Title: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Author: Susannah Cahalan
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness is the harrowing true story about 24-year-old Susannah Cahalan, who goes from an emerging journalist to a catatonic hospital patient with a mysterious illness. The book chronicles her journey, including her first symptoms, the rapid decline of her health that lands her in the hospital, her diagnosis, and recovery. Cahalan relies on memories, hospital videos, diary entries, and friends and family to tell the tale of her spiral into madness and how she is able to escape it.
I want to start off by saying that this book has a lot of science in it. It delves into the psychology of the human brain and presents the different possible diagnoses that Cahalan is given by a numerous amount of doctors. That being said, I absolutely loved it. As someone who has an interest in psychology, I found this book really fascinating. I think that Cahalan does a great job of defining every term, from brain stem to anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis, without making it feel like a vocabulary lesson. The writing is so easy to follow and I never felt like the science overshadowed Cahalan’s story of survival.
I really enjoyed Cahalan’s writing and it’s easy to see that she is a journalist. There is a tremendous amount of research behind this book and Cahalan’s hard work is very evident. She has taken hospital videos, erratic journal entries, interviews from family, friends, and doctors and created a page-turning story that is hard to put down. Although Cahalan notes that she does not remember much of what happened to her, I never felt like anything was left out and the story seemed complete. I thought that Cahalan’s psychological and physical changes throughout the book were perfectly illustrated and it exceeded all the expectations that I had for this book.
At the end, Cahalan also brings awareness to the disease that she is diagnosed with, a disease that many people know nothing about. She tells the reader what it was like to share her story with the world and what it has done to help other patients who suffer from the illness. I think it’s admirable that she published such a tragic and personal story in order to help others and bring attention to a disease that is often misdiagnosed and left untreated.
If you have read Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness on Amazon, please click here.