Finally Home

As I read Hustvedt’s book, I could not help but get lost in her writing.  I felt that she was quite eloquent and I could feel her sense of desperation through each discussion of case studies.  I could sense her frustration at learning of a new scientific discovery but did not lead her to an answer for her sporadic shaking.  I feel that I learned more from her writing than I did from either Noe or Damasio, the latter of which is mentioned a few times throughout her book.  Her writing was more personal, even with scientific discourse, and I feel that the desperate undertones could help her better connect to her audience than Noe or Damasio through sympathy and empathy.  Additionally, I felt myself hoping Hustvedt would find a cure or an answer to her shaking which, to my dismay, she did not.

Personally (perhaps too personal but hopefully not), I had gone through a similar desperate search for an answer to an issue I had developed when I was 16.  I had collapsed alone in my house while on the phone with my mother, hitting my head on the dining table.  When I woke, I was in bed with my uncle watching over me, without any idea as to what had happened, how I had gotten in bed, or how my uncle had gotten into my house.  Seeing the bruise on my forehead and learning of where I was found, it made sense: I had fallen and hit my head.  That would explain the severe headache.  I went to the doctor and checked out totally fine.  I understood I would have a headache for a couple of days and would be completely fine afterwards, as my doctor had said.  However, that headache never did go away.  In fact, it lasted for almost a year and was never ending during that time: I woke up with it and went to sleep with it; it never diminished and was always there.  Similar to Hustvedt, I went through numerous exams and all of them had clear results: no doctor could identify what had happened or why.  To make matters worse, these episodes continued (even through this summer) and I could relate to Hustvedt as I also did research on what could cause these collapsing episodes.  It took a few years of tests (some of the very same ones as Hustvedt’s) and several doctors to conclude that I have a relatively rare heart condition but not before learning through several brain scans that I also have a currently benign cyst in my head by my spinal cord.  This could have been the source of the headaches but doctors left it alone.  Worry arose when a few years after the cyst’s discovery doctors noted that the cyst had grown to be about the size of a quarter.  As I read Hustvedt’s book, I could not help but remember my own trials, tests, and tribulations that I went through.  However, unlike Hustvedt, doctors were able to diagnose the issue, despite there being no cure.  I hope that, with the development of new technologies, Hustvedt can finally find her answers.

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2 Responses to Finally Home

  1. I completely agree with Amelia that this book encourages self reflection, and I add that the self reflection (at least for me) aids for understanding, relevance and finally retention. Thank you for sharing your very difficult experiences Jenn! You certianly must felt a ring of truth while reading this book! I know that many of the books we have read so far have had little or no impact on the way I think about consciousness or self, but Siri Hustvedt’s book has. I loved her examples and found her style simultaneously enlightening, accessible and relevant. I too had anxiously anticipated the final diagnosis of her shakes. I was disappointed when her personal theories did not pan out, and even as I read the last page I was hoping hoping hoping…

    My mother, a sufferer of bipolar disorder and personality disorder is also currently experiencing a seemingly undiagnosable constant headache complete with fainting spells. Doctor after doctor has sent her to yet more doctors, MRIs, blood tests, biopsies of her thyroid have all led to nothing. Given her mental history, I am surprised that there has been no mention of any of the psychological causes that Hustvedt saught out. Unfortunately for my mother, her claims of constant pain are more often dismissed than considered, perhaps because of her disorders and checkered mental history, perhaps because of her appearance (she is covered in tattoos) or her socioeconomic status (she is on government disability). This novel was without a doubt affecting – Hustvedt’s trials are moving and frustrating. But I cant help but think about how much more frustrating it is for people who can’t go to psychoanalysts on park avenue, who don’t have the time to lay down every afternoon to do “feed back” exercises. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not maligning Hustvedt’s work, or trying to make this a class thing, quite the opposite, I greatly appreciate Hustvedt’s honesty about a part of herself that more often than not is hidden, often with shame. But since this book encourages self reflection, I think it pertinent to reflect on others who experience this type of frustration as well.

  2. amelia daly says:

    I also felt there was much more of an engaging, enveloping experience in this reading. Her styling is rich and reminiscent of fiction without muddying the line. In other words, I wholly believe her emotions are true. It was also very educational. As for your personal experience, I feel like this book encourages self reflection. Your example is very relevant. The fact that the story is yours doesn’t change the value. 🙂

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