Chapters 4–7

In this memoir, journalist Susannah Cahalan recounts her battle with a mysterious and terrifying neurological illness at the age of 24.

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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. haggard
    showing the wearing effects of overwork or care or suffering
    “I used to try to forget about you,” Randy “the Ram,” a washed-up pro wrestler played by a haggard Mickey Rourke, says to his daughter.
  2. squalid
    foul and run-down and repulsive
    We both stood in the doorway, looking at my studio. He was right: it was squalid. Dirty clothes littered the floor. The trash can was overflowing.
  3. misgiving
    painful expectation
    That night I tossed and turned, filled with misgivings about my life.
  4. cajole
    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
    “Come on!” he said, but stopped his cajoling when he sensed my anxiety.
  5. ebb
    fall away or decline
    I would soon learn firsthand that this kind of illness often ebbs and flows, leaving the sufferer convinced that the worst is over, even when it’s only retreating for a moment before pouncing again.
  6. languidly
    in a lethargic manner
    “Come on by,” she said languidly.
  7. don
    put on clothes
    She wore rows of pentacles and flowing Stevie Nicks-style clothes, and even donned a black cape in winter.
  8. innate
    inborn or existing naturally
    There was something attractive about her energy, and despite my innate skepticism of witchcraft and religion overall, I found myself wanting to believe.
  9. quell
    overcome or allay
    I put my hand to my chest to quell my racing heart and told myself to breathe.
  10. macabre
    shockingly repellent; inspiring horror
    My mind wandered through this macabre subject as I stood smiling blandly at him and his manicured publicist.
  11. effusiveness
    the expression of excessive emotion, enthusiasm, or pleasure
    Walsh smiled with kindness, possibly accustomed to this type of eccentric effusiveness that was in fact divorced from my typical interview style.
  12. debacle
    a sudden and complete disaster
    I don’t remember how I got home after the interview or how I filled the hours in the wake of yet another professional debacle, but after still another sleepless night—it had now been over a week since I’d slept fully—I headed to the office.
  13. garish
    tastelessly showy
    I had walked through Times Square twice a day for six months, but today, once I hit the rows of billboards at its center I was accosted by its garish colors.
  14. enervating
    causing weakness or debilitation
    There seemed to be something exquisite about that rush; it was simultaneously enervating and thrilling.
  15. erratic
    liable to sudden unpredictable change
    Every day my behavior had been growing increasingly erratic.
  16. minutia
    a small or minor detail
    I fixated on anything my mind could grasp, picking apart the minutiae of my life, anything that felt uncertain.
  17. derisive
    expressing contempt or ridicule
    I shot her a derisive look, heavy with loathing.
  18. sublime
    lifted up or set high
    I was fine. Not fine. Happy. No, not happy, sublime, better than I had ever felt in my entire life.
  19. wallow
    devote oneself entirely to something
    I wanted to dance or sing, something, anything except sit here and wallow in imaginary misery.
  20. schizophrenia
    a psychotic disorder characterized by distortions of reality
    She began wearing bright, inappropriate makeup and acting strange, and she was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.
  21. palpitation
    a rapid and irregular heart beat
    I tried to ignore the heart palpitations and the sweat forming on my brow.
  22. avant-garde
    radically new or original
    The rugs, which looked as if they belonged in an avant-garde production of Lawrence of Arabia, swirled before me.
  23. incongruent
    not corresponding in character or kind
    I had been thinking about all of that, but it was a struggle to make one detail fit well enough to solve the entire problem, like jamming together pieces from incongruent sets of puzzles.
  24. demur
    politely refuse or take exception to
    As Batali ate luscious eggs and meat, she toyed with a thin goat’s-milk yogurt, and when he offered her a bite of his dish, she demurred.
  25. high horse
    an attitude of arrogant superiority
    “Hold on,” he retorted. “I can’t see you on that high horse of yours.”
Created on April 15, 2020 (updated April 15, 2020)

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