Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah CahalanBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

bySusannah Cahalan

Paperback | August 6, 2013

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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.
Title:Brain on Fire: My Month of MadnessFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:288 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 0.9 inShipping dimensions:8.38 × 5.5 × 0.9 inPublished:August 6, 2013Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1451621388

ISBN - 13:9781451621389


Rated 5 out of 5 by from RIVETING A riveting memoir detailing the author`s own harrowing trials dealing with her `month of madness`and the misdiagnosis of schizophrenia. Kudos to her strong willed parents and their never failing belief and genuine lack of acceptance of this outcome, this drove doctors to seek out other answers and discover the true ailment that was afflicting Susannah. This novel had me on the edge of my seat awaiting the truth about Susannah and what would become of her. It was interesting to also see some of the medical charts and images that related to the events that were being written. This is top of the list for memoirs I have read to date.
Date published: 2019-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Favourite! Brain on Fire is one of my favourite books. I picked it up on a whim one day and read it in a heartbeat. I can't image going through what Susannah Cahalan went through but she did a phenomenal job describing it.
Date published: 2019-02-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better than the motion picture This book is a perfect example of the age old saying that 'the books are better than the movies'. I watched the Netflix movie first, & was intrigued, so I bought the book. Needless to say, the book is way better. Not a huge fan of the cover art with Chloe on the cover, but a good read regardless.
Date published: 2018-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Memoir, Raw and Emotional Susannah's memoir is very well done. Very insightful on brain disorders and how hard it can be to diagnosis. The story is tragic and touching and educational. Definitely a good read!
Date published: 2018-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! amazing memoir I thought I knew everything that was going to happen but man was I wrong. This was very well done.
Date published: 2018-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Book club fave! Incredibly captivating! The author made us feel as though we were in the story, experiencing the diagnostic journey with the character. Great read for anyone, especially if your loved ones are going through a difficult time.
Date published: 2018-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Book club fave Incredibly captivating! The author made us feel as though we were in the story, experiencing the diagnostic journey with the character. Great read for anyone, especially if your loved ones are going through a difficult time.
Date published: 2018-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful, Moving, Real and Emotional Susannah captures with incredible – and harsh – realism the vulnerable nature of a brain disorder, talking about her lost memories and her symptoms of violence and delusions pre-diagnosis that left doctors offering opinions ranging from everything including too much “partying” to schizophrenia. Cahalan writes openly and honestly about her experiences, including her emotional recovery and the doctor who finally gave her a diagnosis thanks to a clock drawing. From waking in the hospital with a month of time lost to the final treatments and research of the disorder, Susannah’s recounts of her first hand perspective along with those of family and friends are touching, tragic and worth the read if only for the hope that her success story provide.
Date published: 2018-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mental Heath is Important (( full review and more at )) Those who have seen the Hannibal tv show may believe that they have a basic understanding of encephalitis – as I did myself. But the reality is far more terrifying than black outs and spatial neglect. I learned a lot from this book and am truly pleased to have read it. As a narrative, it is compelling and suspenseful even with the lack of a “countdown” shall we say as is with cancer or other fatal illnesses. As a book about the connection between physical and mental illnesses, it was as fascinating as it was tragic given that, more often than not, patients with encephalitis of any kind can go undiagnosed. Definitely worth the read.
Date published: 2018-08-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from So intriguing This book is so interesting and intriguing. I couldn't believe it was a real story at times when I was reading. The story is powerful and touching. The only negative was sometimes it would get heavy on the medical jargon and information which can be tough to follow at times.
Date published: 2018-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it was recommended this book by a teacher to do a project on, i loved it and finished it in a week. The movie was pretty great too. 100% recommend this if youre looking for something painfully amazing and just so pure and raw. Straight from the authors notes and experiences, helps understand a lot too on mental illnesses, very educating as well.
Date published: 2018-08-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent and Thoughtful Memoir Excellent memoir - and way better than the Netflix movie. Great insight into what was happening to S.C., despite her recognition that she is not a reliable narrator. As a medical student, very interesting to see the progression of the illness. Inspiring at times. Really enjoyed this - a complete page turner.
Date published: 2018-08-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Incredible You almost wouldn't believe this story if you hadn't already read this book. The medical profession always gives me pause when tackling a rare type of medical condition. Thank God there is a happy ending here and this young woman got the proper care she needed.
Date published: 2018-08-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Would have been better if it was written in third person It's hard to imagine experiencing the horrors of Autoimmune Encephalitis, and I'm so happy that the author recovered, but the book (as in the writing) isn't that great. It would've been better, I think, had it been written in third person. Autoimmune Encephalitis is often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. Ultimately, it was a Syrian neurologist, Dr. Souhel Najjar who correctly diagnosed her, and his treatment saved her life. I wish there'd be more focus on that part of the story.
Date published: 2018-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Page turner The story of what happens to Susannah Cahalan and the side effects of her illness are so unusual it almost feels like you are reading a science fiction novel. This book wraps you in and keeps you engaged. I always recommend this to my friends when they are looking for a new read.
Date published: 2018-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Remarkable Read! ***4.5 stars*** I saw the trailer Brain On Fire on Netflix and as soon as I found out it is based on the true story of Susannah Cahalan, I immediately have to read the book but in my case, I listened to an audiobook, excellently narrated by Heather Henderson. 24-year-old Susannah Cahalan, a journalist working for the NY Post is a lively and cheerful young lady whose life is turned upside down when she begins to feel lethargic and tired all the time, numbness in her hands, and later on has episodes of paranoia, hallucinations, and mood swings. She is later admitted to hospital but remains a medical mystery until Dr. Souhel Najjar did a simple clock-face test (a standard psychiatric tool ) on her which suggested that her brain was inflamed. She is later diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease, called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis - a brain inflammation caused by an unknown agent. Cahalan was only the 217th person in the world to have been diagnosed with it. During her one month stay in the hospital, she has no recollection of what has transpired. She had to rely on all the medical records, her parents' journals and diaries, interviews with doctors, family and friends to recreate the time she lost during her stay in the hospital. Using her skill as a journalist, she penned her memoir beautifully; chronicling her struggles from the beginning and to her triumphant recovery in the end. This is by far the best memoir I've read this year. Cahalan is truly talented in writing as this memoir is engaging and pellucid despite the medical jargons used. It did not read like the usual memoir, but like a novel instead. Beautiful prose with mellifluous storytelling! It is simply unputdownable. This memoir is also insightful as other medical and disease information and history are included as well. This well-written memoir is not only about the breakthrough made in this rare disease but also about love, faith and hope where sometimes these may be the only things we need to overcome the insurmountable. The sacrifices from her supportive family and her boyfriend, Stephen are truly inspiring. I enjoyed this memoir immensely and will be re-reading it in the future. I highly recommend this to everyone even if non-fiction/memoir is not your usual go to genre. It is a wonderful book! A must read!
Date published: 2018-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Unique Read The events of this true story are a perfect storm for a unique book. A journalist for the New York Times sets out as an investigative reporter to uncover the strangest story of her career: a month of her own life she cannot remember. In a time where we are only beginning to break down the fallacious barrier between "mental health" and "physical health", Brain on Fire will take you through an amazing journey of how one woman lost her mind, and then got it back again. Suffering a condition that would likely have had her institutionalized for the rest of her life at any point in the 20th century, she is instead cured.
Date published: 2018-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intense and highly recommended! I heard a lot of buzz about this book and had to read it. This is one of the best books I've ever read because it's real and can happen to anyone at any moment. I know someone that actually is going through this. Unfortunately she has been in a coma since last year. They found the teratoma after she slipped into the coma. Just waiting for her to come back and hoping for the best. You can read her story on the Go Fund Me website under teammalloryb. The campaign is over since the goal was reached sometime last year.
Date published: 2018-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read Post journalist Susannah Cahalan developed an infection in her brain that drastically altered her personality so much so that her family and friends didn't recognize the person she had become. She had auditory hallucinations, paranoia and believed she was so powerful that she could make people do anything she wanted them to just by using her mind. Besides dealing with all the dramatics, psychosis and mania she also suffered many seizures. Thankfully her family and a few good doctors didn't give up on her, and fought until they discovered what was truly wrong and not just assuming it was a mental illness and leaving it at that. This is a really good book that goes into detail, and how the illness was discovered. I hope those in the medical profession will read this book. A lot of people have been wrongly diagnosed with mental illness when it's actually a possible infection in the brain, that if treated in time can save the patients life. I think it's important for books like this to be written.
Date published: 2018-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Read A very telling and real insight into how debilitating such an event can really be. Loved reading about neurological disorders from this perspective.
Date published: 2018-06-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Easy, interesting read Incredible read. Each chapter summarizes a day ... or a specific event... which keeps the book concise. A style of writing I really love. Finished this in < 2 weeks.
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Page-turner This book is impossible to put down. Captures your attention right from the beginning. The topic is interesting and yet frightening all at the same time! #plumreview
Date published: 2018-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing This book was terrifying, yet I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2018-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing ! We all hear stories and think 'that could never happen to me'...oh but it could! Life can throw you a curve ball at any moment! Captivating read!
Date published: 2018-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AMAZING READ wow wow wow! loved this book. kept me on edge the entire time. I've recommended it to many people
Date published: 2018-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Mystery Diagnosis-Style Memoir This book was loaned to my by a friend after a long discussion about books and stories, and I was promised that I would enjoy it (or that's how I took it, anyway). And I definitely got what I was promised. When I read about someone going mad, this wasn't the path I expected it to take. I was thinking the typical madness story where the cause is unknown and it's more about the healing process. But it was absolutely fascinating to read Cahalan's story and the way that things develop and come up. I can't imagine what it must be like to go through something like that, let along go back over every detail to put it together into a book, which just goes to show the sort of strength Cahalan must possess. The Good Points of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: For a book that tackles some major medical issues and doesn't shy away from presenting it as is, this book is a super easy read. Cahalan finds a great balance between the medical terminology and presenting all the facts, but also keeping it enjoyable to read, which is something that you don't come across too often with this sort of autobiography. I love the way this book progresses. It doesn't dwell on things that don't affect the main story it's telling, but rather sticking super close to the point, which I love in books. You feel like you're getting the maximum information in the minimum amount of time, which is fantastic. In addition to being well written, Cahalan is clearly a great storyteller. This does read a bit like a news article, which you would expect with the author's background, but it's told very well. Cahalan does a great job of keeping you hooked and engaged and enjoying the story. The Downsides of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: Though the story is told well, it does feel like a news article, and I would have liked a bit more emotion through the story. Along with this, I also wanted more time with the characters, because I knew what they were doing but not really who they were, including the Susannah.  I wish there had been more personality presented through the book. Cahalan described herself a lot, but you don't get that in the reading. We get told a lot of things, but it's not shown to us. Which may be part of the style of the memoir, but I would have preferred to see more. All in all, I did enjoy this book and am in awe of the journey that Cahalan has had. It is a little dry and cold, but it's also an engaging and easy to read book. If you enjoy Mystery Diagnosis style mysteries, books that revolve around medical journeys, or news-style books, you should definitely check out Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness!
Date published: 2018-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well written I read this book shortly after getting help for my decade long bout of clinical depression. At that time I was seeking to understand more about mental illness and it was comforting to know that I was not the only one struggling. It’s an easy read about a heavy subject.
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this book! I read this book shortly before I read When Breath Becomes Air (which was my favourite book of 2017). This book really makes you appreciate having a healthy body. It also reminded me that there are many out there who do not have someone fighting for them non-stop in hospitals. This author taught me about diseases I had never heard of and the amazing limits are bodies can endure. I would definitely recommend this book (and have done so many times).
Date published: 2018-03-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thoroughly enjoyed I really liked this book. Felt like I was in Susannah's head, which I really enjoyed.
Date published: 2018-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent book! I zoomed through this book on a car ride that was 8 hours long. I had to finish it that night while I was in bed because I don't think I could have slept until I read the entire thing! Captivating and terrifying.
Date published: 2018-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I recommend this book every chance I get. I read it about a year ago and would really like to re-read it. Reads like novel but is very educational and heart breaking all at the same time.
Date published: 2018-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from brilliant within the writing you get an incredible glimpse into something rarely told
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from AMAZING I loved reading this book, it goes through a variety of emotions. The writer really allows you to connect and understand her and what she is going through.
Date published: 2018-01-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Just ok This book was interesting but I felt more like I was reading a medical text book.
Date published: 2018-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! A MUST read. I loved this book, especially knowing someone very close to me was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder around 7 years ago. It was very interesting to see how little is known about many autoimmune disorders and what they're caused by. I defiantly would recommend this book.
Date published: 2018-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I'm usually not a huge fan of memoirs, I like fictional tales that keep me guessing.. HOWEVER. This memoir was so captivating that I couldn't put it down (and finished it in less than two days..) I highly recommend this memoir to anybody who has an interest in psychology, but who also enjoys an interesting tale that keeps you guessing.
Date published: 2017-12-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Just the perfect amount of medical lingo I had to read this in my neuro-psych class but I can assure you it is FAR from boring. A true story about Susannah who was a normal 20 something year old who starts to have weird symptoms and ends up waking up strapped to a hospital bed and can't move or speak and is considered a flight risk. The book tells the whole story about the symptoms and diagnosis and everything in between. It is kind of medical, in terms of content, but still such an amazing book
Date published: 2017-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from YES! read this whole book in under two days. it is fascinating, illuminating and captivating. if you like non-fiction with a good dose of psychology, this book is for you.
Date published: 2017-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fantastic read I did not know what to expect when I bought this book. It was a recommendation on a Popular reads table. I loved this book. It was so emotional and such an eye opener.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down! Bought this book on a whim and definitely didn't regret it! Gripping story, relatable characters, and a really nicely flowing writting style. If you're into autobiographies and/or psychology, I'd say this memoir is an absolute must.
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Memoir I've Read in a While! Couldn't put this one down!
Date published: 2017-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I LOVED THIS ONE! I love this book! Best memoir I've read in a long time. The main character was super likeable and you really felt what she was going through. Everything I though was happeneing took a major twist in the end and I think that everyone needs to read this book at least once in their life time.
Date published: 2017-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must read If you love psychology and thrillers, read immediately.
Date published: 2017-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I could not put this down Read this for my bookclub, and it was a winner. Terrifying yet inspiring piece and very well-written.
Date published: 2017-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love this book. I bought this book on a limb and I began to love it. It is easy to read with short chapters.
Date published: 2017-10-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Page turner! I bought this book on a whim and turned out to be great her story was gripping and kept me engaged. Would recommend!
Date published: 2017-10-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from would recommend Very interesting and sad read. It is so scary to think that a healthy person could lose it so fast. So glad that she shared her story with the world.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A forsure re-read I recommend this book to anyone that likes lifestyle, romance, thriller, and an educational read. For sure you are taking away a lot from this book. On the top of my bookshelf.
Date published: 2017-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal! An extraordinary read, I absolutely devoured it!
Date published: 2017-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this! Such an interesting perspective coming from the patient's experience. Undoubtedly the best non-fiction book I have read so far this year.
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Such an important story to tell, couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good I read this book in 2 days and found it profoundly moving and inspiring. It was an eye opener and great source of information on the types of illnesses that can affect the brain and how many are misdiagnosed.
Date published: 2017-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AMAZING!! WOW! this book is amazing! Loved reading this, I couldn't finish it fast enough! It's one I continue to recommend to others years after reading it.
Date published: 2017-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing book. Wow. Very strong woman to come out on the right side of this illness.
Date published: 2017-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! An amazing read. I finished this book in two nights because I couldn't put the book down. The curiosity of the mysterious illness kept me turning the pages.
Date published: 2017-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! This book was thoroughly enjoyable. It kept you reading, wanting to answer all of your unanswered questions. Although a medical mystery, the medical aspect was very easy to follow along for a person that is unfamiliar with medical jargon. I would highly recommend.
Date published: 2017-08-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read! This book was very interesting and offered a few pieces of information on a mysterious illness.
Date published: 2017-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Book I've Ever Read! I could not put this book down! It is by far the best book I've ever read, such a great story and so interesting to follow her medical journey! It's not common to finish a book you're invested in where you actually get to find out what happens next because it's based on a true story. I recommend this book to everyone and have heard nothing but praise in response! #plumreview
Date published: 2017-07-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting medical mystery. Enjoyed the personal account of her illness and how she reveals it in such a way that it remains a mystery to the reader. Such an amazing story of bravery, with just the right amount of scientific jargon. Once, the diagnosis is made, I found that I was not as interested in the story.
Date published: 2017-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good! Amazing book. My bookclub and I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2017-07-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Amazing start, mediocre finish When I first started this book I really was liking it. I found the whole concept of a "mystery illness" both fascinating and terrifying. Especially with all of the behaviours Susannah was exhibiting. I continued to enjoy this memoir until around halfway to three quarters through. It had been fast paced, intriguing, and anticipatory up until that point. However once a diagnosis was discovered, I felt it was anticlimactic. Even with a definitive diagnosis, I still felt that it wasn't explaining much and that there was still so much more to discover. It was a turning point of Susannah's story yet the rest of the book had been a different experience reading. For the duration of the book after her diagnosis, I felt bored and truly felt like I should be skimming through it. Definitely an interesting and terrifying illness to read about. In that aspect, I could see how it could be an interesting read but for readers, expect the last half or quarter of the book to drag.
Date published: 2017-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Book You Can't Put Down or Forget I picked this up on a whim for a summer read at a cottage - and I could not put it down until I finished it. I really enjoyed the writing style, the scientific elements that were just enough so you could understand and the very unique perspective that the author brought in telling her story. It is an incredibly powerful story that is one that can't be forgotten. I am not usually one to re-read books, but I know this will be one I pick up again to read. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. If you are a non-fiction lover, fiction lover, wanting to try out a new style of book or love biographies or simply unique stories - this is a book for you; really a book for everyone looking to be captivated. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating! I loved this book. The story telling was great and the scientific aspects were very clearly and understandably explained. I finished it in three days!
Date published: 2017-06-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great memoir An eye-opening and honest memoir about an otherwise healthy woman plagued by a rare autoimmune disease that attacks her brain. Susannah writes with so much detail that I felt for her along her journey through insanity. It was interesting to learn about NMDA Autoimmune Encephalitis and it is inspiring to hear that so many others have been helped through her mystery diagnosis.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read!! I read this book a couple of years ago and misplaced it. Purchased it a second time to re-read it... Unbelievable what she went through and that she was able to write about it. That takes courage. Very informative. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2017-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read! Usually not my genre of a book but the cover captured my attention in the bookstore. I am so glad I picked it up and I could not believe this actually happened to someone. Wanted to finish this story to see what ended up happening but also didn't want to put it away. Would recommend even for those who normally wouldn't.
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent book! This book was well written, informative and compelling. I really enjoyed the author's voice. It was brave of her to let us all into her life!
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must read I loved this book, it's well-written and it's a compelling story. I would highly recommend it.
Date published: 2017-05-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyed it I enjoyed this book it is amazing what this young lady went through. I found it a bit long but very well written. I love that it was all documented. It is definitely a eye opener that anything can happen at any time and the road to recovery may be a long one especially when you don't know how to get there. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stop, And Read This Book. Brain on Fire is a must read. Such powerful writing, and a compelling story. I highly recommend this book
Date published: 2017-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Inspiring From the moment I picked up this book I simply could not put it down. It was written in a way that made you feel as if you were going through this devastating time with her, a truly inspirational read. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling Read! Such a well written book. The author/patient (who is also a journalist) is a remarkable person, and her story would send shivers down anyones spine. I've reread this book more times than I can count.
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book I could not put the book down. The way she tells her story makes you feel like you are a part of her life.
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a story! An excellent addition to any library.
Date published: 2017-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Irresistible, could not put down! This book was on my reading list for a psychology course and I found it to be absolutely memorizing. Cahalan's writing was so captivating and engaging. Thrilling tale about her real life struggle.
Date published: 2017-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A page turner I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I enjoyed this book I was very intrigued by this book and it ended up being very different then I thought it would be. I really enjoyed it and found it very interesting until the last few chapters I found a bit slow.
Date published: 2017-03-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Interesting book to read, but can be slow and dull at times.
Date published: 2017-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a good book I really enjoyed reading the book
Date published: 2017-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating This book actually helped my recognize Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in a patient at work! Fascinating read!
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pretty good read Interesting narrative of one woman's experience. It was particularly poignant to read about how she navigated the health care system. The story was a bit slow in places but overall a good read
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing This woman story is one of triumph and strength. Finished this book in less than a week I couldn't put it down. Absolutely incredible.
Date published: 2017-02-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating A really good and interesting read.
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wo this is such a great book!
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Would recomend Love reading the memoirs of people with such interesting and bizarre hardships. In the beginning when she first describes losing her mind it reminded me of a zombie movie a bit. The story peaked when she discovered what her illness was and dragged a bit after but was still a good read and I would recommend it
Date published: 2017-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS BOOK I know this book from my Neuro prof, I was a little bit hesitant about this book at first since I don't know what to expect but, if you're looking for Neuroscience related book and don't wanna read heavy stuff, this book is definitely a must read!
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from loved reading this i would def'n recommend this book, interesting as ever.
Date published: 2017-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intense! Couldn't put this down, terrifying how our mind can turn on us.
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read I couldn't put this book down.
Date published: 2017-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED this book! Such a compelling and deep story. Although dealt with a complicated medical issue the read was easy and quick. I would read this book again !!
Date published: 2017-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing. This is one of the best books I've ever read,
Date published: 2017-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic book I loved how this is told from the point of view of the girl who lived it. It's interesting to hear how she didn't realize something was wrong, when her behavior was so strange.
Date published: 2017-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible story Such a compelling and interesting story. What your brain can do to you is astounding. It delves into complicated medical explanations while remaining simple to understand. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could not put it down I have to say, it had been a long while since I had read a book that I was unable to put down. With work and school, most times, I don't feel the need to read a book or I would much rather relax - but this book was consuming my life. I would want to sneak a read every moment I got. Truly a very great read. Brings forth awareness to a mental illness most people didn't even know existed! Kudos for sharing this story.
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping It's quite courageous to write a story about your own mental illness journey. I really enjoyed reading this book. I think the author did a great job explaining her story through her eyes.
Date published: 2017-01-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not What I expected The author went into detail a great bit, but I would have liked a little more personal reflections from her family and friends. Adding their side of how Susannah was while she was in hospital. Other than that, good read.
Date published: 2017-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! Great read, could not put it down.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Well written! As someone who works in the field of mental health, this book provides a great detailed account of how someone's world can be changed so quickly. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-12-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hopeful This book was written with lots of help and thoughtfulness in a desperate circumstance.
Date published: 2016-12-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good quick read Well written biography about a disease that is devastating if not treated quickly
Date published: 2016-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from brain on fire Finished this book in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. An incredible example of how an illness is often not what it seems and proof that we should always dig a little deeper.
Date published: 2016-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Incredible! I bought this book only a few days ago at the recommendation of a friend on Facebook. In all honesty, I didn't know what to expect. After the first chapter, I was so entranced by Susannah's journey through her mental nightmare that I managed to finish it in its entirety within 48 hours even despite working a busy schedule. I cannot recommend this enough!
Date published: 2016-12-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful without being overbearing From the very first sentence of the book, I knew I was hooked. The idea of losing yourself has always fascinated me, as awful at that sounds. Still Alice and Flowers for Algernon are two of the most beautiful books I have ever read. This book falls right into the same ballpark as these ones. The way Cahalan tells her story and sucks you in is really hard to describe. Liking to think of myself as a writer, I admire those who are able to tell their stories and make them their own yet find a way to connect them with the reader. And this author does just that. I also admire Cahalan’s courage to return to this difficult time of her life and turn it into a fruit of her passion, journalism. This takes courage. I was blown away by her dedication to the book. The amount of research that went into it is pretty incredible. Interviewing your relatives, hunting down people you’ve only met once or twice, attempting to understand things only a brain surgeon could understand and succeeding enough to write about it is difficult. From a past amateur journalist and self-proclaimed writer that someday wants to write a book but throws away those ideas because she doesn’t think anyone will read it and doesn’t think she’s “good enough” to compete with the likes of writers like Cahalan, I understand. I could not imagine anything of this caliber happening to me, but I can certainly understand how frustrating and heartbreaking it would be to have your world falling beneath you as you are helpless to stop it. But maybe that’s just me, as I have mentioned, these types of stories fascinate me. There were multiple times where I had to put this book down, for two separate reasons. One was, I will admit, because my head hurt from reading highly scientific and medical parts. Thinking about how your brain functions CAN actually make your brain hurt from trying to understand it all. So that is one downside of the book. It’s scientific and can be confusing. BUT Cahalan does have a unique talent to write about things that the average person wouldn’t understand without doing some research and she writes it in a way that you can understand her. I am also blown away by writers that can write about things that they otherwise wouldn’t know anything about. That is the art of storytelling. I also had to put this book down simply because it made me too emotional. This woman had dreams and goals and ambition, and beyond that, undeniable talent. And the idea of losing all of that to a situation that you can’t control or at times aren’t even aware is happening is terrifying. But when I have to put a book down because of “too many feels,” that means it’s a good book. If any part of this review interests you, take a chance on this one.
Date published: 2016-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brain on Fire A wonderful biography about a woman going through a medical mystery.
Date published: 2016-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great read! I love memoirs and have a personal interest in psychology as well but this book was actually a random purchase and I didn't have high expectations but it is well written, captivating and insightful. It's educational and thrilling, I couldn't put it down. You will share her journey through the book and learn a lot along the way too. You may find the ending a little slow or boring if you're not interested in the more scientific/biological explanations but I thought it was very interesting!
Date published: 2016-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A brave memoir It takes a lot to write a memoir about when you lost yourself to illness. Ms. Cahalan does an excellent job capturing her audience and bringing us on her journey. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in a medical mystery.
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Totally enthralling This book hooked me in and I couldn't put it down. Beautifully written and very educational. I Highly recommend this read!
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Something lacked... From the first time I saw this book and read a quick exerpt, I knew it was something I needed to read. I don't read a lot of memoirs or biographies and because of this, I didn't want to spend the $20+ for the book. I kept waiting and looking for it at garage sales or thrift stores and one lucky day I found it! It was time for me to finally sink into Brain on Fire - My Month of Madness. To be honest, I was a little disappointed after I read it. It's a memoir as I mentioned, so it's hard to say it was a bad book, because it wasn't but it just wasn't as exciting as I had expected it to be. Let's clear this up a little. When I read the little chapter, I was intrigued because Susannah had no idea who she was or where she was. But there's a lot more behind this than I had thought. Without giving away too much of the book, she had her family and her boyfriend there with her at all times helping her along the way. In my mind, I pictured this poor woman waking up alone, all by herself with no one. I think that's what I wanted. More mystery with who she was overall and I wanted to come along on a journey with her as she finds herself. We do get the mystery while figuring out what caused Susannah to have a "month of madness" and it's an interesting read, and we definitely follow along as she finds herself and rediscovers her life before this all happens. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book This was an amazing book! As a psychologist I was very excited to see how her condition unfold as the various doctors on her team tried to crack the case. Worth the read. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Brave, Honest Memoir Explore's one individual's experience with mental illness and the system. Was slow and hard to follow at some points.
Date published: 2016-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read This was an amazing book about a fascinating story that I would definitely recommend to anyone. My only dislike of this novel was that towards the end it became a little boring with too much emphasis on the cellular biology and underlying science of her disease.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from pretty good i started off not being able to put this book down but near the ending it got a little boring.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting, but something lacked for me I really enjoyed reading the overall story, but I wasn't a fan of the writers voice and the angle that she was telling the story in. I found like she could have used her voice to shed light on the stigma surrounding mental illness in addition to her disease as well as other people who suffer from it. I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have if it was written differently.
Date published: 2016-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVE! This book instantly got me hooked. I could not put it down. It is raw, terrifying but hopeful. Very insightful. Gives you perspective on mental health.
Date published: 2016-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome I read this book all in one sitting it was so good. Unlike anything I've ever read before. Not too many science/health terms it was easy to follow.
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Book! I really enjoyed reading this book and it was really hard to put down! I couldn't believe that it was true and I can't believe she went through all of it!
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! At times seems too crazy to be true. So good! Not the best book for a hypochondriac like me. Because her illness is not revealed off bat, it's a mystery to the reader as well and we experience the confusion and frustration along with her. You will learn a lot of new medical terms and develop a new appreciation for those with mental illness.
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good book this was an interesting book. i found i learnt a few things while i was reading it as well.
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great book what a great book! was very interesting and i found i learnt a ton from the book as well
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved This was a well-written page-turner. A glimpse into madness...
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favorite Book I was on a road trip through the U.S. when I first saw this book at Target. I read the back and fell in love with in right away. I love psychology and reading about health issues, and memoirs are right up my alley, so I knew this was a must read for me. The author is incredibly detailed in her writing, and gives as much information as possible. I read this book in a day because it kept me on my toes and I just HAD to know what was going on. I don't want to give too much away, but the diagnosis is very interesting as well. My new favorite book.
Date published: 2016-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favourite Book! I read this book over a year ago, and can't stop thinking about it. I recommend it to just about anyone and everyone. What a fantastic read!
Date published: 2016-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it! When your brain is against you and you cannot do anything... True story, described perfeclty by someone who lived the unthinkable.
Date published: 2016-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book! Susannah Cahalan does an amazing job integrating the medical and emotional aspects of her journey and provides a very personal perspective that I was able to connect to on a human level. A very intriguing story about how life can change in an instant; first book I've read in a while that I wasn't able to put down!
Date published: 2016-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book! I read this book a few years ago in higschool for a book report. I would definitely recommend this to anyone more so older teens though like the age of 15 and up.
Date published: 2016-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from fantastic! what a great book!
Date published: 2015-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Loved every second of this book. It was exhilarating and informative at the same time. Kept me interested until I fell asleep at night.
Date published: 2015-07-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enlightening! Excellent read!
Date published: 2015-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book!! I bought the book a couple months ago and really enjoyed reading it.
Date published: 2015-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brain on Fire. My Month of Madness. Fantastic book. Loved it. Takes you on a fascinating ride through not only this illness but through our health care system. The testing and diagnostic techniques alone will keep you reading. The best part is it's all true and written by the person who experienced it.
Date published: 2015-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This book has saved lives! The author takes you on her journey where most of us fear to go, in a way that keeps you turning the page even when you struggle to relate to her reality as she goes deeper into her illness. At times when the human struggle makes you uncomfortable, you might think, well this would never happen to me so why would I go on reading. But the author compels you to read on and find out why it is so important for all of us to learn about this illness.
Date published: 2015-01-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A good, quick read Susannah Cahalan, a young reporter for the New York Post, goes mad because of a rare virus. She tells her gripping and scary tale after regaining her equilibrium. I didn’t like that this memoir attempts to be too neatly packaged, with a looking-back-on-that-time-in-my-life structure. Cahalan is crazy for much longer than a month, and much of her story she had to piece together from others. She only makes mention of that about three quarters of the way through the memoir. I think it would have been better to explain the difficulty of recounting (and credibility) much sooner. Still, her story is captivating.
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Weirdly Self-Indulgent For quite a bit of the book, I genuinely thought the author was faking her illness. When she mentions the Southern expression--the 'blue devils', I think it was--which captures the notion of a young woman falling into self-perpetuating tantrums a la "The Crucible", I thought at first she'd given the game away. However, the presence of Dr. Nahjar and the critical response both to his diagnosis and to her NY Post article convinced me differently. Still, her refusal to follow through with group sessions and her fixation on how she looked after it all and how others looked at her (including the odd recounting of the lawn man ogling her) feels weirdly self-indulgent and, without much effort, I could be brought back to the idea that a lot of her condition was acted out, escaping, as she was, job failure and a hoarder lifestyle at the time it all began.
Date published: 2014-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Emotional Rollercoaster I read this book for a book club I belong to. What a story. A true story of a woman's fight (the author) with a little known diesease called anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis. Look it up for a full explanation of what it is. We went through her syptoms as they developed. We went through fears and worries as she stayed in hospital. We went through her recovery and return to society. The author did a great job with controlling our emotions. The story took me down with her descent into madness as the disease took control of her life. Then she lifted us up with her miraculous diagnosis and recovery. I liked how the author did not feel sorry for herself. She did wonder about why it happened to her and why she was so lucky to survive it. The author did a good job of revealing her character in the book. This was critical to the story as the disease altered her character while it was developing. It could have altered her forever. The book was easy to read and kept me engrossed. The chapters were short so I could read little bits of it here and there. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.
Date published: 2014-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brain on fire Incredible information . We have so far to go in the medical field especially with mental health and the brain. So complex. So many who are uncomfortable around it and the unknown.
Date published: 2014-04-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting This book was a terrifying account of something that could happen to anyone. I never thought about how similar neurological and physchological issues can be and how easily they can be misdiagnosed. Susannah Cahalan was amazingly able to piece together most of a puzzle that others would have probably considered a month that they would have never gotten back. I felt as though every step and discovery she was making, I was right there in her mind making them with her. Worth the read!
Date published: 2014-03-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Brain on Fire Very interesting and well-written. Quick read.
Date published: 2014-03-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Brain on Fire Very interesting read. At times goes a bit too much in depth about the science of it all.. Would definitely recommend
Date published: 2014-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brain on Fire Captivating, shocking! Truly touched by this book. Sucked me right in from the moment I started reading and as soon as I finished the book I went and followed her interviews on Youtube about her condition and what she's been up to since the book was released... amazing story, a must read!
Date published: 2014-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Read This book was an interesting and informative read. It kept me engaged reading of the authors journey and the medical and scientific aspects were clearly presented.
Date published: 2014-01-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Read The beginning is interesting but it bogs down in the middle. It is written like an overly long news story. I lost interest toward the end.
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really good Harsd to beleive this wqas a true story, good book
Date published: 2014-01-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Month of madness It was alright
Date published: 2013-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative Loved this book, the author did a lot of research on her disease. The book was very well written
Date published: 2013-12-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative The story line so far makes me think of the TV show" House'.
Date published: 2013-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brain on Fire Excellent and unnerving for me. This book got deep into my soul and I know it will be with me in my thoughts for a long, long time. An incredible story.
Date published: 2013-08-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Bored ...Brain My curiosity kept me reading this book but I never truly got into the story, in the end it was just ok.
Date published: 2013-06-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting read Really enjoyed this story. Amazing!
Date published: 2013-06-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enlightening Had no idea this could happen, and does give possible answers to seemingly inexplicable behaviours that plague some people.
Date published: 2013-04-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Could've been better Not bad but not the greatest. Beginning was a little slow
Date published: 2013-03-04

Read from the Book

Brain on Fire CHAPTER 1 BEDBUG BLUES Maybe it all began with a bug bite, from a bedbug that didn’t exist. One morning, I’d woken up to find two red dots on the main purplish-blue vein running down my left arm. It was early 2009, and New York City was awash in bedbug scares: they infested offices, clothing stores, movie theaters, and park benches. Though I wasn’t naturally a worrier, my dreams had been occupied for two nights straight by finger-long bedbugs. It was a reasonable concern, though after carefully scouring the apartment, I couldn’t find a single bug or any evidence of their presence. Except those two bites. I even called in an exterminator to check out my apartment, an overworked Hispanic man who combed the whole place, lifting up my sofa bed and shining a flashlight into places I had never before thought to clean. He proclaimed my studio bug free. That seemed unlikely, so I asked for a follow-up appointment for him to spray. To his credit, he urged me to wait before shelling out an astronomical sum to do battle against what he seemed to think was an imaginary infestation. But I pressed him to do it, convinced that my apartment, my bed, my body had been overrun by bugs. He agreed to return and exterminate. Concerned as I was, I tried to conceal my growing unease from my coworkers. Understandably, no one wanted to be associated with a person with a bedbug problem. So at work the following day, I walked as nonchalantly as possible through the newsroom of the New York Post to my cubicle. I was careful to conceal my bites and tried to appear casual, normal. Not that “normal” means a lot at the Post. Though it’s notoriously obsessed with what’s new, the Post is nearly as old as the nation itself. Established by Alexander Hamilton in 1801, it is the longest continually run newspaper in the country. In its first century alone, the paper crusaded for the abolition movement and helped promote the creation of Central Park. Today the newsroom itself is cavernous yet airless, filled with rows of open cubicles and a glut of filing cabinets packed with decades of unused, forgotten documents. The walls are freckled with clocks that don’t run, dead flowers hung upside down to dry, a picture of a monkey riding a border collie, and a big foam Six Flags finger, all memorabilia from reporters’ assignments. The PCs are ancient, the copy machines the size of small ponies. A small utility closet that once served as a smoking room now holds supplies, and is marked by a weathered sign warning that the smoking room no longer exists, as if someone might accidentally wander in for a cigarette among the monitors and video equipment. This has been my eccentric little world for the past seven years, since I started here as a seventeen-year-old intern. Especially around deadline, the room buzzes with activity—keyboards clacking, editors yelling, reporters cackling—the perfect stereotype of a tabloid newsroom. “Where’s the fucking picture to go with this caption?” “How is it that he didn’t know she was a prostitute?” “What color were the socks of the guy who jumped off the bridge?” It’s like a bar without alcohol, filled with adrenaline-soaked news junkies. The cast of characters here is unique to the Post: the brightest headline writers in the business, the hardened newshounds hunting after exclusives, and type-A workaholics who possess the chameleon ability to either befriend or antagonize almost anyone. Still, on most days, the newsroom is subdued, as everyone silently combs through court documents, interviews sources, or reads newspapers. Often, like today, the newsroom is as quiet as a morgue. Heading toward my desk to start the day, I wove through the rows of cubicles marked by green Manhattan street signs: Liberty Street, Nassau Street, Pine Street, and William Street, throwbacks to a time when the Post was actually flanked by those downtown streets in its previous home at the South Street Seaport. My desk is at Pine Street. Amid the silence, I slid into my seat beside Angela, my closest friend at the paper, and gave her a tense smile. Trying not to let my question echo too loudly across the noiseless room, I asked, “You know anything about bedbug bites?” I often joked that if I ever had a daughter, I’d want her to be like Angela. In many ways, she is my newsroom hero. When I first met her, three years before, she was a soft-spoken, shy young woman from Queens, only a few years older than me. She had arrived at the Post from a small weekly paper and since then had matured under the pressure of a big-city tabloid into one of the Post’s most talented reporters, churning out reams of our best stories. Most late Friday nights, you’d find Angela writing four stories on split screens simultaneously. I couldn’t help but look up to her. Now I really needed her advice. Hearing that dreaded word, bedbugs, Angela scooted her chair away from mine. “Don’t tell me you have them,” she said with an impish smile. I started to show her my arm, but before I could get into my tale of woe, my phone rang. “You ready?” It was the new Sunday editor, Steve. He was just barely in his midthirties, yet he had already been named head editor of the Sunday paper, the section I worked for, and despite his friendliness, he intimidated me. Every Tuesday, each reporter had a pitch meeting to showcase some of his or her ideas for that Sunday’s paper. At the sound of his voice, I realized with panic that I was completely unprepared for this week’s meeting. Usually I had at least three coherent ideas to pitch; they weren’t always great, but I always had something. Now I had nothing, not even enough to bluff my way through the next five minutes. How had I let that happen? This meeting was impossible to forget, a weekly ritual that we all fastidiously prepared for, even during days off. Bedbugs forgotten, I widened my eyes at Angela as I stood back up, gamely hoping it all would work out once I got to Steve’s office. Nervously, I walked back down “Pine Street” and into Steve’s office. I sat down next to Paul, the Sunday news editor and close friend who had mentored me since I was a sophomore in college, giving him a nod but avoiding direct eye contact. I readjusted my scratched-up wide-framed Annie Hall glasses, which a publicist friend once described as my own form of birth control because “no one will sleep with you with those on.” We sat there in silence for a moment, as I tried to let myself be comforted by Paul’s familiar, larger-than-life presence. With his shock of prematurely white hair and his propensity to toss the word fuck around like a preposition, he is the essence of a throwback newsman and a brilliant editor. He had given me a shot as a reporter during the summer of my sophomore year of college after a family friend introduced us. After a few years in which I worked as a runner, covering breaking news and feeding information to another reporter to write the piece, Paul offered me my first big assignment: an article on the debauchery at a New York University fraternity house. When I returned with a story and pictures of me playing beer pong, he was impressed with my chutzpah; even though the exposé never ran, he assigned me more stories until I had been hired on full time in 2008. Now, as I sat in Steve’s office wholly unprepared, I couldn’t help but feel like a work in progress, not worthy of Paul’s faith and respect. The silence deepened until I looked up. Steve and Paul were staring at me expectantly, so I just started talking, hoping something would come. “I saw this story on a blog . . . ,” I said, desperately plucking up wisps of half-formed ideas. “That’s really just not good enough,” Steve interrupted. “You need to be bringing in better stuff than this. Okay? Please don’t come in with nothing again.” Paul nodded, his face blazing red. For the first time since I’d started working on my high school newspaper, journalism disagreed with me. I left the meeting furious at myself and bewildered by my own ineptitude. “You okay?” Angela asked as I returned to my desk. “Yeah, you know, I’m just bad at my job. No big deal,” I joked grimly. She laughed, revealing a few charmingly crooked incisor teeth. “Oh, come on, Susannah. What happened? Don’t take it seriously. You’re a pro.” “Thanks, Ang,” I said, sipping my lukewarm coffee. “Things just aren’t going my way.” I brooded over the day’s disasters that evening as I walked west from the News Corp. building on Sixth Avenue, through the tourist clusterfuck that is Times Square, toward my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. As if purposely living the cliché of a New York writer, I rented a cramped one-room studio, where I slept on a pullout sofa. The apartment, eerily quiet, overlooked the courtyard of several tenements, and I often awoke not to police sirens and grumbling garbage trucks but to the sound of a neighbor playing the accordion on his balcony. Still obsessed with my bites, despite the exterminator’s assurance that I had nothing to worry about, I prepared for him to spray the place and spent that night discarding things that could be harboring bedbugs. Into the garbage went my beloved Post clips, hundreds of articles reminding me of how bizarre my job is: the victims and suspects, dangerous slums, prisons and hospitals, twelve-hour shifts spent shivering inside photographers’ cars waiting to photograph—or “pop”—celebrities. I had always loved every minute of it. So why was I suddenly so terrible at it? As I shoved these treasures into the trash bags, I paused on a few headlines, among them the biggest story of my career to date: the time I managed to land an exclusive jailhouse interview with child kidnapper Michael Devlin. The national media were hot on the story, and I was only a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, yet Devlin spoke to me twice. But the story didn’t end there. His lawyers went nuts after the article ran, launching a smear campaign against the Post and calling for a judicial gag order, while the local and national media began debating my methods on live TV and questioning the ethics of jailhouse interviews and tabloids in general. Paul fielded several tearful phone calls from me during that time, which bound us together, and in the end, both the paper and my editors stood by me. Though the experience had rattled me, it also whetted my appetite, and from then on, I became the resident “jailhouser.” Devlin was eventually sentenced to three consecutive lifetimes in prison. Then there was the butt implant story, “Rear and Present Danger,” a headline that still makes me laugh. I had to go undercover as a stripper looking for cheap butt enhancements from a woman who was illegally dispensing them out of a midtown hotel room. As I stood there with my pants around my ankles, I tried not to be insulted when she announced that she would need “a thousand dollars per cheek,” twice the amount she charged the woman who had come forward to the Post. Journalism was thrilling; I had always loved living a reality that was more fabulist than fiction, though little did I know that my life was about to become so bizarre as to be worthy of coverage in my own beloved tabloid. Even though the memory made me smile, I added this clip to the growing trash pile—“where it belongs,” I scoffed, despite the fact that those crazy stories had meant the world to me. Though it felt necessary at the moment, this callous throwing away of years’ worth of work was completely out of character for me. I was a nostalgic pack rat, who held on to poems that I had written in fourth grade and twenty-some-odd diaries that dated back to junior high. Though there didn’t seem to be much of a connection among my bedbug scare, my forgetfulness at work, and my sudden instinct to purge my files, what I didn’t know then is that bug obsession can be a sign of psychosis. It’s a little-known problem, since those suffering from parasitosis, or Ekbom syndrome, as it’s called, are most likely to consult exterminators or dermatologists for their imaginary infestations instead of mental health professionals, and as a result they frequently go undiagnosed. My problem, it turns out, was far vaster than an itchy forearm and a forgotten meeting. After hours of packing everything away to ensure a bedbug-free zone, I still didn’t feel any better. As I knelt by the black garbage bags, I was hit with a terrible ache in the pit of my stomach—that kind of free-floating dread that accompanies heartbreak or death. When I got to my feet, a sharp pain lanced my mind, like a white-hot flash of a migraine, though I had never suffered from one before. As I stumbled to the bathroom, my legs and body just wouldn’t react, and I felt as if I were slogging through quicksand. I must be getting the flu, I thought. This might not have been the flu, though, the same way there may have been no bedbugs. But there likely was a pathogen of some sort that had invaded my body, a little germ that set everything in motion. Maybe it came from that businessman who had sneezed on me in the subway a few days before, releasing millions of virus particles onto the rest of us in that subway car? Or maybe it was in something I ate or something that slipped inside me through a tiny wound on my skin, maybe through one of those mysterious bug bites? There my mind goes again. The doctors don’t actually know how it began for me. What’s clear is that if that man had sneezed on you, you’d most likely just get a cold. For me, it flipped my universe upside down and very nearly sent me to an asylum for life.

Editorial Reviews

“Compelling…a New York Post reporter recounts her medical nightmare.”