Sunday, March 20, 2016

Brain on Fire

Cahalan, S. (2012). Brain on fire: My month of madness. New York, NY: Free Press.

Genre: Memoir 

I won this book as a first reads winner (GoodReads Giveaways) in the fall of 2012 from Free Press. Lots of life happened and kept me from reading and blogging as I once did. However, this past Friday (3/18/16), a friend and I were walking around a bookstore as casual therapy after a medical-related meeting and this cover caught my attention…

…after picking the book up off the shelf, I realized I had this book at home. I have an advanced reader’s edition of this book, so there might have been some minor tweaks and changes before it was officially published and released—but nonetheless, Susannah’s scary and incredible journey is still the same in either edition. For curiosity’s sake, here is what the ARC cover looks like…

My review…

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness was impossible for me to put down. Susannah Cahalan is a journalist, so her writing is just as compelling as ground-breaking news. In this memoir, she shares with us the horrifying experience of what happened to her when her brain unleashed war on itself. Cahalan’s story is raw, absolutely frightening, and yet still thought-provoking and incredibly moving. From her fear of bedbugs to seizures to paranoia to incidents of rage to blackouts…she reveals her inner most fears, thoughts, and experiences as this incredibly rare condition completely took her away her out of herself. 

The insight she was able to piece back together from her loved ones, doctors, journals, medical records, etc. is just mind-boggling. It must have been so eerie for her to research herself to recapture what unfolded in the months of her unraveling. For me the most powerful take-away from this memoir is the frightening reality that hundreds (if not thousands) of people are diagnosed with mental illnesses or other conditions that potentially leave them imprisoned in psych wards or other facilities when it’s very possible they could have a similar rarity in their brain. As Cahalan argues in part 3 of this book, there is a great and growing need for fields to work together and for doctors of every kind to be up-to-date with recent literature and studies so people aren’t falling through the cracks of a system that just doesn’t work well together. This could happen to anyone. It did. It does. There has got to be a better way to quickly get people a correct diagnosis and treatment. 

I am amazed by the strength of Susannah Cahalan. Her ability to keep fighting to find herself again and then share her journey with the world is absolutely remarkable. She is raising awareness and saving lives. I cannot wait to see what she writes next. I’m sure she has much more to share with the world. 

I recommend this book for everyone. Seriously. Every single person. Do you really know yourself? Would you notice if your brain was distorting your thoughts, behaviors, and perceptions? I’m going to make a lofty statement and say that a people don’t and wouldn’t. This is why Cahalan’s story is so powerful. Read it…sooner than later. My only regret is having not read it sooner.

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