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A Chapter From Real Life. By A Recovered Patient

Creator:  L.
Date: February 1854
Publication: The Opal
Source: New York State Library

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At certain periods of life we live years of emotion in a few weeks; and look back on those times as great gaps between the old life and the new. You do not know how much you suffer in those critical maladies of the heart, until the disease is over, and you look on it afterward. The day passes in more or less of pain, and the night wears away somehow. -- THACKERAY.


There are periods in the existence of all who enjoy and suffer keenly, so fraught with torture that to look back upon them, or to endeavor to analyze the causes which led to such miserable results seems almost madness. And there may be evils which come upon us so suddenly, that we can never clearly comprehend why, or how we became victims to them. More than two years have now passed since I recovered from the mental blindness which for months had rested like a dark cloud upon me, and came near consigning me to the grave of a suicide. I have endeavored to find some causes sufficient to dethrone reason and derange the whole mental economy, wishing to know if I were thus punished for violation of physical or moral laws, or if this were a means employed by God to show me the insufficiency of my own nature and the necessity of relying entirely upon Divine Wisdom for safety and happiness.


If it were punishment for offences surely I must have been a grievous sinner to deserve such terrible retribution, but with humility I say that I hope it was only the refiner's fire in which we are to be tried, to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, for "the Lord loveth whom he chasteneth."


The first thing I remember which seems to savor of Insanity was a presentiment of some great evil which was to befall me, either in my own person, or to those nearest and dearest to me, then I had a vivid imagination, and was much inclined to day dreams or building air castles, and this added to a morbid sensitiveness to reproach, or ridicule, made me often very unhappy. I fancied that if I was to leave home for a while should I find something to banish trouble. I left my parents to spend a winter among friends and relatives, yet the grim phantom of coming evil haunted my slumbers, and I found, like Noah's dove, no rest for the sole of my foot. I was ashamed to tell my friends the fears which tormented me, at length became so weary of myself that life seemed a burden. I dreaded to pass a grave yard, it would cause a faintness, deathly sensations to see a coffin, or read of young persons who had recently died. I struggled against these fantasies, but I grew thin and pale, lost strength rapidly, and my friends became alarmed, I could not eat, food was repulsive, I could not sleep quietly for in dreams I saw my father drowning, little brother dying, and I arose each morning pale and haggard. Society had no charms for me, the faces of my former associates became almost repulsive, and I sought in the solitude of my room for relief by looking in my Bible in a hap hazard manner, for some particular verses to speak comfort. Then I became alarmed for the spiritual welfare of my father and mother, and spent hours in tears and bitter anguish over their fate, my aunt and uncle both endeavored to comfort me, they prayed for and with me. I read the Bible and Commentaries from morning till night. I wept, I prayed, but no comforter came, reason tottered on its throne, and then my parents came for me, the quick eye of a mother saw the evil which had been months coming, I was insane, and every step of my journey home only increased the evil. I thought I was told to leave father and mother, and preach, that this would be taking up the cross daily, to go into groceries and bar-rooms, where wicked men congregate, warn them of their sins and endure patiently their reproaches, for Christ's sake. I was scarcely willing to dress decently, lest I should be proud, to eat decently cooked food lest it should pamper the appetite. My parents were Universalists. I almost hated them for it, though they told me to believe whatever seemed right, and to join any Church I liked best. I was resolved to run away and preach, but they watched me, for my failing health rendered care necessary. At length one delusion gave way to another, from being fit to preach, I suddenly became a fiend, who was the cause of all sickness, insanity, sorrow, wickedness and death. My breath poisoned people, I was not fit to live among beasts. Eating would choke me to death, and water almost threw me into spasms at times, for I thought how soon I would be where I should lift up my eyes in torment, and beg for one drop to tool my parched tongue, and it would be denied me.


Oh, the intolerable tortures I experienced from hunger and thirst, while the blood seemed like molten lava coursing through my veins. My whole nature seemed changed in this respect, for nothing but physical force could compel me to eat, and that in my miserable emaciated condition seemed cruelty. I had my choice of two alternatives, to eat, or be carried to Utica. I ate perhaps three times during one week, then refused to ever eat again. My parents, almost heart broken, left home with me for the Asylum, I looking like a spectre, yet refusing to rest, and my last words on parting with those I never thought of meeting again, were such as rung through their ears for long weary months, upbraidings for their cruelty in taking me away to die among strangers.

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