One of the cool things about having a blog is being able to share your thoughts on things you do, or in this case, watch. I know that I do write mostly about my life and mental health so this is going to be a little different, but still has a mental health aspect. So this weekend, I was on Netflix and I came upon a movie that caught my eye “Brain on Fire”. I did not know anything going into the movie other than it starred Chloe Grace Moretz and it was about a rare medical condition. So I went in with a fresh slate and it was nothing like I expected. So here is the basic summary. The story is based off a book by Susannah Calahan which is her telling of the story. She is a young journalist at the New York Post and she begins have erratic behavior that no one can seem to figure out. The movie details the process of beginning symptoms to being misdiagnosed multiple times to when she finally gets her diagnosis and treatment. So it seems interesting enough right. Well, let me tell you, this movie took me on a roller coaster and then some.
BTW: I will be talking about parts of the movie so if you want to watch in the blind, don’t read until after you see the movie.
So, this movie seems pretty basic at first and I was on my phone in the beginning because it wasn’t anything too attention grabbing. However, once Susannah started having symptoms, phone went down and I was locked in. It starts simple enough like headaches, numbness and such. But then it takes a turn. She begins having psychotic episodes where she is hearing things and acting erratic. She would think people were talking about her and have severe mood swings within seconds. There were times I was actually very scared that she was going to hurt herself. She also began seizing which is when the doctors come in. Now this is the point where I started to get very invested and connected. Doctors examined her and said she was completely healthy and nothing was wrong with her. They kept saying she was partying too hard and having drug withdrawls as well as stress. Now, clearly it wasn’t that but it was interesting to watch because this could be something that people who have mental health issues deal with. Mental health disorders can be hard to diagnose and it is easy for someone to blame it on alcohol and drugs. Her parents kept explaining to the doctor that this was not addiction or withdrawal as they had been with her the entire time but the doc was adamant. This was frustrating to me because doctors are supposed to help you. When doctor’s don’t believe the pain or take the simple solution, it could cause more damage. And there is so many people out there who are dealing with this, whether neurological or mental disorders. It hurts me because if my doctors didn’t believe me when I discussed my anxiety and depression, who knows where I would be right now. I definitely wouldn’t be in grad school and I probably wouldn’t have finished my undergrad.
Watching psychotic outbursts is not an easy thing to do and I can not imagine what the people close to her were feeling. Eventually, she is put into a hospital for more testing and again, they still can’t get this right. The doctors tell the family its schizophrenia and she probably needs to go to a psych ward. Now, imagine this. No history of mental health disorders or problems, let alone schizophrenia. All of this happened within a few weeks. No medication has worked so far so they want to send her to a psych hospital. I mean, I would have been just as angry as the parents were. It just seems too crazy. They went through so many doctors and every time, they were told something else and it just seems too much. Now the heartwarming part of this story is the doctor who won’t give up. The one who knows something doesn’t feel right and keeps digging because they found it. She had a rare neurological disorder that with the correct treatment, can allow the person to live a normal life. Now at this point, Susannah is catatonic, so imagine if they had figured this out sooner. She may not have had to relearn how to walk and talk. Then you think, how many people could this have happened too. How many people are in psych wards misdiagnosed with schizophrenia? This movie will make you think about how we treat pain and suffering when it is not so easily seen.
I guess what I am trying to say is this is a story of perseverance and strength, of Savannah, her family and those doctors who refused to quit. If someone doesn’t believe your pain and suffering, go to another doctor. Don’t stop until someone says “I believe you and I am here to help”. Just because you can’t see a mental health disorder or neurological or immune or any other disorder that goes misdiagnosed, doesn’t mean it is not real and painful. I know that the ratings on this movie are not fantastic but if you get a chance, I would recommend watching it and thinking about how we view hidden disorders in America.