Throwback Review: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Published December 4, 2015 by Kattie Sivley

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I previously had a different book blog, and I had a bunch of problems with the hosting company I used for the blog, and all of my content was deleted.  I managed to salvage some of my reviews from back then by compiling what  I wrote on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Nobles review sections.  See some that I have already posted here.

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Goodreads Summary:

A gripping memoir and medical suspense story about a young New York Post reporter’s struggle with a rare and terrifying disease, opening a new window into the fascinating world of brain science.

One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four year old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter.

Susannah’s astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. As weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning her to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined her team. He asked Susannah to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing her with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

With sharp reporting drawn from hospital records, scientific research, and interviews with doctors and family, Brain on Fire is a crackling mystery and an unflinching, gripping personal story that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer.

My Thoughts:

This book literally changed my life. This is about Susannah Cahalan and her descent into madness. She talks about all of her symptoms, and recounts her episodes. A lot of the information she got from family and friends because her memory is mostly gone from that time. It also talks about how doctors don’t always have the answer, and if you know something is wrong with you, you just need to find the right doctor, someone who is going to take the time to actually find out what is going on without dismissing it.
This book changed my life, because I didn’t know there were different types of seizures. I just knew about grand mal seizures, and after reading this book, I realized that I might be having complex partial seizures. A few months after finishing this book I was diagnosed with epilepsy and am being treated. This would not have happened without this book, because all of the doctors I saw said I had chronic fatigue syndrome, or just ignored my symptoms and told me I was depressed.

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