The Beginning of Everything
A real-life neurological mystery―and captivating story of reinvention―by New York Times bestselling writer Andrea J. Buchanan
“Andrea J. Buchanan writes of being an unreliable narrator, but you will trust her with your life as she guides you through her perilous journey and shares her stunning meditations on mind and self and pain and time. The Beginning of Everything is truly ‘music emanating from a broken place,’ a breathtaking, life-affirming, gorgeously composed marvel.”
—Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis
"I found The Beginning of Everything to be unputdownable, emotionally gripping, and devastatingly honest. It plunged me into the shock and aloneness of this sudden capsizing of a life, and the agony and confusion that followed; but ultimately it delivered me to a new understanding of body and mind and new hope. I felt deep sympathy throughout, and almost joyful relief at the end.”
—Rachel Simon, author of The Story of Beautiful Girl
“Andrea J. Buchanan’s The Beginning of Everything explores the abrupt derailment of her ability to function and to think, due to an under-diagnosed disorder that can happen to anyone. The story of her difficult journey through diagnosis and treatment, and her inspiring self-designed rehab, is compelling for patients, caregivers, and readers alike.”
—Connie Deline, MD, Spinal CSF Leak Foundation
I lost my mind on the way to brunch one particularly bitter Sunday in March 2015. It is a moment I return to over and over again: the wind biting at my face, my body sweaty with fever, my throat fiery with virus as I crossed the street, inhaled that March wind, and choked on it. There was a lot I was choking on that day. Sending my kids off for the weekend with their father, even though my son had woken up with a 103-degree fever, his face pink, curls filigreed to his cheeks and forehead. The dread of my own fever aching through me as I began sinking into sickness myself. The knot in my stomach of my divorce, the fighting and lawyering, a seemingly endless battle. The guilt of failing, as a partner, as a mother. And so I coughed as the wind sucked itself into me, lodging itself in my throat. I doubled over in the midst of the intersection, unable to escape the chokehold of the vicious tickle I couldn’t displace. At the time, my worry was that I would vomit on the street due to the cough’s intensity, and I remember feeling relieved when I was finally able to breathe again, to drink some water, to talk without my throat seizing up. I thought it was over. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
What was just beginning when Andrea coughed that morning was her cerebospinal fluid leaking out of a small tear in her dura mater, the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord. What followed was nine months of pain and confusion as her brain, no longer cushioned by a healthy waterbed of fluid, sank in her skull. At a time in her life when she needed to be as clear-thinking as possible―as a writer, as a mother, as a woman attempting to strike out on her own after two decades of marriage―she was plagued by cognitive impairment and constant pain, trapped by her own brain, mystifying doctors and pushing the limits of medical understanding. In this luminous and moving narrative, Andrea reveals the astonishing story of this tumultuous year: her fraught search for treatment; how patients, especially women, fight to be seen as reliable narrators of their own experiences; and how her life-altering recovery process affected both her and her family. The mind-brain connection is one of the greatest mysteries of the human condition. In some folklore, the cerebrospinal fluid around the brain is thought to be the place where consciousness actually begins. Here, in the pages of The Beginning of Everything, Andrea seeks to understand: Where was “I” when I wasn’t there?
Andi is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book is THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING. Her other work includes the multimedia young adult novel GIFT, the internationally bestselling THE DARING BOOK FOR GIRLS, her essay collection on early motherhood MOTHER SHOCK: LOVING EVERY (OTHER) MINUTE OF IT, and seven other books. Before becoming a writer, Andi trained as a pianist, earning a bachelor of music degree in piano performance from the Boston Conservatory of Music and a master's in piano performance from the San Francisco Conservatory. Her last recital was at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.