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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Paperback – August 6, 2013
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“A fascinating look at the disease that – if not for a nick-of-time diagnosis – could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life.” (People magazine)
“The bizarre and confounding illness that beset the 24-year-old New York Post reporter in early 2009 so ravaged her mentally and physically that she became unrecognizable to coworkers, family, friends, and—most devastatingly—herself… She dedicates this miracle of a book to ‘those without a diagnosis’… [An] unforgettable memoir.” (Elle)
“Swift and haunting.” (Scientific American)
“This fascinating memoir by a young New York Post reporter…describes how she crossed the line between sanity and insanity…Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific information…compelling.” (Booklist (starred review))
"An intense, mesmerizing account of survival. . . Cahalan's deft descriptions of her spooky hallucinations could be right out of a Poe terror tale." (BookForum)
“For the neurologist, I highly recommend this book on several grounds…First, it is a well-told story, worth reading for the suspense and the dramatic cadence of events…Second, it is a superb case study of a rare neurologic diagnosis; even experienced neurologists will find much to learn in it…Third, and most important, it gives the neurologist insight into how a patient and her family experienced a complex illness, including the terrifying symptoms, the difficult pace of medical diagnosis, and the slow recovery. This story clearly contains lessons for all of us.” (Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology)
“Focusing her journalistic toolbox on her story, Cahalan untangles the medical mystery surrounding her condition…A fast-paced and well-researched trek through a medical mystery to a hard-won recovery.” (Publishers Weekly)
"The best reporters never stop asking questions, and Cahalan is no exception...The result is a kind of anti-memoir, an out-of-body personal account of a young woman's fight to survive one of the cruelest diseases imaginable. And on every level, it's remarkable.....Cahalan is nothing if not tenacious, and she perfectly tempers her brutal honesty with compassion and something like vulnerability. It's indisputable that Cahalan is a gifted reporter, and Brain on Fire is a stunningly brave book. But even more than that, she's a naturally talented prose stylist — whip-smart but always unpretentious — and it's nearly impossible to stop reading her, even in the book's most painful passages....Brain on Fire comes from a place of intense pain and unthinkable isolation, but finds redemption in Cahalan's unflagging, defiant toughness. It's an unexpected gift of a book from one of America's most courageous young journalists." (NPR.org)
“What is most impressive about “Brain on Fire” is that Cahalan has little recollection of her month of insanity…. Thanks partially to her talent as a journalist and to the fact that her parents kept journals, Cahalan was able to recapture her month, leaving no holes in the narrative.” (The Daily Texan)
“Compelling…a New York Post reporter recounts her medical nightmare.” (Mental Floss)
Top Customer Reviews
Cahalan's background as a journalist enables her to reconstruct her ordeal despite not forming memories for a month-long period. She interviewed her family members, doctors, nurses - anyone who witnessed her seizures, her slurred speech, her neurotic, paranoid delusions, and her awkward, uncontrolled movements. She deftly narrates a period of her life that changed her forever, as her body attacked her brain and she completely lost all control of herself. But she also successfully brings awareness to her readers. So if I start exhibiting strange behavior in the next few weeks, it's probably psychosomatic sympathy symptoms.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.
I have just finished reading it and haven't reflected on what I've read yet but felt compelled to leave this five star review with a thank you to the author for writing this book and making herself so vulnerable for us.
In the preface, Susannah is in NYU Medical Center, restrained by "a thick mesh vest" to prevent her from pulling out her EEG wires or trying to escape from her "captors." The precise origin of Cahalan's illness is unknown, but one day in 2009, this pretty, carefree, vivacious, and confident New York Post reporter began to exhibit strange symptoms. She became obsessed with bedbugs, developed migraines as well as tingling and numbness in her left hand, cried uncontrollably, had persistent insomnia, could no longer cope with her professional responsibilities, felt as if she was "slogging through quicksand," and experienced seizures, hallucinations, and paranoia. Fortunately, her parents and boyfriend, Stephen, stood by her, refusing to believe that she was psychotic and needed to be institutionalized.
After a variety of physicians examined her and ran batteries of tests--but failed to pinpoint the exact cause of her physical and mental deterioration--Susannah found her savior in Dr. Souhel Najjar, "the man to go to when nothing made sense." He suspected that she might be suffering from autoimmune encephalitis and a neuro-oncologist named Dr. Josep Dalmau confirmed the diagnosis. Soon, Dr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing.... I bought after meeting someone with this same condition. It gave me a sense of what this individual went through and what struggles the future is likely to bring.Published 4 hours ago by Amy
For all those who crave information about the mysteries of our brains, bodies and psyches, this book satisfies! Read morePublished 1 day ago by Lynette Thom
This was helpful in understanding what happened and was going on with daughter!Published 4 days ago by Norelin Kimball
So interesting and informative. Definitely recommend for anyone interested in psychology.Published 5 days ago by rf1959
Excellent read. This is an amazing story of people not giving up under extenuating circumstances.Published 7 days ago by Charles P. Smith
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness was an eye-opening and intriguing novel that takes us into the world of Cahalan. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
Loved this book! Exceeded all expectations, and I learned so much from this book!Published 11 days ago by Amazon Customer
Interesting read about an individual's struggle with an unknown illness and reinforces the importance of a second opinion in patient care.Published 11 days ago by Kelly A. Finn