Susannah Cahalan thought she having a nervous breakdown. That was the only way she could explain her sudden nervousness, memory problems, and failure to complete her assignments as an up-and-coming journalist at a major New York newspaper. Then the numbness and seizures started. One doctor dismissed her condition as symptoms of stress and drinking too much, but even those who took her seriously were unable to find anything in the many tests that they ran. It took one determined doctor - who swore he would not give up on her - to finally diagnose a rare and only recently identified form of autoimmune encephalitis: her immune system was attacking her brain, and it was as if her brain were on fire.
Cahalan brings her journalism background to the task of writing Brain on Fire, her memoir of struggling with this disease. Because the encephalitis attacked parts of her brain associated with memory and identity, she was as unable to remember most of her time in the hospital as her friends and family were unable to recognize the person she became while she was sick. Cahalan reviews hospital camera footage as well as notes from her medical providers and visitors in her attempt to recreate the history of her illness and reconnect with this "other" Susannah: helpless, paranoid, and frightened. Part medical mystery, part an exploration of what makes us who we are, Brain on Fire is fascinating and unnerving. - Michelle (Sunset)