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Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire (edition 2012)

by Susannah Cahalan

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1,270856,211 (3.96)56
Title:Brain on Fire
Authors:Susannah Cahalan
Info:Free Press (2012), Edition: 1, Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Collections:Your library, Four/Five stars
Tags:Brain disease, Encephalitis, Medicine, Mental illness, New York Post, Memoir, Hospitals, Doctors, Neurology, Nonfiction

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
A MOST fascinating read. Everyone is any social/mental service field should read this and be aware of its possibility. A life saved by the luck of timing, Susannah begins a downward spiral into what is initially assumed to be a form of psychosis, and rightfully so, before a Godsend of a doctor takes on her case and, thankfully, recently read a paper describing her symptoms and a better diagnostic method. Anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis has just recently been diagnosed (2007) and successfully treated and in such, many degrees have also been added to the list of related brain inflammations. Through her own jagged memory and that of those who witnessed her illness, she recounts a near play-by-play journey into an abyss she barely saw the happy end to. Soon to be made into a movie, read it detailed, first hand, from this amazing woman and her supporting cast of family, loyal beau and steadfast friends. ( )
  CherylGrimm | Mar 22, 2017 |
This is definitely a speed read. You feel compelled to find out everything that happened to Susannah as quickly as possible. The book is divided into three parts. The first covers immediately before her hospitalization and how she felt to start "going crazy." This part she largely remembers (although not completely). The second is her hospitalization, which she does not remember, so it is based upon her interviews with those who cared for her, watching the videos of herself in the hospital (that the hospital took to help diagnose seizures) with a few interspersed hallucinations she does remember. Both of these parts are really well written. In the first, you can feel the terror Susannah started to feel as she lost certainty over what was real and wasn't. It made my spine tingle. The second highlights her jouranlistic skills. She was able to really investigate what happened because she was able to hold it at arms' length. She says in the book and has said a few times in interviews that this Susannah feels like a different person since she doesn't remember it. The last third where she talks about her years of recovery and her life now was the weakest. The level of insight and analysis found in the first two parts was absent. While Susannah clearly empathizes with those with mental illness, there's a clear sense that she thinks that all mental illness is just an illness making you look mental and not actually maybe a different way of interacting with the world. A different kind of normal you're just born with. I think Susannah fails to take into consideration what if she was just born seeing colors more brightly and seeing the walls breathe? What if that was just always her normal? That's the reality for many with a mental illness, and she kind of just glosses over that and comes down on the it's all just a physical illness side. I'm more of a believer that it's ok for there to be different ways to be "normal" and maybe society should stop shoving us all into the same shaped peghole. While it's true that situations like Susannah's where your whole personality changes overnight are devastating, that's not how all mental illness presents, and I think she misses that in her quest to find and diagnose those with a brain inflammation misdiagnosed.

Check out my full review. ( )
  gaialover | Mar 6, 2017 |
In general, I find medical mysteries fascinating but found this book rather dull. Despite being a member of a health care profession, I found much of the material was relayed in a dry, technical manner and there was a lot of repetitiveness and sensationalism. Halfway through, I ended up speed reading/skimming to the end. It is an important story to tell, thus the 2 stars, but perhaps it should have remained a magazine article. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
A smart and brave book. Her prose is stunning. The story is at times scary and leaves you feeling dark and cold but the warmth of her friends and family and the strength of her parents determination to save her is very inspiring. ( )
  Shelby-Lamb-Author | Jan 17, 2017 |
Riveting is defined as: "completely engrossing; compelling." This is a near-perfect description of Brain on Fire. I actually bought it for my son who is graduating soon with a degree in Neuroscience, but once I started reading it I found I couldn't stop. In two days I devoured it. It is at once fascinating and frightening. Several years ago I fell 18 feet from a ladder and could easily have died or been permanently disabled, and have remarked since then my amazement at how fragile and yet how durable our bodies are. This book delivers that message in spades.
It is also a powerful insight into, and indictment of, physicians and a medical system that place more value on a quick and facile diagnosis than on the correct diagnosis. Her life was saved by the ability to "think" by one physician out of approximately 20 who reviewed her case. Without his ability to look at a bigger picture she would likely have died, or been permanently assigned to a psychiatric hospital.
Weaving together personal anecdotes with scientific explanations of what was happening in her brain, Ms. Cahalan keeps you nailed to your seat, riveted, wanting to read one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more chapter, until the evening has long gone, and you still can't go to sleep until you know how this gets resolved. Even after the resolution her journalistic skills in conducting autopsies of events makes you continue to want to know more.
This books brings out a range of emotions, and you ride them like the schizophrenic roller-coaster she describes of her behaviors, and her symptoms; no sooner do you hit the bottom of one hill then you find yourself propelled toward a higher, and even more terrorizing one.
If you are looking for a book that will completely capture your attention, and keep you riveted, this is it. Be forewarned - you will have a hard time getting up once you sit down and start reading. ( )
  bjtimm | Nov 8, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
"..a fascinating and compelling story told in a smart, succinct style.."
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I have felt that odd whirr of wings in the head.
                                 —Virginia Woolf, A Writer's Diary:
              Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf
Dedicated to those without a diagnosis
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Maybe it all began with a bug bite, from a bedbug that didn't exist.
If all I can remember are hallucinations, how can I rely on my own mind?
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The story of twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan and the life-saving discovery of the autoimmune disorder that nearly killed her -- and that could perhaps be the root of "demonic possessions" throughout history.

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HighBridge Audio

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