Book Review: Triumph by Trepanation

book cover: Triumph by Trepanation by Nina Rabinowitz

Triumph by Trepanation is a short (47 page) book by Nina Rabinowitz that describes how she was able to find healing from an anxiety disorder.

The book begins with her youth in a New Jersey suburb. She was expected to follow the standard “New York Jewish Roadmap” of what constituted acceptable life choices. She describes how she started to feel disconnected and like the world had lost its colour. She then started having panic attacks and physical symptoms of anxiety.

She first started to see a psychiatrist while in college, and the book covers her attempts to manage her anxiety and emotional disconnect with medications, therapy, and yoga.

After moving to Israel, things took an unexpected turn, and she ended up in hospital on a neurosurgical unit. After surgery to remove a brain tumour, she writes that “Slowly, almost indiscernibly at first, my emotions simply began to return on their own— the tide that had receded so long was rising again.”

The author describes what it was like to be able to feel emotions again for the first time since childhood, and the importance of being able to cry and release sadness. She talks about the significant positive impact this had on her mental health and her ability to manage her anxiety disorder.

She identifies several possible reasons for her dramatic recovery, taking the stance of curious knowledge-seeker rather than being firmly attached to any particular explanation. One of the possible explanations is trepanation, as referenced in the book’s title. The book describes it as the idea that:

“… boring through the skull restores some parts of the brain to a state akin to childhood, when our skull bones have still not fused together. This, the theory goes, results in changes in blood flow (cerebral perfusion) which could affect consciousness in a way that’s similar to the mind-altering affects after a psychedelic trip.”

This book is a well-written illustration of how the brain works in mysterious ways. It’s also an interesting perspective on the value of emotions and allowing them to flow. Overall, a very interesting read about an out of the ordinary experience.

Triumph by Trepanation is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Triumph by Trepanation”

  1. At the start of this journey, we think we expected one day to feel healed. We no longer expect that. The book author’s sudden change is too much for us to hope for with our treatment modalities. Slow acceptance of us as we are and gradual shifts toward some healthier patterns are probably the rosiest scenario for us.

    Did you wrote about trepanation in your book? Maybe in the next edition? Would you consider the procedure if it helped depression?

    1. Trepanation isn’t a modern medical practice; it’s something that was used in ancient times. In the author’s case, they had to go through her skull to access the brain tumour, and so one of the things she speculated (and wrote that it was pure speculation) was that there might be a connection with the idea of trepanation.

  2. Interesting concept – trepanation. I googled and found this: Another use of trephining was as a treatment for mental disease. In his “Practica Chirurgiae,” Roger of Parma (ca. 1170) wrote:

    For mania or melancholy a cruciate incision is made in the top of the head and the cranium is penetrated, to permit the noxious material to exhale to the outside. The patient is held in chains and the wound is treated, as above, under treatment of wounds.

    Robert Burton, in “Anatomy of Melancholy” (1652), also advocated boring a cranial hole for madness, as did the great Oxford neuroanatomist and physician Thomas Willis (1621–1675).

Leave a Reply