Monday, August 25, 2014
by Susannah Cahalan
Brain on Fire is a memoir of the author's descent into madness as a result of an unidentified condition. As her rare illness is finally diagnosed and treated she has a long road ahead to recovery and hopefully return to normal.
Ms. Cahalan found no explanation for the brain infection that caused her madness, nor was she ever sure that she would recover completely, a process that took nearly a year or more. In this case, recovery not only refers to the physical issues that she endured but also the return of her former personality and ability to do her job as a journalist.
The disease she eventually was diagnosed with was very rare and the cause unknown. When she was well on her way to recovering she accepted a work assignment to do an article about her experience. As a result she brought the condition to the attention of physicians and patients alike, perhaps saving many people, certainly educating and giving hope to more. Because of the seizures and irrational behaviors, many with the same illness could easily be diagnosed with various psychosis.
I enjoyed Ms. Cahalan's story although I expected to find her "madness" more horrifying. Perhaps because she herself could not recall that time and wrote from what she was told, or maybe because it's impossible to know the horror without the experience.
I think this book is important for it's impact on the medical community and the people who have been or will be affected by this illness. As a casual read, it's definitely not for everyone. I give it 3 of 5 shots.