Rating: 4 / 5
While I vaguely knew Nonfiction November was a thing, I didn’t put any advanced thought into adding nonfiction titles to my TBR for the month, so my nonfiction is going to be entirely based on mood and what I have available. I decided to jump in first with BRAIN ON FIRE by Susannah Cahalan. This is one I’ve seen recommended quite a few times and the topic intrigued me. My library had it available on audiobook so I was able to listen to kick off my nonfiction reading.
BRAIN ON FIRE tells Susannah’s own story, her “month of madness” as the subtitle says. When Susannah was 24 years old she began to exhibit some odd and disturbing symptoms, ranging from seizures to psychotic delusions. Prior to this she had a budding career as a journalist, but over time she lost her ability to process thoughts and to speak coherently. She was diagnosed with multiple things from alcohol withdrawal to mental illnesses, but nothing seemed to fit all of her symptoms. She wound up hospitalized with numerous doctors consulting and performing tests with no answers. She was lucky, surviving to write her own story in large part due to her family’s support and advocacy and her own fighting spirit.
I work for a mental health non-profit which provides services and housing to those diagnosed with chronic mental illnesses. Much of the early part of the book as Susannah shares her initial symptoms sounds very similar to the heartbreaking stories our clients share. Susannah was lucky to have a doctor finally figure out what exactly was going on with her to provide an effective treatment, but without good insurance and a family to advocate on her behalf when she wasn’t able to do so for herself things could have been much, much worse.
This is a very worthwhile read and I’ve received several recommendations that I check out the movie as well so definitely will be doing this. The story is especially scary knowing that it is something that could potentially strike anyone.