Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

by

Susannah Cahalan

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: Chapter 44 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dr. Najjar finally is able to prescribe at-home IVIG treatments every other week, and Susannah has twelve between July and December. She remains in contact with Paul, who asks every few weeks when she'll return to work. Finally, Susannah agrees to stop by the Post offices and say hello to everyone. She wears the only dress that still fits her and takes her first solo train ride into Manhattan.
A return to work will represent another step towards regaining Susannah's old identity, as much of her identity was shaped around her job and her love for it. Putting off this visit shows that Susannah is nervous to possibly be confronted about being different than she once was.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
When Susannah reaches the offices, she feels suddenly exhausted and like this is too soon. She texts Paul to meet her on the street. Paul greets Susannah with a bear hug. He chats about work, and Susannah struggles to keep up through the fog of her medications. She mentions that she's on drugs and will be off them by the time she returns to work, and refuses to go up and say hi to her coworkers. When Paul goes back upstairs, he wonders if Susannah will ever be capable of returning to work.
Notice that though Susannah is still foggy, now she says that it's just the medications that are to blame—major progress, and an indicator that Susannah could keep up and eventually function without the medicines. Paul's worry indicates that this isn't apparent to everyone, though, and she still seems very different on the outside than she is on the inside.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Two weeks later, Susannah gets a call from Mackenzie, asking her to write an article about Facebook etiquette. Though Susannah is ashamed of when she'd last seen Mackenzie (when she'd failed to write an article just before her seizures began), she throws herself into the process of writing. She researches as though it's the most important article she's ever written, and though she struggles to begin writing, she finally manages to type out a rough article. It runs in the July 28 issue, and Susannah glows with pride when she sees it. She shows it to everyone as proof that her spark is back.
It's worth noting that Susannah's job as a journalist entails controlling stories and how they're presented to the public. By returning to these tasks, Susannah also gets to control how her own story plays out. Notice too that Susannah now doesn't shy away from the difficult task of writing like she did with other tasks before. She's well enough now to face things she struggles with, which is reflective of her returning "spark."
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
A week later, Susannah contacts Mackenzie and agrees to visit the Post offices. When she enters the office, nobody notices her. Mackenzie walks Susannah to Steve's office, where he asks when she's coming back. Susannah flushes and says she'll be back soon, but is uncomfortable. When they leave Steve's office, other reporters from the Sunday paper surround Susannah. She struggles to concentrate, and the mother hen of the group hugs Susannah and reminds Susannah that they all love her. This only makes Susannah feel more uncomfortable and self-conscious. She wonders if she'll ever feel comfortable in the newsroom again.
This outpouring of affection and the explicit desire for Susannah's return indicates that Susannah appears to others as though she's very much back to normal—their memories of her match, more or less, the Susannah now in front of them. Susannah doesn't now feel as well as she looks, though, representing a shift in her situation—she will have to take better care of herself now, as she won't garner as much care from others since she looks healthier.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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