Brain On Fire, By Susannah Cahalan's Brain On Death

Memory represents a person’s perception of self and identity. Reflecting on past memories and experiences allows a person to recognize who he or she is and where he or she came from. In the novel, Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan, a disease known as anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis inflames Cahalan’s brain, inducing cognitive deficiencies such as hallucinations, paranoia, and slurred speech. Cahalan refers to her hospital stay as her “month of madness” because these symptoms destroy her memory and alter her identity. Cahalan’s entire experience, including her paranoia, inability to communicate, and recovery, proves that memory loss negatively affects identity. To begin with, Cahalan’s illness originally stems from her psychosis, a mental illness that impairs emotions, such as paranoia. Cahalan …show more content…
Prior to her illness, Cahalan was a confident woman. During her recovery, though, she becomes insecure. Cahalan cannot remember her original identity because of her illness and the traumatic experience she endures. For example, Cahalan struggles to reestablish her relationships with others because she is not comfortable in her own body. For example, before her illness, she was asked to be a bridesmaid at her stepbrother’s, David, wedding, but the bride changed her mind because of Cahalan’s illness. Instantly, Cahalan thinks to herself, “it was proof to me then that I had become a burden… I had become a source of shame” (Cahalan 186). Cahalan’s memory of herself and her entire hospital stay has vanished, leaving her upcoming identity hanging by a thread. Cahalan constantly has doubts about herself and if she will ever become the person she used to be. Therefore, she needs to somehow recollect her memories and experiences in order rebuild her identity and to become the confident woman she once

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