Brain on Fire

Brain on Fire : My Month of Madness

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An award-winning memoir and instant "New York Times" bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, "Brain on Fire" is the powerful account of one woman's struggle to recapture her identity. When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she'd gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened? In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family's inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen. "A fascinating look at the disease that . . . could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life" ("People"), "Brain on Fire" is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.

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  • Paperback | 266 pages
  • 139.7 x 210.82 x 20.32mm | 249.47g
  • New YorkUnited States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1451621388
  • 9781451621389
  • 25,436

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It's a cold March night in New York, and journalist Susannah Cahalan is watching PBS with her boyfriend, trying to relax after a difficult day at work. He falls asleep, and wakes up moments later to find her having a seizure straight out of "The Exorcist." "My arms suddenly whipped straight out in front of me, like a mummy, as my eyes rolled back and my body stiffened," Cahalan writes. "I inhaled repeatedly, with no exhale. Blood and foam began to spurt out of my mouth through clenched teeth." It's hard to imagine a scenario more nightmarish, but for Cahalan the worst was yet to come. In 2009, the "New York Post" reporter, then 24, was hospitalized after -- there's really no other way to put it -- losing her mind. In addition to the violent seizures, she was wracked by terrifying hallucinations, intense mood swings, insomnia and fierce paranoia. Cahalan spent a month in the hospital, barely recognizable to her friends and family, before doctors diagnosed her with a rare autoimmune disorder. "Her brain is on fire," one doctor tells her family. "Her brain is under attack by her own body." Cahalan, who has since recovered, remembers almost nothing about her monthlong hospitalization -- it's a merciful kind of amnesia that most people, faced with the same illness, would embrace. But the best reporters never stop asking questions, and Cahalan is no exception. In "Brain on Fire, "the journalist reconstructs -- through hospital security videotapes and interviews with her friends, family and the doctors who finally managed to save her life -- her hellish 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 woman's fight to survive one of the cruelest diseases imaginable. And on every level, it's remarkable. The best journalists prize distance and objectivity, so it's not surprising that the most difficult subject for a news writer is probably herself. And although she's you

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