Book Report on “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan
Book written by Susannah Cahalan
This report is based upon the autobiographical book “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness,” written by Susannah Cahalan. Free Press, 2012, publishes this book.
Introduction of the Author
Susannah Cahalan is the author of the book, “Brain on Fire.” It is an autobiographical book of her. She presented her delirious ailment. When she was 24, she was suffering from serious mental illness. After her recovery, she described her pain and sufferings during her Month of madness. As a reporter, she could effectively present her ideas to get the attention of the readers.
Introduction of the Book
“Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” is an autobiographical work of Susannah Cahalan and it is a 2012 New York Times Bestselling autobiography. The book was first published on November 13, 2012 and the publisher is Free Press in hardback, and after these two companies were merged, the book has later been reissued in paperback by Simon & Schuster. The book contains the details of Cahalan’s fight with a rare autoimmune disease and her recovery.
In the book, Susannah Cahalan narrates her problems and struggles with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis and the procedure by which her ailment was diagnosed with this form of encephalitis. She woke up in a strange hospital and she could not remember about the events of the previous month. During this time, she would have fierce delusions and episodes. Her ultimate diagnosis is made after several theories by other specialist, and finally, Dr. Souhel Najjar diagnosed that she was suffering from an autoimmune disease. The book also includes Cahalan’s life after her recovery from her mental illness, presenting her reaction while watching videos of her psychotic episodes while in the hospital. Cahalan also talks about her symptoms before her hospitalization, as she had previously been misdiagnosed by many psychiatrists and her gynecologist. While doing researches, Cahalan notes that the disease had only been formally discovered in 2007.
Susannah Cahalan’s mental illness started reflecting its severances in one morning. She had dreams of bedbugs to detect two red dots in one arm on the main vein. To comb through her apartment, she called an exterminator. To the surprise of her, he could not find anything at all. However, bedbugs danced persistently through her mind, and she was not ready to believe him. She was abstracted with the insects. She was disturbed and could not understand the reality as it was her dream.
Cahalan, a young girl from the New Jersey suburbs who has a wide-eyed love of what she does, presents a cheerful, gladsome, tabloid world, where swindles are exposed, celebs chased, and bad men learn their just deserts. It is educative, for example, that she says her initial big report for the paper, an interview with a prisoner obtained while she was still at college, stimulated a national argument about rag methods and ethics, but she does not explicate precisely what her methods were, or even concisely show on whether those who disquieted about them had a point. The experience simply whetted her appetite for more. Partially (though not wholly), this is the impenetrability of meretricious youth. “Brain on Fire” is a comprehensively, imposingly presented account of how this impenetrability was perforated in the most impressive possible way.
After a few days of the bedbug incident, Susannah Cahalan found herself alone in her beau's apartment, probing compulsively and uncharacteristically through his letters and emails for cogent evidence of perfidy. An extreme, migraine-like pain disseminated through her brain, accompanied by nausea. Cahalan felt a prickling in her left hand and then went numb. An MRI and a neurologist could not find anything wrong; a specialist in gynecology proposed possible glandular pyrexia, which was also soon dismissed. However, the symptoms continued to grow: affright attacks in public places, more dramatic and untypical failures at work. She began to rebound between absurd happiness and wild crying; she paced floors, unable to settle; chronicle sleeplessness became the norm. One night, she endured a full-blown ictus and zonked out. A psychiatrist found bipolar trouble, and a neurologist diagnosed tension and too much partying.
No neurologist or technicians could find her illness instead, they came up with the conclusion that this ailment is because of stress in the patients mine and over-partying. Cahalan, progressively neurotic, thought the technician was an employed doer dispensing a detailed punishment for her temperamental demeanor. These are not only the symptoms of her illness, but also the symptoms of the beginning of a dreadful month, all of which Cahalan cannot recollect, because her sickness blotted out her short-term reminiscence, but which she has fastidiously recollected from the accounts of the doctors and nurses, her family, some fickle diaries, and hospital video. Illusions that her father had killed his ladylove and that people were talking to her out of the television were joined by paranoid delusions, cruel aggressiveness, and despairing attempts to get away. The doctors and specialists lengthened the list of diagnoses: multiple personality disorder, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. Cahalan’s blood pressure was perilously high and she was progressively unable to walk in the right manner, finish easy cognitive tasks, or even speak, but the tests to find out her ailment and sufferings went in vain. The only thing that was clearly diagnosed by everyone was that her condition was worsening day by day.
She could not control her tongue or mouth. She began to grimace sand dribble and to do ceaseless unconscious chewing motions. Finally, she began to go into a catatonic state. She is both sensible and forensic throughout about the consequence of all this on those nearest to her, their helpless and fear, and particularly, their growing fear that she would be shifted from the epilepsy ward to the psychiatric units. Here, a moustache-pulling neurologist appeared as her savior and his name is Dr. Souhel Najjar. He started his treatment for her. First, he told her to draw a clock. After several efforts, she could do so. Finally, he came up with the conclusion that her brain’s right hemisphere severely inflamed. He recognized and told her parents that her brain was on fire. It is terrific when he further told that her brain was under attacked by her own body. Immediately, he began the focused treatment.
Susannah Cahalan is lucky to get such a sensitive doctor to listen to her and to accept her case with care. She is never in any doubt about that she is lucky: she found a sensitive doctor, her illness had been discovered at the very early stage, and above all, her illness has been diagnosed correctly and treated accordingly. She was suffering from an illness called NDMA autoimmune encephalitis. Many researchers have proved that this disease has been around as long as humanity. However, it has been often misdiagnosed as autism, schizophrenia (in children given that particularly it can produce hyper-sexuality, mutism, convulsion, violence, hissing, crab-walking, grunting), or as pure evil that leads to efforts at exorcism. Only a very few patients decried to mental institutions or heavy medication might really be enduring inflammation of the brain.
She touched much more bothering questions in her book. During her stay in hospital, one day, a woman next to her was diagnosed with colon cancer and responded with grateful prayer. She could understand that woman’s relief that it is more important for your sickness to have a name. However, to her greater relief, in Cahalan's case, her ailment had turned out to have an evidently physiological cause. Physical sickness is neutral and comprehendible, and it has nothing to connect with the thinking. On the contrary, mental illness is complex and difficult to deal with. There is a dreadful pecking order entailed in part of a note that her father recorded to a wall on the epilepsy unit. That says that Susannah is a tremendous young girl who merited their hard work. The overcoming sensing, when she was sick, was one of disgrace. She did not reveal her condition to her colleagues until she could explain it. Even after that, she had to prove her mental condition that is perfectly all right.
A physiological account is the golden pot everyone is looking for, from wellness providers to drug companies, as it makes everything easier, and often more remunerative. Susannah Cahalan’s ailments give us a wild hope. It is being discovered true that this autoimmune disease is rapidly increasing that directly strike the brain, and must be chased as sharply as possible. It was not an easy task to recover from this ailment, and at any time, there is a possibility to relapse, but she finally recovered as her ailment was recognized at the very early stage. Above all, she won many loving hearts during her Month of madness. Her lover stood by her, the relationships between her and her parents matured and deepened, and she was accepted by her colleagues with open arms. All these proved that she was really luck. Presenting her suffering in the form of a book brings her fame and name.
Susannah Cahalan’s amazing autobiography accounts the swift way of her sickness and the lucky, early discovery and treatment by a specialist who came to save her from her illness as a savior and he was the one who was capable of bring back her normal life. As days and weeks passed by, she went incomprehensibly from violence to catatonia, and there was no improvement in their research to find her disease even after several blood tests and scans. Every attempt went in vain and the exhausted specialist and doctors were ready to move her to the psychiatric unit. To everyone’s surprise, Dr. Souhel Najjar could diagnose her ailment and treat her in a correct way that brings her way back to normal life. He discovered autoimmune disease in which her brain was attacked by her own body. He Heasked her to draw one simple outline that helped him to find out her disease, which was often misdiagnosed as demonic possessions throughout history. From her interviews with doctors and nurses who attended her during her ailment, sharp reports from hospital records, scientific research, and information from her friends and family members, “Brain on Fire” is a mystery and an unshrinking, fascinating personal tale that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer.
Susannah Cahalan recollects almost nothing about her Month of madness. Still, she could present the grief and sufferings of her illness to make her readers feel for her. However, as the best reporter Cahalan did not stop questioning about her ailment. In “Brain on Fire,” journalist recollects, through videotapes from hospital, interview with her family, friends, nurses, and doctors, her delirious experience as a victim of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. The result is a kind of anti-memoir, an out-of-body personal account of a young girl’s struggle to survive one of the most brutal diseases. On every level, it is noteworthy.
Although Susannah Cahalan is young, she belongs to the old school of reporters. She writes with an amazing feeling of toughness and a chased refusal to stop comprehending into her past, even when it deeply hurts. One of the most heartrending moments in “Brain on Fire” comes when she watches her videos in the hospital that reflect her sufferings and insane behaviors. She is dismayed. Her description about herself after watching was moving. She described herself as an outrageously skinny, crazy, and violent person in insanity.
In “Brain on Fire,” Susannah Cahalan reflected her convalescence of excruciating period with brain redness. Witnessing Susannah's decent into her outlandish sickness is cursing frightening, but what is even more frightening is that patients throughout history have probably suffered from the ailment like her, but have been diagnosed and wrongly diagnosed as ill, schizoid, or even possessed. This kind of autoimmune disorder is turning more diagnosable. However, there are many things regarding this disorder remain a mystery, because the wide range of symptoms so resemble with mental sickness.
Cahalan's background as a journalist enables her to restore her severe experience despite not forming retentions for a long period. She questioned the doctor and nurses who attended her during her ailment, interviewed her family members and everyone who witnessed her ictuses, her dimmed speech, psychoneurotic, paranoid hallucination, and her uncontrolled and clumsy movements. She dexterously recites a delirious period of her life that altered her forever, as her body assailed her brain and she entirely bewildered all her control. However, she has given awareness to her readers about the disease and its symptoms, as the symptoms of this particular disorder are so match with mental sickness. Susannah's experience educates us never to be too apathetic about our health. This heartrending and intimate narration of her struggle with an insane and destructive ailment is moving, persuasive, and frightening. Everyone who is fascinated by the complex workings of the human brain must read this wonderful autobiography.
“Brain on Fire” has some interesting angles of men-women and father-daughter relationship. After many researches about the disease, Susannah Cahalan concludes that the neurosis was also a common menace. She experienced the ailment by herself; she knows the cruelty of the disease. It is her courageous attempt to narrate her experience that she had mostly forgotten. In this hallucinating story, Susannah Cahalan uses videos, journals, basic reporting, and medical documents to piece together what befallen while she was in her “Month of madness.” She can recollect very little of the severe experience. Cahalan’s story is told in forthright journalistic prose and is probably described and well researched. As she has no remembrance of her “Month of madness,” the tale lounges on her parents’ narration of what had happened, the doctors’ observations and anamnesis, hospital videos, and the remembrance of her loving boyfriend and those of her family and friends.
It is a significantly horrendous book. Through the desolateness of her sickness, a group of family and friends emerged, the people of which were devoted to restoring the writer to her earlier life as a beloved lover, friend, daughter, and sister. Cahalan dedicates this book to the patients who suffered from this disorder without a diagnosis. It is blistering and haunting. It is obvious that this story has lessons for all of us. “Brain on Fire” comes out from a patient who suffered the intense pain and unimaginable aloneness, but discovers redemption in her inexhaustible, defiant toughness. This book is an unexpected gift from one of America's most valiant young journalists. It is unquestionable that Susannah Cahalan is a talented reporter, and her autobiographical book, “Brain on Fire,” is an amazing and surprisingly brave work. In addition, she is an innately talented prose stylist. It is not possible to stop reading her book, especially the most pathetic passages in the book.
Susannah Cahalan in her book, “Brain on Fire,” narrates her problems and struggles with a rare disease and the ways through which she overcame from her ailment was diagnosed. When she woke up in a strange hospital, she could not remember about the events of the previous month. During this time, she would have furious delusions and episodes. Her ultimate diagnosis is made after several researches, tests, and theories by many specialists, and finally, Dr. Souhel Najjar diagnosed her disease that it was an autoimmune disease. The book also includes Cahalan’s life after her recovery from her mental illness, presenting her reaction while watching videos of her psychotic episodes while in the hospital. Cahalan also talks about her symptoms before her hospitalization, as she had previously been misdiagnosed by many psychiatrists and her gynecologist. While doing researches, Cahalan notes that the disease had only been formally discovered recently even though it was in existence even from the very beginning.
Thus, Susannah through her breathtaking and swift narrative presents her real life story without any fear or hesitation to reveal her mental illness. By presenting her ailment, she proves herself as a courageous reporter. By presenting her experience, she gives us more information about the disease, which is often misdiagnosed. Through her book, she helped many to find out their illness through the symptoms she presented as she suffered.