Thursday Book Feature: Brain on Fire

<strong>Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness</strong>
by Susannah Cahalan
Copyright 2012.

And I thought the dream I had a few weeks ago in which I woke up in a hospital, not sure how I got there, was bazaar. This takes the cake, and it wasn’t a dream. In the spring of 2009, Susannah Cahalan woke up and found herself strapped to a hospital bed, not remembering how she got there. When she panicked, a figure in purple with a foreign accent told her to calm down. Thus begins her memoir about her experience with a rare autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain.

The author explains how she first experienced symptoms while she was working as a journalist for the New York Post. It started as an obsession with bed bugs in her apartment. She then experienced numbness and other flu-like symptoms and gradually became forgetful, paranoid, and dilusional. Her gynecologist referred her to a neurologist who said these symptoms were caused by stress and too much drinking. Then, she had her first seizure, and things went downhill from there. Her parents were finally able to get her admitted to New York University Hospital’s epilepsy unit.

Since she doesn’t remember much of what happened after that, most of her information was gleamed from interviews with family and friends, her father’s journal, and footage from EKG video. She describes the battery of tests she endured and how she was visited by neurologists, psychologists, and other professionals who were stumped by her condition. She reverted from being paranoid with dilusions to a catatonic state where she could barely speak, let alone care for herself. Her doctors were about to send her to the psychiatric unit when a new neurologist joined the team. After performing a brain biopsy, running more tests, and conferring with other doctors across the country, he finally diagnosed her with anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune incephalitis. This neurologist pointed out to her parents that her brain was on fire, hence the title.

After being given medication to combat this disorder, she was discharged. She then describes the long, arduous process of recovery. Although she was able to move and care for herself by this time, her speech and thought processes were slow. She talks about how her parents, boyfriend, and other relatives and friends supported her during her stay in the hospital and recovery. After six months, she returned to her newspaper job, and she describes how she completed her first major assignment, an article about anti NMDA inhibitor autoimmune incephalitis and her experience with it. She provides more information about this disorder.

This book was an Audible daily deal, and I’m glad I picked it up. The narrator does an excellent job portraying the author’s first-person account of her story. I love this book’s beginning and ending in which the author describes waking up in the hospital’s epilepsy unit, then returning years later after her recovery for a visit and her encounter with a nurse who cared for her during that time.

I would like to have known more about Susannah Cahalan after she returned to work and successfully published her first major article. She mentions moving in with her boyfriend, but did she eventually marry him and start a family, perhaps balancing that with her career?

According to the author, this rare disorder strikes women of child-bearing age and is often mistaken for psychosis. At the time this book was written, a percentage of women afflicted with anti-NMDA inhibitor encephalitis ended up in psychiatric hospitals where they eventually died. So if you’re a young woman, I encourage you to read this book, and if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned, consult a neurologist before you see a psychiatrist.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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A Valentine Poem and Song

I know it’s a day early, but here’s a poem I wrote for my late husband to commemorate Valentine’s Day. You can click below to hear me read it and sing a related song. I hope that tomorrow, you do something special with the one you love.

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TO MY DEPARTED VALENTINE

Dearest of hearts, most gentle of souls,
you are my only one,
always remembered, never forgotten.

With you, I soared to unimaginable heights.
Now you’re gone—I still fly
for you’ve given me my own wings.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Saturday Song: Bread: Guitar Man

In last week’s Saturday music feature, you heard a song about a man playing a piano in a bar. Today’s hit is about a man entertaining with a guitar. I can relate to this, since most of the senior facilities where I perform don’t have a piano, at least in the room where I’m playing. If I were a guy, they’d probably call me the guitar man. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: The Sleep Revolution

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time
By Arianna Huffington
Copyright 2016.

The founder of The Huffington Post shares her insights on sleep. Using scientific evidence and other sources, she describes what she calls a sleep crisis, in which many Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. She explains how people in the trucking and medical industry and even politicians can be adversely affected by sleep deprivation. She discusses the correlation between not getting enough sleep and diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other disorders.

She talks about how even Benjamin Franklin didn’t get enough sleep and the attitude that sleep wasn’t important. She explains why sleeping pills and caffeine are NOT the solution to the problem of sleep deprivation and, in some cases, can exacerbate it. She discusses sleep disorders and how they can be treated.

She then outlines what we can and shouldn’t do in order to get a good night’s sleep. She describes how hospitals, colleges, and hotels are helping people sleep better, also talking about what is being done in the workplace to promote good sleep habits among employees. The book includes a sleep questionnaire, suggested meditation techniques, information about hotels around the world that will ensure you get a good night’s sleep, and matrress recommendations.

I found many of the facts in this book fascinating. For example, did you know that the Beatles song “Let It Be” was inspired by a dream Paul McCartney had in which his mother, Mary, told him everything would work out? Here I thought he was referring to the Virgin Mary. Who knew?

I’d never describe myself as sleep-deprived, although I’ve had occasional trouble falling asleep and staying that way. Nevertheless, I decided to take the sleep questionnaire at the end of the book. I discovered, to my amazement, that my sleep was in good shape. I encourage everyone to read this book and spread the word about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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HOSPICE A BEGINNING: By Author Phyllis Campbell

I’m so thankful my late husband was never diagnosed with a terminal illness, but thanks to Phyllis’s article, it’s good to know what hospice could have done to help if the need arose. You also might want to check out Phyllis’s books.

Campbells World

Good morning campbellsworld visitors.
This morning Author Phyllis Campbell gives us just a bit more personal glimpse into her world, and helps us understand better about what I’m coming to learn is quite an important service.
We first get to know Phyllis in her biographical book: Friendships In the Dark, but while that book did do a most excellent job at letting us see into her private world, I believe this article takes us much deeper into what must’ve been a hard, and at times horrifying journey.
Author Phyllis Campbell has written many awesome books since the hard days of long ago which are written of here, and I hope you’ll take a look at all she has to offer after you’ve read this heart-felt offering below.
Thanks to you Phyllis for sending this writing to me so that I might share it with my readers.
It is my wish…

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The Case of the Hidden Water Meter

I recently received a letter that said it was time for me to have a new water meter installed. Our fair city of Sheridan, Wyoming, in its so-called infinite wisdom, has determined that each resident must have a new water meter installed in order to continue receiving service. Fortunately, they’re paying for the installation, but my problem is I don’t know where my old water meter is. I have a visual impairment, and I don’t even know what a water meter looks like.

I’ve made an appointment. Someone is coming tomorrow. Surely that person will want to install the new meter in the same location as the old, but at the moment, I don’t know where that is. I’ve never had to worry about this before. Since no one has come to the door with the intention of reading the meter, I assumed it was outside, but where?

My late husband Bill is probably laughing at me from above. Having bought and rented twenty houses in his day, although he was totally blind, I’m sure he made a point of finding out the location of the water meter and other essential items.

Today, my homemaker from the local senior center is coming for her weekly visit. I can only hope she can find the lost meter. If not, I’ll just have to admit to the person who comes to install the new one that even though I’ve lived in this house for over ten years, I don’t know where the old meter is. It’s either that or sing this song.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Writing And Music

Have you ever thought of a piece of music that would go well with a scene or poem you’ve written?

Writer's Treasure Chest

In my January Newsletter, right at the end, I added a link to a YouTube video. It leads to the ‘Waltz of Flowers’, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, an amazing, wonderful and heart touching piece of music in my opinion.

(Just in case: You can listen to the music here)

But where do I go with this post? I had been considering writing about all the music I listened to while writing – but that’s not the case today.

First of all: I write my first drafts by hand – always. After I finish them, I type them into my computer. During writing, I never listen to music. It distracts me. But during typing in I do.

Today I want something different. While typing and listening to this amazing waltz I re-read and corrected a fighting scene in my book, and I asked myself: if this would be turned…

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