I’m not sure what drew me to “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” by New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan but once I started I couldn’t put it down.
The book is a memoir, the true story of a woman, then just 24 years old, who suffered from a rare autoimmune disease and didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t a question of why she was acting crazy; she didn’t even know she was acting crazy. Her erratic behavior, while troubling to her loved ones, could not be explained.
She was hospitalized for a month and has had to watch security videos to recall what happened during that time frame. This beautiful, talented young writer lost her dang mind.
This, to me, is as scary as those moments when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t open your eyes or move your body.
My sister suffers from an autoimmune disease called Graves Disease, which causes fatigue and a rapid heartbeat and some other not-so-great side effects, but it can be treated. The trick is knowing what it is and how to treat it.
In Cahalan’s case, she was accusing her boyfriend of infidelity and her father of murder and having seizures and hallucinations, even foaming at the mouth.
The book is super-vulnerable; after all the writer is a journalist so she speaks truth even though it makes her look like a crazy person.
Have you ever made an irrational judgment, like claiming the housekeeper stole your jewelry, only to find it in the place where you put it the day before? Imagine living your life this way, with constant paranoid delusions that alienate your closest family and friends because they just simply don’t know how to rationalize with a person who is, well, irrational.
It was a private hell, not only for Cahalan but for those around her. The book is a fascinating journey, told from the perspective of what appears to be an outsider – because the writer herself doesn’t remember that month.
It’s a great read and the author, who has recovered from her illness, has a really promising future.
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