BOOK REVIEW| BRAIN ON FIRE

I first saw a review of this book on Daniella’s blog and made a mental note afterwards to read it. I also saw it in the thrift store where I got these. It’s basically been calling my name and I can’t believe it took this long to finally read it. But I have. It’s the amazing story of Susannah Cahalan, a young woman in her twenties who progresses rapidly from hallucinating to full blown psychosis in less than a month. The doctors had no idea what was wrong with her. Her life became an extended episode of House, MD.

It is so beautifully narrated, regardless of the fact that Susannah herself does not completely remember everything that happened. She has patient notes and videos from her time in the wards and it’s all really just heartbreaking and terrifying. It was so difficult for her family and boyfriend of four months at the time. Susannah Cahalan is a journalist for the New York Post and her writing really is engrossing.

When I look at photographs of me ‘post-‘ versus pictures of me ‘pre-‘ there is something altered, something lost – or gained, I can’t tell – when I look into my eyes.
Often people report feeling déjà vu and its opposite, something called jamais vu, when everything seems unfamiliar, such as my feeling of alienation in the office bathroom; seeing halos of light or viewing the world as if it is bizarrely out of proportion (known as the Alice in Wonderland effect), which is what was happening while I was on my way to interview John Walsh; and experiencing photophobia, an extreme sensitivity to light, like my visions in Times Square.

We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it.

No matter how damaged I had been, he had loved me enough to still see me somewhere inside.

Friedrich Nietzsche said: “The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things do not come to our mind when we want them to.”

Sometimes, just when we need them, life wraps metaphors up in little bows for us. When you think all is lost, the things you need the most return unexpectedly.

I had enough distance from my own madness to view it as a hypothetical. But watching myself on screen, up close and personal, obliterated that journalistic distance. The girl in the video is a reminder about how fragile our hold on sanity and health is and how much we are at the utter whim of our Brutus bodies, which will inevitably, one day, turn on us for good. I am a prisoner, as we all are. And with that realization comes an aching sense of vulnerability.

The mind is like a circuit of Christmas tree lights. When the brain works well, all of the lights twinkle brilliantly, and it’s adaptable enough that, often, even if one bulb goes out, the rest will still shine on. But depending on where the damage is, sometimes that one blown bulb can make the whole strand go dark.

This book is a must read. Do it. Definitely 5/5 stars.

Afoma x