Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Published by Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Review copy received at SIBA
When Susannah Cahalan was twenty-four years old, she found herself strapped to a hospital bed with no memory of how she got there. She learned that she’d spent the past month undergoing hallucinations, violent behavior, seizures, and had consequently been in the hospital that entire time with no doctors able to figure out why. This memoir is Cahalan’s story of how she went crazy and came back from the madness, thanks to a team of doctors that searched hell and high water for a diagnosis.
I was interested in reading this book because anything related to psychology fascinates me. If you read the book in its entirety you will learn that what happened to Cahalan had little to do with any kind of psych disorder, but that’s not the point – everyone in her life believes, and she believes, that she’s gone crazy.
It was amazing to me how many doctors spent time with Cahalan and dismissed her symptoms as something other than what they ended up being. It seemed like so many of the medical professionals she worked with just wanted to give her an answer, any answer, instead of really digging deep to figure out what was wrong. I felt so deeply for what she was going through, but honestly I felt worse for her family – Cahalan was in a haze most of the time and has few concrete memories from this time in her life, but her family, boyfriend, and close friends had to watch her as she dwindled down to a shell of the person she used to be. It must have been absolutely heartbreaking to watch that happen to someone you love.
As for the book itself, it definitely held my interest and I was fascinated by Calahan’s story and everything she went through. I felt an immense sense of relief for her and her family when doctors FINALLY got to the bottom of this horrific situation. I have to admit that I felt the book dragged in some spots, especially in the middle, but for the most part I was anxious to find out what would happen to Cahalan, which kept me turning the pages.
I would absolutely recommend Brain on Fire for those interested in medical mystery type books, as what happened to Susannah Cahalan can only be described as a medical mystery. Recommended!