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)
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
A riveting account of a young woman's struggle with what only appeared to be a complete mental breakdown and her struggles to find a correct diagnosis in the hurry-up, conveyor-belt world of American medicine. It is a story both of personal endurance and an indictment of the current medical system, deeply engaging and enlightening at once.
True story of a young journalist whose body starts attacking her brain and she goes crazy, with outbursts similar at times to those of Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” Turns out to be a disease just identified in 2007. Told without sensation and matter-of-factly, like a newspaper article. She’s very lucky — as she points out — to come from a place of privilege that allowed her good care and the patience to pursue extremely high-end treatment, kind of like an episode of “House.” It definitely makes you realize that people’s actions are not their own.
A fascinating story, well-narrated. This is the second book I've read in the space of a year where persistent, even heroic efforts by persons close to someone suddenly manifesting mental illness to find the right doctors and treatment have discovered an underlying physiological cause that, when treated, restored the patient to a normal life. The other book was "Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD." It is alarming to think of all those diagnosed with schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc., and consigned to numbing drug treatment and mental institutions who might also be victims of ailments that, if properly diagnosed and treated, would give them a productive life rather than dooming them to the shadows. It cries out for better research into possible physiological causes for the most serious and disabling mental illnesses.
The narrator is great. She makes the book better. The content is amazing. In the beginning of the story, I did find it hard to sympathize with the author's plight because she came off as very annoying. However, this annoyance faded as the story progressed.
Something that is overlooked in the main premise of this story is how important medical advocacy is. The parents of the author are the reason she got the care she did. The story really is amazing. At the same time, it is sad to think of how many others were erroneously diagnosed with mental illness that was actually caused by something else (no spoilers from me).
This book is a nice complement to "My Stoke of Insight." I do wish the author had narrated. I'm not sure why she didn't...but perhaps it would have been poor narration. The narrator adds to the story and makes it a 5 star book.
This is a gripping true life story of a young woman who descended into madness and came out of it to tell the story. It is rare to find a first hand account of this sort. Well worth reading.
Excellent narration, felt like she was living it and telling you what happened
Say something about yourself!
This was a very good memoir. It is chilling to think that you can be at work one day and then have your brain attack you so that you are no longer yourself. How scary for her and her family. Wow! I'm familiar with autoimmune diseases through first-hand experience, and its amazing at the wide range of ways the body can turn against itself.
I thought that there was a good mix of her struggle with the disease and scientific data about the disease. Some of the books I read are way too heavy on the research, but I found that all of the information provided in this book was useful to get a better understanding of the illness. I also enjoyed the part of memories being manufactured and how you can spread incorrect information so that others also believe they remember the same thing.
The narrator was very good; at times, I forgot it wasn't the author herself speaking. I imagine this would be hard to do, given the fact that some of the author's terror and moods have to be portrayed. In this case, the narrator was an asset to the story.
I am glad that she took the time to write about this disease so that others can be educated and can learn the signs of this disease. Like the author, I cringe to think of how many people have received a psychiatric diagnosis, when in reality, there is a physical cause for their behavior.
Yes it was time well-spent, interesting to hear about how the brain works and someone's life can be turned upside down.
not sure, but she was very good!
Maybe it's because of Susannah Cahalan's expertise in writing or Heather Henderson's wonderful narration style, whatever the reason, this audio book was amazing. This book opened my eyes to new worlds for the mentally disabled. It allowed me to have hope for those who seem hopeless. My favorite aspect of this book was that Cahalan somehow managed to make me feel what she felt--Is she crazy? Will she make a 100% recovery? Will she have a reoccurrence of encephalitis?
I will not seek to give away things that would make listening to this less suspenseful, but rather focus on reasons for listening to this book. Susannah Cahalan tells the very personal and insightful story of her flight into psychosis. Her authorship allows the reader to contemplate what it might be like to become mad, and I believe increase ones compassion for those who also suffer from mental illness. Her investigation into the aftermath also details the emotions that her family felt- something that rounds out her story and at times brought tears to my eyes. The love extended around her I believe brought her through the journey with the ability to write this narrative. The stigma of being mentally ill is overcome by her writing a very detailed account of her journey, which I salute her for! The book also reflects upon the physiological basis of psychosis. Critically, I think that she still stigmatizes the mental hospital although rightly it was not the place that would have been most healing for her. I found her episode similar to what many manic patients I have known experience, as afterwards their episode is shrouded in partial memory which she overcomes by video that was taken and accounts of her loved ones. Her story should challenge doctors to continue investigating when a combination of symptoms don't make complete sense. Her story should allow one more empathy when we encounter those who are suffering with such a mind bending illness.
This story is great. I have an auto immune disease that attacks skin and muscle, it came on suddenly when I was 31. I was ill for 2 1/2 years before I found a drug that put me into remission. I've received the IVIG therapy that this lady did. It was interesting for me because I could relate with that aspect of her story but also because I am a nurse and I love learning about illnesses that I have never heard of. I would recommend to a friend.
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