Susan Cahalan was an ordinary woman living and working in New York City when she began experiencing hallucinations, seizures, extreme bouts of paranoia, and became extremely emotional: one moment feeling elated, the next overwhelmingly sad. She believed she was going crazy. On the insistence of her parents, Cahalan was being checked into New York University Langone Medical Center when she experienced a seizure that left her with no recollection of what happened to her over the coming weeks. A memoir written through doctors notes and the experiences of her family and friends, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness is Cahalan’s story about the fight for her life against a widely unknown autoimmune disorder.
Brain on Fire has been on my ‘to read’ list for a few years now ever since I discovered it in Target and bought it for my sister-in-law for her birthday. I am very interested in how the mind works and reading the synopsis left me intrigued. I am happy to say after only taking two days to read the book that I was not disappointed.
Cahalan’s memoir is well researched and she does a great job at making sure everyone who reads the book will be able to understand exactly what happened to her by unraveling all the medical jargon. While I was originally interested in reading this book because I thought it was about a mental disorder, I was not disappointed that it wasn’t. Cahalan leads the reader on the same wild goose chase that her and her family went through which keeps the readers guessing on what could be happening to her.
What I liked the best about Brain on Fire was the fact that it brought an autoimmune disorder to light that not many people may be aware of. I, for one, had never heard of the autoimmune disorder that left her hospitalized, and was very intrigued on learning more about it. The baffling part about it is exactly as Cahalan said in her book: how many people have experienced this disorder and have been diagnosed as psychotic instead? She was almost diagnosed with psychosis and if her doctors had given up on her she would have died. This book stresses the importance of medical research and how it can help save and improve the lives of many.
My only issue is the third second on her recovery was not as fast paced as the first two, which were her symptoms and diagnosis. While still interesting, I think the pacing made it not as interesting as the rest of the book and could easily lose the reader’s focus.