Of Sound Mind… Mind and loss of mind, reflections from Paula and me

When it comes to mind and madness I think that Shakespeare made a good point.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

  • Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

By philosophy Hamlet means learning in general. Hamlet is pointing out how little even the most educated people can explain.
[ this interpretation is from http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quickquotes/quickquotehamletdreamt.html ]

Unfortunately, I think that nothing much has changed since Shakespeare’s day. Educated people have trouble explaining mind much less loss of mind.

Dr Emile Kraepelin was a person of wide ranging knowledge which included botany, zoology, physics, chemistry and of course medicine. He was a psychiatrist who discovered and charted the natural history of devastating mental illnesses in the days before any treatments were available. Some of those illnesses turned out to be infections of various sorts that affected body and mind.[eg. syphilis, malaria,etc.], various vitamin deficiencies or neurological illnesses [Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s]. The illness that interested Paula and I, he named Manic depressive Insanity. Paula was diagnosed with severe depression, then with Manic Depression.

I have been trying to understand Manic depressive insanity by using his work as a guide. Dr Kraepelin followed the journey of thousands of patients over one hundred years ago. He tried to give voice to their experience. I followed only one patient, my friend Paula ….as she has journeyed from normalcy to madness and back. Kraepelin helped me to understand what was happening to Paula. Paula and I have come to many of the same conclusions that he did, after observing the same signs he did. We think that this warrants further study.

In his day, there were no treatments except for shelter and containment in an insane asylum. Today we have made many advances in medicine. None of these advances have been utilized in the service of manic depressive illness. This is because it is considered a “mental” illness; a disease of the mind. This is what Kraepelin sought to change. He decided that it was a metabolic illness. We agree.

Haven’t you wondered what it is like to go mad? Well, Paula remembers how it felt and can talk about it, now that she has recovered . It has been an amazing journey.

And I am happy to report that I helped to bring her back from the brink simply by carefully monitoring her memory for her own address every day during her illness. This helped us learn which treatments brought back her memory and mind…but it took a long long time. and I think we can do better.

Much later, after Paula recovered, we learnt that her respiratory rate provided many clues… We reread Kraepelin and realized he measured all the vital signs, including respiratory rate. Most doctors today no longer do this. We finally understood his thinking. https://archive.org/details/manicdepressivei00kraeuoft, 1921Topics Psychiatry — Early works to 1900Manic-depressive illnessParanoiaPublisher Edinburgh : LivingstoneCollection gersteintorontomedicalheritagelibraryuniversity_of_torontoDigitizing sponsor MSNContributor Gerstein – University of TorontoLanguage English

Paula and I have been discussing this topic for years and we would like to tell you more about what madness is like.


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