Chapter 43–Afterword

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. underhanded
    marked by deception
    Buoyed by this new ability to explain, I began to research the disease in earnest and became obsessed with understanding how our bodies are capable of such underhanded betrayal.
  2. predisposition
    the state of being susceptible to a disease or condition
    We don’t understand how much impact environment has versus genetic predisposition.
  3. pernicious
    exceedingly harmful
    Or was there something pernicious lurking around that messy Hell’s Kitchen apartment?
  4. demarcation
    a conceptual separation or distinction
    Just three years marks the demarcation between a full life and a half-existence in an institution or, even worse, an early ending under the cold, hard tombstone.
  5. taper
    diminish gradually
    As he tapered off my dose of steroids, Dr. Najjar prescribed biweekly at-home antibody IVIG treatments once the insurance company finally allowed them to be conducted at home.
  6. paltry
    contemptibly small in amount or size
    Then I stood in front of my closet and examined my paltry wardrobe.
  7. ensconce
    fix firmly
    Only a few things still fit, since I was well ensconced in my “roasted pig” stage, so I chose my trusty black tent dress.
  8. untenable
    incapable of being defended or justified
    It was an untenable position. As a friend he was deeply concerned about my recovery and my future, but as a boss, he couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever be capable of returning to my duties as a reporter.
  9. verve
    an energetic style
    This fieriness contrasted with my lackluster performance right before I left work seven months before, when I couldn’t muster up the verve even to interview John Walsh.
  10. percolate
    permeate or penetrate gradually
    With those conflicting feelings percolating in my mind, I placed my reporter’s cap firmly back on and interviewed my family, Stephen, Dr. Dalmau, and Dr. Najjar to get a portrait of my disease and its larger-scale implications.
  11. convey
    serve as a means for expressing something
    One parent described how her child tried to strangle her infant sibling; another heard low grunting noises from their normally angelic daughter; and another child clawed at her own eyes to communicate the inner turmoil that her toddler vocabulary could not convey.
  12. inflect
    vary the pitch of one's speech
    She also spoke in a bizarre, Cajun- inflected accent, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which detailed her experience with anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis and subsequent recovery.
  13. echolalia
    mechanical and meaningless repetition of another's words
    Likewise, those who suffer from this type of encephalitis will display what is known as echolalia, the repetition of sounds made by another person.
  14. exorbitant
    greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation
    It had cost $1 million to treat me, a number that boggles the mind. Luckily, at the time I was a full-time employee at the Post, and my insurance covered most of the exorbitant price tag.
  15. posit
    put forward, as an idea
    Dr. Najjar, for one, is taking the link between autoimmune diseases and mental illnesses one step further: through his cutting-edge research, he posits that some forms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression are actually caused by inflammatory conditions in the brain.
  16. fitful
    intermittently stopping and starting
    That night I went home and passed a night of fitful dreams that blurred together.
  17. bona fide
    not counterfeit or copied
    Now antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases have become a bona fide group of syndromes.
  18. broach
    bring up a topic for discussion
    But when I impassively broached the subject with him he said, without hesitation, “That’s what I assumed we’d be doing.”
  19. remission
    an abatement in intensity or degree
    Unlike cancer, there is no remission date.
  20. perverse
    resistant to guidance or discipline
    So, perversely, I would battle him, staying out late without calling and pushing his buttons about his constant check-ins.
  21. placebo
    an innocuous or inert medication
    Fifteen students were asked to place one hand on a table beside a fake rubber hand, first after they had been injected with ketamine and then at a later sitting with a placebo.
  22. tenuous
    lacking substance or significance
    What else would come back, knocking me off balance and reminding me how tenuous my grip on reality was?
  23. iota
    a tiny or scarcely detectable amount
    There was not one shred, one iota, one shard of memory that connected me with that museum visit.
  24. guttural
    relating to or articulated in the throat
    The older man thrashes, emitting primitive guttural grunts.
  25. parlance
    a manner of speaking natural to a language's native speakers
    What used to be called a “zebra” (in doctor parlance, a very rare disease) is now increasingly recognized and swiftly treated.
Created on April 15, 2020 (updated April 15, 2020)

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