Quick Review: Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Book 2 for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge
  • I think I added this book after seeing it featured at Chapters.
  • This is an unusual memoir in that the person writing it doesn’t recall the bulk of the time she writes about. Susannah takes on the role of reporter into her own life. I can’t imagine how strange that must be. The slow struggle to return to her usual self, as she recognizes what she can no longer do, was also tough to witness.
  • Every now and then I come across a book about an intriguing medical condition, something fascinating and unusual that shows just how little we understand our bodies (or indeed how well we can understand them, given the variables).
    • I was astonished by how quickly Susannah’s problems were at first dismissed as being drinking related (72). It seems this is a side-effect of an overwhelmed health care system, with doctors being unable to give patients they time and attention they need.
    • Something else I was amazed by was the amount and cost of the blood infusions (erm, not sure if that’s the correct term…) she had done.
      Pg. 146 wow can’t blood cost and amount
  • The attitude toward mental disorders in this book made me very uncomfortable. Susannah, her parents and some of her doctors all seem to think something along the lines of “We don’t want her to be crazy, god forbid she needs psychiatric help, we want her to be normally, properly sick”. I understand that part of the concern comes from the fear of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder instead of the real problem, but the way she discusses psychiatric diseases is like they’re a ‘lesser’ problem, like “Ew, icky, at least I’m really sick with my disease”. 
  • I chatted with my Mom about this book, which made me think of so many comments on reading books with family members, that I’m going to make a whole post about it later.

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