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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Page 27:


During the first few hours I seemed virtually normal. I had none of the delusions which had previously oppressed me; nor had I yet developed any of the expansive ideas, or delusions of grandeur, which soon began to crowd in upon me. So normal did I appear while talking to my brother that he thought I should be able to return home in a few weeks; and, needless to say, I agreed with him. But the pendulum, as it were, had swung too far. The human brain is too complex a mechanism to admit of any such complete re-adjustment in an instant. It is said to be composed of several billion cells; and, that fact granted, it seems safe to say that every day, perhaps every hour, hundreds of thousands of those within my skull were now being brought into a state of renewed activity. Comparatively sane and able to recognize the important truths of life, I was yet insane as to many of its practical details. Judgment being King of the Realm of Thought, it was not surprising that my judgment failed often to decide correctly the many questions presented to it by its abnormally communicative subjects. At first I seemed to live a second childhood. I did with delight many things which I had first learned to do as a child -- the more so as it had been necessary for me to learn again how to eat and walk, and now how to talk. I had much lost time to make up; and, for a while, my sole ambition seemed to be to utter as many thousand words per diem as possible. My fellow-patients who for fourteen months had seen me walk about in silence -- a silence so profound and inexorable that I would seldom heed their friendly salutations -- were naturally surprised to see me in my new mood of unrestrained loquacity and irrepressible good-humor. In short, I had come into that abnormal condition which is known to psychiatrists as "elation."


For several weeks I believe I did not sleep more than two or three hours of the twenty-four, each day. Such was my state of elation, however, that all signs of fatigue were entirely absent; and the sustained and abnormal mental and physical activity, in which I then indulged, has left on my memory no other than a series of very pleasant impressions. Though based on fancy the delights of madness are real. Few, if any, sane persons would care to test the matter at so great a price; but those familiar with the "Letters of Charles Lamb," must know that Lamb himself, at one time during his early manhood, underwent treatment for mental disease. In a letter to Coleridge, dated June 10, 1796, he says: "At some future time I will amuse you with an account, as full as my memory will permit, of the strange turns my frenzy took. I look back upon it at times with a gloomy kind of envy; for, while it lasted, I had many, many hours of pure happiness. Dream not, Coleridge, of having tasted all the grandeur and wildness of Fancy till you have gone mad! All now seems to me vapid, comparatively so!"


As for me, the very first night vague and vast humanitarian projects began joyously to shape themselves in my mind. My garden of thoughts seemed filled with flowers which might properly be likened to the quick-blowing, night-blooming cereus -- that Delusion of Grandeur of all flowering plants that thinks itself prodigal enough if it but unmask its beauty to the moon! Few of my bold fancies, however, were of so fugitive and chaste a splendor.


The religious instinct is found in primitive man. It is not strange, therefore, that at this time the religious side of my nature was the first to display compelling activity. Whether or not this was due to my rescue from a living death, and my immediate appreciation of God's goodness both to me and to those faithful relatives who had done all the praying during the preceding two years -- this I cannot say. But the fact stands out, that, whereas I had, while in the depressed state, attached a sinister significance to everything done or said in my presence, I now interpreted the most trifling incidents as messages from God. The day after this transition I attended church. It was the first service in over two years which I had not attended against my will. The reading of a psalm -- the 45th -- made a lasting impression upon me, and the interpretation which I placed upon it furnishes the key to my attitude during the first weeks of elation. It seemed to me a direct Message from Heaven.


The minister began: "My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the King: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer." -- Whose heart but mine? And the things indited -- what were they but the humanitarian projects which had blossomed in my garden of thoughts over night? When, a few days later, I found myself writing very long letters with unwonted facility, I became convinced that my tongue was to prove itself "the pen of a ready writer." Indeed, to these prophetic words I trace the inception of an irresistible desire, of which this book is the first fruit.


"Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips:" was the verse next read, to which the minister responded, "Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever." -- "Surely," thought I, "I have been selected as the instrument wherewith great reforms shall be effected." (All is grist that comes to the mill of a mind in elation, -- then even divine encomiums seem not undeserved.)

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