27 October 2020

Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire, now a Netflix film starring ChloĆ« Grace Moretz, Thomas Mann, and Tyler Perry, is easily one of the most unnerving medical books I've read in a while. What's most frightening is Cahalan's complete inability to understand or control, what was happening to her. At 24 years old, just as she was truly making a name for herself in journalism in New York City, she awoke to find herself strapped in a hospital bed, completely unaware of what had happened to her. Memories erased, speaking was impossible, moving was not allowed, nor was she able to even if she tried: she was strapped to the hospital bed. Pieces of each day began to fragment into moments that increased doubt in her own confidence and undeniable fear at the unknown of what happened to her, the question of what was happening in her body that plagued her, possessed her, but the most terrifying is that it appeared out of nowhere. All within one month. A month that turned into more time erased, a life re-drawn into something maniacal. Her life as she knew it, how she was leading it and loving it, was gone. Doctors diagnosed her as bipolar, manic depressive, with her conditions of erratic behavior leading to fainting and seizures were frantically increasing at an alarming rate.

How it happened still is a mystery encased in medical riddles continuing to be untangled today about an auto-immune disease; we know it happens to primarily young women, but other than that, there is no true and consistent understanding. Historically over the past 100 years, there is an unexpected number of documented cases of young women who suddenly were filled with "hysteria." A notion befitting a 1900s novel on high society, women with fainting spells, however in today's advanced medical community, doctors and nurses and researchers might have a tiny inkling of reasonable and sound evidence to prove something significant. Something within the auto-immune disease category, but more specifically the unique and rare anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

But even though medical communities might slowly be familiar with this, science is still unfolding pieces every day for more awareness, how to manage it, and one day, hopefully a cure. The "madness" that descended upon the author, one that tested a relationship with her new boyfriend, and also assuredly bonded her once estranged parents, became a goal to combine efforts to figure it out together, in collaboration with doctors who believed. With her family dedicated to her, they shared a common journal in her hospital room to record moments they recorded when they visited with her, seizures, and events that went beyond understanding for a healthy human body, comparing these journaled events with shocking camera footage to decode a pattern, anything to explain why Cahalan was besieged with this medically "new," disease.

What I respected was her acknowledgement that she was lucky, on so many levels. She had a solid family support structure, and a boyfriend who was there for her every step of the way, even though they had just started dating. She had extensive medical health insurance as well, but even with all of that, while it still gave her the luxury to be potentially cared for more than others, she still encountered doubt and disbelief and many diagnosed her initially with mental disorders, paranoia, and more. What about patients who don't have the "right" healthcare coverage, who don't fit into the "approved" and "believable" medical population? What might patients such as those experience?

Moving and heart-wrenching, and downright scary, this memoir of a young woman's spiral into a series of medical appointments, memory loss, physical debilitation, seizures, and more is at times thoughtful and straight-forward, but mostly filled with downright horror. It is completely terrifying to imagine what it might be like for a young mind to go awry, astray, and fall apart, all without any medical research or support for those suffering from an auto-immune disease that many still don't believe exists.

Read this. Recommend it to your friends with young daughters. Watch all and care for them. This is important.

Disclosure: I downloaded this book for free from my library's Libby app.

About the Author (from her website)

Susannah Cahalan is an American journalist and author, known for writing the memoir Brain on Fire, about her hospitalization with a rare auto-immune disease, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

She has worked for the New York Post. A feature film based on her memoir was released in June 2016 on Netflix.

Visit her:


22 March 2020

Just my Thoughts on Mother Earth and the Virus

It is without a doubt a time of uncertainty and fear. And so now is when we reclaim moments with our immediate family and slow down. To share time and meals without technology, and if we do, to instead just be present together.

We so need to honor, respect, and appreciate nature and Mother Earth much more (my opinion: I fear we are being rushed earlier for mass change because we have just pushed it too much with nature and mankind; racism is massive and ugly and we cannot ignore it collectively). We have mass produced, toxically polluted our waters, land, and air, so that as expected, any disease easily has evolved and continues to be ahead of the data for us to learn how to “fix” it), and nature is speaking loudly to us. If we do not radically change, make different choices, we are on the way to a life of nightmares.

The rain over Desecheo Island.
When things return to what it was like before, may we also learn to support our local and small businesses, local farms, to learn how to appreciate doing things on our own, living off our own land (if we can) to whatever degree it may be (from having our own chickens, to making our own tinctures, balms, sprays and medical remedies), because we can no longer blindly trust what is in the big box stores. We continue to be brainwashed by this "big store" setting and assume a product has gone through rounds of safety testing before we buy it; it hasn’t. It is filled with chemicals which disrupt hormones. It is carcinogenic. It can cause cancer. Yes, even Clorox.

Hopefully this is when we completely revolutionize and speak loudly how we want to receive information from health and government officials. I hope we take time away from modern day news, to publicly denounce and demand the 24-hour news cycle might finally implode.

We become an obsessed audience, feeding off each spiraling negativity, allowing one bad feeling to override the next, a brainwashing of the nastiness of politics and more because it is thrown in our faces over and over again, and yet we don’t even understand the majority of what is “interpreted” by the news. We only feel constant anxiety and panic which leads to more anger and arguments and less dialogue.

Instead, research on your own. Watch the news but NEVER take the “translation” of the news from any politician or even a news reporter. Editorializing shouldn't really be their thing, yet we end up spouting someone else’s agenda. We, instead, should do our own work and make informed decisions.

If opinions are based on interpretations from any news network, it is a skewed source. If you are creating your opinions based on Facebook friends, no matter which way they feel or vote for - please don't. Think with your heart, your head, your gut, your intuition. Research extensively on your own and build an opinion developed on your own. Trust yourself. We are the ones our ancestors planned to one day have for this great Earth, and yes, I think they might scorn the results thus far. I think they might be exceedingly sad.

Let's do the work. Together.

This is just my own little thought. You may feel free to cut me in the comments, but I do so hope you think of this with love. Please be kind to each other. Our universe needs us.


18 January 2020

Elevation, by Stephen King (audiobook)

This three hour audiobook was as intense and special as Stephen King always is. Thoughts of love, death, moving on and letting go, intersect in the life of one man, Scott, who, while he never changes physically, is suddenly and dramatically losing weight. All of it. But you'd never know it to look at him. If his weekly tracking is correct, it won't be long at all that his body will experience complete weightlessness. What's causing it? Does it matter anymore? And truly, what can he achieve in the time he has left in Castle Rock that will resonate with his friends, new and old? And most importantly, can he help them learn anything as well?

This is a gem of a tale with a short bonus story, which felt like a very special and surprisingly good "b" side track from your favorite band. It really doesn't matter what King writes about; he does it well and makes this reader always happy. When in doubt on what to read next, I just settle down with a King tale and I thank the lucky stars above that he hasn't hired writers to do his bidding or to write in his style (a la many famous mass market writers of today), and instead just continues to produce, one uncomfortable and insightful story after another, or one sweet and sad scene after another. There isn't anything in the human emotion and in life that Stephen King hasn't been able to deliver and articulate well into his stories, something that doesn't strike immediate nervousness or fear, or increasing sadness and empathy, and for that, I will be ever grateful. Stephen King continues to provide us with everything we always need, if we only continue to give him those chances to hear him out again and again.

Side note: I listened to this audiobook from my library's Libby app, and it is read by the great man himself; he is an EXCELLENT narrator, that I will also emphatically state each and every time. It's not often an author is as good as reading their work as they are to write it, so with Mr. King, it is quite a pleasure to hear his voice yet again.

Disclosure: I downloaded this audiobook for free from my library's Libby app. Check with your local library if they participate with Libby (they probably do).

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The Stand, The Dark Tower series, It, The Shining, Under the Dome, Pet Sematary, 'Salem's Lot, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know. So here you go, click here to visit this wicked cool author's official website.