Saturday, August 8, 2015

Emily Dickinson's funeral in her brain.


 Did Emily Dickinson suffer from mental illness?

I felt a funeral in my brain,
And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,
A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
My mind was going numb.

And then I heard them lift a box,
And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead,
Then space began to toll

As all the heavens were a bell,
And Being but an ear,
And I and silence some strange race,
Wrecked, solitary, here.

And then a plank in reason, broke,
And I dropped down and down--
And hit a world at every plunge,
And finished knowing--then-
by Emily Dickinson

Robyn and Steve's book is a personal, biblical
and technical treatment of Steve's mental illness
and Robyn his wife helping him survive it.

Understanding Emily's diagnosis
Emily Dickinson’s physician, without knowing it, may have helped solve the mystery of her mental state some years later, when Dickinson was fifty three years old: "The Physician says I have ‘Nervous Prostration',’", she wrote a friend. "Possibly I have—I do not know the Names of Sickness",  (. Nervous prostration was a condition that was by then subsumed under the diagnosis of neurasthenia, an illness characterized by anxiety and depression).  Emily Dickinson’s Nervous Prostration might have been the end result not only of her earlier documented panic and agoraphobia but of a possible bipolar disorder as well. Recent evidence from genetic research  has suggested that panic may indeed be a bipolar marker. But it was not until many years later that Kraepelin described manic and depressive mood swings and separated them from dementia praecox. Thus, Dickinson’s physician diagnosed nervous prostration, then a catchall for symptoms of anxiety and depression.

 For the full article on Emily see American Journal of Psychiatry, Reviews and Overviews | Emily Dickinson Revisited: A Study of Periodicity in Her Work John F. McDermott, M.D.