07 August 2014

When things are terrifying and not at all what they seem

Brendan is still working on his driver's license.

But he also had to get to Saginaw Valley for the day transfer students take any required tests, meet with an academic adviser and register for classes, AND talk to the people that tell you when your first bill or payment is due.

That left me with several hours to occupy while hanging around Saginaw. Since the mall is literally just down the road, that might be an obvious solution.

But, W. Africa kinda killed that for me... It isn't really a pleasurable experience - even when I'm alone and can just wander - any more... 

Still, I drove there looking for a Barnes and Noble because bookstores and libraries are the kind of places I thoroughly enjoy and they are often found in malls.

Not so the case.

Thankfully, Target was just across the street. I knew I wanted to get something to drink and a snack, had a few things that I needed to pick up from Target as well, and figured I could find a book there to read. That's three birds with one stone!

Minutes later, I was wandering through Target, looking for their book section.

THIS is the book I picked up.

It was a mesmerizing read.

Susannah Cahalan was an up and coming writer for the Washington Post when for reasons still not understood, she lost her mind.

She descended into what she's called her "Month of Madness," becoming a totally different person. Hallucinations, seizures, discussions about extreme fatigue, schizophrenia, OCD, mental illness, withdrawal from alcohol dependence and finally an auto-immune form of encephalitis... She only has vague memories from that month but her family, her boyfriend, some of her co-workers, her doctors and other medical professionals,journals... and video tapes from her hospital stay... have helped her reconstruct some of that time.

Seizures landed her in an epileptic ward where her parents pushed and her doctors doggedly pursued an explanation for what was happening to her.

Susannah hopes that by sharing her story, others walking a similar path might be able to get the kind of help that gave her the second chance at life... that she almost missed because even though she was clearly totally not the person she had been weeks before, none of the standard tests run by the medical profession could identify a problem.

What could be more terrifying than that. To see with your very eyes that your child is not the person she was... and to have the doctors say, "But there's nothing wrong?"

One of the key things researchers have learned as they've continued to study this disease and other similar phenomena?

Sometimes people who've ended in psychiatric wards, with diagnoses of autism, schizophrenia, multiple personalities... and other terrifying diagnoses... could actually have had a neurological issue that needs to be treated with medications - just as was Susannah's case.

Coming from a family where that rather vague diagnosis of encephalitis has, in the past, reared its ugly head, I found this to be both a worthwhile, informative and fascinating read.

I've even heard rumors of a movie in the works... but I don't know if I'd be able to watch that!

And, if you'd like to hear Susannah Cahalan briefly share about her experience, be sure and check out this video.

One warning - there is some strong language at points in the book, so please be prepared if you decide to read it.

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