In 2009, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room strapped to a bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records - from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory - reported 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. Weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia. Over one million dollars worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, until the celebrated neurologist, Dr. Souhel Najjar, joined her team. With the use of a simple - yet ingenious - test, he was able to make a lifesaving diagnosis - revealing a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain.
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.
©2012 Original material © 2012 Susannah Cahalan. Recorded by arrangement with Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (P)2012 (p) 2012 HighBridge Company
"Engrossing.... Unquestionably, an important book on both a human and a medical level. Cahalan’s elegantly-written memoir of her dramatic descent into madness opens up discussion of the cutting-edge neuroscience behind a disease that may affect thousands of people around the world, and it offers powerful insight into the subjective workings of our minds." (Mehmet Oz, MD, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Surgery, New York Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center)
"Brain on Fire reads like a scientific thriller, but with a profound and moving philosophy at its heart." (David B. Agus, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Engineering, University of Southern California, and author of The End of Illness)
Book Seller, Book Blogger and Book Lover.
What Susannah Calahan went through, the frightening physical and psychological manifestations of her disease, the many misdiagnosis, and eventual recovery is a powerful tool to help current and future people suffering the same illness.
This story is hopeful in that more research is being done, and more attention paid, to uncover the physical reasons behind what often looks like mental illness or autism.
Excellent narrator and well-paced memoir. Wonderful blend of personal details with explanation of the technical, medical underpinnings of her experience.
Is There No Place On Earth For Me?; The Center Cannot Hold; The Man Who Couldn't Stop; Madness. The first one is an amazing book chronicling the life of a woman with schizophrenia. The remaining three are all autobiographical and thus written by the individual facing various mental illnesses.
An excellent and poignant memoir written by a young woman afflicted with a rare autoimmune disorder that plunged her and her loved ones into a month of uncertainty, followed by more months struggling through recovery. The author was a journalist in New York when a gradual array of symptoms began, growing more worrisome and more severe over the course of a few weeks. The book is her own recollection of the weeks before and the months after her self-styled month of madness, with that central month a reconstruction (as she has almost no memory of it) painstakingly put together in the aftermath via interviews and research. The author's voice is clear and personal, offering a window into the terror of losing your mind and control over your life. In the end, it is a hopeful book and worth the time, and one in a handful of excellent memoirs that manage to portray the personal side of the medical journey, while also doing an admirable job of explaining the medical side (with all its scientific twists and turns) such that a lay audience can understand while still not sparing technical details. Definitely recommended.
This story is so important to tell. Madness can strike any of us at anytime for nearly any reason. Perhaps if we remove stigma from psychosis it could be treated in a more holistic way. Perhaps one day we will finally see that the psyche and body are not separate, but so intricately intertwined they are nearly always acting together.
Been on/off with Audible since '07, when I found myself long-term in China, desperate for English language books. Love a good story.
Bought and finished in just a couple days, fascinating deep dive into madness and what defines that (and how we define it), and how far we still have to go in understanding the human brain. Great read, well worth a credit.
Every so often you hear of some disease, behavior or mental state that has no cure and no explanation. Later someone finds out there was a simple cure or explanation. We may never come across this malady, but it was an interesting story. The author may have avoided the pain if she knew of this malady before it struck. You come away wondering how such things could happen and physician that is supposed to know, has no clue.
Having a brain nerve disease, I am fascinated by stories like this. As she slowly went crazy, my heart went out to her. Inflammation is a great bodily response, however when the inflammation does not go away, the body reacts in many ways. I know many people who have auto-immune diseases and they are always miserable. This is a story of success. To me, her situation is not the norm and she is so very fortunate. Now, if medical R&D could have success with the remaining hundreds of similar diseases.
I gave the book 4 stars because of all the medical jargon in the last chapters. I enjoyed it however, I doubt that many others will.
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