A journalist recounts his decadeslong struggle with epilepsy.
Veteran journalist Eichenwald (500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, 2012, etc.), a two-time winner of the George Polk Award, engrossingly relates his experiences with frequent epileptic seizures and the impact this condition has had on his life: “I have lived most of my life knowing I could be seconds from falling to the ground, seizing, burning, freezing, or worse….For years, I believed that each day might be my last, that I would die from an accident or a seizure or by my own hand. I lived in a boundless minefield, never knowing if I was a step away from triggering an explosion.” The author focuses mainly on his younger years, when he entered college up through his struggles to establish a foothold in his career. Central to his story are the grueling efforts he and his family faced trying to ensure his remittance to Swarthmore College. Through a combination of gross medical incompetence and disturbing administrative offenses within the college, Eichenwald was forced to leave during his first semester; he had to seek out extensive legal and medical intervention before he was able to continue his education. The author goes on to recount similar struggles in launching his early career. Throughout, Eichenwald brings his measured journalistic directness to the various dramas that enfold. His experiences pointedly reflect the challenges of trying to live a normal life while at the mercy of his condition, but more expansively, he relates the challenges that many disabled people face. He concludes each chapter with interview quotes, diary entries, and letters by various family members, close friends, and physicians. Though he mentions having kept these records as a means to organize his thoughts in response to increasing memory loss, their inclusion adds a somewhat cloying inspirational element that slightly undermines the strength and authority of the story he has to tell.
An enlightening and often moving memoir of one man’s struggle to live with a chronic and debilitating condition.