Wednesday 25 July 2018

How I Identify with Brain on Fire

Film review by Aimee Wilson

“Have you ever been trapped? Lost in your own body? Lost in your own mind? Lost in time? So desperate to escape. To just… get out.” — Susannah Cahalan

Firstly, thank you to Marty and Fran for asking me to write this piece on the brand-new Netflix movie Brain on Fire starring the incredible Chloe Grace Mortez. Secondly, apologies in advance — I haven’t written many film reviews, so this may not turn out how you’d assume.

I first saw the film in the ‘spotlight on’ section of the Netflix homepage and after I recognised Chloe Grace Mortez from the Kickass films and on seeing that mental health comes into it, I was determined to watch it. So, when one of my best-friends came over and said she hadn’t seen it; we knew what we’d be doing for the next hour and a half!

I guess that besides typing up the Netflix description of the film, the best way to explain it is by telling you my answer to those who have asked me ‘what’s it about?’ I say that it’s based on a true story and is about a young girl who gets all these strange symptoms and they try to say it’s mental health. Mortez’s portrayal of the main character Susannah Cahalan is incredible; the way she shows the crippling symptoms that the real Susannah Cahalan experienced speaks massively of her talent. I think that a huge reason for my enjoyment of the film is that I can identify with some of the biggest aspects of the story.

Psychologically, feeling trapped was one of the first emotions I experienced when I was abused; It felt like I couldn’t ever distance myself from myself; like my mind was trapped in my body. I think it came from dissociating during the abuse. I experienced my abuse as though I were floating from the ceiling watching it happen to another girl. Although that might seem better than experiencing it like it was actually happening to myself, I also had the conflicting feeling that it was worse because it was as though I were just standing back and watching this terrible thing happen to a poor, innocent girl; and I wasn’t doing anything to stop it. The worst bit was that I felt like I could. I was convinced that I could stop it; even from my position of floating on the ceiling.

Another symptom that is portrayed in the movie which I identify with is — obviously — when Susannah begins hearing voices. When I first experienced auditory hallucinations, it was like I was stuck in my body; I had no escape and was forced to listen to these strangers who consumed every inch of my head. Just like in the movie, not everything the voices said affected me in the same way; sometimes it was just like white noise and I’d only be able to pick out them saying my name every so often, and sometimes… yes, like in the movie… sometimes they wished me dead. I think that sometimes it didn’t actually matter to me what they were even saying; more about the fact that they were there and able to say something. Like Susannah Kahalan, the Doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me after I began hearing voices and a million different diagnoses were thrown at me before they decided on Borderline Personality Disorder.

I think that identifying with a character is always a great sign of a talented Actress and an incredible film and that’s why I’d definitely recommend you watch Brain on Fire on Netflix.

About the Author

Aimee Wilson is a 27-year-old mental health blogger who has used her personal experiences to develop a popular online profile. Aimee was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2009, and after over 60 attempts on her life was admitted to a long-term, specialist psychiatric hospital almost 200 miles from home. It was during her two-and-a-half-year stay in hospital that Aimee began her blog: I’m NOT Disordered.

Originally it was meant as an outlet for pent-up frustrations from inpatient life, and a means to document her journey through the trauma therapy that eventually led her into recovery in 2014. The blog has developed into a platform for others to tell their stories and to give their own message to the world — whatever it may be.

Aimee’s blog has grown over the past three years, and now has over a quarter of a million readers. Its popularity has resulted in three newspaper (in print) appearances, two online newspapers, BBC1 national news, ITV local news, interviews on BBC Radio 5 Live and Metro Radio; as well as a TV appearance on MADE.

Aimee has had the opportunity to work with such organisations as North Tyneside and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Northumbria Police, Time to Change, Cygnet Healthcare; and with individuals who range from friends, family and colleagues, to well-known people in the mental health industry.

You can follow Aimee’s blog and read more about her at


1 comment:

  1. Well written and very thought provoking , I think I definitely have to watch this movie.