Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

by

Susannah Cahalan

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Susannah Character Analysis

Susannah, the author and protagonist of the memoir, is a vibrant 24-year-old writer for the New York Post. She lives in New York City and treasures her tiny studio apartment. Susannah is determined, tenacious, and stubborn. She loves her job as a reporter and does whatever it takes to do it well. At the beginning of the memoir, she's four months into a relationship with Stephen, a laid-back musician whom she's known for several years. Susannah's entire life changes when she notices two bug bites on her left arm and becomes obsessed with ridding her apartment of bedbugs. Soon after, she begins experiencing hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia about work and family members. She stops eating and sleeping, and though she's normally reluctant to see a doctor, she arranges to see a neurologist, Dr. Bailey. When her two appointments with Dr. Bailey yield normal results on neurological exams, Susannah becomes convinced that Mom is attempting to humiliate and trick Susannah by hiring actors to conduct her exams. Susannah also begins having seizures and becomes loud, demanding, and overbearing. Finally, Mom and Dad insist that Dr. Bailey arrange for Susannah to be admitted to a hospital, and Dr. Bailey arranges for her to be admitted to the epilepsy ward at NYU. In the lobby of the hospital, Susannah suffers another seizure and doesn't remember her entire month in the hospital. While she's there, she continues to believe that Dad killed his wife, Giselle, and believes that the nurses are out to get her. Susannah constructs her story using interviews with her doctors and family members, as well as EEG video monitoring from the hospital. In doing so, Susannah can begin to construct her lost month and explore the foreign identity of the person she was in the hospital. Finally, Susannah's case attracts the attention of Dr. Najjar, who performs a brain biopsy and diagnoses Susannah with anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis. Susannah returns to her mom's home soon after beginning treatment. As she recovers, Susannah struggles with the fact that her cognitive functioning and motor skills are nowhere close to what they once were. To distract herself, she fixates on her appearance—while she lost a great deal of weight in the hospital, the steroids she has to take make her gain weight. Susannah likens her return to herself after her release from the hospital as a coming of age of sorts, as she slowly regains her cognitive function, motor skills, and begins to expand her awareness from just herself and her misery to include other people. As soon as she's able she dives back into work and soon writes an article about her experience. In researching her article and subsequently writing the memoir, Susannah makes it her mission to spread her story as far as she can to give others validation for their suffering with the disease.

Susannah Quotes in Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

The Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness quotes below are all either spoken by Susannah or refer to Susannah. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon and Schuster edition of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness published in 2012.
Chapter 5 Quotes

There are times when you feel like the best in the business, and other times when you're certain that you're a complete and total hack and should start looking for an office job. But in the end, the ups and downs even out. So why was everything in such upheaval for me? It had been weeks since I felt comfortable in my own journalist skin, and that frightened me.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

"You don't have to do that," I insisted, my voice mellowing as I returned, almost instantly, to my old self. Manic episodes can fade away as quickly as they arise. "I don't want her to worry."

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Stephen, Mom
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

Even during this time when I hardly recognize myself, there are still shadows of the real Susannah, a person who cares what her family and friends think, who doesn't want to cause them pain.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Stephen, Mom, Allen
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

Though my behavior was worsening day by day, it was still difficult for her to reconcile the old image that she had of her daughter as trustworthy, hard working, and independent with the new, unpredictable, and dangerous one.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Mom, Dad
Related Symbols: Apartments
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

"Her EEG was completely normal," Bailey protested, looking through my file. "MRI normal, exam normal, blood work normal. It's all normal."

"Well, she's not normal," my mom snapped as I sat there, quiet and polite with my hands folded in my lap. She and Allen had made a pact that they would not leave Dr. Bailey's office without getting me admitted to a hospital.

Related Characters: Mom (speaker), Dr. Bailey (speaker), Susannah, Allen
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Unlike before, there are now no glimmers of the reliable "I," the Susannah I had been for the previous twenty-four years. Though I had been gradually losing more and more of myself over the past few weeks, the break between my consciousness and my physical body was now finally fully complete. In essence, I was gone.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker)
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Though it had been eight years since their divorce, it was still hard for them to be in the same room with each other, and this shared journal allowed them to maintain common ground in the shared fight for my life.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Mom, Dad
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 30 Quotes

Morrison wrote down "tenacious in her attempts." I seemed to realize I wasn't getting it right, which frustrated me deeply. It was clear that, for all my other impairments, I knew that I was not functioning at the level I was used to.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Dr. Chris Morrison
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 35 Quotes

The raw panic makes me uncomfortable, but the thing that truly unsettles me is the realization that emotions I once felt so profoundly, so viscerally, have now completely vanished. This petrified person is as foreign to me as a stranger, and it's impossible for me to imagine what it must have been like to be her. Without this electronic evidence, I could never have imagined myself capable of such madness and misery.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker)
Related Symbols: EEG Video Monitoring
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 38 Quotes

I had asked him many times why he stayed, and he always said the same thing: "Because I love you, and I wanted to, and I knew you were in there." No matter how damaged I had been, he had loved me enough to still see me somewhere inside.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Stephen (speaker)
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 39 Quotes

In many ways, during that recovery period at my mother's home, I associated the pills—and the fights they engendered—with her. In a practical sense, I needed her to portion out the pills because it was far too complicated a task for me at the time. In a more emotional sense, though, I began to feel that she, like the pills, embodied my contemptible dependence.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Mom (speaker)
Related Symbols: Apartments
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 41 Quotes

Perhaps because the diary provides physical evidence of my budding self...I can in essence begin to remember what it was like to be her, unlike the earlier Susannah from those paranoid diary entries before the hospital, who was more like a figment of a shadowy memory, so distant that she might have been a character in a horror movie.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker)
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 42 Quotes

It was one thing to live at my parents' house for a few months, knowing that I had my own place just a train ride away. Now my only home was with my mom; it was like a complete return to childhood.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Mom, Allen
Related Symbols: Apartments
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

When I worried about being fat forever...I was actually worried about who I was going to be: Will I be as slow, dour, unfunny, and stupid as I now felt for the rest of my life? Will I ever again regain that spark that defines who I am?

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker)
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 43 Quotes

Buoyed by this new ability to explain, I began to research the disease in earnest and became obsessed with understanding how our bodies are capable of such underhanded betrayal. I found, to my frustration, that there's more we don't know about the disease than we do know.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Paul
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 46 Quotes

"He's talking about my brain," I whispered, although I didn't understand then what these slides portrayed. All I knew was that a very intimate part of myself was on display in front of a hundred strangers. How many people can say that they've allowed others to literally see inside their heads?

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Dr. Najjar
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 47 Quotes

What I was almost immediately drawn to is perhaps the biggest mystery: How many people throughout history suffered from my disease and others like it but went untreated?

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Dr. Najjar, Dr. Josep Dalmau
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

Evil. To the untrained eye, anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis can certainly appear malevolent. Afflicted sons and daughters suddenly become possessed, demonic, like creatures out of our most appalling nightmares.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker)
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

But this is all the more reason that psychiatrists and neurologists are finding ways to break down the barriers set in place between psychology and neurology, urging for one uniform look at mental illness as the neurochemical diseases that they are...

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker)
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

While he may be an excellent doctor in many respects, Dr. Bailey is also, in some ways, a perfect example of what is wrong with medicine. I was just a number to him... He is a by-product of a defective system that forces neurologists to spend five minutes with X number of patients a day to maintain their bottom line. It's a bad system.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Dr. Bailey
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:

The girl in the video is a reminder about how fragile our hold on sanity and health is and how much we are at the utter whim of our Brutus bodies, which will inevitably, one day, turn on us for good. I am a prisoner, as we all are. And with that realization comes an aching sense of vulnerability.

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker)
Related Symbols: EEG Video Monitoring
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 50 Quotes

The friends and relatives I interviewed would never have used the term skittish to describe me, but every now and then, when I'm on the subway and the colors seem brighter than normal, I think, Is it the lighting, or am I going crazy again?

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), Stephen
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 51 Quotes

Psychology professor Dr. Henry Roedigger calls what happened with the FLIGHT RISK band a form of social contagion: if one person remembers incorrectly and shares this with others, it can spread...

Did I harbor this false memory? Was I the one who spread it? I am sure I remember vividly seeing the words FLIGHT RISK on my arm. Or am I?

Related Characters: Susannah (speaker), The purple lady
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
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Susannah Character Timeline in Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

The timeline below shows where the character Susannah appears in Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface
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Slowly, Susannah opens her eyes to darkness and silence. She wonders where she is and thinks her... (full context)
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Susannah yells at the purple lady for help, and the lady tries to soothe Susannah. She... (full context)
Chapter 1
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Susannah explains that it possibly all began with bedbug bites—though the bedbugs never existed. She wakes... (full context)
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Susannah does her best to keep her concerns from her coworkers, so she conceals her bites... (full context)
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Angela scoots away from Susannah with a smile. As Susannah tries to show Angela her arm, her phone rings. It's... (full context)
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Susannah, Paul, and Steve sit in silence for a few minutes. Desperately, Susannah says she saw... (full context)
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As Susannah walks home to her apartment in Hell's Kitchen later that evening, she ruminates on the... (full context)
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Susannah pauses when she comes across the biggest story of her career: an interview with the... (full context)
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When Susannah finishes clearing out her apartment, she suddenly feels a pit in her stomach. As she... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Several days later, Susannah wakes up in her boyfriend Stephen's bed, feeling as though the bedbug scare and her... (full context)
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Susannah has Stephen's apartment to herself, as Stephen has already left for band practice. As she... (full context)
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The urge to continue digging for more incriminating evidence against Stephen persists, and Susannah tiptoes to his dresser. She wonders if he might have cameras going and if this... (full context)
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Susannah checks her phone and finds that she's been going through Stephen's things for two hours,... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Over the next few days, Susannah feels wracked with guilt over going through Stephen's things. At work one day, she asks... (full context)
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Susannah asks Paul the same question, and he tells her the same thing. He insists she's... (full context)
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Susannah laughs, but she's worried by the worry she sees in her colleagues. She calls her... (full context)
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Susannah says that she's the exact opposite of a hypochondriac, and usually needs prodding from her... (full context)
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When Dr. Bailey sees Susannah, she hastily describes her symptoms and thinks that she wants to reassure him that nothing... (full context)
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Susannah changes as quickly as possible and leaves. Though the MRI is normal, she tells the... (full context)
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The next day, Susannah tells Angela that her hand is still numb and tingly, and she doesn't feel like... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Susannah is relieved to have a diagnosis of mono. She spends Saturday in bed and then... (full context)
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Susannah takes three days off of work. Finally, she calls Mom. Mom is worried about the... (full context)
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After the movie, Dad walks Susannah back to her apartment to check it for bedbugs. When they get close to her... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Susannah returns to work on Thursday. She finishes one story and pitches two more, neither of... (full context)
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Stephen tries to convince Susannah to stay home, but then Dr. Rothstein calls Susannah. She answers his call, and he... (full context)
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Susannah had skied before without issue, but standing on the top of the mountain, she suffers... (full context)
Chapter 6
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At work the following Tuesday, Steve calls Susannah and says that he wants her to interview John Walsh, the host of the show... (full context)
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Liz's tarot reading yields good omens. She reads that Susannah will have a job change and financial success. When Susannah returns to her desk, she... (full context)
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The next morning, Susannah returns to work after not sleeping all night. Instead of preparing for her interview, she... (full context)
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In the office, Susannah introduces herself to Walsh and his publicist. Susannah is unable to maintain a train of... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Susannah doesn't remember walking home after her interview. She doesn't sleep again that night, which marks... (full context)
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Conspiratorially, Susannah whispers to Angela that she's seeing bright colors that hurt her eyes. Angela looks worried... (full context)
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Angela asks Susannah if she wants to go for a walk, but Susannah just continues crying. She sobs... (full context)
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Suddenly, Susannah's misery turns into intense happiness. She begins laughing through her tears and runs to the... (full context)
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Very suddenly again, Susannah begins to clear everything off her desk. She feels happy and in control of her... (full context)
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After ten minutes, Paul heads inside and calls Angela. He insists they need to call Susannah's mom because something is very wrong. Susannah stays outside and feels the same kind of... (full context)
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Angela gets permission from Paul to take Susannah for a drink, with the hope of piecing together why Susannah is acting so out-of-character.... (full context)
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When Susannah gets home that night, later than usual, Stephen is already there cooking dinner. Rather than... (full context)
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Stephen hands Susannah a plate of pasta, but she can barely look at it without gagging. Stephen is... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Susannah tells the reader that she woke Stephen up that night with low moans, squeaks, and... (full context)
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Susannah explains that she never regained memories of this seizure, or the others to come. This... (full context)
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Susannah says that this seizure was just the most dramatic of a number of seizures she'd... (full context)
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Susannah explains that she'd also been experiencing partial seizures from overstimulation in her temporal lobe, which... (full context)
Chapter 9
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When Susannah regains consciousness, she sees a homeless man vomiting and another bloody, beaten man handcuffed to... (full context)
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Susannah thinks that she's dying because of the MRI lab technician who flirted with her, and... (full context)
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Susannah quietly tells Stephen that she's dying of melanoma. When she sees tears in his eyes... (full context)
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Stephen insists he has to call Susannah's mom, but Susannah, suddenly back to her normal self, doesn't want Mom to worry. Stephen... (full context)
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Rather than relax in her childhood home, Susannah becomes obsessive about clinging to her Manhattan life. On Sunday afternoon, she tries to write... (full context)
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Over the weekend, Susannah ignores calls from concerned friends and coworkers because she's embarrassed by her behavior. Susannah picks... (full context)
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Regardless, Allen and Mom drive Susannah to Dr. Bailey's on Monday. The painting in the waiting room seems to match Susannah's... (full context)
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Dr. Bailey asks Susannah about her alcohol consumption. She thinks she hasn't had any in the last week, but... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Allen drives Mom and Susannah to the psychiatrist, Dr. Sarah Levin. Susannah is excited to see her, both to confirm... (full context)
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While Susannah is with Dr. Levin, Mom calls Susannah's younger brother, James. She explains what's going on... (full context)
Chapter 11
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The next night, Susannah has an epiphany: all her problems are being caused by the anti-seizure medication, regardless of... (full context)
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Susannah paces and finds herself on the third floor, where Mom and Allen sleep. She stands... (full context)
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The next day, Susannah begins writing in a Word document that becomes a diary of sorts. She writes that... (full context)
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Later that night, Susannah walks into the living room and announces that she needs to break up with Stephen.... (full context)
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On Friday, Stephen comes to visit and takes Susannah out for dinner. He takes her to an Irish pub, but it's crowded and Susannah... (full context)
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As Susannah and Stephen walk to the car, Susannah is gripped with the urge to either break... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The day of Susannah's EEG appointment, she outright refuses to go. Stephen finally convinces her to get in the... (full context)
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When Susannah wakes, they're in Chinatown. She demands coffee and food, and Allen sharply navigates to a... (full context)
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In Dr. Bailey's waiting room, Susannah has no sense of time as she waits. She feels almost drugged. Finally, a technician... (full context)
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When the technician leaves, Susannah laughs. She realizes that Mom and Allen must've hired an actress to pose as the... (full context)
Chapter 13
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The next day, Mom finally gives in to Susannah's pleading and allows her to return to her apartment, as long as she agrees to... (full context)
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When they're finished, Giselle heads downstairs and Susannah tries to talk Dad into letting her stay in the apartment alone. Dad finally convinces... (full context)
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When they finally arrive in Brooklyn, Susannah is exhausted. Giselle and Dad cook while Susannah lounges on a couch. When Dad and... (full context)
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Susannah asks Dad to spend the night with her in the den. They talk for a... (full context)
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After banishing Dad, Susannah hears a pounding from upstairs. She ignores it, but soon hears Giselle pleading with Dad... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Mom and Allen arrive at Dad's house the next morning. Susannah races to their car and explains that Dad kidnapped her. She tells the reader that... (full context)
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Back in Dr. Bailey's office, Dr. Bailey insists that Susannah is suffering the classic symptoms of alcohol withdrawal: anxiety, fatigue, irritability, nightmares, seizures, and hallucinations.... (full context)
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An hour later, Mom, Allen, and Susannah enter the lobby of the NYU hospital. As they locate the admittance desk, Susannah demands... (full context)
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Susannah tells the reader that after this point, she remembers little more than hallucinations from her... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Susannah is admitted ten days after her first blackout seizure. She's placed in the advanced monitoring... (full context)
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When Susannah is settled in the room, a nurse takes her health history. Susannah can answer most... (full context)
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Susannah's difficult nature worsens. When Allen and Dad arrive, she yells at them and insists the... (full context)
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Susannah describes an EEG video in which she lies in bed in the fetal position looking... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Dr. Russo, an attending neurologist, arrives in the morning to conduct a neurological exam. Susannah attempts to interrupt by insisting that "the people on TV" are saying bad things about... (full context)
Chapter 17
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The following day, Dr. Khan, a psychiatrist, arrives to evaluate Susannah. She notes Susannah's disheveled appearance, as that can be a sign of mania or a... (full context)
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Susannah describes a hallucination in which she looks at a doctor's face and the face ages... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Susannah's case attracts the interest of Dr. Arslan. He interviews both Mom and Dad about Susannah's... (full context)
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Susannah describes an EEG video in which she pushes her help button. She's on the phone,... (full context)
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Susannah describes a hallucination in which she watches a woman talk about her on the news.... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Now that Susannah has tried to escape three times, a nurse mentions to Dad that if Susannah's behavior... (full context)
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Dr. Russo alters her diagnosis from seizures to just psychosis, as Susannah hasn't had a seizure since she was admitted to the hospital. Dr. Russo also suggests... (full context)
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...she gets off work. She and Dad also start a shared journal to communicate about Susannah with each other, as they still find it hard to be in the same room... (full context)
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On Susannah's fourth day in the hospital, several more doctors join the team, including Dr. Friedman. Dr.... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Susannah explains to the reader that Dad begins keeping a personal journal to track Susannah's developments... (full context)
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When Dad enters Susannah's room, he runs into the new security guard. Susannah greets Dad warmly and agrees to... (full context)
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By this point, Susannah's psychosis is mostly gone. The hospital schedules a spinal tap to collect cerebrospinal fluid now... (full context)
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When a young orderly arrives to collect Susannah for her spinal tap, he cheerfully tries to engage Dad in conversation in the elevator.... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Susannah explains that the hospital is a place without time: there are no clocks or calendars,... (full context)
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...plays a Ryan Adams concert video on a continuous loop, thinking that it might help Susannah "come back," but she admits to the reader that she watched it as though it... (full context)
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Despite her diminished brain function, Susannah looks forward to walking, eating apples, and having her clothes and body cleaned daily. The... (full context)
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Susannah describes an EEG video in which Mom stands by the window, dressed for work. Susannah... (full context)
Chapter 22
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As Susannah's second week in the hospital begins, she starts showing new and horrific symptoms. She begins... (full context)
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In the afternoon, Dr. Siegel arrives with news: Susannah's spinal tap showed an elevated level of white blood cells, which is a sign of... (full context)
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On Tuesday of the second week, Susannah's friend Katie comes to visit. Though she works with children with learning difficulties, she's shocked... (full context)
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Angela begins asking Susannah questions. Susannah is very concerned about what people at work are saying about her, and... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Susannah's test results soon come back negative for a number of infectious and autoimmune diseases. Her... (full context)
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...spinal tap. She explains that Dr. Najjar is a brilliant doctor who's now working on Susannah's case. Susannah tells the reader that he has a reputation for solving mystery cases, and... (full context)
Chapter 24
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A day later, the nurses begin Susannah's IVIG treatment. IVIG is an abbreviation for intravenous immunoglobulin, a substance made up of healthy... (full context)
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Susannah describes a hallucination. She's half asleep, listening to the Ryan Adams video, when a nurse... (full context)
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The following morning, Mom finally calls James and lets Susannah speak to him on the phone. Susannah says his name over and over again, and... (full context)
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When Dr. Arslan comes by later in the day, he writes that Susannah is beginning to exhibit signs of catatonia. When a person is catatonic, they can be... (full context)
Chapter 25
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The doctors perform the second spinal tap at the beginning of Susannah’s third week in the hospital. Susannah describes an EEG video in which she lies in... (full context)
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Susannah's family begins to worry that if no answers surface, Susannah will end up in a... (full context)
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Susannah promptly loses the journal and when Hannah arrives the next day, Susannah struggles to explain... (full context)
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The next day, a nurse arrives to draw Susannah's blood for the tests that will attempt to determine where her brain swelling is coming... (full context)
Chapter 26
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A few days later, Dr. Najjar is finally scheduled to arrive. Susannah drools and smacks her lips, habits that are now constant. Mom is excited to meet... (full context)
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Susannah explains to the reader that Dr. Najjar is personal and heartfelt, and he loves to... (full context)
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Dr. Najjar asks Susannah for her name, the date, and the president, which she can answer with some delay.... (full context)
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Susannah tells the reader that both sides of the brain must work to see: information that... (full context)
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Dr. Najjar paces as he thinks all this through and then sits down next to Susannah. He tells Mom and Dad that Susannah's brain is on fire, takes Susannah's hands in... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Dr. Najjar tells Mom and Dad that he'd like to start Susannah on steroids, and mentions a doctor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in autoimmune... (full context)
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...church and prays. Mom, an agnostic Jew, prays with a Baptist coworker later that afternoon. Susannah remains unaware and gleefully tells friends that she's getting a brain biopsy. When one friend... (full context)
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Over Easter weekend, a nurse describes to Mom and Dad how they'll perform the surgery. Susannah is silent through the nurse's description, but begins crying later. Dad is there when she... (full context)
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On Monday morning, an orderly fetches Susannah for surgery. A resident shaves a portion of Susannah's head, and Dad reminds her again... (full context)
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Susannah recounts another memory or hallucination of being led through counting down from 100 in preparation... (full context)
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Hours later, at 11 pm, a nurse tells Dad that Susannah is in the ICU. He lets himself into her room, and uncharacteristically, Susannah recognizes him.... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Susannah is reassigned to a shared room in the epilepsy unit. The results of the biopsy... (full context)
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Because of this treatment plan, Susannah temporarily develops diabetes—though her parents remain oblivious and she continues to eat her Easter candy.... (full context)
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Susannah describes an EEG video. She reclines on the bed, gets up, and haltingly walks to... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Meanwhile, samples of Susannah's blood and cerebrospinal fluid are on their way to the lab of Dr. Josep Dalmau.... (full context)
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Susannah explains that while it's unclear exactly how NMDA receptors in the brain alter behavior, compromising... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Two days after the biopsy, a speech pathologist, Karen Gendal, arrives to assess Susannah's ability to speak and convey ideas. Susannah cannot answer any open-ended questions, and tells Gendal... (full context)
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The next day, Dr. Morrison, a neuropsychologist, comes to test Susannah's cognitive function and intelligence. Susannah performs poorly on tests that measure her working memory, word... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Later in the afternoon, Dr. Russo arrives and tells Dad that they've officially diagnosed Susannah with anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis. She describes the usual progression of the disease, which follows... (full context)
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Susannah stares off for much of this, but reacts when she hears Dr. Russo mention the... (full context)
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Susannah explains that over her three weeks in the hospital, she'd gone from being a difficult... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Later that day, a dermatologist conducts a full body exam to check for melanoma on Susannah. The dermatologist finds nothing, and in the evening, nurses wheel Susannah to the radiology department... (full context)
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The next morning, Dr. Najjar arrives to explain the treatment plan to Susannah and her parents. He decides to use a three-pronged treatment of steroids to reduce inflammation;... (full context)
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The next morning, Mom, Dad, Allen, Stephen, and one of Susannah's college friends, Lindsey, collect Susannah's belongings and help Susannah out of her room. They pass... (full context)
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Susannah tells the reader that despite the 4% chance that she'll die, her parents are hopeful... (full context)
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As Allen drives everyone back to New Jersey, Susannah's old favorite karaoke song comes on the radio. Susannah begins awkwardly bopping her head out... (full context)
Chapter 33
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The first thing that Susannah wants to do when she gets home is shower. She insists on showering by herself.... (full context)
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That evening, Stephen cooks pasta and Mom and Allen leave Stephen, Susannah, and Lindsey home alone. After dinner they sit outside. Lindsey and Stephen talk and when... (full context)
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When Mom gets the voicemail she's worried that Susannah is regressing. She calls Dr. Arslan, who instructs Mom to give Susannah an extra dose... (full context)
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...to St. Louis with Jeff, another friend from college. When Jeff expresses interest in seeing Susannah, Lindsey warns him that Susannah isn't how they remember her. Susannah's speech patterns and difficulty... (full context)
Chapter 34
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Less than two weeks later, Susannah returns to the hospital for a week of plasma-exchange treatment. The exchange happens through a... (full context)
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On Susannah's last night in the hospital, she listens to her roommate pray with the nurses. When... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Susannah inserts a DVD marked with her name into her player and watches footage of herself... (full context)
Chapter 36
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Susannah tells the reader that people often ask her what it felt like to be a... (full context)
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A few days after her hospital stay for plasma exchange, Stephen takes Susannah to see his sisters, Rachael and Bridget, and their children. As they drive, Susannah comments... (full context)
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Stephen hands the children some of Susannah's stuffed animals from the hospital, and then chats with his sisters for a few minutes.... (full context)
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Another instance that stands out in Susannah's mind is the first time she saw James. When James arrives at Mom's house after... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Susannah's parents allow her to walk through downtown Summit alone, though they don't allow her to... (full context)
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Once, Susannah asks James to drive her to get a pedicure in preparation for a family wedding.... (full context)
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Later that week, Mom takes Susannah shoe shopping in Manhattan. Fortunately, Susannah is too occupied to catch the exchange, but a... (full context)
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Despite Susannah's zombie-like behavior, both James and Stephen notice moments when it seems as though the old... (full context)
Chapter 38
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Susannah spends much of her time waiting for Stephen to arrive on the commuter train. One... (full context)
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Susannah agrees to attend a barbeque with Stephen several days later. She feels self-conscious that everyone... (full context)
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The last weekend in May, Susannah attends her stepbrother's wedding. She'd initially been asked to be a bridesmaid, but the bride... (full context)
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Though Mom makes Susannah promise to only have one glass of wine, Susannah rolls her eyes and has several... (full context)
Chapter 39
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Susannah's life revolves around taking her medications six times per day. For her, they symbolize that... (full context)
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Every two weeks, Mom, Dad, and Susannah have an appointment with Dr. Najjar. He and Dr. Arslan slowly reduce Susannah's doses of... (full context)
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Mom is adamant that Susannah attend two evaluation sessions at a rehabilitation center. Susannah doesn't want to, as she doesn't... (full context)
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Dr. Bertisch suggests cognitive rehabilitation and individual therapy to address Susannah's feelings of anxiety and depression when she's unable to communicate, though Susannah does none of... (full context)
Chapter 40
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In late May, Dr. Najjar asks Susannah to return to the hospital for a week for another round of IVIG treatment. Susannah... (full context)
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When dinner is over, Susannah is so tired that she puts her head down on the table and falls asleep,... (full context)
Chapter 41
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Susannah tells the reader about neuroplasticity, or the brain's ability to form new neural connections and... (full context)
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Susannah begins her journal on June 3. Dad sits with her and suggests that she begin... (full context)
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Susannah explains that Dad helped her for her benefit only, as he overwhelmingly refuses to talk... (full context)
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By summer, Susannah and Dad regularly have dinner together. She tells the reader that even now, she and... (full context)
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Susannah's relationship with Mom suffers greatly after her release from the hospital. They'd been close before,... (full context)
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As Mom watches Susannah try to remember, Mom puts her face in her hands and starts crying. Susannah tries... (full context)
Chapter 42
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In July, Susannah's lease on her apartment expires, so she and Dad meet to pack up her things.... (full context)
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To distract herself and feel somewhat in control of her life, Susannah keeps to-do lists (evidence that her brain is healing even more) and begins studying for... (full context)
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Susannah also begins to fixate on her appearance. The medications make Susannah gain weight and distort... (full context)
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One afternoon, Susannah walks into Summit's downtown. A lawn worker stares at her, making Susannah uncomfortable that he's... (full context)
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Susannah brought all of her mail home from her apartment with her, but doesn't open any... (full context)
Chapter 43
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As time goes on, Susannah becomes used to brushing off people's questions about her disease by saying simply that her... (full context)
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Susannah explains to the reader that nobody knows why people get the disease, especially when they... (full context)
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...diagnostic process and making treatment fast. Despite how awful the disease is, most people survive. Susannah says that her experience taught her just how lucky she was to be in the... (full context)
Chapter 44
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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... (full context)
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When Susannah reaches the offices, she feels suddenly exhausted and like this is too soon. She texts... (full context)
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Two weeks later, Susannah gets a call from Mackenzie, asking her to write an article about Facebook etiquette. Though... (full context)
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A week later, Susannah contacts Mackenzie and agrees to visit the Post offices. When she enters the office, nobody... (full context)
Chapter 45
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Susannah returns to work in September. Though the HR department suggests that she ease back into... (full context)
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The week before her return to work, Susannah and her parents attend her final appointment with Dr. Arslan. Susannah tells him that she... (full context)
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Right after her return to work, Dr. Najjar finally gives Susannah permission to color her hair. The stylist dyes Susannah's hair blond and cuts bangs to... (full context)
Chapter 46
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In late September, one of Dr. Najjar's assistants invites Mom and Susannah to attend Dr. Najjar's lecture on anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis at NYU. Susannah, Mom, Allen,... (full context)
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...Post later that day, Angela mentions to Steve and Paul where they'd been. Steve asks Susannah to write a first-person piece about her experience by Friday. Though this gives Susannah only... (full context)
Chapter 47
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Susannah interviews Stephen, her family, Dr. Dalmau, and Dr. Najjar about her disease. What strikes her... (full context)
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...the disease might also have been described as an evil possession by a demonic spirit. Susannah describes a scene from the film “The Exorcist” in which a young girl spends days... (full context)
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Susannah shares that her treatment cost over a million dollars, and she was even fortunate enough... (full context)
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Susannah contacts Dr. Bailey as she researches her article. He hasn't heard of anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune... (full context)
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For Susannah, the hardest part about writing the article is handing over her EEG tapes to the... (full context)
Chapter 48
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As she researches her disease, Susannah realizes that she's not the only person who suffered from this disease and others like... (full context)
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After the article runs, Susannah's inbox fills with emails from people who either believe they're suffering from the same disease... (full context)
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Susannah feels guilty that she survived and recovered when so many others do neither. One man... (full context)
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Susannah tells the reader that the most affirming moment of her life was when a man... (full context)
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Emily's dad shoved Susannah's article at a neurologist, who agreed to test her for the disease. Emily was moved... (full context)
Chapter 49
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Susannah's article changes Dr. Najjar's life as well. He invites Susannah to visit not long after... (full context)
Chapter 50
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By early 2010, most of Susannah's friends and family agree that she's fully returned to normal. Allen and Mom decide to... (full context)
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Several months after this, Susannah finally feels like herself. She attends a cousin's wedding in June of 2010 and is... (full context)
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Susannah admits that she now talks in her sleep nightly, and fears things she never did... (full context)
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Stephen has changed too: he's now a worrier. It took months for his and Susannah's relationship to return to one of equals, though he still worries. Susannah's parents are unable... (full context)
Chapter 51
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Susannah wonders about her many hallucinations—which, incidentally, are the only things she truly remembers from the... (full context)
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Susannah's hallucinations are also easier to remember because many of them are highly emotional, which means... (full context)
Chapter 52
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When Susannah interviews Dr. Morrison in December 2010, she explains that brains create stories with fragments. She... (full context)
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A year after she moves in with Stephen, Susannah begins unpacking boxes from her old apartment. She discovers a postcard in a little paper... (full context)
Chapter 53
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Two years after Susannah is released from the hospital, she returns for a visit. She wanders around the twelfth... (full context)
Afterword
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A year later, Susannah returns to NYU to visit one of Dr. Najjar's patients struggling with the same disease.... (full context)
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Susannah explains that when she was diagnosed, doctors believed that 90% of cases were undiagnosed. Now,... (full context)