Imagine trying to piece together the last month of your life and remembering nothing about. Worse yet, your doctors and family tell you that in these past thirty days, you were devastatingly ill and out of your mind–literally.
Early in 2009, 24-year-old New York Post reporter, Susannah Cahalan, suffered from an ailment so debilitating that she became unrecognizable to coworkers, family, friends and–most alarmingly–herself. Her symptoms–hallucinations, psychosis, profound cognitive impairment, catatonia and epileptic-type fit–worsened as her team of doctors scrambled unsuccessfully to correctly identify and treat her ailment.
She remembers virtually nothing about the month she spent hospitalized. Using her skills as a journalist, she recounts her medical nightmare in this unforgettable memoir. She describes Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness as a “journalist’s inquiry into that deepest part of the self–personality, memory, identity–in an attempt to pick up and understand the pieces left behind.”
Here’s an excerpt from the preface:
At first, there’s just darkness and silence. “Are my eyes open? Hello?” I can’ tell if I’m moving my mouth or if there’s even anyone to ask. It’s too dark to see. I blink once, twice, three times. There’s a dull foreboding in the pit of my stomach. That, I recognize. My thoughts translate only slowly into language, as if emerging from a pot of molasses. Word by word the questions come: Where am I? Why does my scalp itch? Where is everyone? Then the world around me comes gradually into view, beginning as a pinhole, its diameter steadily expanding. Objects emerge from the murk and sharpen into focus. After a moment I recognize them: TV, curtain, bed. I know immediately that I need to get out of here…On my wrist is an orange plastic band. I squint, unable to focus on the words, but after a few seconds, the block letters sharpen: FLIGHT RISK.
This book is at once, awful and wonderful. Once you open the pages, it is virtually impossible to stop reading. The dramatic and suspenseful narrative draws you into Susannah’s world and holds you there until the last page.