The Beginning of Everything

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?

Andrea J. Buchanan

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, and eight 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 from the San Francisco Conservatory. Her last recital was at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.

More Books by Andrea J. Buchanan