and 'ahhhs.' My father gritted his teeth and tried to ignore them." "...this patient may have her ovaries removed as a precaution...As the spectators nodded their heads, I caught this somehow, and began to cry." (Pg. 160)
"I couldn't read, could hardly make small talk, and couldn't drive a car, but, dammit, I was going to have a few glasses of champagne at a wedding." (Pg. 187)
Moments where you think, your brain doesn't have to be on fire to feel that way or yea me too:
"In this short line, I don't betray the disappointment I felt about having to not only officially abandon my self-sufficient life, but also give up my first real apartment, the symbol of my forgone adulthood." (Pgs. 202 - 203)
"Often I would sit outside Starbucks and take stock of the many different types of women walking by: 'I'd take her thighs,' or 'I'd trade bodies with her,' or 'I wish I had her arms.' (Pg. 204)