Brain On Fire by Susannah Cahalan
I really, really, really liked this book.
I couldn’t put it away. I even reorganized my whole bedroom, just to have something to do while I listened to this book.
I have to say that I debated with myself, and the only reason Brain on Fire doesn’t get top rating with me is because I’m not sure I could so easily read and re-read this book as much as I sometimes do with other books I love. It is not a light read, mostly because of the subject matter.
Not only does Susannah Cahalan share with us the little she remembers from the period when she mostly lost her mind, and all that -she latter pieced together- happened to her… but she also shared the opinions of her parents, her boyfriend and -most touching- the opinions of others who reached out to her afterwords to share their stories too.
This was not only a moving story, but so damn interesting.
It is somewhat scary to think that so much of who we are depends on the contents and working of the least understood part of our bodies. All those things that can, and sometimes do, go wrong. A virus, a bacteria, a bad hit… or, as this writer experience, even known causes, can blurred or erase who we are. It is disturbing and fascinating at the same time.
I honestly think this is a superbly told story, full of clearly explained medical facts as well and touching emotional perspectives, without feeling sad nor confusing. It even throws in a few somewhat uplifting moments.
One of the things I liked the most was her explanation about how the human immune system works. these might not have been her words, but I was left with the idea that it resembles our emergency services. It has an immediate response team, like paramedics or police officers, that have standardized protocols to be follow for basically everything. And when that doesn’t work, there are the specialists… like SWAT teams or even Army Special Forces, who come to do the job on a more aggressive and specific way. But then, they are so good that when they turn on you, you are powerless. We usually calle that a Coup d’etat.
When that happens in your brain, when it is being attacked by those who were supposed to protect him… we, as I learn with this book, call that Autoimmune Encephalitis.
Overall, this was a fantastic book, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who cares to listen.
Another one of the things that this book mainly brought to my mind, that I feel is worth sharing, is the importance of Susannah Cahalan‘s parents. It made me thing of how dependent we are on others when we are at our most vulnerable, and how much can one person change the outcomes of your life. If Susannah‘s parents hadn’t insisted and stubbornly followed up on everything that was being done to their daughter, the end of her story might have been completely different. It is a testimony of how much we need these sort of warriors on our corner when thing take a turn for the worst.
I have never experience anything remotely like what this woman goes through, but I would like to think that my parents would go to the mat for me the same way. And I can only hope that, when they are no longer around, I will have someone else to do the same.
If you’re interested on knowing more about this reporter- after all, this is a real life story, and everything on it can be accounted for-, she has her own webpage. Feel free to visit it and learn more about it all.