Brain On Fire Essay

1650 words - 7 pages

Susannah Cahalan, the author of Brain on Fire, put her "month of madness" simply when she wrote, "I was a happy 24-year-old suddenly stricken by paranoia and seizures. Was I going crazy?" Susannah Cahalan was a successful 24-year-old journalist working New York City, equipped with years of experience on the job, a supportive boyfriend, and a good family. Her life changed dramatically and violently after a bed bugs scare in her New York City apartment, which she admitted to be benign only after calling the exterminators. After this moment in her memoir, she began to recount her descent into mania.

She began to lose her memory, forgetting things like meetings that she had done every week for years. The environment of New York City seemed to be irritating with the blinking lights, profound smells, and incessant sounds. Susannah became erratic, lost her appetite, and slowly developed insomnia. As someone who had been diagnosed with a teratoma before, she was concerned for her health and visited Dr. Bailey. He concluded that there was nothing wrong with her; there was some possibility of mono, though, so Susannah ended up taking a couple weeks off from work. Despite resting, her condition worsened, and simple work tasks like interviews became very trying and almost impossible.

One night while watching TV with her boyfriend, Susannah suffered a seizure and was rushed to the hospital, where she underwent a brain scan. The scans were negative, so she was discharged, despite her worrying symptoms. Susannah left work again and was brought to doctors' appointments by her parents, where the conclusion was relatively the same, she was labeled as a stereotypical hardworking young New Yorker, stressed, abusing alcohol, and not sleeping enough. These diagnoses were unconvincing to her family, so they kept her under supervision and frantically looked for other options.

Susannah was digressing; she lost her manners, refused to take medicine, and started to hear voices, all symptoms leading to something more serious than being stressed out. Eventually, Susannah and her family made it to the NYU hospital, where it was discovered that she had an abnormal white cell count. This was the only concrete evidence Susannah's family had received that alluded to the fact that she was not a healthy woman. Susannah spent several months in this hospital. Until Dr. Najjar joined the team of doctors, Susannah was dangerously thin, experienced seizures, attempted escape, and was violent towards her father as well as nurses; she had become something other than herself. Dr. Najjar performed The Clock Test, which changed Susannah's course forever.

The Clock Test required her to draw a clock, she drew a circle which was a good start, but then she wrote the numbers that are supposed to be evenly spread out through the circumference of the clock, all on the right side of her circle. Dr. Najjar concluded from this test as well as a brain biopsy taken shortly after ...

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