Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Brain on Fire: My Month of MadnessBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a dynamic, young professional living in New York and working at the New York Post, Cahalan seemed to be living a charmed life. That is until something within her seemed to break. Her personality began to change, her behavior became erratic, and she seemed to lose direction. As she began to look for answers as to why she was experiencing these symptoms, no one seemed to have an answer. Cahalan's fluid prose quickly draws you deeper into the mystery of what might be ailing her and her descent into declining health and her precarious mental state.

What is wrong with this woman?

The narrative takes you on her trek from a neurologist to a psychiatrist in her quest to determine if her illness is physical or mental until she ends up in the hospital.

This book astutely presents both the triumphs and failures of modern medicine. A realm where doctors are continually learning about the complexity of the human body and mind so as to treat people's illnesses, yet concurrently doctors refuse to fully listen to patients, rely on stereotyped assumptions to make diagnoses, and access to competent and reliable health care is limited to those with resources and strong social networks.

Calahan's book also forces us to reconsider the mind/body dichotomy, in particular when it comes to health and illness. What is often perceived as two separate realms are in fact intimately interrelated.

The beauty of the book is that it tells an engrossing story that features complex medical issues and addresses broad social questions in such an accessible manner.

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